The Political World of a Small Town: A Mirror Image of American Politics

By Everett Carll Ladd Jr.; Nelson Wikstrom | Go to book overview

Numerous churches have been established in West Point. In terms of average Sunday attendance, Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament, the local Catholic parish, enjoys the most adherents, with an average of 385 people attending Sunday Mass. About 250 individuals attend the Sunday worship service of the First Baptist Church, which is the largest Protestant church in West Point in terms of membership. Other Protestant churches representing the Christian, Methodist, and Episcopal denominations are found in the community. The Jehovah's Witnesses and several other fundamentalist churches have adherents in West Point. African-Americans in West Point generally attend the Mt. Nebo Baptist Church or St. Paul's Episcopal Church, the latter being a mission church of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia.

In summary, West Point is a small, ethnically and religiously diverse, relatively affluent community, with a recorded history of almost 400 years. During this 400-year period, West Point has experienced a cyclical economic and population growth pattern, marked by periods of growth and decline. Although not a particularly physically attractive community, it is affluent, with much of its work force employed by a single corporation. It is the contention of this study that by examining West Point's political world we can gain a better understanding of the nature and dynamics of American politics.


NOTES
1.
The historical portion of this chapter leans heavily upon the following sources: Elizabeth Stuart Gray, "West Point's History Begins Almost with the Founding of the Nation," in a special edition of the Tidewater Review, published on April 24, 1952; and Alonzo Thomas Dill, Chesapeake Pioneer Papermaker: A History of the Company and Its Community ( Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1968).
2.
Gray, "West Point's History," p. 10.
3.
Ibid.
4.
The crucial role that the departure of the Southern Railroad played in the decline of West Point in the late nineteenth century is similar to the experience of the town of Cape Charles, located on Virginia's Eastern Shore, when the Penn- Central Railroad went bankrupt in 1970 and ceased railroad operations to the town. Within one month of the Penn-Central's financial collapse, thirty railroad executives and their families departed Cape Charles. The population of the town declined from about 3,000 in 1970 to approximately 1,500 in 1978.
5.
The Tidewater Review offered a nice requiem for the final run of the steamship, which left West Point for Baltimore on July 22, 1942:

Aside from its virtue of having been a commercial asset to the town of West Point and surrounding territory, the Baltimore boat lent a romantic aspect that will be hard to replace. We shall all miss the tooting of the whistle at short intervals as the boat felt her way along in one of the heavy fogs which frequently hang over the waterfront at certain seasons of the year. We shall miss the screams of the whistle which signaled for a fire drill. Remember the

-25-

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