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

Wikimedia commons / U.S. National Archives and Records Administration

On November 18, 1846, Virginia Governor William Smith called for state troops to fight in the Mexican-American War. The two-year war followed the United States’ annexation of Texas. The conflict was primarily fought over the disputed southern border of Texas, which was claimed by both the United States and Mexico. The war was largely opposed in this country by the Whig Party, including a young Congressman from Illinois, Abraham Lincoln, who saw it as an effort to pilfer territory from Mexico.

Downtown Shepherdstown
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia / David Fattaleh/WV Division of Tourism (WVDT)

On November 12, 1762, Thomas Shepherd presented articles of incorporation for the town of Mechlenburg to the Virginia General Assembly. Along with Romney, Mechlenburg, which was later renamed Shepherdstown, would become one of present West Virginia’s first two incorporated towns.

Shepherd established a grist mill there along the Potomac River as early as 1739, but it’s believed that German immigrants might have settled at Shepherdstown more than 20 years before. Located along Pack Horse Ford—an ancient Potomac crossing—Shepherdstown is among West Virginia’s most historic places.

Memorial Arch
Wikimedia Commons

The cornerstone for Huntington’s Memorial Arch was laid on November 11, 1924—the sixth anniversary of Armistice Day. The arch was built in honor of Cabell County soldiers who had fought in World War I.

November 5, 1949: Lawyer T. C. Townsend Dies in Charleston

Nov 5, 2015
Thomas Chasteene Townsend (1877-1949)
West Virginia Blue Book via Flickr


 Lawyer T. C. Townsend died in Charleston on November 5, 1949, at age 72. As a young man, he mined coal and saved up enough to attend West Virginia University. He opened a law practice in Fayetteville in 1903 and later served as Kanawha County prosecuting attorney. He also served twice as state tax commissioner, in which capacity he tried to change the state’s tax structure and shift the burden away from low-income families.

Governor William C. Marland (1918-1965)
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia / WV State Archives (WVSA)

On November 4, 1952, Democrat William Marland defeated Rush Holt to become West Virginia’s governor. For Holt, it was the virtual end of a once-promising political career.

The Weston native had burst onto the scene as a Democratic legislator in the early 1930s. In 1934, at age 29, he defeated incumbent Senator Henry Hatfield to become the youngest person ever elected to the U.S. Senate. Since senators must be 30 to serve, Holt had to wait nearly six months to take his seat.

e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia / William P. Gottlieb

  On October 29, 1956, the legendary R&B bandleader Louis Jordan recorded his third and final version of one of the most unusual songs about West Virginia. In “Salt Pork, West Virginia,” Jordan calls out a series of large cities as a railroad conductor would do. After reciting the names of cities like Philadelphia, Atlanta, and Houston, Jordan concludes with, ‘‘I think I’ll go on home now; Bluefield, my Salt Pork, West Virginia.’’

October 28, 1929: Painter Chuck Ripper Born in Pittsburgh

Oct 28, 2015
Charles Lewis "Chuck" Ripper
Rick Lee courtesy of Huntington Quarterly

Painter Chuck Ripper was born in Pittsburgh on October 28, 1929. His father was a blacksmith and an amateur landscape painter, who spent hours in the woods with his son. His mother was an elementary art teacher. Both encouraged Chuck’s interest in nature and art. While Ripper was a student at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, he had his first bird painting published in Nature magazine.

October 22, 1864: Weston State Hospital Admits First Patients

Oct 22, 2015
Weston State Hospital, WV
Tim Kiser via Wikimedia Commons

The first patients were admitted to what would become Weston State Hospital on October 22, 1864. Built on 269 acres in Lewis County, the facility was authorized by the Virginia legislature in the early 1850s as the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum.

October 21, 1935: Country Musician Mel Street Born in Virginia

Oct 21, 2015
Mel Street
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

Country musician Mel Street was born near Grundy, Virginia, on October 21, 1935. He gained early show business experience on WHIS radio and television in Bluefield. In the late 1960s and early ‘70s, he hosted his own radio show in Bluefield. During this time, he developed his signature honky-tonk style, inspired by country crooners of the ‘50s and ‘60s.

October 15, 1839: W. Va. Governor A. B. Fleming Born in Fairmont

Oct 15, 2015
Aretas B. Fleming
West Virginia State Archives / Wikimedia Commons


  West Virginia Governor A. B. Fleming was born in Fairmont on October 15, 1839. In the 1860s, he started a legal practice in his hometown and married Carrie Watson, the daughter of Fairmont’s richest man.

