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January 16, 1892: Activist Robert Simmons Dies

Jan 16, 2019
 Sumner was the first school for African American children in present-day West Virginia and south of the Mason-Dixon Line.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online. / WV Humanities Council

Robert Simmons died at his Parkersburg home on January 16, 1892. A free black man during the days of slavery, he moved to Parkersburg in 1841 and earned a living as a barber. He and his wife Sarah worried that their nine children wouldn’t receive a proper education.

So, in 1862, he and other free black men established Sumner School in Parkersburg. Sumner was the first school for African American children in present-day West Virginia and south of the Mason-Dixon Line.

January 15, 1890: West Virginia Legislators Convene to Choose Governor

Jan 15, 2019
Meanwhile, the sitting governor, E. Willis Wilson, refused to leave office until the dispute could be resolved.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online. / WV Humanities Council

On January 15, 1890, West Virginia legislators convened in special session to choose the state’s new governor. The most recent gubernatorial election had been deadlocked for an incredible 14 months.

January 14, 1957: Cecil Underwood Inaugurated State's Youngest Governor

Jan 14, 2019
However, Underwood was able to pass measures to provide emergency benefits to unemployed miners and to create a new economic development agency.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online. / WV Humanities Council

On January 14, 1957, Cecil Underwood became West Virginia’s youngest governor. The 34-year-old Tyler County native also became the state’s first Republican governor in 24 years.

January 9, 1911: State Poet Laureate Louise McNeill Born

Jan 9, 2019
In 1979, Governor Jay Rockefeller named her state poet laureate.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online. / WV Humanities Council

West Virginia Poet Laureate Louise McNeill was born on her family’s Pocahontas County farm on January 9, 1911. Her first book, Gauley Mountain, was published in 1939. In it, she peppered her poems with the speech and dialect she’d grown up with.

With its rich tapestry of stories and characters, Gauley Mountain is still hailed as a classic work of American poetry.

Over the next few decades, she taught college English but didn’t publish another major collection until 1972.

January 8, 1964: President Johnson Declares War on Poverty

Jan 8, 2019
For instance, community organizers in Mingo County and other parts of southern West Virginia fought to clean up their local governments. In the process, they drew the wrath of powerful politicians.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online. / WV Humanities Council

On January 8, 1964, President Lyndon Johnson called on Congress to declare an “unconditional war on poverty.” Combatting poverty had been a big thrust of John F. Kennedy’s campaign in 1960. Johnson introduced the War on Poverty legislation less than seven weeks after his predecessor’s assassination.

January 7, 1933: Jamboree Airs on WWVA

Jan 7, 2019
Capitol Music Hall in Wheeling
Steve Shaluta / Humanities Council

On January 7, 1933, the Jamboree first aired on WWVA radio in Wheeling. Along with other radio shows of the day—like the Grand Old Opry, the Chicago Barn Dance, and the Louisiana Hayride—the weekly Jamboree helped make country music an international sensation. At its peak, it could be heard across much of the East Coast and even in parts of Canada. Its listenership went national for a while in the ’50s, when CBS radio picked up a portion of the broadcasts every third week.

January 5, 1887: New Capitol Building Dedicated in Charleston

Jan 5, 2019
Charleston Capitol Circa 1887
E-WV / WV State Archives

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.

January 2, 2006: Sago Mine Explosion Kills 12 Miners

Jan 2, 2019
In this Jan. 2, 2007 file photo, crosses, wreaths and a candle lay at the Sago miners' memorial in Sago, W.Va., on the one-year anniversary of the mine explosion that trapped and killed 12 miners near Buckhannon.
Jeff Gentner / Associated Press

An explosion at the Sago mine in Upshur County killed 12 men on January 2, 2006. The initial methane blast at 6:30 a.m. killed one worker. Twelve men sought refuge from the carbon monoxide fumes, but 11 men were dead by the time rescuers reached them 41 hours later. 

December 31, 1952: Hank Williams' Final Concert

Dec 31, 2018
By the end of 1952, Williams was trying to get his life and career back on track. He’d even released a new single entitled “I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive.”
E-WV / Humanities Council

On New Year’s Eve 1952, country music legend Hank Williams was scheduled to perform at Charleston’s Municipal Auditorium as part of his comeback tour.

His life had been descending into turmoil for a long time. Various issues were to blame, including marriage troubles, back problems, prescription drug abuse, and alcoholism. In August 1952, he had been fired from the Grand Ole Opry because his notorious unreliability had finally overshadowed his incomparable talent.

