Bethany: A Town and College Steeped in History and Tradition


 While some college towns have an uneasy truce between the student body and the townspeople, Bethany is uniquely different.

It’s a rural community with farms and rolling hills.

But in the center, there’s a college with Gothic architecture.

The tower is the scene of many ghost stories.

The huge ornamental gates, a student passes through only twice–upon entering and again upon graduating.

And at the fountain, many wishes have been made.

Then down the street is the town, and Chambers’ General Store.

“We are one of the last of the old-time general stores,” says owner Harry Chambers, “where you can get a modern sandwich, a sub at the deli, or you can go over and get a bag of nails and go home and fix your deck.”

This is where everybody meets, for dog food or duct tape, a little gossip or a bag of chips.

But mostly for their legendary breakfast sandwiches (that actually pre-date  those from McDonald’s.)

And they are made to order.

“I had one boy who came in, he was a big offensive lineman, so he could manage it,” noted Chambers. “He would get a sandwich with three sausages, three eggs, double cheese, lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise.”

Chambers’ General Store is where old-timers run into students, and students run into their professors.

“You know people here off campus, all through town,” said Dakota Kotsol, a senior communications major. “It’s nice. It’s a learning experience.”

“There’s a lot of tradition here,” said Dr. Patrick Sutherland, mayor and communications professor. “There’s a good diversity. We love having our students interact with townspeople because it makes everything richer.”

The town was founded in 1853, and it’s actually 13 years “younger” than the college, founded in 1840.

It was founded by a Renaissance man, Alexander Campbell, who served as everything from postmaster to college president to minister.

“He was also a professor, a journalist and a farmer,” said Sutherland.

Campbell lived and died in a farmhouse now called the Campbell Mansion–now a museum.

The college he created is alive and well, with 750 students and lots of traditions, many of which combine town and gown.

One of those traditions involves walking to a local establishment to quench their thirst.

“Bubba’s, to stay out of trouble!” said Lynnell Willingham, a student.

Bubba’s Bison Inn is one of those traditions.

“Seriously, Bubba’s is a great place,” said Willingham. “It’s a great place for a lot of our students to come and socialize on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and sometimes Fridays.”

They emphasize that they walk to and from Bubba’s–there’s no driving involved.

And Chambers’ General Store is among the top six businesses in West Virginia still operated by the family that started it.

And when the mountain state was 150 years old, Chambers’  was on the list of “The 150 Neatest Things In West Virginia.”

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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