This Week in West Virginia History

At the beginning of the Civil War, Virginia seceded from the Union, and Jackson was appointed a Confederate brigadier general.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online. / WV Humanities Council

Thomas Jackson was born in Clarksburg around midnight on the evening of January 20, 1824. He was raised by an uncle at Jackson’s Mill in Lewis County and then attended the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

He fought gallantly during the Mexican War but resigned from the army after the war.

He spent the next 10 years teaching philosophy and artillery at the Virginia Military Institute.

Hardy’s hanging probably would have been the end of the story if not for a ballad written about the event.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online. / WV Humanities Council

John Hardy was hanged in the McDowell County seat of Welch on January 19, 1894.

The black railroad worker had been convicted of murdering a man in a gambling dispute at present-day Eckman.

Hardy was just one of tens of thousands of African Americans who poured into southern West Virginia in the late 1800s and early 1900s to work in the coal and railroad industries.

Hardy’s hanging probably would have been the end of the story if not for a ballad written about the event. The song circulated by word of mouth, with the details changing over time.

The Register was then published in the afternoons and on Sundays.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online. / WV Humanities Council

Newspaperman Charles Hodel was born in Ohio on January 13, 1889. After learning the printing trade, he moved to Beckley at age 24 and became editor and general manager of the Raleigh Register newspaper.

Thanks to the rapidly expanding coal industry, Beckley was a booming town.

In 1929, Hodel and his associates acquired the Register’s competitor, the Post-Herald, which became Beckley’s morning paper. The Register was then published in the afternoons and on Sundays.

. One of the most significant established ‘‘Mother’s Pensions.’’
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online. / WV Humanities Council

Anna Johnson Gates died on January 12, 1939, just before her 50th birthday. In the 1910s, the East Bank native fought for women’s suffrage.

After women were granted the vote nationally in 1920, she served as the associate chair of Kanawha County’s Democratic Executive Committee.

Then, in 1922, she was elected to the West Virginia Legislature, becoming the first woman ever to serve in that body.

At the end of the Civil War, Lamon was dispatched to Richmond, making him unavailable to guard the president on that fateful night at Ford’s Theater.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online. / WV Humanities Council

On January 6, 1828, Ward Hill Lamon was born in Jefferson County. He was raised at Bunker Hill, in Berkeley County, before moving to Danville, Illinois, at age 18. In 1852, Lamon’s life took a historic twist when he became the law partner of a former congressman—Abraham Lincoln.

This new Victorian Capitol was a massive stone-and-brick structure built on the site of Charleston’s first capitol.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online. / WV Humanities Council

On January 5, 1887, Governor E. Willis Wilson hosted a ball and banquet to dedicate West Virginia’s new capitol building in downtown Charleston. The event marked the end of what had become a running joke in the state’s early years—the location of the capital city. In the first two decades of statehood, the capital had already been moved from Wheeling to Charleston and back to Wheeling, again.

The dedication event in Charleston marked the capital’s final journey—at least in terms of host cities.

Congressman Ken Hechler paid to bring hundreds of miners and the widows of the Farmington miners to protest at the nation’s capitol.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online. / WV Humanities Council

On December 30, 1969, President Richard Nixon signed into law the Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act.  Since the Monongah mine disaster in Marion County more than 60 years earlier, Congress had been passing laws to address coal mine safety. However, most were filled with loopholes or lacked funding for enforcement.

The tide turned after another Marion County disaster. The 1968 Farmington explosion killed 78 miners. Americans watched in horror as the drama unfolded on national TV. 

December 29, 1861: Sutton Burns

Dec 29, 2016
Suttonville, as it was known then, was strategically located on the Elk River, which ran south all the way to Charleston.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online. / WV Humanities Council

The Braxton County seat of Sutton was nearly burned to the ground on December 29, 1861. During the first year of the Civil War, western Virginia was besieged by Union and Confederate troops vying for control of the region. Most fighting centered on important transportation routes.

Suttonville, as it was known then, was strategically located on the Elk River, which ran south all the way to Charleston. It was also located on the Weston and Gauley Bridge Turnpike, which connected the town with other key roads.

Shepherdstown and Romney were both chartered on the same day, the big question still comes down to which one came first.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia / WV Humanities Council

On December 23, 1762, the Virginia General Assembly chartered the towns of Romney and Shepherdstown, igniting one of the longest-lasting debates in West Virginia history. The question?  Is Romney or Shepherdstown West Virginia’s oldest incorporated town? 

In 1991, the station fell into bankruptcy and went off the air. It was resurrected a little more than a year later by Fantasia Broadcasting.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online. / e-WV

On December 22, 1928, Fairmont’s WMMN radio station went on the air. The call letters were based on the initials of popular Fairmont attorney and U.S. Senator Matthew M. Neely. Like many other radio stations in Appalachia, WMMN played an important role in the growth of country music.

In 1938, WMMN began hosting a live Saturday night show. The Sagebrush Roundup was broadcast from Fairmont’s National Guard.  It featured some of the bigger names in country music, including Buddy Starcher and Grandpa Jones, who would later become a beloved TV star on Hee-Haw.

