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

April 9, 1872: West Virginia Constitutional Convention Adjourns

Apr 9, 2019
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

The 1872 West Virginia Constitutional Convention adjourned on April 9, 1872. The day was chosen specifically because it was the seventh anniversary of Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox. The convention had selected former Confederates to all offices, including the convention president, who had been the lieutenant governor of secessionist Virginia.

April 8, 1979: Writer Breece D'J Pancake Commits Suicide

Apr 8, 2019
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

  Writer Breece D’J Pancake died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound on April 8, 1979. The South Charleston native grew up in Milton, which became the fictionalized setting for many of his short stories.

A graduate of West Virginia Wesleyan and Marshall, Pancake taught at two military schools in Virginia before entering the University of Virginia’s Creative Writing Program, where he was influenced by authors James Alan McPherson, Peter Taylor, and Mary Lee Settle. He began writing human interest stories for a Milton newspaper and working on a series of short stories. His big breakthrough came in 1977, when the Atlantic Monthly published his story “Trilobites.”

April 6, 1938: Civilian Conservation Corps Establish Camp Kanawha

Apr 6, 2019
Wikimedia Commons / Andrew Springer

On April 6, 1938, the Civilian Conservation Corps established Camp Kanawha at the mouth of Shrewsbury Hollow, about seven miles south of Charleston. Over the next four years, CCC workers transformed the site, which had been heavily mined and timbered, into Kanawha State Forest.

April 5, 1856: Educator Booker T. Washington Born in Franklin County, VA

Apr 5, 2019
Booker T. Washington
e-WV Encyclopedia / Library of Congress

Educator Booker T. Washington was born a slave in Franklin County, Virginia, on April 5, 1856. After the Civil War, he relocated to Malden, a few miles east of Charleston, where he attended a one-room school for blacks.

He also was tutored by Viola Ruffner, whom he later credited for instilling in him the qualities of cleanliness and hard work.

After graduating from Hampton Institute in Virginia, Washington returned to West Virginia as a teacher. In 1879, he went back to Hampton as a professor. But when school was out, he’d come home to work in West Virginia’s coal mines.

April 4, 1944: Critic John Bishop Dies at 51

Apr 4, 2019
Carl Van Vechten / Princeton University Library

Critic John Peale Bishop died in Massachusetts on April 4, 1944, at age 51. He was born at Charles Town in Jefferson County in 1892 and attended high school in Hagerstown, Maryland.

When he was 17, he experienced a temporary and unexplainable bout of blindness. That’s when he decided to become a writer. In 1912, his poem, ‘‘To a Woodland Pool,’’ was published in Harpers Weekly.

April 3, 1908: Samuel Starks State Librarian Dies

Apr 3, 2019
A charter member of Charleston’s Capitol City Lodge Number 1, Starks served 16 years as grand chancellor of the state’s black Pythians.
e-WV / WV Humanities Council

Samuel Starks—the first African-American in the nation to serve as a state librarian—died of peritonitis in Charleston on April 3, 1908, at age 42. He served as state librarian the last seven years of his life, having been appointed by Governor A. B. White.

Outside of West Virginia, Starks was best known for his work with the Knights of Pythias. A charter member of Charleston’s Capitol City Lodge Number 1, Starks served 16 years as grand chancellor of the state’s black Pythians. In 1897, he was elected supreme chancellor—the lodge’s highest national office.

April 2, 2002: Legendary Basketball Coach Jennings Boyd Dies

Apr 2, 2019
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

Jennings Boyd died on April 2, 2002, at age 68. He was one of the legendary coaches in West Virginia history.

