December 12, 2008
Readers of certain other irresponsible and disrespectful Web sites might have caught the final moments of Bill Stewart's press conference following West Virginia's season-ending win over South Florida last Saturday, when he broke out this bit of Mountaineer inspiration:
And ... scene. Initially, West Virginians had no idea what that means, either, or what inspired it.
But the Charleston Daily Mail, out to prove that the coach/defender of the state's honor hadn't completely lost his mind, tracked down a former history major from Stewart's neck of West Virginia who not only recognized the monologue, word-for-word, but traced its origins to a 110-year-old performance of (seriously) Uncle Tom's Cabin. Gather 'round, children, and hear the tale:
The genesis of Stewart's finishing remarks came at a performance of Uncle Tom's Cabin at the Fairmont Opera House in the 1890s (exact year uncertain). There, a famed Wetzel County character, William Olliver Gallagher, delivered an oratory known as "Glorious Old Wetzel," after he was pushed onstage and asked to introduce himself.
A man with a large handlebar mustache, [Gallagher] was a known defender of the honor of Wetzel County against what he considered the uppity folks in Wheeling, then the state capital.
When Tom Loehr heard fellow Wetzel County native Stewart's conclusion to his press conference, he knew the words, their context and [where] he had heard them -- or similar ones -- before.
Loehr, 59, is a former state senator and state treasurer who now is a Charleston business entrepreneur. He went to school with Stewart's older brother, Ted, in Wetzel County. Loehr said Tuesday that many New Martinsville natives know part of Gallagher's colorful monologue about Wetzel by heart.
Count the WVU football coach among them. The exact finishing words of "Oll" that night at the opera house went like this:"Glorious old Wetzel! Whose sons are brave and daughters fair, and which today produces gas enough to light the world, oil enough to lubricate it, and brains enough to rule it."
Emphasis added; paragraph breaks condensed from original.
So there you go: Stewart was defending his team's honor against the uppity folks in Wheeling, or at least the outsiders whose opinions of Stewart's native state are "so far off I want to fist-fight them." Give 'em hell, Coach Stew.
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Hat tip: Ron, and Orson for the video code.