Some 5,000 spectators poured into the Jackson County seat. Many were drunk, and some even sold souvenirs.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online. / e-WV

On December 16, 1897, John F. Morgan was hanged in Ripley for the murder of Chloe Greene and two of her sons. It was the last public execution in West Virginia history.

Some 5,000 spectators poured into the Jackson County seat. Many were drunk, and some even sold souvenirs. The rowdy scene prompted West Virginia lawmakers to take action.

A faulty eyebar eventually cracked and began to corrode, out of sight from the public or bridge inspectors. At about 5 p.m. on December 15, the eyebar failed, setting off a series of other failures that caused the bridge to collapse.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online

  

December 15, 1967, was one of the darkest days in West Virginia history. Sadly, it was only the first of many tragic days that West Virginians would suffer.

The Silver Bridge, which connected Point Pleasant with Gallipolis, Ohio, had opened to traffic in 1928. It was the first bridge in the nation to use an innovative eyebar-link suspension system rather than a traditional wire-cable suspension.

Over the years, the performers who have recorded Wheeler’s songs read like a Who’s Who of country music.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online.

On December 9, 1932, songwriter, musician, playwright, humorist, and poet Billy Edd Wheeler was born in Boone County. He started writing and performing songs when he was just a teenager.

Wheeler got his first check in the music business when Pat Boone recorded his song “Rock Boll Weevil.” He would go on to write more than 500 other songs, including the country classics “Jackson,” “The Reverend Mister Black,” and “Coward of the County.”

Blenko Glass also manufactures trophies for the annual Country Music Awards.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online.

Glassmaker William Blenko was born in England on December 8, 1854. In his late thirties, he immigrated to the United States and tried to produce stained glass for a living. Unfortunately, business after business failed—until he wound up in the Cabell County town of Milton in 1921.

Charles Town Race Track Opens: December 2, 1933

Dec 2, 2016
The Charles Town Race Track opened in Jefferson County on December 2, 1933.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online.

The Charles Town Race Track opened in Jefferson County on December 2, 1933.  It was the first track in West Virginia to open after the state legalized racing and parimutuel betting. The sprawling complex featured a 3,000-seat, steam-heated grandstand and a 200-seat restaurant.

e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online.

Legendary political consultant Matthew Reese died on December 1, 1998, at the age of 71. His political career started in 1948, when he helped Huntington’s Maurice “Bernie” Burnside get elected to Congress.

Izetta Jewell Kenny Born: November 24, 1883

Nov 24, 2016
got involved with farm women’s groups, attended the first farm women’s camp at Jackson’s Mill, and served on a committee to improve wool production.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online. / Izetta Jewell Brown, US Senate, William Gay Brown, Preston County

Izetta Jewell Kenny was born in New Jersey on November 24, 1883. In 1914, she moved to West Virginia with her husband, William Gay Brown, a congressman from Kingwood.

In 1920—the year women got the right to vote nationally—Brown attended the National Democratic Convention. She seconded the presidential nomination of West Virginia’s John W. Davis, a first for a woman in U.S. history.

November 17, 1766: Pioneer Morgan Morgan Died

Nov 17, 2016
Pioneer Morgan Morgan was an influential member of the Bunker Hill community and helped found Christ Episcopal Church. Today, his grave is part of the church’s cemetery, and a log cabin he built stands nearby.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online. / Morgan Morgan, Bunker Hill, Berkeley County, Christ Church Episcopal Church, Potomoke

Pioneer Morgan Morgan died on November 17, 1766. Generations of schoolchildren grew up being taught that Morgan was the first permanent white settler in present West Virginia. Now, though, we know that others came before him.

World War I Ends: Nov. 11 1918

Nov 11, 2016
The last-surviving WWI veteran was Frank Buckles died at Charles Town in 2011 at the age of 110.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online. / Frank Buckles, WWI, Charles Town,

On November 11, 1918, World War I ended after more than four years of brutal fighting. Nearly 39 million soldiers had been killed, wounded, or listed as missing. American soldiers arrived on the scene only during the last year-and-a-half of the war. Still, some 116,000 died in the conflict.

About 58,000 West Virginians served in the war. Of these, more than 1,100 were killed in action, and nearly 700 died in training. Many others died from influenza or other diseases.

Parsons suffered significant damage due to the rains brought on by Tropical Storm Juan
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online; The Parson's Advocate. / Tropical Storm Juan, Parsons WV, North Branch of the Potomac River, South Branch Valley

In the predawn hours of November 4, 1985, a large band of rain began forming from North Carolina to West Virginia. The storm was stronger than most because it was picking up moisture from Tropical Storm Juan, which had hit the Southeast just days before. 

