This Week in West Virginia History

at least 476 men died of silicosis while working in the tunnel
E-WV / WV Humanities Council

On January 25, 1936, Newsweek magazine ran a story about deadly cases of silicosis associated with the Hawks Nest Tunnel construction in Fayette County.

It was the first time many Americans had heard of the tunnel disaster, which the magazine attributed to an “atmosphere of deadly dust.”

Battle of Allegheny Mountain: December 13, 1861

Dec 13, 2016
Union General Robert Milroy’s force of about 1,900 went up against the Confederate’s 1,200 troops.
Wikipedia

On December 13, 1861, the Battle of Allegheny Mountain was fought in Pocahontas County. Following the Battle of Greenbrier River at Camp Bartow on October 3, the Confederate army had withdrawn to winter quarters atop Allegheny Mountain. Union General Robert Milroy likely believed the Confederates were demoralized and launched an attack on the cold mountain summit. Milroy’s force of about 1,900 went up against the Confederate’s 1,200 troops.

La Belle Iron Works
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

The Wheeling-La Belle Nail Company closed on September 30, 2010, ending more than 150 years in business. The company was founded in 1852 in South Wheeling as the La Belle Ironworks.

It manufactured cut nails—a key construction material in 19th-century America. By 1875, Wheeling was known as the Nail City, and La Belle was the city’s leading nail producer.

Kanawha Watershed
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

On September 29, 1861, one of the worst floods on record hit the Kanawha River watershed. The river crested nearly 17 feet above flood stage in Charleston and badly damaged the valley’s salt works.

It also affected an innovative system of dams and locks that’d been built in the 1850s to transport cannel coal on the Coal River. The refined oil from cannel coal was highly popular as a source of home-lighting fuel throughout the East.

Bishop George Peterkin
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

Bishop George Peterkin died in Parkersburg on September 28, 1916, at age 75. The Maryland native had joined the Confederate Army at age 20, participated in Robert E. Lee’s ill-fated Western Virginia campaign of 1861, and was present for the Confederate surrender at Appomattox.

After the war, Peterkin was ordained as an Episcopal priest and served in churches in Virginia and Maryland. After the Diocese of West Virginia was created, he was elected bishop for the entire state and consecrated at Wheeling in 1878.

Catherine Marshal
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

Author Catherine Marshall was born in Tennessee on September 27, 1914. In the late 1920s, her family moved to West Virginia and lived in Keyser, where she graduated from high school in 1932.

While attending Agnes Scott College in Georgia, she met the Rev. Peter Marshall, and they got married in Keyser in 1936. After their son’s birth in 1940, Catherine was homebound with tuberculosis for nearly three years.

Daniel Boone
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

Frontiersman Daniel Boone died in Missouri on September 26, 1820, at age 85. Thanks to a colorful biographical sketch by John Filson, Boone was already one of America’s most famous pioneers when he moved to Point Pleasant in 1788.

While living there, Boone represented Kanawha County in the Virginia General Assembly, served as a lieutenant colonel in the Virginia militia, and won a contract to supply militia companies in Western Virginia.

Herman Hayes
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

Folk artist Herman Hayes was born at Elkview in Kanawha County on September 23, 1923. After serving in the Marines during World War II, he went to college at West Virginia Wesleyan and then at Morris Harvey (now University of Charleston).

In 1963, he became an ordained minister and later served Methodist churches across the state.

Sara Jane Moore
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

On September 22, 1975, Charleston native Sara Jane Moore tried but failed to assassinate President Gerald R. Ford in San Francisco.

Moore, who was born Sara Jane Kahn, graduated from Charleston’s Stonewall Jackson High School in 1947. She once lived in North Charleston—reportedly not far from a young Charles Manson, who himself lived in West Virginia for several years. She later moved to California, joined left-wing groups, and became an FBI informant.

Hanks Commission Marker
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

On September 21, 1929, a state commission ruled that Nancy Hanks—the mother of Abraham Lincoln—was born in what is now West Virginia.

