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Year in Review: 2016 Offered Headlines That Made It Memorable

By Staff | Dec 28, 2016

SISTERSVILLE — Tyler County had plenty of news in 2016.

The top stories ranged from the more recent news about Sistersville General Hospital to election results and life saving efforts by first responders.

Among the highlights, Sistersville City Council has decided to put the hospital up for bid. More than a few stories about this issue have appeared not only in the Tyler Star News, but in newspapers up and down the Ohio River. See related story on this page.

But that was not the only news about SGH. Citing “personal reasons,” Sistersville General Hospital CEO John May called it quits in early October.

“Due to personal reasons, I am resigning as CEO at Sistersville General Hospital,” May wrote in a letter addressed to hospital employees. “We are a rural hospital and members of a dying breed. Our facilities are not fancy and we do not offer many services available at larger facilities. Our strength lies with our people you. It has been a pleasure to be associated with you for nearly the past four years.”

Speaking of hospitals, SVFD was presented the Star of Life award in December for their quick thinking. When firefighters were dispatched Nov. 25 to a local residence, they found a middle-age man unconscious, not breathing and in cardiac arrest. Firefighters applied CPR to revive the patient. The patient was not awake until arriving at Sistersville General Hospital, but he had a pulse and was breathing somewhat on his own when he awoke at the hospital.

Later, the fire department was granted state licensure as a rapid responder. Licensure means firefighters, who are also EMT’s for the department, will administer medications and be able to do so much more. SVFD is the only licensed rapid responder fire station in Tyler County.

Political newcomer Brian Weigle defeated a trio of rivals to be elected as Tyler County sheriff in November’s general election.

Republican Eric Vincent was re-elected to a second term by defeating Democrat Arnold Schoolcraft.

Weigle captured 2,615 votes or about 71 percent of the ballots cast to defeat Democrat Trevor Tallman, who took in 924 votes or about 25 percent of the ballots cast and two write-in candidates – Mike Huffman (132 votes) and Steve Chaplin (4 votes) – nearly 4 percent of the ballots cast.

For much of 2016, the diminishing state of the county home was in the headlines. The semi-abandoned property was vandalized time and again. County commissioners and preservationists expressed different points of view about the property’s future. The home houses the electric plant a giant fuse box that powers the Tyler County Fairgrounds which manages the property. In October, the home was made somewhat more secure as a means to deter vandals.

Maybe locked doors and keys leads to this next memory.

One Sunday in June, Mayor Bill Rice presented Pastor Bill Dawson with a Key to the City after he preached his last sermon at First United Methodist Church. City Council proclaimed June 19th, 2016 as Reverend Bill Dawson Day – it doesn’t get any better than that. Dawson left for Ritchie County in June, after eight years in Sistersville. He was appointed pastor of the Harrisville UMC.

During the past several years, Dawson has cast his net wide so as to spread kindness and the Word of God. He was a familiar face at many public events such as Tyler County’s Relay for Life where he offered a prayer. Dawson was an active member of the Sisterville Ministerial Association and many civic groups. During Easter, Dawson and members of the Church walked the streets downtown with palm leaves.

“Hero’s Day”, which began back in 2011 to mark the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, is held in September as a tribute to firefighters, law enforcement officers and emergency medical workers who are dedicated to helping those in need and protecting the public.

Paden City voters chose Joel Davis as mayor-elect of Paden City in June. from the city’s municipal election. Davis, who ran on a platform of transparency, accessible and accountability, captured about 70 percent of the ballots cast for mayor and won all three wards.

Longtime Sistersville Mayor Bill Rice was re-elected, which bodes well for this year and next.

In early spring, Miles Layton was named as editor of the Tyler Star News. Layton has won multiple awards for his writing from the West Virginia and Pennsylvania press associations.

In January, the Tyler Board of Education made statewide headlines when its president decided to homeschool her children. BOE President Bonnie Henthorn said her decision is a personal choice.

Henthorn said she’s been approached by other parents with children enrolled in the school system. She’s advised them to decide what is best for their kids.

