This Week in West Virginia History

Monday through Friday, at 6:30am & 4:48pm

The West Virginia Humanities Council, publishers of e-WV, and West Virginia Public Broadcasting have created two-minute radio segments for "This Week in West Virginia History" to introduce listeners to important people, places, and events in Mountain State history. Each daily segment is keyed to the actual date in history on which it occurred. The radio scripts, drawn from the content of e-WV, were written by historian Stan Bumgardner and produced by West Virginia Public Broadcasting's Operations Director, Bob Powell. Our composer, Matt Jackfert, composed the original theme music for the program.

Author and storyteller Colleen Anderson serves as the on-air voice. "This Week" airs Monday through Friday, both morning and afternoon during the news.

e-WV is the online version of the West Virginia Encyclopedia, which became a regional bestseller following its publication in 2006. It is the go-to place for concise, authoritative information on the broad spectrum of things to do with West Virginia. The history features are generated daily from a timeline of more than 12,000 items on the e-WV website.

Visitors to the online encyclopedia may dig deeper into e-WV's 2,300 articles, interactive maps, videos, illustrations, opinion polls, and quizzes that test your "WV-IQ." Visit www.wvencyclopedia.org

On December 17, 1957: Wheeling’s J. L. Stifel and Sons Closes its Doors

Dec 17, 2019
Johann Ludwig Stifel
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

On December 17, 1957, Wheeling’s J. L. Stifel and Sons closed its doors. The company had been founded by German immigrant Johann Ludwig Stifel in 1835, making it one of West Virginia’s longest-surviving businesses, operated by four generations of the family.

December 16, 1919: Dancer Andre Van Damme Born in Belgium

Dec 16, 2019
Andre Van Damme
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia / Charleston Ballet

Dancer Andre Van Damme was born in Belgium on December 16, 1919. Shortly after his 16th birthday, he was admitted to the ballet company of the Royal Opera House of Brussels. When his country fell to the Nazis in 1940, Van Damme joined the underground while continuing to perform. 

The Silver Bridge Collapses Killing 46: December 15, 1967

Dec 15, 2019
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.

December 14, 1857: Coal Operator Justus Collins Born in Alabama

Dec 14, 2019
Justus Collins started Greenbrier Coal & Coke and later opened the Whipple mine near Mount Hope.
E-WV The Humanities Council

Coal operator Justus Collins was born in Alabama on December 14, 1857. He got his start in coal mining in the Deep South but moved north about 1887 to pursue his fortune in the coalfields of southern West Virginia.

In Mercer County, Collins organized the Louisville Coal & Coke Company, one of the first mines to ship coal on the Norfolk and Western Railway. In 1893, he opened Collins Colliery at Glen Jean in Fayette County. About the same time, he started Greenbrier Coal & Coke and later opened the Whipple mine near Mount Hope.

December 13, 1926: Wheeling Radio Station WWVA Goes On The Air

Dec 13, 2019
In 1933, WWVA launched a program that would become a mainstay. The Wheeling Jamboree was broadcast to 17 other states and six Canadian provinces.
E-WV

Wheeling radio station WWVA went on the air on December 13, 1926. The 50-watt station broadcast from the basement of John Stroebel, a physics teacher and wireless pioneer. By November of the next year, WWVA had established studios in a Wheeling office building and boosted its power to 500 watts, which, on some nights, could transmit its signal halfway around the world. Early programming on the station included contemporary recorded music, informal announcements, music by local amateurs, and children’s shows.

  

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

Dec 12, 2019
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, 1893: Governor Jacob Jackson Dies in Parkersburg

Dec 11, 2019
Governor Jacob Beeson Jackson (1829-93)
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia / WV State Archives (WVSA)

West Virginia’s sixth governor, Jacob Jackson, died in Parkersburg on December 11, 1893, at age 64. The son and grandson of congressmen, Jackson came from one of the region’s most distinguished families. His father was also one of West Virginia’s founders.

Jackson first worked as a teacher and then opened a legal practice in St. Marys. He served as the Pleasants County prosecuting attorney before and during the Civil War. His work took him occasionally to Wheeling, where he was once arrested for making pro-Confederate remarks.

Jackson Arnold, first State Police superintendent
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia / WV State Archives (WVSA), West Virginia State Police

On December 10, 1949, the West Virginia State Police Academy graduated its first class. Those first 20 cadets had started their training two months earlier, shortly after the building was completed at Institute in Kanawha County. For the first 30 years of its existence, the State Police had lacked a training academy.

