West Virginia, the Mountain State

By Charles H. Ambler; Festus P. Summers | Go to book overview

Chapter XXXIV
The Churches, Professions, and the Fine Arts

FROM GENERAL PRACTICES of extreme individualism West Virginians, in the course of less than a century, became collective minded. In the outset secret organizations were opposed by such leaders as Waitman T. Willey and by the public generally.11 As this attitude tended to vanish, the Masons, the Odd Fellows, and other secret orders grew in favor, and their influence extended across church, partisan, and regional barriers in a truly fraternal manner. Later the Maccabees, the Woodmen, and other groups featured insurance benefits, and still later the Moose, the Elks, and the Owls placed increased emphasis on things social. All were benevolent. For instance, the Odd Fellows maintained a home at Elkins for aged persons and orphans; the Masons had a similar institution in Parkersburg; and the Moose made contributions to Mooseheart, a boys' home and school at Mooseheart, Illinois.

In the corporate ownership and control of industry, capital had meanwhile made it necessary for labor to find bargaining strength in unity. As a result West Virginia became an effectively unionized state. The West Virginia Chamber of Commerce and forty-two regional chambers, with a state junior chamber and twenty-seven regional junior chambers, were meanwhile promoting various phases of the life of the state. These organizations had counterparts in practically every phase of its life. In unconscious preparation for such a society high school and college fraternities, though purportedly social, were also political and economic. Consequently individualism, except in rare cases, was submerged, and leaders spoke through and for organizations. In 1955, it required fifty pages of the state Blue Book to list their names and their officers.

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1
Ambler, Willey, p. 188.

-491-

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