  In 1966, two significant events happened in Northfork. First, racial segregation ended in that part of McDowell County, as Northfork merged with the historically black Elkhorn High. Second, Jennings Boyd was hired as head basketball coach. Boyd’s teams would become known for their up-tempo styles, fast breaks, and transition offense.

e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia / Courtesy of E. I du Pont de Nemours & Company, Belle

  On April 1, 1926, the DuPont plant at Belle produced North America’s first ammonia made from a high-pressure process. A few years before, chemical giant E. I. DuPont had decided to build an ammonia plant, using technology developed by Germany during World War I. The technology consisted of giant mechanical compressors, called ‘‘hypers,’’ which generated up to 15,000 pounds of pressure per square inch. In 1925, DuPont started construction of its new hyper-pressure plant in the eastern Kanawha County town of Belle.

March 29, 1973: Educator Fannie Cobb Carter Dies in Charleston

Mar 29, 2019
Educator Fannie Cobb Carter (1872-1973)
e-WV Encyclopedia / WV State Archives (WVSA)

African-American educator Fannie Cobb Carter died on March 29, 1973, six months after her 100th birthday.

She was born in Charleston in 1872, just months before the state’s new constitution prohibited black children and white children from attending school together.

After earning a teaching degree from Storer College in Harpers Ferry, Cobb returned home to teach in Kanawha County’s public schools. In 1908, she organized the teacher-training department at West Virginia Colored Institute, which is now West Virginia State University.

March 28, 1868: Eli ‘‘Rimfire’’ Hamrick Born in Webster County

Mar 28, 2019
WV Division of Culture and History / Michael Keller

Eli ‘‘Rimfire’’ Hamrick was born at Bergoo in Webster County on March 28, 1868. Considered one of the best woodsmen of his time, he often led coal and lumber barons on hunting expeditions.

In 1907, he was hired by the Webster Springs Hotel as a guide and handyman. One of his jobs was to kill and dress chickens for the hotel kitchen.

That’s when Rimfire supposedly acquired his nickname. When asked how he killed the chickens for the hotel, he replied, ‘‘With a rimfire rifle, by God.’’

March 27, 1917: Statesman Cyrus Vance Born in Clarksburg

Mar 27, 2019
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

Statesman Cyrus Vance was born in Clarksburg on March 27, 1917. After serving as a navy gunnery officer during World War II, he became an attorney in New York City.

His first government post was as a special counsel to then-Senator Lyndon Johnson’s committee on space and aeronautics. In this role, he helped write the law that created NASA.

e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia / via West Virginia State Archives

Governor William Marland was born in Illinois on March 26, 1918. When he was seven, his family moved to Wyoming County. After graduating from WVU Law School, he quickly moved up the political ranks. He was appointed state attorney general and, in 1952, was elected governor at age 34.

e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

Statehood leader Francis Pierpont died on March 24, 1899, at age 85. He was born near Morgantown in 1814 and raised for part of his childhood in Marion County. As a young adult, he was as an attorney for the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad and a pioneer coal operator.

When the Civil War began, he helped form the pro-Union Reorganized Government of Virginia with its capital in Wheeling. In June 1861, he was unanimously elected the first and only governor of this government.

March 22, 1922: Physician Mildred Mitchell-Bateman Born

Mar 22, 2019
Mildred Mitchell-Bateman
E-WV / WV Humanities Council

Physician Mildred Mitchell-Bateman was born in Georgia on March 22, 1922. Her career in West Virginia began in 1947, when she became a staff physician at Lakin State Hospital in Mason County. Lakin was the state hospital for African-American mental patients.

Mitchell-Bateman left Lakin to establish her own practice but returned in 1955 and became the hospital’s superintendent three years later.

e-WV Encyclopedia / Chris Dorst/The Charleston Gazette

The first state boys’ high school basketball tournament began in Buckhannon on March 21, 1914. The event was hosted by West Virginia Wesleyan College, which had West Virginia’s largest and finest gymnasium. Elkins High School took that first state title.

The tournament grew quickly in popularity. In 1922, a field of 64 teams was broken into ‘‘A’’ and ‘‘B’’ divisions, classified based on team strength rather than school size. In 1933, the tournament was reorganized with sectional winners advancing to eight regional tournaments.

