PRINCETON — Resuming our look at the history of Mercer County, courtesy of Kyle McCormick’s “The Story of Mercer County,” (Charleston Publishing Co., 1957) and the signers of the Declaration of Independence, courtsey of Benson J. Lossing’s book “Lives of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence,” which is a reprint of an 1848 original kindly provided on loan by Dr. O.J. Bailes, we continue our look at local aviation in Mercer County.
Movement got under way in 1943 for the construction of a modern commercial airport. According to strict specifications of aeronautics authorities, the only spot in Mercer County on which this could be built was at Elgood. This movement was lead by Frank McKenzie.
In 1944, the county voted in favor of $1.1 million dollars in bonds for the construction of this airport. After the money was voted on, the Washington authorities had a change of mind, coming to the conclusion that the planned Elgood airport was too remote to ever pay commercially, and the courts threw out the bond issue on technical grounds.
The aeronautics authorities than chose on top of Hurricane Ridge, about 10 miles from Princeton and 5 miles from Bluefield. This site did not conform to strict regulations, but the authorities relented with, “Remembe,r this is West Virginia.”
Dr. J.I. Markell, of Princeton, was the leader of this movement.
In 1950, $600,000 in bonds were voted by the county. Matched by federal funds, it built a single strip airport on which commercial planes and Army planes could descend with safety. The official name is The Mercer County Airport. Arrangements were made for a hanger and from the beginning the passenger use far exceeded the predictions.
As of 1957, Mercer County has had two airports, both in full use. The County Airport and the Princeton Municipal Airport.
The commercial planes of Piedmont Airlines had twelve daily flights going into the County airport.
Dedication of the Mercer County Airport occurred on Saturday, May 15, 1951, a dark day with clouds overhanging and few planes able to land. Gov. William Marland, the Army and the Navy were represented, but missing from the dedication was any plane of the Air Corps.
Dr. Igor Sikorsky, the famous authority on aviation, was the speaker for the occasion.
Turning to the Lossing book, we conclude the story of Richard Henry Lee. Lee found himself active in promoting non-importation agreements. When he heard of the “Boston Port Bill,” he drew up a series of condemning resolutions to present Virginia Assembly.
Despite the governor desolving the Assembly before the resolutions could be introduced, the support for Lee continued to grow, until, in August 1774 a convention assembled at Williamsburg. At this assembly, Lee, Patrick Henry, George Washington and Peyton Randolph were appointed to the General Congress called to meet in Philadelphia in September 1774.
As soon as he returned home from congress, Lee was elected a member of the House of Burgesses, where his influence was unbounded.
In 1775 he was again elected to General Congress, where he was responsible for the instructions to and commission of General Washington as
Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army. He was placed on the most important committees. The second “Address of Congress to the People of Great Britian” was written by him.
Through this and other actions, he became such an irritant to Lord Dunmore, governor of the Colony of Virginia, who tried in many ways to silence him.
In the 1776 session of Congress Lee on June 7th, introduced what would become the Declaration of Independence. On the first Monday of July, a committee of which, Thomas Jefferson was Chairman, was appointed to draw up the Declaration of Independence. This
document was adopted on July 4th, 1776 by unanimous vote of the thirteen United Colonies.
Lee continued in Congress until 1779, when, as lieutentant of the county of West Moreland; he entered the field at the head of the militia, in defense of the state. He also was occasionally absent from Congress on account of his health. In 1783, Lee was again chosen to Congress and was elected President of Congress unanimously.
Lee, along with Henry and others opposed radification by Virginia of the U.S. Constitution
due to lack of Bill of Rights. After it was passed, though, he supported it and was elected the first senator of Virginia under it. He remained in office until his health forced him into retirement.
Lee died on June 19, 1794, at age 62.
This makes a good stopping point for this column. To share input on this column, contact me using the subject line, Mercer County Memories, at email@example.com.