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Six county students named Golden Horseshoe winners

By Staff | May 5, 2014

Six middle school students from Jefferson County won the annual Golden Horseshoe competition: Nicholas Chapman (Wildwood Middle School), Emma Damm (Wildwood Middle School), James Frye (Shepherdstown Middle School), Parker Jackson (Charles Town Middle School), Max Ober (Shepherdstown Middle School), and Eva Smith (Wildwood Middle School).

These students will attend the Golden Horseshoe Ceremony in Charleston on May 1 at the Culture Center.

One of the highlights of the eighth-grade year for West Virginia students is the opportunity to become a Knight or Lady of the Golden Horseshoe. This program takes its name from the golden horseshoes given to the early explorers of West Virginia.

The tradition began when, in 1716, Governor of the Virginia colony, Alexander Spotswood, saw the need for exploration of the land west of the Allegheny Mountains, most of which is now West Virginia.

After organizing a party of about 50 men to explore this territory, the Governor presented each member of his party with a small golden horseshoe to commemorate the bravery of those who crossed the mountains into Western Virginia.

In the late 1920’s, to promote the study the history of West Virginia, this tradition was revisited. The idea of forming West Virginia Clubs was proposed by Phil Conley, an editor of The West Virginia Review. Mr. Conley convinced the State Superintendent of Schools to promote a comprehensive study of the state. He, in turn, proposed Conley’s idea by honoring the highest-achieving students with a state award.

Each year 221 eighth-grade students are honored for their knowledge of the state. The Golden Horseshoe winners have outscored their classmates in school and county-wide testing of their knowledge of their native state. The test measures their understanding of West Virginia. They must also write an essay focusing on some aspect of West Virginia current events.

While in Charleston, these students are given a tour of the Capitol and the Cultural Center and a luncheon given in their honor. They are then inducted into the Golden Horseshoe Society. The State Superintendent of Schools presides over the ceremony, and each student is dubbed either a Knight or Lady of the Golden Horseshoe Society. Each student receives a Golden Horseshoe pin and become a part of this 70 year tradition.