March 20, 1897: Musician Frank Hutchison Born in Raleigh County

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

Musician Frank Hutchison was born in Raleigh County on March 20, 1897. As a child, he moved to Logan County, where he encountered blacks who had migrated from the Deep South to work in the southern West Virginia coalfields. After listening to the music all around him, Hutchison started merging the blues with traditional Appalachian mountain music. He also developed a distinct style, featuring his slide guitar and high-pitched vocals.

March 19, 1931: West Virginia United Mine Workers Union Founded

Mar 19, 2019
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia / via West Virginia State Archives (WVSA), Coal Life Collection

The West Virginia Mine Workers Union was founded on March 19, 1931. It was a radical alternative to the United Mine Workers of America, known as the UMWA. The new union was the brainchild of Frank Keeney, who had been a key UMWA leader during the West Virginia Mine Wars.

After the 1921 Battle of Blair Mountain, UMWA national president John L. Lewis began exerting greater control over local union matters. The year after the battle, Keeney had agreed to a temporary wage cut for miners. Lewis used the wage cuts as an excuse to fire Keeney.

e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

On March 18, 1932, convicted mass murderer Harry Powers was executed at the West Virginia Penitentiary in Moundsville. The story of his grisly murders unfolded in late 1931, with lurid details that sounded more like a pulp fiction novel than reality.

March 15, 1988: Reformer Mary Behner Christopher Dies at 81

Mar 15, 2019
e-WV Encyclopedia / Bettijane Burger

Reformer Mary Behner Christopher died in Morgantown on March 15, 1988, at age 81. The Ohio native came to West Virginia in the 1920s as a missionary for the Presbyterian church. From 1928 to 1937, she worked in the impoverished coal communities along Scotts Run, outside of Morgantown.

This once-prosperous region had fallen on hard times after the coal market plummeted in the ‘20s. Thousands of families, including numerous immigrants and African-Americans, were stranded by the economic depression.

March 14, 1974: Dr. I. E. Buff Dies at 65

Mar 14, 2019
Dr. I. E. Buff
University of Virginia Library

Dr. I. E. Buff died in Charleston on March 14, 1974, at age 65. Buff was the first physician to protest publicly that many coal miners’ deaths were inaccurately being labeled as heart attacks.

He argued that the coronaries were being caused by a widespread disease known commonly as black lung. He suggested that as many as half of West Virginia’s 40,000 miners suffered from black lung.

March 13, 1756: Sandy Creek Expedition Comes to a Halt

Mar 13, 2019
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

On March 13, 1756, the beleaguered Sandy Creek Expedition came to a halt. The French and Indian War campaign had been initiated by Virginia’s governor in response to Indian raids in the New, Greenbrier, and Tygart valleys.

In the most famous of these raids, Shawnee Indians kidnapped Mary Draper Ingles, who later escaped captivity and walked hundreds of miles back home.

In retaliation, the Virginians planned to attack Shawnee villages in Ohio. Major Andrew Lewis amassed more than 300 men, including nearly 100 Cherokee Indians.

March 12, 1850: Wheeling Hospital Chartered

Mar 12, 2019
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

On March 12, 1850, Wheeling Hospital was chartered. Founded by Catholic Bishop Richard Whelan and Dr. Simon Hullihen, it was the only medical facility of its kind between Pittsburgh and Cincinnati.

In 1856, the hospital moved to the mansion of Michael Sweeney in North Wheeling. It would remain at this location for the next 119 years. In 1864, the U.S. Army took over the facility and used it to treat wounded Civil War soldiers. Both Union and Confederate troops were cared for side by side.

e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia / via Davis & Elkins College

Politician and industrialist Henry Gassaway Davis died on March 11, 1916, at age 92. As a young man, he’d been a brakeman on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. He invested his savings and his wife’s inheritance in cheap, undeveloped land in what is now West Virginia. The timber and coal resources on that land eventually made Davis one of the state’s richest men.

