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

Randolph County Camp for Youth Founded: July 29, 1915

Jul 29, 2019
A young West Virginian grooms her 4-H calf.
WV State Archives

A pioneering camp for rural youth began in Randolph County on July 29, 1915. Activities included hiking, fishing, swimming, and games.

The camp was sponsored by West Virginia University’s Extension Service, which had been created just a year earlier, and was led by J. Versus Shipman, his wife, Bess, and William “Teepi” Kendrick.

July 26, 1917: West Virginia Flying Corps Commissioned

Jul 26, 2019
Louis Bennett Jr
E-WV

On July 26, 1917, Governor John Cornwell commissioned and provided funding for the West Virginia Flying Corps, headquartered at Beech Bottom in Brooke County.

The corps was the brainchild of 22-year-old Weston native Louis Bennett Jr., who’d become a pilot while attending Yale University. Bennett believed that airplanes—a relatively new invention at the time—could support the U.S. military effort in World War I. The U.S. Army, though, refused to accept the West Virginia Flying Corps as a unit, so Bennett entered flight school with the British Royal Air Force in Canada. 

The Nixons and Underwoods at the Greenbrier
E-WV / WV Humanities Council

On July 25, 1960, Governor Cecil Underwood addressed the Republican National Convention in Chicago. The 37-year-old Underwood backed Republican presidential candidate Richard Nixon and disparaged Nixon’s Democratic opponent, John F. Kennedy.

July 24, 1942: Actor Chris Sarandon, Jr. Born in Beckley

Jul 24, 2019
Chris Sarandon
E-WV

Actor Chris Sarandon Jr. was born in Beckley on July 24, 1942. He graduated from Beckley’s Woodrow Wilson High School and from West Virginia University with a degree in theater.

While earning his master’s degree from Catholic University, he met and married Susan Tomalin, who later became famous as actress Susan Sarandon. Since 1994, he’s been married to actress Joanna Hall Gleason.

July 23, 1900: Author Julia Davis Born in Clarksburg

Jul 23, 2019
Julia Davis lived and wrote in Jefferson County, near Media Farm, the scene of the happy childhood summers described in her book Legacy of Love.
Micheal Keller / Goldenseal

On July 23, 1900, author Julia Davis was born in Clarksburg, the daughter of distinguished lawyer and statesman John W. Davis. She began her literary career writing books for young readers.

  

Her first, The Swords of the Vikings, was followed by a biography of “Stonewall” Jackson and a narrative of the Lewis and Clark expedition. Davis also found success with adult fiction, historical and biographical writings, and drama—more than two dozen books in all—including the Shenandoah volume for the landmark Rivers of America series.

July 22, 1972: Fire in Blacksville Number One Kills Nine Miners

Jul 22, 2019
This Week in WV History
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

On July 22, 1972, a fire broke out at the Blacksville Number 1 mine in Monongalia County. It was sparked by a continuous mining machine that came into contact with an electric wire.

The volatile Pittsburgh coal seam at Blacksville ignited quickly. At the time, 43 men were underground; 34 escaped, but nine men who were working deep in the mine died after inhaling smoke and fumes. Days later, the mine was sealed at the surface to protect rescue workers from potential explosions.

July 19, 1863: Morgan's Raiding Ends at Buffington Island

Jul 19, 2019
General John Hunt Morgan
E-WV / WV Humanities Council

On July 19, 1863, Confederate General John Hunt Morgan’s daring raid across Kentucky, Indiana, and Ohio came to an end on Buffington Island, located in the Ohio River near Ravenswood in Jackson County.

Morgan’s raid was the only time a large Southern force entered Indiana or Ohio during the Civil War. His 2,400 raiders led local militias and growing numbers of Union troops on a wild chase across three states.

"Blockade of Engines at Martinsburg, West Virginia," an engraving on front cover of "Harper's Weekly, Journal of Civilization," Vol XXL, No. 1076, New York, Saturday, August 11, 1877.
Public Domain

On July 18, 1877, Governor Henry Mathews arrived in Martinsburg—on the scene of the first nationwide strike in U.S. history. Baltimore and Ohio Railroad workers had walked off the job in response to a pay cut. The strike soon spread along the rails from Baltimore to Chicago.

July 17, 1922: Sheriff and Four Miners Killed at Cliftonville

Jul 17, 2019
Clifton mine tipple, burning after strikers set fire to it
E-WV, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

On July 17, 1922, a deadly battle took place between striking miners and mine guards at the Richland Coal Company mine at Cliftonville, just east of Wellsburg. While the Mine Wars are typically associated with southern West Virginia, this shootout in the Northern Panhandle was among the bloodiest of the entire period.  