“What I tell people is – everyone needs to make their own decision,” Henthorn said moments before the Jan. 4 BOE meeting adjourned. “The kids are in the best place they can be right now in West Virginia, in Tyler County. This is the best. Statewide, we have pretty much the best system, the best teachers and the best staff. If their kids are going to be in public schools, they should keep them here in Tyler County. I wouldn’t recommend them to go to another county or anything like that, but everyone needs to make [his/her] own decision.”

Henthorn’s decision drew fire from educators. In February, the Tyler County Education Association expressed its lack of confidence in the county’s Henthorn to lead the school system. The TCEA represents more than 80 teachers.

Speaking of Henthorn, her son Eli has shined this year as a local historian.

Eli Henthorn’s intelligence and knowledge of Tyler County history is formidable, so he deserves much praise for these stories and more. He accepted the Tyler Star News challenge to find the oldest provably identifiable grave in Tyler County. That’s no small feat when considering the county was originally part of Virginia and named after John Tyler Sr., the father of President John Tyler, when it was founded in 1814. Tyler County’s oldest gravestone is found in an abandoned church yard on Rt. 2 near the county line with Pleasants County. The 211-year-old stone dates back to 1805 and belongs to Rachel (Grist) Jolly, based on Henthorn’s research of which he collaborated with Richard Neff.

Eli Henthorn’s efforts regarding a Civil War veteran attracted the attention of the state’s Division of Culture and History, who will be placing a special historical marker near the man’s grave.

A trio of local historians – Henthorn, Neff and Gene Bell – called attention to the final resting place of Col. Daniel Johnson, who is buried in a small cemetery by an abandoned church near Long Reach. This Tyler County native was present at the Wheeling Conventions that set in motion a break from Virginia and led to statehood. Johnson joined the Union Army as a major in August 1862 and was promoted about a year later in July 1863. He fought in major battles during the Civil War and served as state Senate President.

Speaking of Tyler County’s best and brightest, Julian Work may have received a record sum of scholarship money this past year. Work’s scholarships total over $130,000. Work is studying engineering up the hill in Morgantown and plays trombone in the “Pride of West Virginia” WVU Marching Band.

Thinking of engineering conjures up other images involving a train and a chemical cloud.

In August, a chlorine gas cloud developed after a rail car leaked the poisonous liquid that led to evacuations and alerts as far New Martinsville.

The National Transportation Safety Board was the lead investigator for spill that released 17,000 gallons of chlorine 90 tons at the company’s Natrium chemical facility in Marshall County.

Portions of W.Va. 2 and Ohio 7 were shutdown for several hours after thousands of gallons of liquid chlorine leaked from a railcar inside Axiall’s Natrium plant near Proctor. The leak forced many residents in both Marshall and Wetzel counties to evacuate their homes for several hours, while two workers were hospitalized and released.

Federal investigators discovered corrosion and pre-existing cracks in a railcar that leaked thousands of gallons of chlorine, which led to hundreds of evacuations in Marshall, Wetzel and Monroe counties on Aug. 27.

Chlorine was the not only thing leaking during the past year. Infrastructure has improved, as many water leaks have been repaired in Middlebourne and Sistersville.

But who can forget the gigantic water leak that made Middlebourne issue a boil order alert after a major water line broke one August morning in front of the Tyler County Senior Center.

Not only does the boil order affect business in the Tyler County Courthouse, but nearby Tyler schools in this county seat community of more than 800 residents.

Thousands of gallons of water escaped from the broken pipe before was repaired several hours later at 11 a.m. During a four-hour span between when the leak was discovered, more than 175,000 gallons of water had disappeared most of the town’s water supply.

Many of these pipes are due to replaced as part of $2.75 million water infrastructure project the city is undertaking.

To end on a positive note, the Silver Knights’ volleyball team won the sectional and regional championships while the Wildcats’ volleyball team won the Mason-Dixon Conference title.

The Silver Knights’ football team made it to the state playoffs.

And lastly, the TCHS Marching Band scored high notes near and far.

One last Christmas nugget Tyler County Schools were ranked as the second best school system of the 55 counties in West Virginia by Niche, a publication that ranks more than 8,000 school systems across the country. Only Ohio County was able to narrowly slip ahead of the Silver Knights.

All in all, 2016 has been a good year. Long sigh of relief.