The commission concluded that Hanks was born on February 5, 1784, near Antioch on Mikes Run in what would become Mineral County. Within four years of the finding, West Virginia had erected a replica cabin and stone memorial on the supposed site of her birth near Antioch.

Shepherdstown, WV
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

It was the morning of September 19, 1862, and two days after the Battle of Antietam. The bulk of Robert E. Lee’s retreating Confederate Army had already crossed the Potomac River at Shepherdstown.

Lee left behind a rear guard at the Potomac to defend against an anticipated attack from Union General George McClellan.

Frank Thomas
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

Aviator Frank Thomas was born at Lansing in Fayette County on September 16, 1921. Known by the nicknames “Flying Frank” and “Five Dollar Frank,” he flew charter trips, guided sight-seeing tours over the New River Gorge, gave flight lessons, searched for downed aircraft with the Civil Air Patrol, spotted forest fires, and did just about everything else connected with aviation.

In 1946, he almost single-handedly built Fayette Airport, which he owned and operated. Weather permitting, he took up one of his planes every day.

WCHS Radio
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

On September 15, 1927, Charleston’s WOBU radio station went on the air with 50 watts of power at eleven-hundred twenty kilohertz. A year later, it moved to its present frequency: five-eighty AM.

One of the station’s most popular shows was The Old Farm Hour, with early local performers including country musicians Bill Cox and the Kessinger Brothers.

General Jesse L. Reno
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

On September 14, 1862, General Jesse Lee Reno was killed during the Battle of South Mountain in Maryland. The Wheeling native was the highest-ranking Union general from present-day West Virginia to be killed during the Civil War.

Reno graduated in the same West Point class that included George McClellan and another cadet from Western Virginia: Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. During the Mexican War, Reno served in a howitzer battery and was wounded at the Battle of Chapultapec.

Chu Berry
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

Musician Leon “Chu” Berry was born in Wheeling on September 13, 1910. He became one of the most highly regarded saxophonists of the Swing Era, ranking alongside Coleman Hawkins and Lester Young.

At West Virginia State College (now University), Berry performed with the Edwards Collegians and other regional groups.

Great Bend Tunnel
Library of Congress/e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

The Great Bend Tunnel, also known as the Big Bend, was completed in present-day Summers County on September 12, 1872.

At more than a mile long, it cut off a seven-mile meander of the Greenbrier River and was the longest tunnel on the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway.

This Week in West Virginia History is a co-production of West Virginia Public Broadcasting and the West Virginia Humanities Council.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online. / e-WV

Publicist Sam Mallison was born in North Carolina on September 9, 1894. He worked for several small newspapers in the Tar Heel State before becoming city editor of the Clarksburg Telegram in 1916.

He later covered the West Virginia Legislature for the paper and gave a young Salem College student named Jennings Randolph a job as a sportswriter.

Lost River State Park
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

Kermit McKeever died in Charleston on September 8, 1995, at age 85. The man remembered as the “father of West Virginia’s modern state park system” was born in Greenbrier County in 1910.

After graduating from Glenville State College and West Virginia University, McKeever began his career as superintendent of Lost River State Park.

Eddon Hammon on Fiddle
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

On September 7, 1955, the great fiddler Edden Hammons died at age 80. The Pocahontas County native was part of an extended family known for its music and traditional ways.

The family had migrated into the Webster-Pocahontas county area just before the Civil War.

In 1947, Edden Hammons was recorded by folklorist and West Virginia University professor Louis Chappell in a Richwood hotel room. The resulting 52 tunes document a frontier fiddling tradition with links to the Old World. Here’s a sample:

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.

Appalachian Bible College Chapel
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

Appalachian Bible College—originally known as Appalachian Bible Institute—opened at Sylvester in Boone County on September 5, 1950. The nondenominational, independent Christian college was the brainchild of Raleigh County minister Robert Guelich.

Before the school opened, southern West Virginians had to travel all the way to Pikeville, Kentucky, if they wanted to take advanced Bible studies.

West Virginia Centennial Logo
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

On September 2, 1963, the Centennial exhibits train wrapped up its tour of West Virginia with a stop in South Charleston.

