Whether you are a historical preservationist or not, most people enjoy seeing old photos and learning a little about what ‘used to be’.
For the Harrison County Historical Society, however, it is a passion to collect the area’s history and to preserve it for future generations. What this volunteer-based organization does can be of educational benefit to all who have ties to north central West Virginia.
Those who live in the Shinnston area have long driven by the State Police Headquarters on Rt. 19, a property that was just recently vacated. However, the State Police has had a very real presence in this vicinity for nearly a century. Were you aware that the West Virginia State Police occupied property at Haywood Junction long ago and utilized it as a training camp? Younger folks may not realize that at one time, the police traveled mounted on horseback!
The Harrison County Historical Society recently installed a highway historical marker commemorating this West Virginia State Police farm. The marker is located southwest of Shinnston on WV Route 20, just past the US 19 intersection.
Crystal L. Wimer, executive director of the Harrison County Historical Society, is pleased to share some of the site’s history.
The State Police leased a farm site near the junction of Rt. 19 and 20 and relocated Company A headquarters there from Elkins in July 1922. Up until 1933, the farm was used to receive, break and train horses which were then shipped to detachments all over the state. State troopers were also sent there for recruit training before assignment to locations, and afterward for refresher and in-service training.
As highway patrol became a major mission in the late 1920s, horses were replaced by motorcycles and automobiles, and training switched to motorized operations.
During the Great Depression, the State Police shrank from four companies to two, and redistributed its manpower. As a result, Company A headquarters moved from Haywood Junction to Zellmont, the Fairmont mansion of coal and railroad baron Samuel D. Brady in December 1933. Company A returned to Harrison County on October 3, 1939 to occupy newly-constructed barracks alongside the police radio station in Shinnston.
In July 1998, the five State Police companies were reorganized into seven units called troops. Troop 1, successor to Company A, moved from the aging Shinnston barracks to a new facility at the beginning of this month. Ironically, the new facility is located in Fairmont.
The research for this marker project was conducted by Merle T. Cole of Daniels, WV (Raleigh County). Cole, a 2017 West Virginia History Hero, is a recognized authority on the early days of the State Police. Last year, he published A Century Ago: Creating a State Constabulary for West Virginia, in recognition of the agency’s approaching centennial. David Houchin, genealogy librarian at Clarksburg-Harrison Public Library, provided important research assistance on the project as well.
The training camp location was verified, and marker content approved by West Virginia Archives and History, which manages the historical highway marker program for the Division of Culture and History. The marker was installed by District 4 of the Division of Highways just recently.
Historic photos of the Haywood Junction State Police Camp are courtesy of the West Virginia State Police Academy Archives, Institute, WV.