The events began the night before, when some 300 to 500 striking miners—all heavily armed—gathered in nearby Avella, Pennsylvania. To keep nonunion strikebreakers out of the mine, the union men took up positions around the mine at Cliftonville.

July 16, 1891: General Benjamin Kelley Dies

Jul 16, 2019

Civil War General Benjamin Kelley died in Maryland on July 16, 1891, at age 84. The New Hampshire native had moved to Wheeling in 1836, working as a merchant there for more than two decades. In 1851, he became freight agent for the newly arrived Baltimore and Ohio Railroad.

July 15, 1915: West Virginia Folklore Society Founded in Morgantown

Jul 15, 2019
The West Virginia Folklife Center at Fairmont State University
E-WV, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

The West Virginia Folklore Society was founded in Morgantown on July 15, 1915, by John Harrington Cox and Robert Allen Armstrong of West Virginia University and Walter Barnes of Fairmont State.

One of the earliest state folklore societies in the nation, it remained active for only two years. However, during this time, the society collected traditional ballads and songs that were later published in Cox’s classic book Folk-Songs of the South.

July 12, 1980: Educator John W. Davis Dies in New Jersey

Jul 12, 2019
Davis stepped down from West Virginia State in 1951, after 32 years at the helm.
E-WV

Educator John Warren Davis died in New Jersey on July 12, 1980, at age 92. The Georgia native moved to Kanawha County in 1919 to become president of what was then called West Virginia Collegiate Institute. 

He quickly bolstered the school’s faculty and curriculum, making it one of the first four black colleges in the United States—and the first public college in West Virginia—to be accredited. In 1929, it became West Virginia State College—and is now a University.

July 11, 1902: Historian John P. Hale Dies

Jul 11, 2019
Hale started the first mechanized brick-making in the Kanawha Valley, helped found a bank, and formed Charleston’s first gas company and steam ferry.
E-WV

Historian, physician, and businessman John P. Hale died on July 11, 1902, at age 78. The great-grandson of the legendary Mary Draper Ingles, Hale was born in present Virginia before moving to the Kanawha Valley in 1840.

  

He earned a medical degree but decided that medicine wasn’t as lucrative as the booming salt business. By 1860, his salt works, located between Charleston and Malden, was possibly the largest in North America.

July 10, 1889: Historian Boyd Stutler Born in Gilmer County

Jul 10, 2019
Boyd Stutler
E-WV / WV Humanities Council

Historian Boyd Stutler was born in Gilmer County on July 10, 1889. At 18, he became the owner, editor, and publisher of the Grantsville News in neighboring Calhoun County. Three years later, Stutler was elected mayor of Grantsville.

During World War I, he rose to the rank of sergeant. Throughout his life, Stutler remained active in veterans’ affairs. He served as managing editor of the American Legion magazine for 18 years. And, as a war correspondent in the Pacific, he witnessed the official Japanese surrender ending World War II.

July 9, 1923: Singer Molly O'Day Born in Pike County KY

Jul 9, 2019

Singer Molly O’Day was born in Pike County, Kentucky, on July 9, 1923. She played guitar and sang, while accompanied by her brothers “Skeets” and “Duke” Williamson.

While just a teenager, Molly played with Skeets on radio stations in Charleston, Williamson, Beckley, and Bluefield, where she met bandleader “Lynn” Davis. After getting married, O’Day and Davis moved frequently. Although they performed duets, it was Molly’s solo numbers that made her one of the pioneer female singers in country music. She signed with Columbia Records in 1946 and cut 36 recordings.

July 8, 1972: Bill Withers' 'Lean on Me' Tops Billboard

Jul 8, 2019
E-WV

On July 8, 1972, Bill Withers’s song “Lean on Me” topped the Billboard charts for the first time. Rolling Stone magazine later ranked “Lean on Me” as the 205th greatest song of all time.

The Raleigh County native wrote the tune while thinking about the close community ties he experienced in Beckley and in the nearby mining camp of Slab Fork. It was in Beckley where Withers first honed his skills by singing gospel music.

July 5, 1950: Pvt. Kenneth Shadrick Killed in Action in Korea

Jul 5, 2019
Pvt. Kenneth Shadrick
Wikipedia

On July 5, 1950, Army private Kenneth Shadrick of Wyoming County was killed in action, becoming one of the first U.S. servicemen killed in action during the Korean War.

He was brought down by North Korean machine-gun fire in the opening days of the conflict. Shortly thereafter, Time magazine ran a profile of Shadrick, claiming he was the first U.S. military casualty of the war. However, it’s now believed that other Americans died earlier on that same day.

July 4, 1930: Wertz Field Opens at Institute

Jul 4, 2019
This Week in West Virginia History.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online.

Wertz Field opened at Institute in Kanawha County on July 4, 1930. Named for Charleston’s mayor, it was the first airport in the Kanawha Valley to offer scheduled airline service.

