The first ever Ohio Valley History Expo will be held on Saturday, October 22 from noon until 4:00 pm in the lower level of the Ohio County Public Library in Wheeling. The brainchild of Wheeling Area Historical Society president Margaret Brennan, the Expo is being planned and organized by members of the Wheeling Heritage Round-table, a consortium of organizations interested in preserving and promoting local history.
The logo for the Expo, featuring Wheeling's famous Mingo statue, was created by graphic artist Hilary Curto, courtesy West Virginia Northern Community College. A partnership grant to help fund the event was provided by the Wheeling National Heritage Area Corporation. Additional funding was provided by the Ohio County Public Library.
The Expo will provide a free educational and networking opportunity for those interested in history, preservation and genealogy by providing a one-stop-shop to "meet the experts" in those fields. More than two dozen local groups and individuals will have displays at the Expo, including regional museums, genealogical societies, historical societies, writers, researchers, educators, independent historians, archives and libraries, Representatives will be on hand to answer questions and provide information. Most will have free informational handouts and brochures and some will have books and other items for sale.
The keynote speaker for the Ohio Valley History Expo will be James Alexander Thom, who will speak in the library's auditorium at 1:00 PM. A book signing will follow.
In addition to bestsellers like Follow the River, and Panther in the Sky, Mr. Thom has written, The Art and Craft of Writing Historical Fiction. and is at work on a new book, a sequel to 2007's St. Patrick's Battalion, which includes looks at the Sultana disaster, President Lincoln's assassination and funeral, and the tragedy of Andersonville prison, among other topics.
Mr. Thom's novels have sold millions of copies. Follow the River, the story of a young Virginia woman's 1000 mile escape from her Shawnee Indian captors, is now in its 37th printing and still sells 30,000-40,000 copies a year. Mr. Thom lives with his wife, Dark Rain, a Shawnee, in a 130-year-old cabin he reconstructed. Also a writer, Dark Rain is the author of The Shawnee:Kohkumthena's Grandchildren among other books.
Mr. Thom is known for his rigorous and often hands on research. He believes that in order to talk or write about something accurately you have to experience it. Consequently, one can find him hiking old Indian trails and canoeing rivers. He traveled, for example, the entire route of the Lewis and Clark Expedition while writingFrom Sea to Shining Sea and traced Mary Ingles' 1000 mile escape, following the Ohio, Kanawha and New Rivers while living off the land, for Follow the River. In addition to his writing, Mr. Thom is also a tireless environmentalist, and Dark Rain is always at his side during this work.
The Thoms greatly enjoy visiting Wheeling and the Ohio Valley as numerous friends and family members still live locally. When the two appeared at the library's Lunch With Books program in 2008, they drew one of the largest audience's in the program's history.
In addition to the Thoms, the Ohio Valley History Expo will feature musical entertainment by Richard Pollock and Bob Heyer of the Cabin Fever String Band, as well as a performance by Gallowglass. Formed in 2000 by musicians Michael Petersen and Patrick Coughlan, Gallowglass performs both instrumental and vocal music from the Celtic nations, played on traditional acoustic instruments. The band has performed at many area venues over the years, including the annual Wheeling Celtic Celebration and the Fort Henry Days festival.
The Ohio Valley History Expo is free and open to the public. Light refreshments, including free beverages and popcorn will be served. For more information, please call the library at 304-232-0244 or the Wheeling National Heritage Area Corporation at 304-232-3087.