West Virginia State Flag
Lulla / Dollar Photo Club

On March 8, 1963, the West Virginia Legislature adopted blue and “old gold” as the official state colors.

Many West Virginians think that blue and “old gold” have always been the state colors, but it didn’t occur officially until West Virginia’s Centennial celebration in 1963.

Prior to that, the state often used blue and gold in ceremonies because those were the official colors of West Virginia University. So, when the legislature adopted blue and “old gold,” it came as a surprise to many West Virginians that we didn’t already have official colors.

e-WV Encyclopedia / Library of Congress

On March 7, 1942, aviator “Spanky” Roberts completed his training at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, becoming one of the first five Tuskegee Airmen.

Roberts, a native of London in eastern Kanawha County, moved to Fairmont as a child. He graduated from Fairmont’s segregated Dunbar High School before earning a degree in mechanical arts from West Virginia State College (now University). He went through the college’s Civilian Pilot Training Program and became the first black licensed pilot in the state.

March 6, 1820: Great Seal Designer Joseph H. Diss Debar Born in France

Mar 6, 2019
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia / Design by Joseph H. Diss Debar

  Joseph H. Diss Debar was born in France on March 6, 1820. He immigrated to the United States at age 22. On his voyage across the Atlantic, he happened to meet and become friends with author Charles Dickens.

Diss Debar eventually wound up in Parkersburg as a land agent. For 29 years, he lived in either Parkersburg or the Doddridge County community of St. Clara, which he founded for German-Swiss immigrants. During this time, he sketched numerous people and scenes, providing some of our best images of life on the western Virginia frontier.

e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

  On March 5, 1963, country music star Hawkshaw Hawkins was killed in a plane crash in Tennessee. Born in Huntington in 1921, Hawkins got his start in music after trading five trapped rabbits for his first guitar. In the late 1930s, Hawkins performed on radio stations WSAZ in Huntington and WCHS in Charleston before joining the Army. During World War II, he fought in the Battle of Bulge and earned four battle stars in 15 months of combat.

March 4, 1866: Disciples of Christ Founder Alexander Campbell Dies at 77

Mar 4, 2019
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia / Library of Congress

On March 4, 1866, Alexander Campbell died at age 77. A native of Ireland, he immigrated to America in 1809 and settled in present-day Bethany two years later. During his lifetime, he was variously a preacher, philosopher, author, scholar, publisher, orator, and sheep farmer. He’s best remembered, though, for two lasting contributions.

First, he helped found the Disciples of Christ. Today, the Christian Church—as it’s commonly known—is one of the largest Protestant denominations ever founded in America. Then, in 1840, he established Bethany College and served as its president until his death. Today, Bethany is the oldest degree-granting institution in West Virginia.

March 1, 1925: New River Pocahontas Coal Company Acquires Kaymoor

Mar 1, 2019
Kaymoor
Jet Lowe, HAER staff photographer / Library of Congress

On March 1, 1925, the New River Pocahontas Coal Company acquired the Fayette County town of Kaymoor and its mining operations.

The new owner, a huge international company, began shipping coal from Kaymoor to the Atlantic Coast in Virginia, where the coal was used to fuel naval and merchant marine vessels.

February 28, 1963: Legislature Adds Two State Songs

Feb 28, 2019
WV Hills
E-WV / WV Humanities Council

On February 28, 1963, the legislature adopted two more songs to join “The West Virginia Hills” as official state songs.

The two new tunes were “West Virginia, My Home Sweet Home” by Colonel Julian Hearne Jr. of Wheeling and “This is My West Virginia” by Iris Bell of Charleston. They were added in honor of the state’s centennial.

While “The West Virginia Hills” had been adopted as the official state song only two years before, it had long been the unofficial song—at least in West Virginia classrooms.

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