This Week in West Virginia History

WV Regional and History Collection

General George S. Patton was killed during the Third Battle of Winchester, Virginia, on September 25, 1864. In 1856, Patton, a Richmond lawyer, had moved to Charleston and founded the Kanawha Riflemen, a decidedly pro-Southern militia company.

September 24, 1830: General John Hunt Oley Born

Sep 24, 2018

General John Hunt Oley was born in upstate New York on September 24, 1830. At the start of the Civil War in 1861, he was one of six New York National Guardsmen sent to Western Virginia to drill troops at the request of Francis Pierpont, governor of the Reorganized Government of Virginia. That fall, he organized the pro-Union 8th Virginia Infantry, which would later become the 7th West Virginia Cavalry. By the end of the war, he’d rise in rank to brevet brigadier general.

Rep. Ken Hechler, D-WV
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

Congressman Ken Hechler was born in New York on September 20, 1914—and celebrated his 100th birthday in 2014.

During World War II, he served as a combat historian and earned the bronze star and five battle stars. Afterward, he taught at Princeton University and served on President Harry Truman’s staff.

University of Charleston

On September 11, 1935, Morris Harvey College relocated from Barboursville to Charleston. Founded in 1888 by the Methodist Episcopal Church South, the school was originally known as Barboursville Seminary. The seminary struggled financially until Fayetteville coal operator Morris Harvey paid off the school’s debt. In appreciation, the institution changed its name to Morris Harvey College.

September 10, 1782: Betty Zane Resupplies Fort Henry

Sep 10, 2018
e-WV

On September 10, 1782, Betty Zane entered American history and folklore with her daring dash to resupply Wheeling’s Fort Henry. Her courageous act supposedly took place during one of the last battles of the American Revolutionary War—nearly a year after the British surrender at Yorktown but before the peace treaty had been finalized.

September 6, 1875: Bank of Huntington Robbed by James Gang

Sep 6, 2018
Jesse Frank James
e-wv

On September 6, 1875, two men walked into the Bank of Huntington with their revolvers drawn. Two others kept guard outside. The four men left the bank with $20,000 and rode south out of town.

September 3, 1966: Summersville Lake and Dam Dedicated

Sep 3, 2018
West Virginia Department of Culture and History

On September 3, 1966, President Lyndon Johnson traveled to Nicholas County to dedicate the Summersville Dam and Lake. With a summer pool stage of nearly 2,800 surface acres and 60 miles of shoreline, it’s West Virginia’s largest lake.

August 15, 1906: Niagara Movement Meets in Harpers Ferry

Aug 15, 2018
The leaders of the Niagra Movement chose Harpers Ferry for its first public meeting in honor of abolitionist John Brown, who’d led an ill-fated raid on the town’s armory in 1859.
E-WV

The Niagara Movement—an important civil rights group—held its first public meeting at Harpers Ferry’s Storer College on August 15, 1906.

  

The movement emerged from increasing philosophical differences between Booker T. Washington—the most powerful black leader of his day—and more radical intellectuals.

While Washington wanted to work more closely with the white community to improve African-Americans’ economic status, his critics—led by W. E. B. DuBois, William Monroe Trotter, and others—urged a more militant approach.

e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

General “Pete” Everest was born in Fairmont on August 10, 1920. A pioneer pilot of rocket planes, Everest once earned the nickname of “the fastest man alive.”

During World War II, he first flew in the European Theater, completing 94 combat missions. Everest later flew 67 combat missions in the China-Burma-India region. During this time, he destroyed four Japanese aircraft before being shot down in May 1945.

He spent the last few months of the war as a Japanese prisoner of war.

e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

  Labor leader Bill Blizzard died on July 31, 1958, at age 65. The Kanawha County native was the son of two passionate union activists.

e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

Coach Dyke Raese was born in Tucker County on July 27, 1909. He played all sports at Davis High School, and later coached the school’s basketball team. Between 1938 and ’42, he coached West Virginia University’s basketball team to a 55-29 record.

July 23, 1919: Novelist Davis Grubb Born in Moundsville

Jul 23, 2018
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.

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.

May 28, 1938: NBA Hall of Famer Jerry West Born in Cabin Creek

May 28, 2018
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

  Basketball hall of famer Jerry West was born on Cabin Creek in Kanawha County on May 28, 1938. He led East Bank High School to a state basketball championship before going on to rewrite the record books at West Virginia University. As a sophomore, his Mountaineer team finished the regular season ranked first in the nation. In 1959, he took WVU to within two points of a national championship and was named Most Valuable Player of the NCAA Tournament. After his senior season, he won a gold medal in basketball at the 1960 Olympics.

May 18, 1932: Industrialist I.T. Mann Dies at 68

May 18, 2018
I.T. Mann
E-WV / WV Humanities Council

Financier and industrialist I. T. Mann died in Washington on May 18, 1932, at age 68. As a young man, the Greenbrier County native apprenticed at his father’s bank. Then, in 1889, he helped organize the Bank of Bramwell in Mercer County. The bank became a financial pillar of the southern coalfields and attracted wealthy coal operators to the town. Bramwell soon achieved the distinction of being the “richest small town in America.”

 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.

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. 

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.

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.

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.

The Main Hall at West Liberty
e-WV Encyclopedia

On March 30, 1837, the Virginia legislature chartered a private academy at West Liberty, north of Wheeling.

The first 65 students met for classes the following year. In 1857, public-spirited citizens completed the red-brick Academy Hall, which survived until the mid-1970s.

March 29, 1973: Educator Fannie Cobb Carter Dies in Charleston

Mar 29, 2018
Educator Fannie Cobb Carter (1872-1973)
e-WV Encyclopedia / WV State Archives (WVSA)

African-American educator Fannie Cobb Carter died on March 29, 1973, six months after her 100th birthday.

She was born in Charleston in 1872, just months before the state’s new constitution prohibited black children and white children from attending school together.

After earning a teaching degree from Storer College in Harpers Ferry, Cobb returned home to teach in Kanawha County’s public schools. In 1908, she organized the teacher-training department at West Virginia Colored Institute, which is now West Virginia State University.

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