This Week in West Virginia History

August 16, 1851: Reformer Coin Harvey Born

18 hours ago
William Hope "Coin" Harvey
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

Social reformer William Hope ‘‘Coin’’ Harvey was born at Buffalo in Putnam County on August 16, 1851. He was a teacher, lawyer, silver miner, politician, land speculator, geologist, and bestselling author.

Harvey attended Buffalo Academy and Marshall College (now Marshall University) before becoming a lawyer. He opened his first law practice in Huntington at age 19.

August 14, 1894: Entertainer Ada 'Bricktop' Smith Born in Alderson

Aug 14, 2018
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

  On August 14, 1894, entertainer Ada Beatrice Queen Victoria Louise Virginia Smith was born at Alderson. At age five, Ada made her stage debut in Chicago, appearing in Uncle Tom’s Cabin. By age 16, she was performing on the vaudeville circuit. Soon afterward, a New York saloon keeper gave her the nickname ‘‘Bricktop’’ for her blazing red hair, unusual for an African-American.

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

Aug 13, 2018

  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.

August 9, 1954: Logan County Sheriff Don Chafin Died

Aug 9, 2018
In 1921, Chafin led the resistance to the miners’ armed march on Logan County.
E-WV

On August 9, 1954, former Logan County Sheriff Don Chafin died in Huntington at age 67. Chafin had been elected Logan County assessor at the young age of 21 and sheriff at 25. After a term as county clerk, he was reelected sheriff in 1920.

  

Sheriff Chafin bitterly opposed labor unions, and, with funding from coal companies, used his deputies—including ones hired off the street—to keep the United Mine Workers of America out of Logan County.

e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

In a referendum on August 7, 1877, West Virginia voters chose Charleston to be the permanent state capital. The capital’s location had become a running joke, as government records had been moved from Wheeling to Charleston and then back to Wheeling again, all in 14 years.The capital was on the move so much on West Virginia riverboats, it earned the nickname of “the floating capital.”

James Edward Watson Born: August 2, 1926

Aug 2, 2018
James E Watson
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

Businessman James Edwin Watson died in Fairmont on August 2, 1926, at age 67. He was the son of James Otis Watson, one of the first coal operators in northern West Virginia.

In 1852, James Otis Watson and future West Virginia founder Francis Pierpont opened a mine near Fairmont and shipped the first coal from Western Virginia on the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad.

Sid Hatfield
E-WV

On August 1, 1921, Matewan police chief Sid Hatfield and his friend Ed Chambers were gunned down by Baldwin-Felt Detectives in front of the McDowell County Courthouse in Welch.

The trouble between Hatfield and the Baldwin-Felts had started more than a year earlier. In May of 1920, a shootout in the Mingo County town of Matewan had pitted Baldwin-Felts detectives against Hatfield and a crowd of angry miners.

A shootout left seven of the detectives, two miners, and the town’s mayor dead in the streets of Matewan.

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

Jul 30, 2018
Aviator Rose Agnes Rolls Cousins
E-WV

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 26, 1942: Camp Washington Carver Dedicated

Jul 26, 2018
Camp Washington-Carver's Lodge
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

Camp Washington-Carver was dedicated as West Virginia’s black 4-H camp on July 26, 1942. Named for Booker T. Washington and George Washington Carver, the camp is located at Clifftop in Fayette County.

It was the first 4-H camp for African-Americans in the country, and its Great Chestnut Lodge is the largest log structure in West Virginia and one of the largest in the nation.

July 25, 1862: Rebel Spy Nancy Hart Leads Raid at Summersville

Jul 25, 2018
Nancy Hart after her capture in 1862
Francis Miller - Vol 8 The Photographic History of the Civil War Soldier Life and Secret Service

According to tradition, Rebel spy Nancy Hart led a Confederate raid on the Union position at Summersville in Nicholas County on July 25, 1862. Hart was only in her late teens at the time.

Early in the Civil War, she’d worked closely with the Confederate Moccasin Rangers as a scout and spy. Captured in Braxton County in the fall of 1861, she convinced Northern troops of her innocence. After being released, she returned to the Confederate lines with inside information on Union troop movements.

