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

May 16, 1778: Wyandot and Mingo Indians Attack the Fort Randolph

May 16, 2018
e-WV Encyclopedia

On May 16, 1778, about 300 Wyandot and Mingo Indians attacked the garrison at Fort Randolph in Point Pleasant. Located at the confluence of the Ohio and Kanawha rivers, Fort Randolph was one of the most important military outposts in Western Virginia during the Revolutionary War.

Minnie Buckingham
E-WV / WV Humanities Council

  On May 15, 1886, Minnie Buckingham was born in Putnam County. She later moved to Keystone in McDowell County and married E. Howard Harper, who was elected to the legislature in 1926. When Harper died in the middle of his term, the county Republican executive committee unanimously recommended Minnie to replace him. In January 1928, Governor Howard Gore appointed Minnie Buckingham Harper to complete her husband’s term, making her the first African-American woman in U.S. history to serve in a state legislature.

On May 14, 1982, Judge Arthur Recht handed down a legal ruling that reshaped the course of public education in West Virginia.

 John C. Norman, Jr.
E-WV / WV Humanities Council

Physician John C. Norman Jr., a pioneer in artificial-heart research, was born in Charleston on May 11, 1930. His father was West Virginia’s first licensed African-American architect.

Norman was valedictorian of his class at Charleston’s Garnet High School in 1946. He went on to Harvard Medical School, graduating in 1954. As a surgeon at Boston City Hospital in the 1960s, he began researching organ transplants and, in 1967, successfully transplanted the spleen of a healthy dog into a hemophiliac dog. He also started experimenting with a battery-operated pump for heart patients.

May 10, 1960: Kennedy Wins the West Virginia Primary

May 10, 2018
e-WV Encyclopedia / Charleston Newspapers (CN)

On May 10, 1960, John F. Kennedy defeated Hubert Humphrey in the most important presidential primary ever held in West Virginia. Kennedy, a Catholic, had won the Wisconsin Democratic primary a month earlier. However, some attributed his success to Wisconsin’s relatively large percentage of Catholics.

Oil wells near Parkersburg around 1910
e-WV Encyclopedia

On May 9, 1863, Confederate raiders set fire to the prosperous oil works at Burning Springs in Wirt County. Just two years before the Civil War, Burning Springs had become the birthplace of Western Virginia’s oil industry. When the war began, it was one of only two oil-producing fields in the world.

May 8, 1892: U.S. and Confederate Congressman Alexander Boteler Dies

May 8, 2018
 Alexander Boteler
E-WV / WV Humanities Council

U.S. and Confederate Congressman Alexander Boteler died on May 8, 1892, shortly before his 77th birthday. Before launching his political career, Boteler was a farmer and the owner of a hydraulic cement plant on the Potomac River at Shepherdstown. He entered the U.S. House of Representatives as a Whig in 1859. That same year, he interviewed John Brown extensively after Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry. A skilled artist, Boteler also made a sketch of the imprisoned abolitionist.

May 7, 1972: Activist Lenna Lowe Yost Dies at 94

May 7, 2018

  Activist Lenna Lowe Yost died on May 7, 1972, at age 94. The Marion County native and West Virginia Wesleyan College graduate had become involved in women’s issues as a young adult. For 10 years, she was president of the state chapter of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union. The WCTU, as it’s known, principally opposed the consumption of alcohol but also supported social reforms for women.

Children's Home Society of West Virginia
E-WV / WV Humanities Council

On May 4, 1896, the Children’s Home Society of West Virginia was founded in Charleston. The Society was part of a national movement to place orphaned and neglected children with caring families, rather than crowding them into county poorhouses, where children often lived in squalor, with conditions resembling a Dickens novel.

E-WV / West Virginia Humanities Council

On May 3, 1924, a devastating flood at Harpers Ferry wiped out a highway bridge and permanently shut down the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal.

American Legion
e-WV Encyclopedia

On May 2, 1919, the West Virginia department of the American Legion first convened at a meeting in Charleston. At the time, the Legion was only about six weeks old, having been founded in Paris by members of the American Expeditionary Force after World War I.

May 1, 1930: Labor Leader Mother Jones Celebrates 100th Birthday

May 1, 2018
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia / Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division

On May 1, 1930, labor leader “Mother” Jones celebrated her 100th birthday at a party in Maryland. The firebrand did what she did best: ruffle feathers. On this occasion, she denounced the nation’s prohibition on alcohol, saying it violated her right as an American to drink beer instead of water.

