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

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.

July 30, 2006: Aviator Rose Agnes Rolls Cousins Dies at 86

Jul 30, 2015
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

Aviator Rose Agnes Rolls Cousins died on July 30, 2006, at age 86. The Fairmont native had entered West Virginia State College in 1932, when she was 16. The school’s new pilot training program, introduced in 1939, rekindled in her a childhood desire to fly planes. She became the first black woman trained as a solo pilot through the college’s Civilian Pilot Training Program. West Virginia State was the first of six historically black colleges in the nation authorized to establish one of these federally funded programs.

July 29, 1918: Novelist Mary Lee Settle Born in Charleston

Jul 29, 2015

Novelist Mary Lee Settle was born in Charleston on July 29, 1918. During World War II, she served in the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force. She later wrote movingly about this time in her book All the Brave Promises. After the war, Settle worked as an editor and taught fiction writing at Bard College and at the University of Virginia. Even though Settle spent most of her adult life outside West Virginia, her work often drew inspiration from her family’s deep roots in the Mountain State, including ancestors who’d settled in eastern Kanawha County in the 1840s.

July 23, 1919: Novelist Davis Grubb Born in Moundsville

Jul 23, 2015
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

Novelist Davis Grubb was born in Moundsville on July 23, 1919. He came from a prosperous background, but his family was hit badly by the Great Depression and evicted from their home. The incident likely influenced his later writings, which often criticized politicians and wealthy capitalists.

July 22, 1930: Fayette County's Dun Glen Hotel Destroyed By Arson

Jul 22, 2015
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

On July 22, 1930, one of West Virginia’s most popular—and most notorious—landmarks burned to the ground. On that day, arsonists destroyed the Dun Glen Hotel in Fayette County.

The Dun Glen was opened in 1901 across the New River from the town of Thurmond. Thanks to the coal and railroad industries, money poured in and out of the region. At one point, the town of Thurmond and the surrounding area accounted for almost 20 percent of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway’s revenues, shipping more freight than Cincinnati or Richmond.

July 16, 1869: Philanthropist Michael Benedum Born in Bridgeport

Jul 16, 2015
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

  Philanthropist Michael Benedum was born in Bridgeport on July 16, 1869. He earned the nickname the “Great Wildcatter” based on his ability to find oil and gas by drilling “wildcat” wells in unpredicted places. He first struck it rich in Pleasants County and then expanded to other sites in West Virginia, other states, and, eventually, other countries. He continued working seven days a week, even into his late 80s.

July 15, 1886: Congressman “Cleve” Bailey Born in Pleasants County

Jul 15, 2015
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

  Congressman “Cleve” Bailey was born in Pleasants County on July 15, 1886. Early in his career, he was a teacher, school administrator, and newspaper editor in Clarksburg. He got his start in politics as a Clarksburg city councilman.

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 8, 1924: Rock & Roll Pioneer Johnnie Johnson Born in Fairmont

Jul 8, 2015
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

Rock n’ roll pioneer Johnnie Johnson was born in Fairmont on July 8, 1924. The son of a coal miner, he started playing piano at age five and grew up listening to big band music and what was known then as hillbilly music. During World War II, he became one of the first 1,500 African-Americans admitted to the Marine Corps.

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

Jul 2, 2015
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.

July 1, 1937: Watoga and Babcock State Parks Opened

Jul 1, 2015
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

On July 1, 1937, Watoga and Babcock state parks were opened to the public and quickly became centerpieces of the fledgling state park system. Both Watoga and Babcock were constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps. The CCC, one of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal programs, was designed to put young people to work during the Great Depression.

Watoga, located in Pocahontas County, is West Virginia’s largest state park. Workers at three CCC camps built Watoga’s original cabins, superintendent’s residence, stable, restaurant-administration building, 11-acre lake, horse and foot trails, 14 miles of roads, and swimming pool, all between 1934 and 1937.

On June 25, 1939, musicians from the Wheeling Steel Corporation performed at New York’s World’s Fair before 26,000 listeners. The performers, selected from Wheeling Steel’s extended family, had become the surprise sensation of the late ’30s. It was all the brainchild of Wheeling Steel’s advertising director, John Grimes, as a way to promote the corporation’s image and products.

e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

On June 24, 1934, businessman and state founder Granville Davisson Hall died at age 96. Growing up in Harrison County, he learned the technique of stenography, which would serve him well in coming years. He started his career teaching school when he was 17. In 1861, at the young age of 23, he recorded the proceedings of the Wheeling conventions that would lead to West Virginia becoming a state. He later published his notes in the book The Rending of Virginia, the most influential memoir about the West Virginia statehood movement.

June 18, 1937: John D. Rockefeller IV Born in New York City

Jun 18, 2015
Office of Jay Rockefeller

  John D. Rockefeller IV was born in New York City on June 18, 1937, just weeks after the death of his great-grandfather, business tycoon John D. Rockefeller. Jay—as the wealthy Rockefeller heir was known—first came to West Virginia as a poverty volunteer in the 1960s. He soon attracted national attention by switching his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat. He was elected to the West Virginia House of Delegates in 1966 and as secretary of state two years later.

June 17, 1961: Brinkley Bridge Dedicated Near Wayne

Jun 17, 2015
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

  On June 17, 1961, the Brinkley Bridge was dedicated near the town of Wayne. The previous year, it had entered West Virginia political lore. While covering the Democratic presidential primary between John F. Kennedy and Hubert Humphrey, NBC-TV newsman David Brinkley was reporting on poverty in the Mountain State and the poor condition of West Virginia’s roads and bridges. He visited a Wayne County bridge, built in 1907, that local residents had complained about for years.

June 11, 1900: Confederate Spy Belle Boyd Dies at 57

Jun 11, 2015
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

On June 11, 1900, Confederate spy Belle Boyd died of a heart attack at age 57.

Boyd was born in 1843 to an influential Berkeley County family. When the Civil War erupted, she and her family were decidedly pro-Southern. On July 4, 1861, Belle shot and killed a Yankee soldier in the Boyds’ Martinsburg home but was cleared of any criminal charges. She was only 18 at the time.

June 10, 1775: Captain Hugh Stephenson Organizes Berkeley County Riflemen

Jun 10, 2015

On June 10, 1775, Captain Hugh Stephenson organized the Berkeley County Riflemen in response to George Washington’s call for soldiers at the start of the Revolutionary War. These were among the first soldiers from the South to volunteer following the outbreak of hostilities in Massachusetts. The men supplied their own uniforms, weapons, equipment, and food. They wore leather leggings and moccasins, deerskin caps, and homespun shirts made of a coarse cloth called linsey-woolsey.

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