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West Virginia Historic Figures

Isabelle "Belle" Boyd
1844-1900: Confederate spy. She became a Confederate heroine in May, 1862 by signaling Jackson's troops to accelerate their advance to save the bridges at Fort Royal. Three times arrested, she escaped to England carrying Confederate dispatches in 1864 and was captured again. She wrote a dramatic account of her life as a spy, Belle Boyd in Camp and Prison. She was born in Martinsburg (then in Virginia).
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Matin R. Delany
1812-85: Abolitionist, author, and physician, born in Charles Town (then in Virginia). From 1847 to 1849 he edited the North Star newspaper with abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass. He then entered Harvard Medical School. In 1852 he set up practice in Pittsburgh and wrote The Condition, Elevation, Emigration and Destiny of the Colored People in the United States, said to be the first presentation of American black nationalism. In 1854 he helped organize the National Emigration Convention to discuss his proposal for the resettlement of blacks in Africa. At the start of the Civil War he was assigned to recruit blacks for the Union army and became the first black major in the U.S. Army.
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Thomas Jonathon "Stonewall" Jackson
1824-63: He was one of the leading generals of the Confederacy during the Civil War and is considered among the most skillful tacticians in military history. He was born in Clarksburg (then in Virginia). His father died when he was two years old, and his mother died five years later. Jackson was raised by an uncle on a farm in Virginia.
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James Rumsey
1743-92: He was considered by some the inventor of the steamboat. He demonstrated a boat in the Potomic River near Berkeley Springs in October 1783 or in 1786. The demonstration was witnessed by George Washington. Rumsey met Robert Fulton who later built the first steamboat used in commerce. A memorial to Rumsey exists at Shepardstown, overlooking the bend in the Potomac River where the inventor's boat made its first successful trial.
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Booker T. Washington
1856-1915: He was an educator who was appointed organizer and principal of what is now Tuskegee University in 1881. Washington made the institution into a major center for industrial and agricultural training and in the process became a well-known public speaker. He was born on a plantation in Franklin Co., Va., the son of a slave. Following the Civil War, his family moved to Malden, WV, where he worked in a salt furnace and in coal mines.
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