The Journal
Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Preservation efforts continue

By NAOMI KIMBLE Journal Staff Writer

MARTINSBURG - The Falling Waters Battlefield Preservation Association has been waging a war of its own lately, in an attempt to save the last remaining pieces of the county's Civil War history.

After weeks of lobbying for the cause, President Tom Ressler said the group is starting to make some headway.

"I am very optimistic that this property can be saved," Ressler said Tuesday.

The group members hope to purchase a $1.7 million tract of land, which contains the historic Porterfield House. The home was reportedly built by Davy Crockett's grandfather and sustained heavy gunfire during the July 1861 Battle of Falling Waters.

But Ressler and others fear that if the property is purchased by the wrong person, it could be destroyed.

"Development is imminent in this area," he told members of the Berkeley County Farmland Protection Board late last week.

The board is one of several agencies he has spoken with over the past month in an attempt to garner support for his association's efforts. He's talked with the Berkeley County Commission twice, and is on the commission's agenda again this Thursday, Ressler said. He's also talked to local historical preservation groups, in addition to the county's Farmland Protection Board.

The efforts, he said, seem to be paying off.

The County Commission has agreed to consider donating $100,000 to help with the property's purchase, and members of the Farmland Board have agreed to tour the property in the coming days, Ressler said.

During the Farmland Protection Board's recent meeting, members offered up forms for Ressler to send to the property's current owner- the Catholic Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston. They offered up a medley of praise for his organization as well.

"You're ahead of the game," Chairman Jim Moore said of Ressler's plans for the property.

Ressler and his agency want to turn the property into a working farm, with a petting zoo and a Civil War Research Center, he told the group on Thursday. Moore said his own agency, meanwhile, is still attempting to determine the future of the historic Boydville Estate, which the board purchased several months ago.

Clint Hogbin, a member of the Farmland Preservation Board, agreed that Ressler's association was doing a good job and told him that he thought they might be able to find community backing for their efforts.

"Of the thousands of acres that comprise this battlefield, you'd think the community could come together to save 14," Hogbin said.

Hogbin said Tuesday that while he can't speak for the board as a whole he would be interested in assisting with the project. He would be willing to consider joining a partnership with other agencies to help preserve the home, he said.

Executive Director Lavonne Paden said the agency cannot act to preserve the property at the moment however. Only the property's owner can apply for an easement and negotiate with the board, she explained. To continue talks about the property Ressler and his organization will have to either gain ownership of the home or get the current owner's permission to speak on their behalf.






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.