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Five WVU Students present at Phi Alpha Theta Regional Conference

history club
(Left to right) Elena Dugan, Jordan Riggs, Elizabeth Satterfield, Madelyn Lawrence, and  Haleigh Posey  presented research at the Western Pennsylvania Regional Phi Alpha Theta Conference.

Recently, five history majors  presented their research at the  Western Pennsylvania Regional Phi Alpha Theta Conference, this year at Grove City College.  Phi Alpha Theta is an American honor society for undergraduate and graduate students and professors of history. The WVU History Club/ Phi Alpha Theta Chapter is very active with weekly meetings, conferences, and other events. 

Presentation Abstracts

Elena Dugan, " The Black Hand and the Rise of Organized Crime in Northern West Virginia:1908-1923"

elena Dugan

Leading into the 1900s, operators in the West Virginia coal, timber and glass industries sent recruiters to Ellis Island, offering to pay for incoming immigrants to come to the state. The biggest immigrant groups in the state quickly became the Italians and the Irish. While in the southern part of the state, immigrants were confined to coal camps, in Northern West Virginia, they were able to spread out and form communities with like immigrants. By 1908, Marion, Harrison and Ohio County began to see a rise in activity from the Black Hand mafia. From 1908-1923 the Mafia activity led to a widespread fear of immigrant groups. This led to racial stereotyping, the Alien and Sedition legislation, prohibition and a later rise in hate groups such as the Ku Klux Klan.

Elizabeth Satterfield,  "Swiss Settlement in Randolph County, West Virginia:  A Study of Land Deals, Policies, and Immigration in Helvetia"

elizabeth satterfield

Beginning in 1869, Swiss i mmigrants, first men followed by their families, settled in Randolph County, West Virginia, establishing the village of Helvetia followed by seven other communities in the outlying area. Encouraged to immigrate by both private landowners and land agents as well as the West Virginia state government in post-Civil War period, Swiss immigration to Randolph County peaked in the 1870s when state support was at its greatest but trickled out in the 1880s after a shift in state party politics. Because of land ownership problems which led to a poor public image of West Virginia, the flow of Swiss immigrants dramatically declined, and West Virginia state policy and attitude toward immigration changed significantly. Despite enduring hardships, Swiss settlers created thriving communities found ed on their common heritage. This study on the Swiss of Randolph County serves as a case study for land selling and buying trends in post-Civil War West Virginia as well as the active role both private persons and public entities played in Swiss settlement.

Haleigh Posey, "The Role of Letters During the Napoleonic Wars"

Haleigh Posey

When many think of smuggling during the Napoleonic Wars they automatically think of smuggled war material and colonial goods, not letters. Between 1806 and 1813, however, communication between Britain and the continent was illegal and the constraints of the blockade created new problems for correspondents.  Yet, communication continued thanks to smugglers, merchants, diplomats, and middle-men. Inspired originally by the article, “Philosophical Intelligence: Letters, Print, and Experiment during Napoleon’s Continental Blockade” by Iain P. Watts, my research project explored the fate of letter writing, in particular correspondence that was scientific or academic in nature.  I explored how the Napoleonic Blockade obstructed correspondence as well as how correspondents circumvented it. These blockaded letters and the agents who transported them provide evidence of the importance of the circulation of knowledge during the Napoleonic Wars.


Jordan Riggs,  “The Draw of Darkness: Visitor Experiences at Auschwitz and Majdanek” 

Jordan Riggs

This presentation explores the concept of dark tourism in relation to two concentration camps located in Poland. Dark tourism is when the public is attracted to visit a site of tragedy, violence, or death. The scale of a dark tourism site can vary from the site of a single shooting to larger events, such as battlefields. This paper gives a brief history of both Nazi concentration camps, Auschwitz and Majdanek. While both are located in Poland, the number of annual visitors is significantly different. The paper seeks to discover how visitor experience is impacted at each site, divided into three categories: museum exhibits and tours, other visitors, and visitor preconceptions. By using primary documents, such as official museum tour guides and Trip Advisor reviews, supplemented by scholarly works on dark tourism, this paper provides a complex view of how visitors view concentration camps in Poland.

Madelynn O. Lawrence, " The Trial and Subs eq uent Accusations of a Confessed Salem Witch”


The Salem Witch Trials of 1692 have long been a point of fascination along the historical timeline of the United States of American. A lesser known aspect of this notorious event is the dynamic between the “witches’’” accusers and those “witches” who actually stood trial. Even lesser known that this equally fascinating aspect of the witch trials is the role of a single confessed witch in the accusations, trials, and even executions of other witches. Sarah Churchill is not as well-known a figure in the history of the Salem Witch Trials as Mary Warren or the Proctors, but she was equally- if not more so- important as they were.

Not only did Churchill confess to witchcraft and stand trial, but she managed to recant her confession and proceed to play a central role in identifying, testifying against, and helping execute other accused witches in late seventeenth century Massachusetts. This research project explores the distinct nature of the Sarah Churchill case, as well as her continuing presence in other trials throughout 1692 and 1693. Using almost entirely primary documents and transcriptions from Paul Boyer and Stephen Nissanbaum’s “The Salem Witchcraft Papers” collection and supplementing these with secondary, scholarly sources, my project explores the relationship between Churchill and other prominent accusers, as well as her family connections and social position in Puritanical society. Furthermore, using the statistics and facts about seventeenth century “witches,” this research determines how well Churchill fit the portrait of a witch and how, exactly, a teenage girl in a Puritan society garnered the enormous power and influence that Sarah Churchill did.