It’s hard to overestimate McElwains’ influence on fiddle playing.
e-WV / WV Humanities Council

Musician Lewis Johnson “Uncle Jack” McElwain died at Wainville in Webster County on April 30, 1938, at age 82. During his lifetime—all of which was spent at Wainville on Laurel Creek—he was considered the best fiddler in all of central West Virginia. He took part in many fiddle contests, and no one recalls him ever losing one. His most notable win was at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893.

April 27, 1758: Indian Warriors Attack Pendleton County

Apr 27, 2018
Battle of Monongahela
e-WV Encyclopedia / Library of Congress

On April 27, 1758, Delaware and Shawnee Indian warriors attacked Fort Upper Tract in present Pendleton County. Some accounts state that all 23 settlers in the fort were killed. Others suggest the Indians took some hostages.

The English name of the Indians’ war chief was Killbuck. During the French and Indian War, he led a number of bloody raids against frontier settlements in what is now eastern West Virginia.

April 26, 1816: General Alexander Welch Reynolds Born in Lewisburg

Apr 26, 2018
Alexander Welch Reynolds
e-WV Encyclopedia

General Alexander Welch Reynolds was born in Lewisburg on April 26, 1816. After graduating from West Point in 1838, he served as an army officer in the Seminole War, the Mexican War, and in the West. 

When the Civil War began in 1861, Reynolds joined the Confederate army and saw considerable combat. 

In September 1861, he led a regiment at the Battle of Carnifex Ferry in Nicholas County. The battle, which was fought on the banks of the Gauley River, left him with the nickname “Old Gauley.”

April 25, 1923: Labor Leader Arnold Miller Born in Kanawha County

Apr 25, 2018
E- WV Encyclopedia / Rick Lee via Goldenseal magazine

Labor leader Arnold Miller was born in Kanawha County on April 25, 1923. The son and grandson of coal miners, Miller quit school at age 16 to become a miner himself. 

In the 1948 election, Johnson chaired President Harry Truman’s finance committee, which helped engineer Truman’s surprise victory over Republican Thomas Dewey.
e-WV / WV Humanities Council

Attorney Louis Johnson died in Washington, D.C., on April 24, 1966, at age 75. The native of Roanoke, Virginia, had spent most of his life in Clarksburg before moving to Washington.

In 1913, Johnson co-founded the law firm that would become Steptoe and Johnson, which remains one of the leading legal practices in West Virginia. After serving in World War I, he helped found the American Legion and became its national commander in 1932.

April 20, 1963: W.Va. Legislature Meets at the Custom House in Wheeling

Apr 20, 2018
e-WV Encyclopedia / WV Division of Tourism via Steve Shaluta

On April 20, 1963, the West Virginia Legislature met in a special ceremonial session at the old U.S. Custom House in Wheeling.

It marked the 100th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s proclamation certifying that West Virginia would become a state.

The legislative event was a turning point for the building, which was more than a century old. During the Civil War, it’d been the capitol of the pro-Union Reorganized Government of Virginia and the location of West Virginia’s statehood debates.

April 19, 1889: Susan Dew Hoffone Licensed to Practice Medicine in W.Va.

Apr 19, 2018
Susan Dew Hoff
e-WV Encyclopedia

On April 19, 1889, Susan Dew Hoff passed the state medical exam, becoming one of the first licensed women physicians in West Virginia history.

As a youth, the Hampshire County native had moved with her family to West Milford in Harrison County, where her father was a doctor. She sometimes accompanied him on house calls.

And he encouraged her to pursue a medical career, but medical colleges were closed to women in the mid-1800s.

As Hoff raised a family of five, she self-taught herself by reading her father’s medical books and discussing medicine with him.

April 18, 1861: Federal Soldiers Set Fire to Harpers Ferry Armory

Apr 18, 2018
David Hunter Strother / Library of Congress

On April 18, 1861, U.S. Army regular soldiers and volunteers set fire to the U.S. Armory and Arsenal at Harpers Ferry. 

The day before, Virginia politicians had voted to secede from the Union and join the Confederacy. Confederates quickly targeted the Harpers Ferry Armory and Arsenal for its stockpile of guns. On April 18, 360 Virginia militiamen began a 10-mile march from Charles Town to seize the Armory.

By 1757, Washington could no longer provide enough forces to protect Forts Ashby and Cocke, so he abandoned both sites.
e-WV / WV Humanities Council

On April 17, 1757, George Washington ordered the Virginia militia to abandon Fort Ashby in present Mineral County. Captain Ashby of the Virginia militia had overseen the fort’s construction, and Fort Cocke—to the south, during the summer and fall of 1755.

