Meet the Merry Marion Elves
These mischievous creatures will be making spirits bright across the region all season long!
Click on each elf to discover the history behind their name!
Hi! My name is Francis!
I am named after Francis Harrison Pierpont. Called the "Father of West Virginia", Pierpont was an American lawyer, politician, and Governor of the Restored Virginia during the Civil War.
While Pierpont was a boy, his family moved their leatherworking business to what is today Marion County, West Virginia and he became linked with the region's history for the rest of his life.
He was a great-grandson of Morgantown's founder Zackquill Morgan. Pierpont was educated in a one-room schoolhouse and by his own reading. After walking to Pennsylvania, he enrolled in and graduated from Allegheny College. Later, he taught school in Harrison County. Then he traveled and became an abolitionist after seeing slavery's abuses in Mississippi.
He returned home to Fairmont and handled the family's tanning business as well as became active in the Methodist Church and began studying law. He was admitted to the bar in 1841 and in 1848, Pierpont became the local attorney for the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. Before entering politics, he also helped found Fairmont Male and Female Seminary, the forerunner to Fairmont State University.
In recognition of his significance to its state history, in 1910 West Virginia donated a marble statue of Pierpont as the second of its two contributions to the U.S. Capitol's National Statuary Hall Collection. In June of 2015, a statue of Francis H. Pierpont was erected at West Virginia Independence Hall in Wheeling, the first capital of Reorganized Virginia and the birthplace of West Virginia. His burial plot can be found at Woodlawn Cemetery in Fairmont next to those of his wife Julia and three of their four children.
Hi! My name is Marion!
I am named after Francis Marion - a military officer who served in the American Revolutionary War and he is the namesake of Marion County, West Virginia. Marion is considered one of the fathers of modern guerrilla warfare and is credited in the lineage of the United States Army Rangers and the other American military Special Forces such as the "Green Berets". Because of this he is nicknamed “The Swamp Fox.”
The Swamp Fox is a television miniseries produced by Walt Disney and starring Leslie Nielsen as Francis Marion.
Francis Marion had more places named after him than any other Revolutionary War soldier, with the exception of George Washington. Among those places is Marion County, West Virginia.
Hi! My name is Johnnie!
I am named after Johnnie Johnson. Considered the Father of Rock and Roll, Johnnie was a pianist who played jazz, blues and rock and roll. Johnson was born in Fairmont, West Virginia and he began playing the piano in 1928. He joined the United States Marine Corps during World War II and became a member of Bobby Troup's all-serviceman jazz orchestra, the Barracudas. After his service, he moved to Detroit and then Chicago, where he sat in with many notable artists, including Chuck Berry, Eric Clapton and Keith Richards. His work with Chuck Berry led to his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001, along with guitarist Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones.
Hi! My name is Mary Lou!
I am named after Mary Lou Retton. Mary Lou Retton was the first ever American woman to win the all-around gold medal at the 1984 Summer Olympics. She was born on January 24, 1968, in Fairmont, West Virginia. She attended Fairmont Senior High School and during her sophomore year of high school, competed in the 1984 Summer Olympic games in Los Angeles, California. She was the first female athlete to be pictured on the front of a Wheaties box. In 1993, the Associated Press released results of a sports study in which Retton was statistically tied for first place with fellow Olympian Dorothy Hamill as the most popular athlete in America.
In 1997, Retton was inducted into the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame.
Retton lived in Houston, Texas, until 2009, when her family returned to West Virginia and again moved back to Houston in 2012. She has four daughters: Shayla, McKenna (a current NCAA gymnast at Louisiana State University), Skyla, and Emma. In 2018, Mary Lou appeared as a contestant on 27th season of the popular TV show Dancing with the Stars, partnered with Sasha Farber and came in 9th place.
Hi! My name is Nick!
I am named after Nick Saban. Nick was born in Fairmont, West Virginia and grew up and graduated from Monongah High School in the small Marion County community of Monongah, West Virginia. He is currently the head football coach the University of Alabama. He was inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in 2013. Saban is considered by many as the greatest coach in college football history. He previously served as head coach of the NFL's Miami Dolphins and at three other universities: Louisiana State University (LSU), Michigan State University, and the University of Toledo. Saban's career record as a college head coach is 228-62–1.
Hi! My name is Hershel!