July 24, 1823: West Virginia Governor Arthur Boreman Born in Pennsylvania

Jul 24, 2018
Arthur Boreman
E-WV

West Virginia Governor Arthur Boreman was born in Pennsylvania on July 24, 1823. When he was young, his family moved to Tyler County. And then, in 1845, Boreman relocated to Parkersburg, which would be his hometown for the rest of his life.

July 20, 1910: College Founder Nathan Brackett Dies at 73

Jul 20, 2018
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

 

  College founder Nathan Brackett died on July 20, 1910, at age 73. The native of Maine was a minister in the Free Will Baptist Church. In 1864, he joined the U.S. Christian Commission, which was providing assistance to Union and Confederate soldiers and to freed slaves in the Shenandoah Valley.

July 19, 1850: Pope Establishes Diocese of Wheeling

Jul 19, 2018
Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston Coat of Arms
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

On July 19, 1850, Pope Pius IX established the Diocese of Wheeling to oversee Catholic parishes in what was then Western Virginia. Previously, Catholics in the western part of the state had been under the care of the Archbishop of Richmond, Richard Whelan.

However, Whelan realized the population in Western Virginia was growing so quickly that the vast region needed its own Catholic diocese. Whelan moved to Wheeling and became bishop of the new diocese.

July 18, 1893: Spencer State Hospital Opens

Jul 18, 2018
Spencer State Hospital
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

Spencer State Hospital opened in Roane County on July 18, 1893. It was intended to relieve the overcrowding at Weston State Hospital in caring for people with mental illnesses. At times, its mission was expanded to treat diseases such as typhoid fever, tuberculosis, and pneumonia.

e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

On July 17, 1861, Confederates won one of their first victories of the Civil War at the Battle of Scary Creek in Putnam County. Union forces had been dispatched to dislodge Confederates, who had controlled the Kanawha Valley since the war began three months earlier. On July 17, about 1,300 Union troops under the direct command of Colonel John Lowe clashed at the mouth of Scary Creek with about 900 Confederates under Colonel George S. Patton of Charleston. Patton was the grandfather of General George S. Patton of World War II fame.

July 16, 1869: Philanthropist Michael Benedum Born in Bridgeport

Jul 16, 2018
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 13, 1899: Greenbrier Co. Methodist Preacher Sam Black Dies at 86

Jul 13, 2018

  Methodist preacher Sam Black died on July 13, 1899, at age 86. The Greenbrier County native was a circuit riding minister who spread the gospel through Greenbrier, Clay, Fayette, Nicholas, Webster, and Kanawha counties. Affectionately known as ‘‘Uncle Sam,’’ he helped organize and build numerous churches with money earned by selling socks and deerskin gloves made by women from the congregations. Sam Black was an ordained deacon and a two-time delegate to the Methodist general conference. He also was one of the 16 charter members of the West Virginia Methodist Conference.

July 12, 1749: Loyal Company Granted 800,000 Acres

Jul 12, 2018
Loyal Company
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

On July 12, 1749, the Colony of Virginia granted the Loyal Company 800,000 acres in what is today parts of southern West Virginia, southwestern Virginia, and southeastern Kentucky. The Loyal Company promoted settlement in Western Virginia at a time when few pioneers dared to venture west of the Allegheny Mountains.

By 1754, the land company had settled about 200 families, including some along the New and Bluestone rivers. Most of these settlements, though, were destroyed by Indians during the French and Indian War.

July 11, 1861: Union Victory at Rich Mountain

Jul 11, 2018
Rich Mountain Map
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

On July 11, 1861, the Battle of Rich Mountain was fought in Randolph County. It was the climax of a successful Union campaign to seize control of Western Virginia early in the Civil War.

Confederate General Robert Garnett had established defensive positions at Laurel Hill and Rich Mountain. Suspecting an attack on Laurel Hill, Garnett placed only about a fourth of his men on Rich Mountain, under the command of Colonel John Pegram.

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.

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.

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