BECKLEY, W.Va. — Raleigh County’s largest city and county seat celebrated a milestone Wednesday.
The City of Beckley was founded on April 4, 1838 by General Alfred Beckley. It was named in honor of John James Beckley, Alfred’s father and the first Clerk of the House of Representatives. Beckley was also the first Librarian of Congress.
According to the Beckley-Raleigh County Chamber of Commerce, the town was briefly known before the Civil War as “Beckleyville” and located in what was once Fayette County, Virginia. An 1850 act in the Virginia legislature created Raleigh County and designated Beckley as the county seat.
General Alfred Beckley died in 1888, but lives on through reenactor Jerry Godfrey. He helped Mayor Rob Rappold cut the cake at Tuesday’s celebration at the Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine.
“I’ve always loved history,” said Godfrey. “When I learned the history of Beckley, West Virginia I was asked to portray him because I had done reenacting for several years. I just fell into the role of General Alfred Beckley.”
Beckley Ward 1 Councilman and Raleigh County Historical Society President Tom Sopher invited Godfrey to Wednesday’s event. Sopher was happy to see people taking pictures with him and learning about Beckley.
“It was kind of spur of the moment, I thought. I didn’t know about this event until maybe two days ago. So it’s wonderful to see so many people get out with such a short notice.”
The event coincided with the 2018 opening of the Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine just a few days prior. Mayor Rob Rappold said they usually try to open the exhibit the week of spring break for Raleigh County Schools.
“I understand they had a nice turnout yesterday and a great turnout today. This is a hidden jewel and we’re really proud of it.”
Mayor Rappold said while today is monumental, he is already looking forward to the 200th celebration of the City of Beckley in 2038.
“That will be a blowout. Some of the kids were asking if we were going to have fireworks today. We’re not going to have fireworks today but in 20 years I guarantee you, whether I’m here or not, there will be some fireworks. I really appreciate the Parks and Recreation, Board of Public Works and our events coordinator for putting this together.”
More information on the City of Beckley’s history can be found here.