I am named after Medal of Honor and Purple Heart recipient Hershel (Woody) Williams. Williams, the youngest of eleven children, was born on October 2, 1923 and raised on a dairy farm in Quiet Dell, West Virginia. He worked a series of odd jobs in the area, including as a truck driver for W.S. Harr Construction Company of Fairmont, West Virginia. Williams tried to enlist in the Marine Corps in 1942, but was told he was too short for service. After the height regulations were changed in early 1943, he successfully enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve in Charleston, West Virginia.
During the Battle of Iwo Jima, Williams distinguished himself with actions "above and beyond the call of duty.” These actions occurred on the same day that two flags were raised on Mount Suribachi, and Williams, about one thousand yards away from the volcano, was able to witness the event. He fought through the remainder of the five-week-long battle even though he was wounded on March 6 in the leg by shrapnel, for which he was awarded the Purple Heart.
In September 1945, he returned to the United States, and on October 5, 1945, he and thirteen other servicemen were presented the Medal of Honor by President Harry S. Truman at the White House.
Hershel is the only surviving Marine to have received the Medal of Honor during the Second World War.
Hi! My name is Frank!
I am named after Brigadier General Frank Everest who was born August 9, 1920, in Fairmont, West Virginia. After he graduated from Fairmont Senior High School in 1938, he attended Fairmont State College for one year. He later studied Engineering at West Virginia University to prepare himself for a flying career. He graduated from the Armed Forces Staff College, Norfolk, Virginia, in 1956.
Brigadier General Everest is best remembered as an aero-engineer and test pilot during the 1940s and 1950s. In May 1944, he was assigned to a fighter squadron at Venice, Florida as an instructor. He asked for combat duty again and was assigned to the China-Burma-India Theater of Operations. There he was assigned to command the 17th Provisional Fighter Squadron, 5th Provisional Fighter Group of the Chinese-American Composite Wing at Chinkiang, China. He completed 67 combat missions before his plane was shot down by ground fire in May 1945. He was captured and was a Japanese prisoner of war before being repatriated at the end of hostilities.
Following a rest leave, he was assigned to the Flight Test Division at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio as a test pilot. He took part in many experimental tests of the Bell X-1 and established an unofficial world altitude record of 73,000 feet. Flights in the Bell X-2 rocket plane established him as "the fastest man alive" when he attained an official speed record of 1,957 mph or Mach 2.9.
Hi! My name is Willey!
I am named after Waitman T. Willey - one of the founders of the state of West Virginia during the American Civil War. He was born in 1811, in a log cabin near Buffalo Creek and the present day Farmington, West Virginia, in Marion County. Willey served in the United States Senate representing first the Restored Government of Virginia and became one of the new state of West Virginia's first two Senators.
Admitted to the Virginia bar in September 1832, Willey moved to Morgantown to establish a private legal practice. He became active in politics, especially in the Whig Party, and in 1840 was an elector for the William Henry Harrison/John Tyler ticket, although he also lost election to become a delegate to the Virginia General Assembly. In 1841, voters elected Willey to Clerk of the County Court of Monongalia County, and re-elected him several times; Willey served until 1852.
As one of four delegates representing Marion, Preston, Monongalia and Taylor Counties at the Virginia Constitutional Convention of 1850, Willey argued in favor of universal suffrage for white men, and also believed that eastern Virginian elites dominated political power in the state. In 1852, Willey became the Whig candidate for Congress, but lost and In 1859, Willey became the Whig delegate for Lieutenant Governor of Virginia, but also lost. The following year he campaigned for Everett and Bell of the Constitutional Union Party in the 1860 presidential election. Everett and Bell lost badly. Republican Abraham Lincoln was elected president.
Hi! My name is Thomas!
I am named after Thomas W. Fleming, past Mayor of Fairmont and a descendant of a pioneering Fairmont family. Thomas and Aretas Brooks Fleming, the eighth governor of West Virginia (and another namesake elf), were cousins. Their great grandfather was Nathan Fleming, brother of Boaz Fleming, the founding father of Fairmont (and, you guessed it, another elf pen name!).
Thomas W. Fleming spent his entire life in business ventures that helped Fairmont grow from a minor town into an important retail and industrial center in north-central West Virginia. Fleming served as Mayor of Fairmont for two terms and was elected to the House of Delegates in 1905. He was the first to understand the significance of street cars and interurban lines in Fairmont. It was under his guidance as mayor that the first street in the city was paved - from the end of the South Side Bridge to Monroe Street. The first city waterworks were built from funds that he personally lent to the city. Fleming's wealth derived in part from the development of coal and oil in Marion, Monongalia, Harrison and Doddridge counties.