During the summer of 1963, the nine-car train had reached more West Virginians than any other part of our state’s Centennial celebration.

It was a collaboration among the Centennial Commission and leading railroads, including the Chesapeake & Ohio, Baltimore & Ohio, Norfolk & Western, New York Central, and the Pennsylvania.

Ft Henry, Wheeling
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

On the morning of September 1, 1777, about 200 Wyandot and Mingo Indians attacked Fort Henry at Wheeling. The fort was defended by about 60 militia—nearly half of whom were lured outside the post and killed by the Indians.

The Indians then launched a siege of the fort for three days and nights. After burning cabins and outbuildings in the region, they withdrew across the Ohio River.

It was the first of two Indian attacks on Fort Henry during the Revolutionary War. The second attack, which occurred five years later, was the occasion for Betty Zane’s heroic actions.

Wheeling's Suspension Bridge
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

On August 31, 1852, a new federal law gave the Wheeling Suspension Bridge special protection as a mail-carrying route. While it may sound humdrum, the law was actually pivotal in ensuring the bridge’s survival.

The Wheeling Suspension Bridge had opened to great fanfare in 1849.With a 1,010-foot main span, it was the longest bridge of its type in the world.

But, while Wheeling celebrated its new landmark, western Pennsylvanians were quietly plotting its destruction.

Blair Mountain Battlefield
WV Humanitites Council

On August 30, 1921, John Wilburn of Blair assembled between 50 and 75 armed men to attack Logan County Sheriff Don Chafin’s troops, which were entrenched at the pinnacle of Blair Mountain.

The 45-year-old coal miner and Baptist preacher told his followers it was time for him to lay down his Bible, take up his rifle, and fight for the union.

WV Turnpike Bridge
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

On August 29, 1952, groundbreaking ceremonies for the West Virginia Turnpike were held in Mercer County. The state’s only toll road eventually cut driving time between Charleston and Princeton from four hours to two.

The road took less than two years to construct. Despite early plans for a four-lane highway, project costs limited the turnpike to only two lanes in most places. Still, the road was considered modern for the day.

It was first opened to traffic between Princeton and Beckley in September 1954 and then on to Charleston two months later.

The RCB Radio Telescope
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

On August 25, 2000, the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope was dedicated at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Pocahontas County. At 16-million pounds, it’s the world’s largest fully steerable radio telescope.

Its accuracy is so precise it’s like seeing the width of a human hair from six feet away. The telescope’s 2,004 panels are mounted on actuators, little motor-driven pistons that adjust the shape of the surface.

The telescope replaced an earlier 300-foot meridian transit telescope that operated from 1961 until collapsing in 1988.

Joe Manchin, Senator, Governor
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

U.S. Senator and former governor Joe Manchin was born in Fairmont on August 24, 1947. Growing up in the Marion County town of Farmington, he worked in his family’s grocery and furniture stores. He later returned to Farmington to run Manchin’s Carpet Center and eventually his own energy-brokering firm.

In the 1980s, the lifelong Democrat served a term in the House of Delegates and began a 14-year stint in the state Senate, where he promoted welfare, health care, and Medicaid reforms. A staunch Catholic, he opposed abortion rights, putting him at odds with many Democrats.

Congressman Chester Hubbard
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

Congressman, businessman, and state founder Chester Hubbard died in Wheeling on August 23, 1891, at age 76. The Connecticut native moved with his family to Wheeling as a child.

Hubbard joined his father’s lumber mill business and helped develop Wheeling as an iron and steel manufacturing center. He was president of the German Bank of Wheeling; the Pittsburgh, Wheeling & Kentucky Railroad; and C. D. Hubbard and Company.

Albert Gallatin Jenkins
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

On August 22, 1862, newly appointed Confederate Brigadier General Albert Gallatin Jenkins began a raid through Western Virginia. It was in response to a string of events that began with Robert E. Lee’s impending invasion of Maryland.

Earlier that month, the Union Army had shifted some 5,000 troops from the Charleston area to help protect Washington, DC. So, the Confederates took advantage of the troop reduction.

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