In 1933, American Airlines began passenger service between Washington and Chicago via Wertz Field, and, in 1935, more flights and air freight service were added.

Passengers could wait for flights in a small but modern administration building. Wertz had three grass runways, each just long enough to accommodate an early Douglas DC-3 but inadequate for most larger planes of the 1930s.

July 3, 1989: Governor Okey Patteson Dies

Jul 3, 2019
Okey Patteson
E-WV

On July 3, 1989, West Virginia’s 23rd Governor Okey Patteson died at age 90. As a child, the Mingo County native had moved with his family to Mount Hope in Fayette County, where he later sold cars and real estate.

July 2, 1829: Potter and Businessman A.P. Donaghho Born

Jul 2, 2019
A.P.Donnaghho pottery
E-WV / WV Humanities Council

Potter and businessman A. P. Donaghho was born in Washington County, Pennsylvania, on July 2, 1829. After learning the pottery trade in his native state, he moved to Parkersburg in 1870 and opened a pottery operation there in 1874.

Donaghho made pottery by hand, “throwing” it on a potter’s wheel just as it’d been done for hundreds of years. It was salt-glazed, meaning that damp salt reacted in the hot kiln to produce a sodium aluminum silicate glaze. When thoroughly dry, the ware was placed in a bottle kiln to be fired.

Army Transport Crashes Near Premier: July 1, 1942

Jul 1, 2019
Monument to soldiers killed in plane crash near
Geneva Steele Collection (1530 13)

Just after noon on July 1, 1942, a troop transport plane crashed and burst into flames on a mountainside about four miles from the McDowell County seat of Welch, located near the community of Premier. 

All 21 members of the U.S. Army Air Corps aboard the plane were killed.

e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

On June 30, 1904, the Kelly Axe and Tool Company acquired 53 acres of land along the Kanawha River on the West End of Charleston. It eventually became home to the world’s largest axe factory.

The company was founded in 1874 by William C. Kelly, who established his first factory in Kentucky before relocating to Indiana and then West Virginia. Kelly was attracted to the Kanawha Valley by the availability of abundant natural gas and good access to river and rail transportation.

June 29, 1919: West Virginia State Police Established

Jun 29, 2019
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, 1943: Bishop Matthew Wesley Clair, Senior Dies

Jun 28, 2019
This Week in West Virginia History.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online.

Bishop Matthew Wesley Clair Sr. died in Covington, Kentucky, on June 28, 1943, at age 77. He was born in Monroe County to former slaves just months after the Civil War ended.

His family moved to Charleston, where Clair joined Simpson Methodist Episcopal Church. He graduated from college in 1889 and began a four-stint leading the Methodist Episcopal Church in Harpers Ferry.

June 27, 1929: Shott Brothers Launch WHIS-AM Bluefield

Jun 27, 2019
WHIS AM Bluefield
E-WV / WV Humanities Council

On June 27, 1929, one of West Virginia’s pioneer radio stations, WHIS, hit the airwaves in Bluefield, featuring a performance by the local Lions Club quartet.

The station was the brainchild of Hugh and Jim Shott, the sons of local newspaper owner and future congressman Hugh Ike Shott. During its first two decades, WHIS expanded from 100 watts to 5,000. In 1939, WHIS became affiliated with NBC, but local programming remained important.

June 26, 1936: NBA Hall of Famer Hal Greer Born in Huntington

Jun 26, 2019
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.

On June 25, 1939, musicians from the Wheeling Steel Corporation performed at New York’s World’s Fair before 26,000 listeners. The performers, selected from Wheeling Steel’s extended family, had become the surprise sensation of the late ’30s. It was all the brainchild of Wheeling Steel’s advertising director, John Grimes, as a way to promote the corporation’s image and products.

June 25, 1980: Two Women Murdered Traveling to Rainbow Gathering

Jun 25, 2019
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.

e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

On June 24, 1934, businessman and state founder Granville Davisson Hall died at age 96. Growing up in Harrison County, he learned the technique of stenography, which would serve him well in coming years. He started his career teaching school when he was 17. In 1861, at the young age of 23, he recorded the proceedings of the Wheeling conventions that would lead to West Virginia becoming a state. He later published his notes in the book The Rending of Virginia, the most influential memoir about the West Virginia statehood movement.

June 23, 1944: 103 People Die in State's Deadliest Tornado Outbreak

Jun 23, 2019
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

On June 23, 1944, the deadliest tornado outbreak in West Virginia history nearly destroyed the Harrison County community of Shinnston. Sixty-six people died in and around the town, with victims ranging in age from 85 years to only 6 days. Overall, the outbreak killed 103 West Virginians and seriously injured another 430.

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