October 14, 1943: U.S. Army Begins Transforming Parts of Dolly Sods

Oct 14, 2015
Sunset over Dolly Sods
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia / Steve Shaluta WV Division of Tourism (WVDT)

  On October 14, 1943, the U.S. Army began transforming parts of Dolly Sods into an artillery range. Troops from across the eastern United States were trained at what the Army named the “West Virginia Maneuver Area” in preparation for combat in World War II. Dolly Sods—a rugged and stunningly beautiful mountainous area located at the intersection of Grant, Randolph, and Tucker counties—was chosen because it resembled the European landscape. It also was virtually unpopulated and allowed clear sight lines for artillery training. At the same time, the Army conducted a rock-climbing school at nearby Seneca Rocks in Pendleton County and taught pack mule techniques and mountaineering skills.

Radio personality Al Sahley
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

October 8, 1921, marked the first ever live radio broadcast of a football game. The contest pitted West Virginia University against the University of Pittsburgh at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh. It was aired on KDKA, the nation’s first radio station. In this 17th meeting of the Backyard Brawl, WVU lost, 21 to 13. It was during a rough stretch for the Mountaineers, who had lost 10 of their last 11 to Pitt, with one tie. WVU turned the tide with wins the next two seasons but once again hit on hard times. Between 1904 and 1951, WVU won only four times against Pitt, while losing 29 and tying once. The rivalry didn’t become really competitive until the 1950s.

Appalachian Trail
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia / Kathleen Mallow-Sager


On October 7, 1923, the first miles of the Appalachian Trail were opened in New York state. Within 14 years, the trail would stretch some 2,200 miles—from Maine to Georgia.

October 1, 1854: Journalist Anne Newport Royall Dies at 85

Oct 1, 2015
Anne Newport Royall
Slashme via Wikimedia Commons

 Journalist Anne Newport Royall died on October 1, 1854, at age 85. She first arrived in present West Virginia when she was 17, after spending her early years in Pennsylvania and Virginia. She and her widowed mother lived in Sweet Springs in Monroe County with Captain William Royall, whom Anne would later marry. Anne had access to Captain Royall’s immense library and was tutored in history and the politics of the American Revolution and early United States—an uncommon opportunity for women in the late 1700s.

September 30, 1832: Social Activist Ann Jarvis Born in Virginia

Sep 30, 2015
Ann Reevs Jarvis
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

Social activist Ann Reeves Jarvis was born in Virginia on September 30, 1832. Her family moved to Philippi in Barbour County in 1845. Seven years later, she and her husband moved to neighboring Taylor County, where her life was filled with tragedy. Eight of her 12 children died before adulthood.

September 24, 1930: Governor William MacCorkle Dies

Sep 24, 2015
William MacCorkle
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

Governor William MacCorkle died on September 24, 1930, at age 73. He was the last of six Democrats to serve as governor over 26 consecutive years. This was the longest period of domination of the governorship by one party in our state’s history.

September 23, 1938: Cutting of the Mingo Oak

Sep 23, 2015
Mingo Oak
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

On September 23, 1938, the fabled Mingo Oak was cut down, after succumbing to fumes from a burning coal refuse pile. For nearly 600 years, the ancient oak tree had stood watch near the present Logan-Mingo county line. It was reportedly the largest white oak in the world, standing 145 feet tall and just over eight feet in diameter at breast height, with a limb spread of 96 feet.

September 17, 1897: Folklorist Ruth Ann Musick Born in Missouri

Sep 17, 2015
Ruth Ann Musick
The University Press of Kentucky

Folklorist Ruth Ann Musick was born in Missouri on September 17, 1897. She earned a Ph.D. in English from the State University of Iowa, where she developed a lifelong interest in folklore. She first came to West Virginia in 1946 to teach mathematics and English at Fairmont State College, which is now Fairmont State University. Musick quickly made a big impact on the Mountain State by starting a folk literature class at Fairmont State and helping to revive the West Virginia Folklore Society. And in 1951, she founded the West Virginia Folklore Journal. She retired from both the journal and Fairmont State in 1967.

e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

  Charles Washington, the youngest full brother of George Washington, died in Charles Town on September 16, 1799, at age 61. Charles Washington first came to present Jefferson County in 1780 and began constructing his home, Happy Retreat, on land he’d inherited from his half-brother. In 1786, Charles Washington laid out plans for Charles Town on 80 acres. The town square, where the courthouse now stands, was deeded by Washington as a gift to the town. Charles Town was incorporated the following year, and Charles Washington is buried nearby in the family plot at Happy Retreat.

