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Historic Shinnston, West Virginia
The Levi Shinn Family: The settlement of Shinnston dates to the building of Levi Shinn's log house in 1778. The Levi Shinn log house is the oldest standing structure in North Central West Virginia at over 229 years old. The house, which still stands today along US Route 19, is maintained by the Shinnston Historical Association and is sometimes open to the public.
The Development of Shinnston
In 1815, the town was laid out with three streets running parallel with the river and with four crossing streets running at right angles to them. The town was incorporated in 1852 as Shinn's Town by an act of the Virginia Legislature, as West Virginia did not yet exist as an independent state, and Solomon S. Fleming was elected the first mayor.
A new Charter was secured in 1877 and the Town's name changed to Shinnston. In 1915, Shinnston's Charter provided for a Mayor-Council form of government. This model remained in place for over 70 years and in 1998 the citizens voted to revise the Charter and adopt a City Manager-Council form of local government. That model was implemented on July 1, 1998 and Shinnston now has its fourth City Manager.
Shinnston has enjoyed a history of active commerce, with its beginnings built around both Grain Mills and Saw Mills. In its early the years the town saw the development of a tannery, wagon makers and undertaker, mercantile interests, a pottery, and a local newspaper. The first Bank began in 1899 and the railroad came to the area in 1890. Other transportation systems, in the form of a trolley, operated from 1906 to 1947. As is true for much of West Virginia, energy has been an important part of Shinnston's history. By the early 1900's oil wells and gas wells joined with coal as major economic activities in the town. Energy generation continues to be a major activity in the region with the Harrison Power Station located nearby. Today, as with most small towns, Shinnston's economic base has shifted to more service oriented activity and the downtown continues to thrive with locally owned shops and retail establishments serving not only the town's needs, but the entire North Harrison region.
Shinnston has always been a community of strong faith with an active and diverse number of denominations found within it. The first church was organized in 1786 and met in various homes in the community until 1835, when the first church building was erected. Today these various churches have organized into a Council of Churches that work well together for the betterment of the community and several times each year the churches come together in shared services with members of all faiths worshipping together.
By 1813, the first school was organized with classes taught in a small log cabin. In 1860 a larger building was constructed for use as a town hall and academy. This venture became the first public school in 1865. The first grade school was created in 1895 and Shinnston High School was added to it in 1907. In 1978, Shinnston and Lumberport High Schools were combined to form Lincoln High School. Over the years these schools have produced distinguished alumni who have gone on to achieve fame in the fields of athletics, business, literature, art, and higher education.
Shinnston has always enjoyed a strong sense of community and community spirit. Over the years residents have been challenged by natural disaster, the Shinnston tornado of June 23, 1944 left almost no resident untouched. The community has always risen to meet these challenges and that spirit is much in evidence today. Evidence of that spirit is seen in Lowe Public Library, a highly rated volunteer fire department, the building of new Veterans Memorial, the Bice-Ferguson Memorial Museum, the continuing development of a rail-trail, the building of new city park and recreation complex, and the re-creation of a community band that brings musical gifts to the entire region.
**For those who wish to learn more about our fine community, you are encouraged to read A History of the City of Shinnston by Lena E. Poling.