Two of the properties that will be shown on the Parsons PRO ON TRAC Christmas House Tour are featured today. The Western Maryland Railroad Depot, which was displayed on the House Tour last year, will serve as the home of the “Festival of Trees” this year. PRO will host 12 beautifully decorated trees by various organizations throughout the area. Those displaying and decorating trees this year are: Tucker County Center Against Domestic Violence; Tucker County 4-H Cloverbuds; Flanagan Hill Pathfinders 4-H Club; Girl Scout Troop 3491; Elsewhere Salon; Citizens Bank of WV; Little Andi’s Restaurant in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness; Blackwater Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR); Tucker County Historic Landmarks Commission; St. Paul’s Methodist Church Youth; Mountaineer Garden Club; and the BC Stutters Baton Corps.
Last year, there were a limited number of entries. This year, however, the Train Depot will be filled with festive spirit as these trees are displayed and can be enjoyed by the public. To visit the trees on Friday evening, December 5, you need to purchase a ticket to the Christmas House Tour. You will then be able to vote for your favorite Adult Entry and Youth Entry. Both Adult and Youth Winning Entries will receive cash awards which can be given to their favorite non-profit organizations. On December 14, in the afternoon prior to the Christmas Parade, the Festival of Trees will be open free of charge, and visitors will be able to see who won in each event.
Please come out and join in the “Hallmark Christmas Moment” here in Parsons. The cost of tickets is $8 to visit all six “homes” if you purchase your tickets ahead of time. At the door, the ticket to visit the entire tour is $10. According to Phyllis Carr, a PRO Board Member, “this is an inexpensive and fun way to spend the evening. The homeowners are doing a great job of preparing to welcome us into their homes. They are decorating beautifully.”
One of the buildings in Parsons listed on the National Historic Register is the Western Maryland Train Depot. The railroad came to Parsons from Thomas in 1889 and was built by Henry Gassaway Davis and his son-in-law Stephen B. Elkins. The railroad was used, at first, to haul timber and coal. At this time the railway was called the West Virginia Central and Pittsburg Railway Company
The first passenger train ran from Thomas to Parsons on April 1, 1889. The last passenger train ran in 1958. The train was still used to haul coal, and several businesses used it for shipping. The Woolen Mill, Armour, the Leather Tannery, and Southern States were a few that used it for their businesses.
Some interesting facts, according to local historian and PRO Board Member Belva Dilly, include the following: Robert Eastman from Davis brought a group of about seventy men to Parsons by rail to join with the large group already assembled to go to Saint George to get the records from the Court House (our county seat) and take them to Parsons. That was five days before Parsons was to become the new county seat.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt gave a “whistle stop” speech from the back of the Presidential Train at the Depot in the 1930’s.
In the 1920’s and 1930’s, there was a park located beside the depot where BFS and McDonald’s are located and was visited often by the citizens of Parsons. It has been said that people came mostly when the passenger trains arrived so they could see who was coming into town and who was leaving.
The rails were removed after the Flood of 1985, and the property with the depot was given to the Tucker County Historical Society. They sold the building to Shirley Summerfield who later sold it to the Heritage House. PRO (Parsons Revitalization Organization) acquired the building, and they later turned the property over to the Tucker County Historical Society who are the present owners. They are in the process of restoring it and using it for a museum. They are honored that it will be showcased again this year on the Christmas House Tour.
The final “home” featured on this year’s PRO Christmas House Tour is the Goff Museum in Hambleton. The Goff Museum has a rich history. It became known as the Goff Memorial Church, but before the present structure was built, it was the home of the Hullings Church. According to “The Hambleton Historic Preservation Magazine, May 1977”, Maxine Goff Morgan tells us the little log church that was located there became too small for the rapidly growing town. “Location of a site on which to build a church was naturally made at the northwestern end of the little burial ground where rested the pioneer settler, his descendants, and his slaves. The land donated was part of the Goff Estate, and remained in the possession” of the Goff/Phillips Family until 2010.
Almost 30 families in 1910 stepped forward and pledged funds to build the church which is presently the Goff Museum. The church hosted several weddings, funerals and regular church services.
Morgan recounts the first formal wedding that took place in the new church as told by Sally Smith: “The first big wedding that I ever seen was Miss Emma Hullings. She was my Sunday School teacher, and she invited all of her pupils to come to her wedding; and her and a girl come to the church in the surrey with the fringe ‘round top. They had the white carpet laid for her; she had a big long train. We all stood there and clapped our hands when she went up the steps. Then, we was all ushered in and set in our seats; and that was the first formal wedding I had ever seen in my life.”
The Goff Memorial Cemetery is located next to the church. Captain Salathiel Goff, one of five Tucker Countians who fought in the American Revolutionary War, is commemorated at the cemetery site. As a pioneer settler to the area, he served as Justice of the Peace in Harrison County and later as President of the Randolph County Court when Tucker County was still a part of Randolph County. Goff is not buried in this cemetery, however, but on what was Goff lands in St. George, WV.
As the president of the Goff Memorial Association, Cynthia Phillips Kolsun, also the Executive Director of PRO ON TRAC is ecstatic the Goff Museum will be on the House Tours this year. “First of all, it’s exciting to know that my fifth great grandfather, Salathiel Goff, had such a positive influence in our area and that he is commemorated near the church. Our family turned the church over to the Town of Hambleton in 2010. Linda Bates was the Mayor then, and she and others were able to raise funds to make renovations. The bell tower, is no longer on the building, but it is located on the grounds, and the spire was removed.” The original stained-glass windows remain in the museum.
Lisa Stevens, Mayor of Hambleton, told us that, “we’re in for a treat.” She will be wearing 1910 period attire, and those visiting will be welcomed with Christmas Carols being sung by Kevin and Becky Arbogast. While the pews have been removed, they will be temporarily placed in the museum as it will be set up as the church would have been in 1910.
Erika Smith, owner of Ella’s and a stellar designer, will assist with the decorating of the church. “Our family is amazed the museum will be opened and decorated as it was in its original state,” according to Kolsun.
The PRO ON TRAC House Tours not only provided a look into the homes and other structures, but it provides us a look into our history. Hopefully, many will be able to visit the house tours this Friday. You may begin at any of the six houses. Come and have an exciting “Christmasy Evening.”