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William D. Zinn was a Philippi native who was a notable author, agriculturalist, and public servant. Zinn served in a variety of education and agriculture-related roles from the turn-of-the-century to the 1930s. In recognition of his life's contribution, he was enshrined in the West Virginia Agriculture and Forestry Hall of Fame. Zinn's work as an agriculturalist and lecturer allowed him to advocate for a more scientific approach to farming. This marker lies about a mile west of Woodbine Farm which was Zinn's birthplace as well as the setting of his autobiography titled The Story of Farm Woodbine Farm and many of his articles in agriculture periodicals.


  • Photo of the marker
  • Photos of the members of the WV State Board of Agriculture in 1907. Zinn is featured in the bottom left corner. 

Photo courtesy of West Virginia History on View.

William D. Zinn was born in 1857 at his family's home on Woodbine Farm near Philippi, WV. During his childhood, Zinn spent his time working the family farm and attending Barbour county public schools. Zinn graduated from West Virginia College at Flemington and went on to teach. By 1881, Zinn had been elected Superintendent of Schools in Barbour County, serving two terms. 

Zinn is best known for his work as an agriculturalist and writer. As a young man, Zinn was known to use scientific methods in the daily operations of his farm. He believed that understanding and cultivating healthy soil was the key to a successful farm. The farm's success prompted local farmers to seek Zinn's advice. In 1898, Zinn began publishing columns in The Barbour Democrat. These articles were written as answers to questions and common issues farmers faced, and the column helped Zinn build a reputation as an agriculturalist. As his reputation grew, he was appointed by Governor Albert B. White to the State Board of Agriculture in 1901.

Zinn continued publishing and also began to travel to other states to give lectures and hold forums, most frequently to Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and New York. These lectures and several pieces featured in the National Stockman and Farmer and the Pennsylvania Stockman helped Zinn develop a national reputation as an agriculturalist. In 1913, Zinn was one of the first County Agricultural Agents in the state and served Ohio and Brooke Counties. In later years, Zinn fulfilled the same position in Harrison County. 

A leading member of his community, Zinn held several other important positions but is best known for his work advocating on behalf of the agricultural industry. He served as the first president for the West Virginia Live Stock Shippers Association. He was also one of the original organizers of Grange Mutual Fire Insurance Company, a group focused on providing the often unmet financial service needs of farmers. This organization was based in Philippi. Later, Zinn served as the president for the West Virginia Farm Bureau.

Zinn's autobiographical work The Story of Farm Woodbine Farm was published in 1931. The book gave insights to both Zinn's farming techniques, those both successful and otherwise, as well as his daily life. Because of the book's popularity, it was printed a second time. Zinn died at the age of 81 while in his home in Philippi, WV. 
    

Recorder, Number 21, 3 June 1938. Virginia Chronicle. . Accessed February 20, 2019. https://Virginiachronicle.com/cgi-bin/Virginia?a=d&d=HR19380603.2.3&e=-------en-20--1--txt-txIN-------.

West Virginia Highway Marker Database - Barbour County. West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture, and History. . Accessed February 20, 2019. http://www.wvculture.org/history/wvmemory/hmresults.aspx?County=Barbour&Title=&Words=&Op=AND.

William D. Zinn. West Virginia Department of Agriculture. . Accessed February 20, 2019. https://agriculture.wv.gov/divisions/executive/WVAFHOF/Documents/biosNEW/Zinn,%20William%20%2775.pdf.