This Week in West Virginia History

Monday through Friday, at 6:30am & 4:48pm

The West Virginia Humanities Council, publishers of e-WV, and West Virginia Public Broadcasting have created two-minute radio segments for "This Week in West Virginia History" to introduce listeners to important people, places, and events in Mountain State history. Each daily segment is keyed to the actual date in history on which it occurred. The radio scripts, drawn from the content of e-WV, were written by historian Stan Bumgardner and produced by West Virginia Public Broadcasting's Operations Director, Bob Powell. Our composer, Matt Jackfert, composed the original theme music for the program.

Author and storyteller Colleen Anderson serves as the on-air voice. "This Week" airs Monday through Friday, both morning and afternoon during the news.

e-WV is the online version of the West Virginia Encyclopedia, which became a regional bestseller following its publication in 2006. It is the go-to place for concise, authoritative information on the broad spectrum of things to do with West Virginia. The history features are generated daily from a timeline of more than 12,000 items on the e-WV website.

Visitors to the online encyclopedia may dig deeper into e-WV's 2,300 articles, interactive maps, videos, illustrations, opinion polls, and quizzes that test your "WV-IQ." Visit www.wvencyclopedia.org

July 10, 1769: Physician Jesse Bennet Born in Pennsylvania

Jul 10, 2018
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

Physician Jesse Bennet was born in Pennsylvania on July 10, 1769. He studied medicine in Philadelphia under Dr. Benjamin Rush, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. In the early 1790s, Bennet settled in Rockingham County, Virginia. In 1794, he successfully performed a Caesarean section on his wife—the first operation of its kind in U.S. history. The emergency procedure, although primitive by today’s standards, saved the lives of both his wife and infant daughter.

e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

On July 9, 1936, the electric power plant at Union Carbide’s metallurgical plant in Alloy went into operation. The power at the Fayette County plant was generated by water, which flowed through the manmade Hawks Nest Tunnel. Most of the tunnel’s construction had occurred between 1930 and 1932—primarily by black laborers from the South.

July 6, 1934: Coal Operator Sam Dixon Dies at 77

Jul 6, 2018
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

Coal operator Sam Dixon died in Raleigh County on July 6, 1934, at age 77. A native of England, Dixon emigrated to Fayette County in the 1870s and worked for a while in his uncle’s coal mine. In 1893, he and a partner opened their own mine in Fayette County, quickly followed by several other mines.

July 5, 1896: Cartoonist Kendall Vintroux Born

Jul 5, 2018
Kendall Vintroux
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

Cartoonist Kendall Vintroux was born at Fraziers Bottom in Putnam County on July 5, 1896. When his father became ill, Vintroux dropped out of high school to help run the family’s farm.

His career as a cartoonist began when he submitted a humorous drawing to the Charleston Gazette about the town of Poca’s first paved road, which was only eight feet wide.

July 4, 2002: Pres. G.W. Bush Visits Ripley 4th of July

Jul 4, 2018
Jackson County Courthouse
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

On July 4, 2002, President George W. Bush delivered a 45-minute “salute to veterans” at Ripley’s annual Fourth of July ceremonies.

It was the first Independence Day following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The president used the opportunity to comment on the nation’s War on Terrorism, praised the effort of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, and reassured the crowd about homeland security.

WV Division of Tourism (WVDT) / David Fattaleh

July 3, 1863, was a pivotal day in the Civil War. On that day, the Union Army scored a key victory in the Pennsylvania town of Gettysburg, and Confederates offered their surrender at Vicksburg, Mississippi. The Battle of Gettysburg ended the Confederates’ last major invasion of the North and is viewed by some as the war’s turning point. The Confederate loss of Vicksburg was perhaps more important because it opened the way for the North to seize control of the entire Mississippi River, cutting the Confederacy in half.

July 2, 1934: Woodchopping Star Arden Cogar Sr. Born in Webster Co.

Jul 2, 2018
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

One of West Virginia’s most successful athletes hailed from the unusual sport of woodchopping. Arden Cogar Sr. was born in Webster County on July 2, 1934. When he was 21, he won nine titles at what would become the Lumberjack World Championships. He demonstrated his skills at the 1965 New York World’s Fair and quickly became the sport’s leading figure, with regular spots on ABC’s Wide World of Sports. He eventually set more than 50 world records, many after he turned 40. He still holds nine records.

June 29, 1919: West Virginia State Police Established

Jun 29, 2018
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

The West Virginia State Police was established on June 29, 1919. Governor John Jacob Cornwell had pushed to form the unit in response to the mine wars, which were rocking southern West Virginia. Cornwell had grown frustrated with ineffective sheriffs and constables who had to face reelection and, at the same time, tended to take sides in labor struggles. Also, coal companies were hiring some deputies to serve as private security guards, and coal company guards were being sworn in as deputies—all of which angered miners.

June 28, 1936: Football Great Chuck Howley Born

Jun 28, 2018
Chuck Howley
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

Football great Chuck Howley was born in Wheeling on June 28, 1936. At Warwood High, he starred in football and basketball and in 1954 moved on to West Virginia University, where he lettered in an unprecedented five sports: football, sprinting, wrestling, the trampoline, and diving.