The resulting law increased mine inspections; allowed the government to shut down unsafe mines; placed stricter limits on coal dust; improved ventilation, roof supports, and methane detection; and provided compensation to miners suffering from black lung.
E-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 26, 1917: Instrument Maker Harold Hayslett Born

Dec 26, 2018
One of Hayslett's cellos earned the society’s prestigious gold medal for tone. In 1996, filmmaker Robert Gates took an in-depth look at Hayslett’s life and work in the documentary Building a Cello with Harold.
E-WV / Humanities Council

Harold Hayslett was born in Putnam County on December 26, 1917. After serving in France during World War II, he worked as a pipefitter for Union Carbide in South Charleston. He retired in 1980 after 33 years of service.

While working at Carbide, he started a side hobby—making violins, cellos, and other instruments. His reputation spread quickly—first locally, and then worldwide. The Violin Society of America honored Hayslett on several occasions.

December 25, 1887: Folk Artist James T. Rexrode Born

Dec 25, 2018
At first, he drew only from his photographs but then started painting what he called the “old-timey subjects” of his youth.
liveauctioneers.com / e-WV

Folk artist James T. Rexrode was born in Pendleton County on Christmas Day 1887. Although he’d always been an amateur photographer, he didn’t start painting until late in life.

December 24, 1852: B&O Railroad Completed Near Moundsville

Dec 24, 2018
When West Virginia statehood leaders carved out the new state’s borders, the eastern panhandle counties were included primarily to keep the B&O in West Virginia and outside of Confederate Virginia.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online. / e-WV

On Christmas Eve 1852, the last spike was driven on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad between Baltimore and the Ohio River. The event occurred at Rosbys Rock near Moundsville.

December 19, 1907: Colonel Ruby Bradley Born

Dec 19, 2018
Ruby Bradley
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online

Ruby Bradley was born near Spencer on December 19, 1907. As a member of the Army Nurse Corps, she would become one of the most decorated women in U.S. military history.

Bradley’s ordeal also is one of the most incredible stories of World War II. Just hours after attacking Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Japan bombed American defenses in the Philippines, where Bradley was stationed as an Army nurse.

About three weeks later, she was captured and imprisoned in an internment camp in Manila. Conditions in the camp were brutal and kept deteriorating as the war dragged on.

December 18, 1842: Senator Nathan B. Scott Born

Dec 18, 2018
Shortly after moving to Wheeling, Scott began to dabble in Republican politics.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online. / e-WV

Businessman and U.S. Senator Nathan B. Scott was born in Ohio on December 18, 1842. From a meager start as a boy working in a general store, he eventually would become one of the four richest men in West Virginia.

December 17, 1861: Henry Ruffner Died

Dec 17, 2018
Ruffner was ahead of his time in arguing for a free public education system.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online. / e-WV

Henry Ruffner died in Malden on December 17, 1861, at the age of 71. He had been one of western Virginia’s most influential citizens. In 1819, at the age of only 29, Ruffner had organized the first Presbyterian denomination in the Kanawha Valley. Then, for nearly three decades, he had taught ancient languages at Washington College and served as the college’s president for 12 of those years.

December 13, 1861: Battle of Allegheny Mountain

Dec 13, 2018
The Battle of Allegheny Mountain was fought in Pocahontas County
Brian Powell / Wikipedia/Creative Commons

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.

December 12, 1975: Original Shoney's in Charleston Closes

Dec 12, 2018
Shoneys
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online

On December 12, 1975, the original Shoney’s Restaurant closed down for good in Charleston. The Shoney’s chain grew from the original Parkette Drive-In and Bowling Alley, which had opened on the city’s West Side in 1947.

The restaurant was the brainchild of Alex Schoenbaum, a former All-American football player at Ohio State. He moved to Charleston in 1943 and opened the Parkette four years later.

December 11, 1905: Filmmaker Pare Lorentz Born

Dec 11, 2018
During World War II, Lorentz made hundreds of training films for pilots who were flying previously uncharted routes around the world.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online. / e-WV

Filmmaker “Pare” Lorentz was born in Clarksburg on December 11, 1905. After attending West Virginia Wesleyan College for a year, he transferred to West Virginia University, where he wrote stories for West Virginia Moonshine magazine. At the age of 20, he moved to New York City and began writing for some of the nation’s most popular magazines.

