FAIRMONT, W.Va. – After more than 100 years, a lost piece of art is returning to Fairmont. An oil painting of Margaret Elizabeth Dickey Fleming is now back at Fairmont State University.

Dickey was the principal of Fairmont Normal School in the 1800’s. She was also the first female principal of any Normal School in the United States.

All this history was founded by Dr. Raymond Alvarez during his grant research, where he examined the origins of Fairmont State Normal School.

“She traces back to the early days of just getting education organized in West Virginia,” Alvarez said. “She was well educated, and she came to a small town and really set in motion what we have today.”

Alvarez found that Dickey was documented as President of the University for years, but was never displayed in the “Hall of Presidents” in Hardway Hall — or on the Fairmont State history page.

More research found that the school presented an original oil painting of Dickey in 1905, as a recognition of her service. But that painting ended up getting lost, when the Normal School was moved to Locust Avenue, where the university currently sits.

In 2019, a replica was created of the oil painting to finally display her in the Hall of Presidents.

Just last fall, the great-granddaughter of Dickey contacted the University and said that they’ve had the original oil painting all along.

The original portrait is now back on campus and displayed in the Ruth Anne Musick Library. Dickey’s great-granddaughter also gave the University her hand written journal.

They are working on adding the journal to the library’s online resources for everyone to be able to read.

You can find more about Margaret Elizabeth Dickey Fleming on Fairmont State’s library website.