He was drafted by the Chicago Bears in the NFL draft but left the team with a knee injury. Howley returned to Wheeling and spent 1960 working at a gas station

June 27, 1961: Honey in the Rock Debuts at Cliffside

Jun 27, 2018
Honey in the Rock
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

On June 27, 1961, the play Honey in the Rock debuted at the newly constructed Cliffside Amphitheater at Grandview in Raleigh County. The play, written by Kermit Hunter, tells of West Virginia’s founding through the experiences of a fictitious family, with some historical figures like “Stonewall” Jackson and the state’s first governor, Arthur Boreman.

The play’s alumni include Academy Award nominee Chris Sarandon and actor, director, and playwright David Selby.

June 26, 1936: NBA Hall of Famer Hal Greer Born in Huntington

Jun 26, 2018
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

Basketball hall of famer Hal Greer was born in Huntington on June 26, 1936. In the early ’50s, he was a standout guard at Huntington’s segregated Frederick Douglass High School. Coaching legend Cam Henderson recruited Greer to play for Marshall College—now Marshall University.

June 25, 1980: Two Women Murdered Traveling to Rainbow Gathering

Jun 25, 2018
Joseph Paul Franklin, a white supremacist and serial killer, confessed to the murders.
E-WV / WV Humanities Council

On June 25, 1980, Nancy Santomero and Vicki Durian, who were apparently hitchhiking to the Rainbow Family reunion in Webster County, were murdered on Droop Mountain, in southern Pocahontas County.

The Rainbow Family is a loosely organized group, variously characterized as hippies and drifters, or as peaceful nature lovers and ecologists.

The annual gatherings, first held in Aspen, Colorado, grew from popular social, political, and cultural movements of the 1960s and early 1970s. The name “rainbow” signifies the diversity of people involved.

June 22, 1926: Earl Olgebay Dies at 77

Jun 22, 2018
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

Earl Oglebay died on June 22, 1926, at age 77. The son of a wealthy Wheeling businessman, he became head of his father’s bank at age 28, making him the nation’s youngest bank president. In the late 1800s, Oglebay partnered with John D. Rockefeller in a Cleveland iron business. He amassed a small fortune in 1901, when he sold his iron interests to U.S. Steel.

June 21, 1920: Wheeling Steel Created

Jun 21, 2018
Wheeling Steel
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

One June 21, 1920, the LaBelle Iron Works, Whitaker-Glessner, and Wheeling Steel & Iron Works combined to form the Wheeling Steel Corporation.

WV statehood
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

On June 20, 1863, West Virginia entered the Union as the nation’s 35th state. It was the end of an unprecedented ladder to statehood that began with the outbreak of the Civil War.

Although some Western Virginians had been frustrated with the Virginia state government in Richmond for decades, it took Virginia’s secession from the Union in April 1861 to get the West Virginia statehood process moving.

Crafty politicians—now remembered as our founders—used Virginia’s secession as an excuse to create a separate government of Virginia—one that remained loyal to the Union.

Oak Park, Preston County
WV & Regional History Center / WVU

Oak Park, an amusement park about a mile west of Masontown in Preston County, opened June 19, 1909.

The park was an easy train ride from Morgantown—as well as nearby Maryland and Pennsylvania—which helped fill up the park on weekends and holidays. On one day in that summer of 1909, 14 trains brought more than 4,000 people to Oak Park.

June 19, 1786: Indian Ambush Changes Lewis Wetzel's Life

Jun 19, 2018
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

On June 19, 1786, a tragic hunting trip changed pioneer Lewis Wetzel’s life forever. Wetzel, his father, and two brothers ventured out from their home near Wheeling and were ambushed by Indians. The attackers killed his father and one brother and badly wounded the other brother.

June 18, 1674: Needham and Arthur Exploration Ends

Jun 18, 2018
This Week in West Virginia History.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online.

On June 18, 1674, the Needham and Arthur exploration into present-day West Virginia ended. A year earlier, explorer, politician, and militia commander Abraham Wood had dispatched James Needham, Gabriel Arthur, and eight Indian guides on an expedition through the South.

June 15, 1963: First Passengers Board Train at Cass Scenic Railroad

Jun 15, 2018
A passenger train from the Cass Scenic Railroad passes the water tower Friday, Sept. 14, 2007, in Cass, W.Va.
Jeff Gentner / AP

On June 15, 1963, the first passengers climbed aboard a train at Cass Scenic Railroad. The railroad was dedicated five days before West Virginia’s Centennial as a state.

This popular excursion railroad takes visitors on a trip back in time. It’s the last remnant of a once vast rail network, started in 1900, to harvest red spruce on Cheat and Back Allegheny mountains. The red spruce, which grew up to 100 feet in height, was used to supply a pulp mill in Covington, Virginia, and the lumber mill in Cass.

June 14, 1898: Quick Earns MOH for Actions at Guantanamo Bay

Jun 14, 2018
John Henry Quick, USMC
Wikipedia / WV Humanitites Council

For his actions on June 14, 1898, Charles Town native John Henry Quick earned the Medal of Honor. His heroism occurred during a joint American-Cuban attack on the Spanish garrison at Guantanamo Bay during the Spanish-American War.