Supreme Court Chambers
e-wv The West Virginia Encyclopedia / Michael Keller via WV Division of Culture and History

On December 9, 1933, the Democrat-controlled West Virginia Legislature passed a bill authorizing the state to assume county debts for all outstanding school and road bonds. It was during the darkest days of the Great Depression. The previous year, a voter-approved constitutional amendment had limited the amount of property taxes that counties could collect. While the tax-limitation amendment helped farmers and homeowners, it also decimated local revenue collections. This new bill was intended to relieve counties of some of their burdens.

December 8, 1984: Naturalist Earl Core Dies in Morgantown

Dec 8, 2019
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia / West Virginia & Regional History Collection

Naturalist Earl Core died in Morgantown on December 8, 1984, at age 82. The Monongalia County native received a Ph.D. from Columbia University and served on West Virginia University’s biology faculty for nearly a half-century: from 1926 to 1972. 

As an undergrad at WVU, Core had collected thousands of specimens for the WVU herbarium, of which he became the longtime curator. On his first botanical expedition, Core discovered a new species—at the time considered the rarest plant in the world. In 1936, he organized the Southern Appalachian Botanical Club.

Photograph taken from a Japanese plane during the torpedo attack
Wikimedia commons / Official U.S. Navy Photograph NH 50930

In the early morning hours of December 7, 1941, Japan launched a surprise attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. The raid killed more than 2,400 Americans and prompted the United States to enter World War II.  Torpedoes and bombs sank four U.S. battleships, including the USS West Virginia, which lost two officers and 103 crew members.

December 6, 1907: The Monongah Mine Explodes in Marion County

Dec 6, 2019
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, 2019
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.

Capitol of West Virginia, 1875-85
West Virginia State Archives

On December 4, 1876, West Virginia’s third capitol building was dedicated in Wheeling. The stone building was four stories tall with two wings and topped by a cupola.

December 4, 1883: Reformer Stella Fuller Born

Dec 4, 2019
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, 1984: Bhopal, The Worst Industrial Accident in History

Dec 3, 2019
Wikimedia commons

On December 3, 1984, a leak at a Union Carbide insecticide plant in Bhopal, India, released a large cloud of a chemical known as MIC. It killed at least 3,000 people—although, these numbers may be low—and injured perhaps more than a half-million.

December 2, 1859: John Brown Hanged For Raid on Harper's Ferry

Dec 2, 2019
John Brown
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

On December 2, 1859, abolitionist John Brown was hanged in Charles Town for treason for his raid on the U.S. Armory at Harpers Ferry six weeks earlier. While Brown’s raid had failed miserably, his capture and hanging had a much greater impact on national events. Brown’s actions set off shockwaves across the country. In the North, many hailed him as a hero. In the South, he was viewed as a villain and a true reflection of the North’s intended war on slavery.

November 30, 1865: Composer, Author Ida L. Reed Born Near Philippi

Nov 30, 2019
Ida L. Reed
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

Composer and author Ida L. Reed was born on a hilltop farm near Philippi on November 30, 1865. In the face of illnesses, family deaths, and constant poverty, she was a devout Methodist all her life.

She wrote some 2,000 hymns and songs, many of which have been translated into other languages. Her best-known composition was “I Belong to the King,” which still appears in Protestant hymnals. An estimated four million copies of this hymn have been circulated.

November 29, 1878: Writer Margaret Prescott Montague Born

Nov 29, 2019

Writer Margaret Prescott Montague was born at White Sulphur Springs on November 29, 1878.  Her books, which were set mostly in the southern mountains, included The Poet, Miss Kate, and I; The Sowing of Alderson Cree; Calvert’s Valley; and Linda—all written before she’d turned 35.

Her brother was superintendent of the West Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind in Romney. Montague’s interest in his students inspired her book Closed Doors.

November 28 1891: WVU Plays First Football Game

Nov 28, 2019
Mountaineer Field
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online. / West Virginia University Football, Washington and Jefferson College, F.L. Emory, WVU Athletic Association

On November 28, 1891, West Virginia University played its first football game ever. The contest didn’t go as hoped. About 250 fans showed up at a field south of Morgantown to watch Washington and Jefferson shut out WVU 72 to 0.

November 27, 1848: African-American Educator William H. Davis Born

Nov 27, 2019

African-American educator William H. Davis was born in Columbus, Ohio, on November 27, 1848. As a young man of 15, he enlisted in the Union Army and served in a Light Guard company that helped protect President Abraham Lincoln.

November 27, 1933: WVU President Daniel Purinton Dies

Nov 27, 2019
Daniel B. Purinton taught logic, mathematics, metaphysics, and vocal music. He also wrote about 40 songs in his lifetime. In 1881, he became acting president of the university and was an early supporter of co-education.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

Daniel B. Purinton died in Morgantown on November 27, 1933. A native of Preston County, he was one of West Virginia University’s early graduates. He earned a bachelor of arts from the school in 1873 and a master of arts in 1876. He later received a doctorate from the University of Nashville.

