Golden Horseshoe Award Golden Horseshoe Award
 
About the WV Golden Horseshoe Award

One of the highlights of the eighth-grade year is the opportunity for a student to become a Knight or Lady of the Golden Horseshoe. This prestigious program takes its name from the golden horseshoes given to the early explorers of West Virginia. In 1716 the Governor of the Virginia colony, Alexander Spotswood, saw the need for exploration of the land west of the Allegheny Mountains, most of which is now West Virginia. The governor organized a party of about 50 men, all of whom adopted the pledge, "Sic jurat transcendere monte," which means "Thus he swears to cross the mountains." Governor Spotswood presented each member of his party with a small golden horseshoe to commemorate the bravery of those who crossed the mountains into Western Virginia, beginning the Golden Horseshoe tradition.

      Detail of Pin given to Students
Pin Detail This historical tradition was revitalized in the late 1920's. To promote the study of state history, the idea of forming West Virginia Clubs was proposed by Phil M. Conley, an editor of The West Virginia Review. In late 1929, Mr. Conley took his idea to State Superintendent of Free Schools William C. Cook. Superintendent Cook believed that the State Department of Education should take the lead in promoting a comprehensive study of the state. He proposed expanding Conley's idea by honoring the highest-achieving students with a state award. In 1930 some 2,736 clubs were organized with more than 48,000 students as members. In the first Golden Horseshoe ceremony, held in 1931, 87 students from 46 counties were honored as Knights and Ladies of the Golden Horseshoe. The Golden Horseshoe became known as a symbol of scholastic achievement to honor students who excel in the study of West Virginia. Since that time approximately 15,000 eighth-grade students have received a golden pin in the shape of a horseshoe, much like those given by Governor Spotswood some three hundred years ago. This pin symbolizes the student's knowledge and understanding of their state's proud heritage.

The program of studies in combination with state awards is unique in its statewide recognition of scholastic achievement. Each year approximately 22,000 eighth grade students spend the school year studying a comprehensive West Virginia curriculum. The curriculum engages the students in the intense study of the history, geography, economy and government of the Mountain State. The primary goal of the program is to promote pride in our state, develop intellectual and participatory skills as well as foster attitudes that are necessary for students to participate as effective, involved, and responsible citizens. The State Department of Education, in effect, uses the Golden Horseshoe award to honor "all-state" West Virginia Studies students.

Each year 221 eighth-grade students are honored for their knowledge of the state in a one-day ceremony held in Charleston. The Golden Horseshoe winners have outscored their classmates in school and county wide testing competitions and made top scores on a West Virginia Department of Education test which measures their grasp of West Virginia Studies. Students also write an essay focusing on some aspect of West Virginia current events. A minimum of two students from each county and one student from the West Virginia Schools for the Deaf and Blind at Romney are selected for the award. The other 110 honorees are selected from the 55 counties based on each county's eighth-grade population.

While in Charleston to celebrate the Golden Horseshoe Day, the honorees are treated to a tour of the Capitol and Cultural Center and a luncheon held in their honor. The high point of the Golden Horseshoe Ceremony is the induction of the students into the Golden Horseshoe Society. The State Superintendent of Schools presides over the induction ceremony. Each student kneels and, with a tap of a sword on the shoulder, is dubbed either a Knight or Lady of the Golden Horseshoe Society. Each student is presented a Golden Horseshoe pin and the 70-year honor and tradition continues.

 

 

 

Facts About the WV Golden Horseshoe Award

The Golden Horseshoe originated in the early 1700s in colonial Virginia when then-Governor Alexander Spotswood saw the need for exploration of the land west of the Allegheny Mountains, most of which is now West Virginia. The governor organized a party of about 50 men to explore the frontier. At the end of the exploration, he presented each member of the party with a golden horseshoe. Translated from Latin, the inscription on each horseshoe read, "Thus it was decided to cross the mountains." On the other side was written,"Order of the Golden Horseshoe." Because of this, the recipients became known as "The Knights of the Golden Horseshoe."

The Golden Horseshoe is probably the most coveted award bestowed upon West Virginia students each year. During the induction ceremony, students kneel and the State Superintendent, using an antique sword, dubs students as "ladies" or "knights" of the Golden Horseshoe.

The Golden Horseshoe Test has been administered in West Virginia since 1931 and is the longest-running program of its kind in any state.

Two hundred twenty-one West Virginia eighth graders receive the award each year. The two top-scoring students from each county are given the award (total of 110), as are another 110 students selected throughout the state based on population. In addition, the top-scoring student from the West Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind is presented the award.

Recipients during the past seven decades include citizens from all walks of life, state Supreme Court justices, legislators, attorneys, business leaders and educators.

In conversations with Department of Education officials, West Virginia native Homer Hickam indicated that his one regret was not winning the Golden Horseshoe award as a student. The author of "October Sky" was presented an honorary Golden Horseshoe award in 1999 because of all the positive reinforcement he has given the state.