Country Singer Brad Paisley Born: October 28, 1972

Oct 28, 2016
By 2010, Paisley had won more than 60 awards, including three Grammys.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online. / Brad Paisley, Grand Ole Opry, Glen Dale, Marshall County, C-Notes, Academy of Country Music

Country music superstar Brad Paisley was born in Marshall County on October 28, 1972. At age eight, the Glen Dale native began studying guitar with local musician “Hank” Goddard. Only two years later, he stepped in as the front man for the C-Notes, a local band of older musicians. At age 14, he became the youngest-ever regular cast member of Jamboree USA. He remained with the Wheeling radio show for eight years.

e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online. / Reverend Joseph Gluck, Forks-of-Cheat Baptist Church, 1775, Stewartstown

Ann Kathryn Flagg died on October 27, 1970. The playwright, teacher, and actress was born in Charleston in 1924.

After growing up in the segregated part of town, she graduated from Garnet High School in 1941 and from West Virginia State College four years later. She then taught drama in a Virginia high school and toured nationally with the noted American Negro Repertory Players. Afterward, she returned to West Virginia to teach at Fairmont’s Dunbar High School.

October 21, 1940: Gov. William Conley Dies at 74

Oct 21, 2016
William Conley, Preston Co., Kingwood, Tucker County, WV Attorney General, Republican, Arch Moore, Cecil Underwood
e-wv / The West Virginia Encyclopedia

On October 21, 1940, former West Virginia Governor William G. Conley died at the age of 74. The Republican started his career as a schoolteacher and became superintendent of Preston County schools at age 25. After earning his law degree, he opened a legal practice in Tucker County and founded the Parsons Advocate newspaper. He also served as mayor of Parsons and Kingwood before being appointed West Virginia attorney general in 1908.

Senator Harry F. Byrd Died: October 20, 1966

Oct 20, 2016
Harry Byrd, in 1907, he established the Martinsburg Evening Journal newspaper.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online. / Harry F. Byrd, Martinsburg Evening Journal, Richard Byrd, 1966, 1887

U.S. Senator Harry F. Byrd died on October 20, 1966. The Democrat was a pivotal political figure for much of the 20th century.

Born in Martinsburg in 1887, Byrd was descended from the city’s leading families. His great-great-grandfather had built the historic Martinsburg mansion known as Boydville. His great-uncle was Charles James Faulkner, who had served as U.S. ambassador to France and as an aide to “Stonewall” Jackson during the Civil War. And his brother was polar explorer Richard E. Byrd.

Yeager beside the Bell X-1 rocket plane Glamous Glennis.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online. / Chuck Yeager, Lockheed P-80, Charleston, Lincoln County, World War II

On October 14, 1947, Chuck Yeager’s Bell X-1 rocket airplane dropped from the belly of a B-29 bomber. Seconds later, Yeager entered the history books as the first pilot to break the sound barrier.

By this time, the 24-year-old Lincoln County native was already an aviation legend. During World War II, he had flown 64 combat missions over Europe and, in a single dogfight, had killed 13 Germans. In his eighth mission, he had been shot down over German-occupied France.

Bishop John Joseph Kain served as bishop of the Wheeling Diocese, and Archbishop of St. Louis.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online. / John Joseph Kain, Martinsburg, Wheeling, Diocese of Wheeling, St. Louis, Civil War, Harpers Ferry

Roman Catholic Bishop John Joseph Kain died on October 13, 1903, at the age of 62. In the late 1800s, he was the driving force behind the growth of the Catholic church in West Virginia.

Kain was ordained as a priest in 1866. His first pastoral assignment was in his native town of Martinsburg. His missions ranged from nearby Harpers Ferry to Leesburg, Virginia. During his seven years in this position, he helped rebuild communities that had been ravaged by the Civil War.

Ebenezer Zane's homestead.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online. / Zane, Wheeling, homstead

Pioneer Ebenezer Zane, born on October 7, 1747, near present-day Moorefield settled at the confluence of Wheeling Creek and the Ohio River with his brothers Jonathan and Silas, Zane settled in 1770, and later laid out the town of Wheeling. An advocate for education in western Virginia In 1787, he helped establish Clarksburg’s Randolph Academy, supposedly the oldest school of its kind west of the Alleghenies.

J.R. Clifford used the Pioneer Press to fight for better economic and social conditions for African Americans.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online. / J.R.Clifford, Pioneer Press, Martinsburg, Harpers Ferry, NAACP, Civil War, Taylor County, Grant County

Civil rights trailblazer J. R. Clifford died on October 6, 1933, at age 85. A native of present-day Grant County, he served in an African American unit during the Civil War. Afterward, he taught at a black school and founded Martinsburg’s Pioneer Press, the first black-owned newspaper in West Virginia. He used its editorial pages to fight for better economic and social conditions for African Americans.

John Henry Quick, USMC
Wikipedia / WV Humanitites Council

For his actions on June 14, 1898, Charles Town native John Henry Quick earned the Medal of Honor. His heroism occurred during a joint American-Cuban attack on the Spanish garrison at Guantanamo Bay during the Spanish-American War.

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On June 14, Quick’s Marine battalion and about 50 Cuban soldiers were trying to capture the well that supplied water to the Spanish. An American gunboat, the Dolphin, was providing cover for the mission, but due to visibility problems, the boat started shelling American Marines by accident.

e-WV Encyclopedia

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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