November 26, 1952: Fire Kills 17 at Huntington State Hospital

Nov 26, 2019
e-WV

A fire broke out at the Huntington State Hospital on November 26, 1952—the night before Thanksgiving—killing 17 patients.

The hospital was established in 1897 as the Home for Incurables. At the time, mentally ill people were often placed in these so-called insane asylums to remove them from society. A tall wire fence and iron gates made the facility appear more like a prison than a hospital. The hospital’s name was changed to the West Virginia Asylum in 1901 and to Huntington State Hospital in 1916.

November 25, 1927: First WV State Geologist I.C. White Dies

Nov 25, 2019
During I.C. White's lifetime, he revolutionized the use of geology to uncover oil and gas reserves.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online. / Israel Charles White, anticlines, WV oil and gas industry, Monongalia County,

Geologist Israel Charles White died on November 25, 1927, at the age of 79.  During his lifetime, he revolutionized the use of geology to uncover oil and gas reserves.  He later published an article suggesting that the folds in rock formations, known as anticlines, could predict the locations of oil and gas deposits.

November 22, 1825: Kanawha Valley Pioneer Anne Bailey Dies

Nov 22, 2019
Anne Bailey’s services to frontier settlements were invaluable and remain a powerful symbol of the fortitude of pioneer women.
e-WV West Virginia Encyclopedia

Kanawha Valley pioneer Anne Bailey died in Gallipolis, Ohio, on November 22, 1825, at about age 83. It’s not clear when the native of Liverpool, England, emigrated to America. However, she was living in Staunton, Virginia, by 1761.

After her husband was killed by Indians in the 1774 Battle of Point Pleasant, she swore to avenge his death. She taught herself how to shoot a gun and became a scout. Some say this is when she earned the nickname “Mad Anne.”

November 21, 1810: US Senator Allen Taylor Caperton Born

Nov 21, 2019
US Senator Allen Taylor Caperton became the first ex-Confederate elected to the U.S. Senate and only former Confederate senator to serve in the U.S. Senate after the Civil War.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online

Allen Taylor Caperton was born on November 21, 1810, on his family’s estate in Monroe County. During the 1840s and 1850s, he served as a Whig in the Virginia House of Delegates and Senate. 

As the Civil War approached, Caperton was personally opposed to secession.  However, in April 1861, he served as a delegate to the Virginia secession convention and voted with the majority to join the Confederacy.

November 20, 1831: Banker John Q. Dickinson Born in Virginia

Nov 20, 2019
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

Banker and saltmaker John Q. Dickinson was born in Virginia on November 20, 1831. During the Civil War, he served in the Confederate Army. He was a prisoner of war for the last year of the conflict.

After the war, Dickinson ventured to the Kanawha Valley and rebuilt the salt furnace his grandfather had started at Malden in 1832, which had been partially destroyed by the flood of 1861 and then finished off by Union troops.

Wikimedia commons / W. Bailey, HABS photographer

On November 19, 1909, the Lincoln County Courthouse in Hamlin burned to the ground. While devastating fires were fairly commonplace in the early 20th century, it has been widely speculated that the Lincoln County Courthouse was an act of arson.

Lincoln—one of five counties formed after West Virginia became a state—was always agricultural in nature. In particular, it was one of the state’s most productive farming regions for tobacco.

November 19, 1899: Sculptor Gladys Tuke Born

Nov 19, 2019
In 1956, Tuke reopened The Greenbrier’s Art Colony.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online. / Gladys Tuke, The Greenbrier, The Greenbrier Resort Art Colony, Pocahontas County,

Sculptor Gladys Tuke was born in Pocahontas County on November 19, 1899. After studying art in Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia, she returned to West Virginia in the 1930s. She took up residency at The Greenbrier resort’s Art Colony and became well known for her sculptures of horses. During World War Two, Tuke taught sculpture and pottery to soldiers who were recovering at The Greenbrier, which had been converted into an army hospital. She set up her own studio in White Sulphur Springs after the war.

Robert C. Byrd
E-WV

  

On November 18, 2009, Senator Robert C. Byrd became the nation’s longest-serving member of Congress.  He was first elected to public office in 1946.  After serving two terms in the West Virginia House of Delegates and one in the state senate, he was elected to three terms in the U.S. House of Representatives.  In 1958, voters sent him to the U.S. Senate, where he would remain from 1959 until his death in 2010 at age 92.

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