Thomas’ wife, Annie Sweeney Flemming, one of the founders of the Woman's Club of Fairmont. She was the Club's first president. Thomas and Annie were married more than 60 years and died within a week of each other in July 1937. One of Annie's last wishes was that her home be passed on to the the Woman’s Club where it still stands today.
Hi! My name is Julia!
Married to Francis H. Pierpont (our elf Francis’ alias), Julia Augusta Robertson Pierpont of Fairmont, West Virginia is credited with being an originator of the nation's Decoration Day, renamed Memorial Day in 1882.
In May 1866, following the end of the war and while living in the Virginia Governor's Mansion, Julia and a Miss Woolsey, an NY girl teaching in the schools for African American children, decided to decorate the graves of the Union soldiers buried in Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, VA. The graves were dismal and neglected so Julia, Miss Woolsey and a number of children, relatives and teachers bravely "paraded" to the cemetery to decorate the graves.
Some approved and others condemned, but news of the event quickly spread. A few weeks later a similar Decoration Day occurred and thousands came from all over the state to decorate the Confederate graves. News spread throughout the nation and more events followed.
There are records of other Decoration Days prior to and following that one in Richmond, but many historians feel Julia was largely responsible for the creation of an annual "Decoration Day" ordered for May 30.
In 1987, a project by WVU's Public History Program established Julia Pierpont as the originator of our annual celebration of Memorial Day.
Hi! My name is Boaz!
According to oral history, in 1808 Boaz Fleming made his annual trek to Clarksburg to pay his brother's Harrison County taxes. While in Clarksburg he attended a social gathering that included Dolly Madison, his cousin. He complained to her about having to travel over a hundred miles each year from his home to pay his Monongalia County taxes and his brother's Harrison County taxes. Dolly Madison supposedly suggested that he create his own county to save him all that travel. Six years later, Boaz Fleming circulated a petition to do precisely that, naming the proposed county Madison County, in honor of Dolly and President James Madison. However, the petition failed to gain sufficient support to be presented to the Virginia General Assembly. He then focused on creating a town near his farm an in 1819, a road was built from Clarksburg to Morgantown. His farm was about halfway between the two, making a good resting point. He laid out the town on the west side of the Monongahela River in 1819. It was incorporated on January 19, 1820 as Middletown. It is unknown if the town was called Middletown because of its location mid-way between Clarksburg and Morgantown or because Boaz Fleming's first wife, Elizabeth Hutchinson, was originally from Middletown, Delaware.
Middletown was named newly-formed Marion County's first county seat on February 18, 1842. At that time, William Haymond, Jr. suggested that the town's name be changed to Fairmont because the town had a beautiful overlook of the Monongahela River, giving it a "fair mount." The Borough of Fairmont was incorporated in 1843 by the Virginia General Assembly.
Boaz was a veteran of the Revolutionary War, serving in the 2nd Delaware Regiment.
Hi! My name is Aretas!
Aretas Brooks Fleming was born in Fairmont, Marion County. After attending the University of Virginia, he established a law practice in Fairmont and was elected prosecuting attorney in 1863. He served in the House of Delegates from 1872 to 1875 and as a circuit judge from 1878 to 1888. During this time, he became a close legal advisor to industrialist and United States Senator Johnson N. Camden.
Fleming was the eighth Governor of West Virginia but only served a three-year term. When he ran as the Democratic nominee in the election of 1888, the election was disputed by the Legislature. In 1890, the Legislature agreed that Fleming had defeated Nathan Goff, Jr. As a result, Fleming did not assume the office until February 6, 1890. He left office in 1893 and continued to practice law, and pursue business interests, specifically in the coal industry. Fleming, along with his brother-in-law Clarence W. Watson, formed many coal companies. After his term as governor, he returned to his Fairmont law practice and later served as president of the West Virginia Board of Trade. He died in Fairmont in 1923 and is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery.
Hi! My name is Fuzzy!
John Forrest "Fuzzy" Knight was an American film and television actor who was born in Fairmont, West Virginia. In Fairmont, he worked as a clerk at a hotel and played in a theater orchestra. He was also a singer, especially in his early career.