December 10, 1844: Clergyman William "Uncle" Dyke Garrett Born

Dec 10, 2018
 SharePrint Uncle Dyke Garrett
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online & Lillian Porter Smith

Clergyman William Dyke Garrett was born on December 10, 1844. Known affectionately as “Uncle Dyke,” Garrett was a legendary figure in Logan County history. At the beginning of the Civil War, he enlisted in the Confederate Logan Wildcats regiment. Being deaf in one ear, he wasn’t forced to fight. Instead, he was named chaplain of the unit.

Brian Blauser/Mountain Stage

Grammy winning songwriter and producer Dan Wilson performs his rendition of "Someone Like You," live on Mountain Stage. Wilson co-wrote and produced the song with Adele, for her tremendously successful album 21.

December 6, 1907: The Monongah Mine Disaster Occurs in Marion County

Dec 6, 2018
Fairmont Coal Company’s No. 6 and 8 mines at Monongah in Marion County
Appalachian History.net

On December 6, 1907, a massive explosion ripped through the Fairmont Coal Company’s No. 6 and 8 mines at Monongah in Marion County. The powerful blast killed at least 361 men, and that number is likely low due to poor record keeping. It was the worst mine disaster in U.S. history.

December 5, 1916: Benjamin Gravely Receives Patent for Motor Plow

Dec 5, 2018
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online.

On December 5, 1916, Benjamin Franklin Gravely of South Charleston received a patent for his Gravely Motor Plow.

He had first started working on the invention five years earlier.  Gravely’s first crude attempt had combined a push plow, a tractor wheel, and a two-and-a-half-horsepower motorcycle engine. From this simple start, he kept adapting the plow until he perfected it.

December 4, 1883: Reformer Stella Fuller Born

Dec 4, 2018
Salvation Army officials thought Fuller was wielding too much power and was insubordinate.
appalachianhistory.net

Social reformer Stella Fuller was born in Point Pleasant on December 4, 1883. After graduating from a Huntington business college, she worked for a law firm in Welch. At age 23, she returned to Huntington and became actively involved in the Salvation Army. Her work with the organization turned into an obsession. She even lived for 20 years in the group’s citadel building.

December 3, 1787: James Rumsey Tests First Steamboat Near Shepherdstown

Dec 3, 2018
 Spectators gathered in Shepherdstown along the banks of the Potomac River to watch history being made.
E-WV

On December 3, 1787, spectators gathered in Shepherdstown along the banks of the Potomac River to watch history being made. Inventor James Rumsey stepped aboard a crudely built wooden boat and fired up a steam engine. The waters of the Potomac started churning up, and, suddenly, the boat headed upstream, leaving a stunned crowd in amazement.

November 3, 1828: Birthday of Surveyor-Geologist Jedediah Hotchkiss

Nov 3, 2018
Hotchkiss's mapmaking skills played a major role in “Stonewall” Jackson’s brilliant Shenandoah Valley Campaign.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online. / Jedediah Hotchkiss, mapmaking, Stonewall Jackson, Civil War

November 1, 1968: Charles Rogers of Fayette County Earned Medal of Honor

Nov 1, 2018
Charles Rogers of Fayette County earned the Medal of Honor for his actions during a battle in the Vietnam War.
Photo Courtesy of HomeOfHeroes.com

On November 1, 1968, Charles Rogers of Fayette County earned the Medal of Honor for his actions during a battle in the Vietnam War. The 40-year-old Rogers had previously received Army ROTC training at West Virginia State College (now University).

In the early hours of November 1, he was commanding an army infantry battalion near the Cambodian border. The fire-support base he was protecting was under attack from heavy shelling and a ground wave assault.

Screenshot from the "Recovery Boys" trailer.
Elaine McMillion Sheldon / Netflix

West Virginia Public Broadcasting is partnering with Shepherd University next week to co-host a free screening of “Recovery Boys” – a feature documentary film directed by Academy Award nominated filmmaker Elaine McMillion Sheldon.

Brian Blauser / Mountain Stage

First released by Bill Withers in 1974, "The Same Love That Made Me Laugh" has been covered by artists like Diana Ross, Al Jarreau and Joan Osborne. This week, it's our Song of the Week performed by Grammy-winning blues and soul man Robert Cray, who makes his sixth appearance on Mountain Stage on this week's encore broadcast.

Brian Blauser / Mountain Stage

A throwback to classic southern soul music from a modern-day band, our Song of the Week comes from Alabama's St. Paul & the Broken Bones. Making their second appearance on Mountain Stage with songs from the highly acclaimed second full-length album "Sea of Noise," here's "Flow With It."

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