Martinsburg Journal News, April 5, 2008
Group Shares Battle's Story
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Members highlight local battlefield by installing more roadside markers

By Erienne Greene / Journal Staff Writer

FALLING WATERS - Members of the Falling Waters Battlefield Association hope to keep people interested in the region's rich history by installing interpretive roadside signs that highlight significant local sites.

Gary Gimbel, the president of the FWBA for the last two years, is confident that the association will continue to keep both locals and tourists coming back to scope out the region's history. Part of the group's goal is to install more roadside marker signs that inform drivers of historical sites, such as the Civil War battle fought on July 2, 1861, along present-day U.S. 11.

"We're excited to have a couple more signs coming. Generally, it's a long process, about six to eight months, to get each sign," Gimbel said.

He described these signs as classic ones that are generally found at a national park, standing on a two-pier pedestal. Unlike a plaque or monument, these rather simple markers are placed close to a roadway and/or alongside battlefield parks.

In addition, there will be red, white and blue "trailblazer" signs, bearing the image of a bugle, alerting those passing by about an upcoming roadside marker.

"The association has been very fortunate to work with the West Virginia Civil War Trails Signs program as well as the local Martinsburg-Berkeley County Convention & Visitor's Bureau in placing two markers on the Falling Waters battlefield in October," Gimbel said.

He went on to say that the FWBA hopes to do more this year to help to educate the public and provide information about the battle.

"So often when we're out to promote the battlefield, someone will come up and say, 'Gee, I've lived here all my life and didn't know there was a battle here until I read the sign.' You can hear the pride in their voice," he said. "While the site itself may have been here for 150 years, many people never knew about any of that until they come across one of these markers."

In addition to installing more signs, saving the historic Porterfield House and its surrounding 14 acres of land still tops the list of the FWBA's main priorities.

"That's the biggest thing. We don't want to put in under a glass case and preserve it, but rather we would like to have a business of some sort come in it and use it for an office," Gimbel said about the Porterfield House, which was built by Davy Crockett's grandfather and is a major landmark of the battle.

While the local Civil War site has been listed as an endangered site for the second year in a row, Gimbel doesn't think that is such a bad thing considering that the "dubious honor is mainly because of the speedy level of development going on so closely to the land. The site is off of the Spring Mills exit from Interstate 81, where new development includes a Wal-Mart, many businesses and housing subdivisions.

"We are excited that the Falling Waters Battlefield continues to receive this much-needed attention, but we wished more of the site was already protected," he said.

"But battles were fought where they were fought for a reason, mainly transportation factors. It's not a coincidence," he said in reference to the site's proximity to the county's current main roadways and busier areas.

Still, Gimbel and other members of the FWBA think there are dollars to be made in what is known as "heritage tourism," which they hope the upcoming signs will help to promote.

"We're trying to be realistic, we're not trying to stop progress but rather educate the public while commemorating the soldiers who fought in these battles - they were Americans on both sides."

- Staff writer Erienne Greene can be reached at (304) 263-8931, ext. 183, or




From I-81 take Spring Mills Exit 20, then proceed West on Hammonds Mill Road (WV 901).  T.J. Jackson Drive is the first road on the left (south side) approximately 300 yards west of I-81.  The library is on the corner, next to, but set back from the CNB Bank, across the street from the Shell Gas Station & Convenience Store.  Library Phone Number: (304) 274-3443.