He attended West Virginia University where he was a member of Sigma Nu fraternity, a cheerleader and law student. He wrote a pep song, "Fight Mountaineers," which is still frequently used by the Mountaineer Marching Band. He also wrote the melody for a WVU song entitled "To Thee Our Alma Mater," with words by fellow graduate David A. Christopher.
His musical and comedy skills took him to New York, where he was billed under his nickname, Fuzzy (given him because of his peculiarly soft voice). Knight went to Hollywood and appeared in several musical short films for MGM and Paramount between 1928 and 1932. Mae West gave him his first notable film role in She Done Him Wrong, and he appeared in more than 180 films between 1928 and 1967.He was voted one of the Top Ten Money-Making Stars in Westerns in 1940.
Hi! My name is Joe!
Joe Manchin was born in 1947 in Farmington the second of five children of Mary O. and John Manchin. His father owned a carpet and furniture store, and his grandfather, Joseph Manchin, owned a grocery store. His father and his grandfather both served as Mayor of Farmington, West Virginia. His uncle, A.J. Manchin, was a member of the West Virginia House of Delegates and was elected as the state's Secretary of State and Treasurer.
Manchin graduated from Farmington High School in 1965. He graduated from West Virginia University in 1970 with a degree in business administration and went to work for his family's business.
Manchin is an American politician serving as the senior United States Senator from West Virginia, a seat he has held since 2010. A member of the Democratic Party, he previously served as the 34th Governor of West Virginia from 2005 to 2010 and the 27th Secretary of State of West Virginia from 2001 to 2005.
Manchin was a childhood friend of Alabama Crimson Tide football coach Nick Saban (whom we have named another elf after) and they are still close friends. Manchin is a member of the National Rifle Association and a licensed pilot. In 1967, he married Gayle Conelly and together they have three children.
Hi! My name is James!
James Otis Watson, the eldest child of Thomas and Rebecca Watson, was born in 1815, near Benton’s Ferry (now Marion County), Virginia. He was educated by teachers at home, later attending private school in Morgantown.
He was the real pioneer in West Virginia coal development and will certainly always have a place in history as the “Father of the Coal Industry” of the Upper Monongahela Valley. After the first railroad was constructed through Fairmont, in 1852, he immediately opened up the first coal mine, called the American Coal Company, in what is now the city limits of Fairmont. In 1852, Watson built a suspension bridge over the waters of the Monongahela river, connecting Fairmont and Palatine.
In 1861, Watson served as a delegate to the Second Wheeling Convention, a key event in the founding of West Virginia. He was the father-in-law of Aretas B. Fleming and together they opened several coal mines in the area. He died in Fairmont in 1902 and is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery.
Hi! My name is Bob!
Fairmont native, Robert “Bob” Tinnell is a film screenwriter, director, and producer. Tinnell’s initial claim to fame was as producer on the notorious cult classic Surf Nazis Must Die and as a producer of music videos, including MTV Award-winner, “Straight Up” by Paula Abdul.
He is a writer and producer, known for Frankenstein and Me (1996) which starred Burt Reynolds, Louise Fletcher and a young Ryan Gosling along with Kids of the Round Table (1995). He is currently the Director of Mothman Chronicles, which is in development.
Outside of the film industry, he is a well-respected graphic novelist of known works such as “The Black Forest”, “The Wicked West”, “Sight Unseen”, and “Flesh and Blood”. His book “Feast of the Seven Fishes”, on which Fairmont’s annual festival is based, was nominated for an Eisner Award for Best Graphic Album – Reprint. While promoting “Feast of the Seven Fishes”, Tinnell was a guest on several popular radio cooking shows, including The Splendid Table with Lynne Rossetto Kasper, the Rocco Dispirito Show, and KCRW's Good Food.
Bob still resides in West Virginia with his family.
Hi! My name is Natalie!
Named for Natalie Tennant - a true elf as her birthday is Christmas Day! Tennant grew up on a farm in Fairview, Marion County, West Virginia and is the daughter of Rose Mary and John D. Tennant, Jr. Tennant is a 1986 graduate of North Marion High School in Farmington, West Virginia. She attended and graduated from WVU where she was selected as the first woman to represent the university as the Mountaineers' mascot. Tennant served as West Virginia’s 29th Secretary of State from 2009 to 2017. In 2010, Secretary Tennant led West Virginia as the first state to use online voting for deployed military members. It was a successful pilot project that was safe and secure for the military.