On June 14, Quick’s Marine battalion and about 50 Cuban soldiers were trying to capture the well that supplied water to the Spanish. An American gunboat, the Dolphin, was providing cover for the mission, but due to visibility problems, the boat started shelling American Marines by accident.

June 13, 1928: Nobel Prize Winner Nash Born in Bluefield

Jun 13, 2018
John Nash
WV Humanitites Council / e-WV

Nobel Prize-winning mathematician John Nash Jr. was born in Bluefield on June 13, 1928. The math prodigy excelled at Carnegie Tech (now Carnegie Mellon University) and Princeton University.

One of his mentors was professor John von Neumann, who helped develop the computer and the hydrogen bomb. Nash focused his studies on game theory, which examines rivalries in the context of theoretical math. His 1950 doctoral thesis transformed the field of economics by applying game theory to business competition.

June 12, 1771: Frontiersman Patrick Gass Born in Pennsylvania

Jun 12, 2018
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

On June 12, 1771, frontiersman Patrick Gass was born near present Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. In the 1790s, he was stationed as a ranger at Yellow Creek, Ohio, and later across the Ohio River at Bennett’s Fort on Wheeling Creek. His job was to guard the frontier against Indian attacks. By 1797, Patrick Gass and his family were living in Brooke County. He joined the army two years later and was dispatched to Kaskaskia in the Illinois Territory.

June 11, 1884: Riverside Iron Works Make Steel Useing Bessemer Converter

Jun 11, 2018
Bessemer Converter
Wikipedia

On June 11, 1884, the state’s first Bessemer converter went into operation at the Riverside Iron Works in Wheeling. The Bessemer process made steel even stronger by introducing more air and removing more impurities from iron.

The Bessemer process was just one factor in the rise of West Virginia’s steel industry. A tariff enacted by Congress in 1890 made American tin makers more competitive with the British. It occurred just as the demand for canned foods was growing. The cans were made of thin-rolled steel coated with tin.

June 8, 2004: Judge Elizabeth Hallanan Dies at 79

Jun 8, 2018
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

Judge Elizabeth Hallanan died on June 8, 2004. She was 79 years old.

June 7, 1905: Fiddler French Carpenter Born

Jun 7, 2018
French Carpenter
brandonraykirk.wordpress.com / WV Humanitites Council

Fiddler French Carpenter was born in Clay County on June 7, 1905.

For generations, the Carpenter family was renowned for its musical ability, and French may have been the best of the lot. He learned most of his music directly from his father, Tom, a fiddling preacher.

Tom had learned from his father, Sol, one of the most influential fiddlers in central West Virginia.

Here’s a clip of French Carpenter playing “Camp Chase,” which his grandfather Sol supposedly came up with to win a fiddle contest and his freedom from a Union prison during the Civil War.

Childrens Author Cynthia Rylant Born: June 6, 1954

Jun 6, 2018

Children’s author Cynthia Rylant was born June 6, 1954, in Hopewell, Virginia.

  

She was raised in Raleigh County and earned degrees from Morris Harvey College—which is now the University of Charleston—and Marshall and Kent State universities.

June 5, 1853: St. Joseph Settlement Founded

Jun 5, 2018
St Joseph Community
E-WV / WV Humanities Council

The earliest record of the St. Joseph Settlement, a community of German Catholic immigrants, dates to June 5, 1853. The settlers originally came from the southern German states of Bavaria and Hesse—areas that opposed Frederick William IV’s absolute monarchy.

They emigrated to the United States and settled St. Joseph on the hills above the Ohio River on the Marshall-Wetzel county border.

June 4, 1971: Retired Coal Miner Hijacks Plane

Jun 4, 2018
Glen Riggs arrested
Skyjacker of the Day / tumblr.com

On June 4, 1971, West Virginia’s only documented plane hijacking occurred in Charleston. Glenn Elmo Riggs, a 58-year-old retired coal miner from Boone County, hijacked a United Airlines flight that had stopped over at Kanawha Airport—now known as Yeager Airport. 

He boarded the flight with a .32-caliber pistol and a box of bullets. Shortly after takeoff, he hijacked the 737 and demanded that the pilots fly him to Israel so he could help build a new temple.

June 1, 1956: Artist Blanche Lazelle Dies at 77

Jun 1, 2018
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

Artist Blanche Lazzell died on June 1, 1956, at age 77. She was born in Maidsville in Monongalia County in 1878. After receiving a diploma from the West Virginia Conference Seminary and an art degree from West Virginia University, she moved to New York City and studied with influential artists Kenyon Cox and William Merritt Smith. A remarkably independent woman for the time, Lazzell traveled twice to Paris, where she became enthralled with the avant-garde Cubism movement.

May 31, 2008: Mount de Chantal Visitation Academy Graduates Last Class

May 31, 2018
e-WV Encyclopedia

The Mount de Chantal Visitation Academy in Wheeling graduated its last class of students on May 31, 2008. 

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