In 1920, the hospital moved to the Camden mansion on Garfield Avenue.
e-WV / WV Humanities Council

Camden-Clark Memorial Hospital was dedicated in Parkersburg on April 16, 1920. Its roots date back to the old City Hospital, a 40-bed facility that opened in 1898 on present 13th Street. It also operated a nursing school.

April 13, 1870: Judge Frank Haymond Born in Marion County

Apr 13, 2018
Judge Frank Cruise Haymond
e-WV Encyclopedia

Judge Frank Haymond was born in Marion County on April 13, 1870. He practiced law in Fairmont and served as judge of the Marion County Circuit Court.

In 1945, Governor Clarence Meadows appointed the 75-year-old Haymond to fill a vacancy on the state Supreme Court. Haymond was elected to the court the following year and re-elected to two more 12-year terms.

When he died in 1972 at age 102, he’d served longer on the state’s high court than any past jurist.

April 12, 1912: Willard Hotel Opens in Grafton

Apr 12, 2018
e-WV Encyclopedia

On April 12, 1912, the Willard Hotel opened in Grafton with an elaborate banquet attended by state and local dignitaries and officials of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. It was built by Grafton attorney and industrialist John T. McGraw and named in honor of the B&O’s president, Daniel Willard.

April 11, 1964: Writer Pinckney Benedict Born in Lewisburg

Apr 11, 2018
Hollins University
e-WV Encyclopedia

Writer Pinckney Benedict was born in Lewisburg on April 11, 1964, and grew up on his family’s dairy farm. After graduating from Princeton University and the University of Iowa, he published his first two collections of short stories, Town Smokes and The Wrecking Yard, and the novel Dogs of God. The New York Times Book Review named all three to its Notable Books list. In 2010, after taking 14 years off from publishing, he released a new collection of short stories entitled Miracle Boy.

Today, most archaeologists consider both the Braxton County and Grave Creek tablets to be frauds.
e-WV / WV Humanities Council

The Braxton County Rune Stone—also known as the Wilson Stone and Braxton County Tablet—was found by Blaine Wilson on April 10, 1931, about eight miles west of Gassaway.

The piece of sandstone—measuring about a square foot—has inscriptions similar to a stone found in the Grave Creek Mound in Moundsville in 1838. Nearly a century earlier, the Grave Creek Tablet had become the center of an archaeological controversy, with one eminent ethnographer believing it had been carved by Celts from ancient Spain or Britain, rather than by early Indians.

AftDr. Maggie, as she was affectionately known, returned to Monroe County and pursued her lifelong interests in genealogy and local history.
e-WV / WV Humanities Council

Physician Maggie Ballard was born on April 9, 1900, at Greenville in Monroe County, where her father was postmaster and owned a general store.

She attended school in Greenville and at the Alleghany Collegiate Institution in Alderson. After receiving her undergraduate degree from WVU, she became one of the first women to earn a medical degree from the University of Maryland. For the next four decades, she was a physician in Baltimore, specializing in obstetrics and gynecology, and served on the faculty of the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

April 6, 1938: Civilian Conservation Corps Establish Camp Kanawha

Apr 6, 2018
Wikimedia Commons / Andrew Springer

On April 6, 1938, the Civilian Conservation Corps established Camp Kanawha at the mouth of Shrewsbury Hollow, about seven miles south of Charleston. Over the next four years, CCC workers transformed the site, which had been heavily mined and timbered, into Kanawha State Forest.

April 5, 1856: Educator Booker T. Washington Born in Franklin County, VA

Apr 5, 2018
Booker T. Washington
e-WV Encyclopedia / Library of Congress

Educator Booker T. Washington was born a slave in Franklin County, Virginia, on April 5, 1856. After the Civil War, he relocated to Malden, a few miles east of Charleston, where he attended a one-room school for blacks.

He also was tutored by Viola Ruffner, whom he later credited for instilling in him the qualities of cleanliness and hard work.

After graduating from Hampton Institute in Virginia, Washington returned to West Virginia as a teacher. In 1879, he went back to Hampton as a professor. But when school was out, he’d come home to work in West Virginia’s coal mines.

April 4, 1944: Critic John Bishop Dies at 51

Apr 4, 2018
Carl Van Vechten / Princeton University Library

Critic John Peale Bishop died in Massachusetts on April 4, 1944, at age 51. He was born at Charles Town in Jefferson County in 1892 and attended high school in Hagerstown, Maryland.

When he was 17, he experienced a temporary and unexplainable bout of blindness. That’s when he decided to become a writer. In 1912, his poem, ‘‘To a Woodland Pool,’’ was published in Harpers Weekly.

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