Carnifex Ferry
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

On September 10, 1861, a Civil War battle was fought at Carnifex Ferry in Nicholas County. The clash had been unfolding for nearly two months, after Confederate troops were forced from the Kanawha Valley. For weeks, the Southern troops had occupied the important crossroads of Gauley Bridge in Fayette County. After defeating a small Union force at Kesslers Cross Lanes in Nicholas County, some 2,000 Confederates, under former Virginia Governor John Floyd, encamped along the steep cliffs of the Gauley River.

e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

  On September 9, 1915, historian Carter Woodson helped found the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History. This group became the cornerstone for the study of black history in the United States.

Kanawha Textbook War
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

On September 3, 2974, Kanawha County schools opened amid high tensions. Months earlier, school board member Alice Moore had objected to the content of new language arts books the county was adopting. She felt that many were anti-religious or anti-American. Fueled by the efforts of conservative ministers, an opposition movement to the books grew rapidly, particularly in rural parts of Kanawha County. Despite petitions bearing 12,000 signatures and public condemnation of the books by 27 ministers on the grounds of immorality and indecency, the board approved most of the books.

September 2, 1907: Judge John Jay Jackson, Jr. Dies at 83

Sep 2, 2015
Judge John Jay Jackson Jr.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

  Judge John Jay Jackson Jr. died on September 2, 1907, at age 83. His long career on the bench and in politics stretched from the West Virginia statehood movement to the early years of the mine wars.

August 27, 1902: Blues Legend 'Diamond Teeth Mary' Born in Huntington

Aug 27, 2015
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

  Singer Mary Smith McClain was born in Huntington on August 27, 1902. She would become a blues legend.

At age 13, she was desperate to escape beatings from her stepmother. So, she disguised herself as a boy, hopped a train, and began performing in the circus. Throughout the 1920s and ’30s, she performed in medicine and minstrel shows. In the 1940s, she had diamonds implanted in her front teeth and took the name “Diamond Teeth Mary.” Over the years, McClain shared the stage with such performers as Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan, Big Mama Thornton, Ray Charles, Duke Ellington, and Bessie Smith, who was her half-sister.

August 26, 1887: Bridge Builder Lemuel Chenoweth Dies at 76

Aug 26, 2015
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

  Bridge builder Lemuel Chenoweth died at his home in Beverly in Randolph County on August 26, 1887, at age 76. He was a renowned builder of churches, houses, sideboards, beds, buggies, wagons, and even dominoes; however, he’s best remembered for his covered bridges.

August 20, 1946: Football Coach Fielding Yost Dies at 75

Aug 20, 2015
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

Football coach Fielding Yost died in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on August 20, 1946, at age 75. In 1895 and ’96, the Marion County native played tackle for one of West Virginia University’s earliest football teams while earning a law degree.

August 19, 1863: Union Troops Destroy Saltpeter Works Near Franklin

Aug 19, 2015
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

On August 19, 1863, Union troops under General William Averell destroyed the saltpeter works near Franklin, the seat of Pendleton County. This was the first of Averell’s three cavalry raids in 1863, launched from West Virginia toward Confederate railroads, troops, and supplies in western Virginia. Averell had been more or less banished to the West Virginia theater due to his failures during the Chancellorsville campaign.

August 13, 1900: Railroad Mogul Collis P. Huntington Dies at 78

Aug 13, 2015

  Railroad mogul Collis P. Huntington died on August 13, 1900, at age 78. The Connecticut native grew up in poverty before moving to California during the 1848 Gold Rush. Unlike the miners, he realized that the real money was to be made from selling supplies, not panhandling for gold. After amassing a fortune, he became one of the “Big Four” railroad moguls who built two giant rail systems: the Central Pacific and Southern Pacific.

Alpha Psi Omega

  On August 12, 1925, the Alpha Psi Omega fraternity was formed at Fairmont State Normal School—now Fairmont State University. At the time, the college’s drama club wanted to join a national honorary theater organization. But the club members discovered that no such organization existed, so they formed their own, under the leadership of English professor Paul Opp.

e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

  On August 6, 1864, a colony of eight Catholic nuns wound up their long treacherous wartime trek from Washington, D.C., to Parkersburg. The Sisters of the Visitation of Holy Mary established a teaching order in Parkersburg and, in 1867, founded a school for poor children. In 1900, they took possession of a new home and school located on the outskirts of Parkersburg. They named the large red-and-brick monastery DeSales Heights, in honor of St. Francis DeSales. Their former school building became home to St. Joseph’s Hospital.