|Calhoun County lost another friend this
week, Hovah Underwood.
Hovah Hall Underwood, wife of former governor Cecil
Underwood, died on Friday, Sept. 24, in Charleston. She has played such
an important role in Calhoun County memories that we choose to honor her
She was born in April 12, 1919, in Grantsville, and
lived in a house at the site of the present Laundromat. Her father was
Roche Hall and her mother was Theodocia Betts. She was a niece of Miss
Ola Betts, who had a great influence on her life. She was in the first
class at the new Grantsville Grade School. Miss Davis was the first
grade teacher. Hovah and her family attended Knotts Methodist Church on
Main Street. She was an accomplished musician, playing the piano and
later giving private lessons. She also played saxophone, sitting by Ola
Jarvis in the high school band.
Hovah was a 1937 graduate of Calhoun County High
School. She was a regular at the class reunions. Her stories about the
class, their activities and pranks made her a favorite any time she was
in town. It seems that she and Ola Jarvis Stalfort were ring leaders,
aided by my husband Carl and Andy Stemple. Some others in their group
were Murdayne Marshall, Virginia Proudfoot, Elva Wright, Dorothy
Elliott, Ann Hardman, Parker McDonald, Jim Rothwell, Bob Wise (not the
governor) and L.C. Hamilton. This group did not date, but were always
together and had life-long friendships.
Hovah earned an AB degree from Salem College and a
Certificate in Social Work from West Virginia University. She taught at
Grantsville Grade School. She also worked in a defense plant during
World War II.
She met her husband, Cecil Underwood, through her two
sisters when they were classmates at Salem College. Hovah was a child
welfare worker for the Dept. of Public Assistance and worked at St.
Marys, where Cecil was a teacher. She was stood up for her first date
with him, when he forgot, and walked another teacher home. He could
never complain about his wife’s driving, because she taught him to
While courting Hovah, Cecil was in Elizabeth and
planning to come to Grantsville. He got on the Creston Ferry and made it
across, but when he reached the Annamoriah Ferry, it had closed for the
night. He was marooned between Creston and Annamoriah. He stopped for
directions at a bar, where he was told to go straight. He went straight
until he reached Hur, where there was no way to go straight with several
intersections. He saw a light and turned toward it and was met by dogs
and a farmer with a shotgun. The farmer gave him directions into town.
Cecil made a vow that if ever elected governor, he would see that there
were bridges between Elizabeth and Grantsville. Governor Underwood had
the pleasure of opening a bridge in 1957, while serving as youngest
governor of West Virginia.
In most places, the Underwoods would be known as “the
governor and his wife.” In Calhoun County he was shown respect, but it
was always, “Hovah and her husband.”
Hovah’s evidence of love for Calhoun County was shown
when she “chose to return” for her wedding on July 25, 1948. This was
held at Knotts Methodist Church, next door to the home of Dr. Morford,
who had delivered her. Dr. Morford’s funeral was held at his home at the
same time as her wedding.
Hovah has been honored here by Calhoun County
Committee on Aging, Minnie Hamilton Health Care Center, Calhoun Middle/
High School, Calhoun Historical Society and Republican Executive
She was on the board of Big Brothers/Big Sisters,
Cammack Children’s Center, Huntington Museum of Art, Marshall
Univer-sity Artist Series, United Methodist Foundation and America’s
Promise. She was a member of United Methodist Women, Charleston Garden
Club, Governor’s Mansion Preservation Foundation, Daughters of American
Revolution, Delta Kappa Gamma Society, Kanawha County Republican Women,
West Virginia Republican Women, Charleston Women’s Club, West Virginia
Symphony League, Hadassah of Charleston, Breast Cancer Awareness, Kids
Count, and American Association of Social Workers.
I knew her through my husband, but after his death, we
became friends on our own. She has been here several times to become
aware of Historical Society restorations. Her stories about the Stevens
school, in particular, showed us that she was proud to be a Calhouner.
She has made many gifts of family photos, information
and artifacts to the Calhoun Historical Society to use in their new
museum and Family History Center. Even in her death, she was giving,
having donated her body to the Marshall University School of Medicine.
We will miss Hovah, but we are grateful that God
allowed her to have such a part in our lives and the history of Calhoun
References: Ola Stalfort, Video of Calhoun Republican
Committee, Flame of Sept. 1948 (magazine of Cabot Corp.), and
recollections of conversations.