Connecting With Family Over a Little-Known Patriot

IMG_1767Yesterday’s mail included the latest edition of American Spirit, the award-winning magazine of the Daughters of the American Revolution for which I’ve written since 2005. Inside this issue was a story I wrote on Ebenezer Zane, a little-known Patriot from Wheeling, W.Va. Not coincidentally, that’s also near where much of my extended family lives. Here’s the story of how this feature came to be:

I came up with the idea for the profile on Ebenezer Zane when traveling to Moundsville, W.Va. (basically right next to Wheeling) to visit family last spring. When I saw a sign along the interstate for Zanesville, Ohio, and other landmarks with the name Zane in it, I asked my husband, who was the passenger, to look up who the town was named for. A Wikipedia search later, I learned it was for a man named Ebenezer Zane. Now, based on this thoroughly un-modern name, my American Spirit antenna went up. Sure enough, he was a Patriot—an under-the-radar one at that, and a perfect candidate for an Our Patriots profile.

But when it came time to research him for the article, I quickly realized that he’s a regional hero, not a national one, and I couldn’t come up with much in terms of reputable literature about him.

Remembering that my parents met while training at Wheeling Hospital, part of Wheeling College (now Wheeling Jesuit University), I, on a whim, called the head of the history department there. He said he was not the expert I was looking for, but suggested I call Professor Hal Gorby at West Virginia University, who, as it turns out, was one of my cousins!

Hal was not the expert on Ebenezer Zane I was looking for, either, but he led me to some reputable books and sources, including the ones used in the article.