It was a brisk, fall day in 1917, a year in which Americans were preoccupied with World War I – the war “to make the world safe for democracy” – when two Fairmont businessmen encountered each other on the streets of the Friendly City. That brief encounter might have been long forgotten in Fairmont Rotary Club’s Golden Anniversary year of 1968 except for one fact – they talked about a new organization known as Rotary.
William J. Wiegel, General Manager of the West Virginian, met Paul Lange, Manager of the Lange and Cris Box Company, and discussed a new Rotary Club which had been formed at Clarksburg, where Paul had lived. They decided to lunch together that day to discuss the matter further, and invited a few other businessmen to join them. This led to a considerably larger meeting of Fairmont businessmen, when it was definitely decided to attempt the organization of a Rotary Club in Fairmont. The Clarksburg club was asked to act as a sponsor of the new club in Fairmont.
Forty-nine members of the Clarksburg club and eight from the Wheeling club, came to Fairmont for the founding of the Fairmont Rotary Club, which boasted 26 charter members. Paul Lange was elected first President, Henry S. Lively was chosen Vice-President, Charles G. Hood was named Treasurer and Harry (Deacon) Engle was elected Secretary, a post he was to hold with distinction from 1917 to 1934.