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

September 23, 1938: Cutting of the Mingo Oak

Sep 23, 2019
The Mingo Oak was reported to be the largest white oak in the world.
E-WV / The Humanities Council

On September 23, 1938, the fabled Mingo Oak was cut down, after succumbing to fumes from a burning coal refuse pile. For nearly 600 years, the ancient oak tree had stood watch near the present Logan-Mingo county line. It was reportedly the largest white oak in the world, standing 145 feet tall and just over eight feet in diameter at breast height, with a limb spread of 96 feet.

September 20, 1879: Artist Patty Willis Born in Jefferson County

Sep 20, 2019
E-WV / WV Humanities Council

Artist Patty Willis was born in Jefferson County on September 20, 1879. A painter, printmaker, designer, sculptor, and art historian, Willis studied at the Corcoran Gallery School of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Pratt Institute.

Traveler's Rest, was the home of General Horatio Gates. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972.
Photographer Uknown / Public Domain

On September 19, 1777, Continental soldiers battled with British troops at Saratoga, New York. A month later, another conflict at Saratoga ended with the surrender of John Burgoyne’s British army. Coming after a long string of defeats for the Americans, the battles at Saratoga were a turning point in the Revolutionary War—giving patriots a shot of optimism and encouraging the French to enter the war on the American side.

Sept. 18, 1947: Historian Minnie Kendall Lowther Dies in Harrisville

Sep 18, 2019
Minnie Kendall Lowther
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

 Historian and journalist Minnie Kendall Lowther died in Harrisville on September 18, 1947, at age 78.

September 17, 1897: Folklorist Ruth Ann Musick Born in Missouri

Sep 17, 2019
The Telltale Lilac Bush and other West Virginia Ghost Tales by Ruth Ann Musick
University Press of Kentuck

Folklorist Ruth Ann Musick was born in Missouri on September 17, 1897. She earned a Ph.D. in English from the State University of Iowa, where she developed a lifelong interest in folklore. She first came to West Virginia in 1946 to teach mathematics and English at Fairmont State College, which is now Fairmont State University. Musick quickly made a big impact on the Mountain State by starting a folk literature class at Fairmont State and helping to revive the West Virginia Folklore Society. And in 1951, she founded the West Virginia Folklore Journal. She retired from both the journal and Fairmont State in 1967.

Charles Washington began construction of his home, Happy Retreat, near the future site of Charles Town, in 1780 but did not live to see its completion.
E-WV / The Humanities Council

Charles Washington, the youngest full brother of George Washington, died in Charles Town on September 16, 1799, at age 61. Charles Washington first came to present Jefferson County in 1780 and began constructing his home, Happy Retreat, on land he’d inherited from his half-brother. In 1786, Charles Washington laid out plans for Charles Town on 80 acres. The town square, where the courthouse now stands, was deeded by Washington as a gift to the town. Charles Town was incorporated the following year, and Charles Washington is buried nearby in the family plot at Happy Retreat.

September 13, 1862: The Battle of Charleston Begins

Sep 13, 2019
Joseph A. J. Lightburn
E-WV / The Humanities Council

On September 13, 1862, Charleston residents awoke to the sound of artillery. It was part of a Confederate push to take control of the region after 5,000 Union troops had been transferred from the Kanawha Valley to defend Washington. This left the remaining Union forces, led Joseph A. J. Lightburn, badly outnumbered.

  

Earthworks at Fort Milroy on Cheat Mountain Summit
Brian M. Powell

On September 12, 1861, the Battle of Cheat Mountain was fought near the Randolph-Pocahontas County line. Taking place just five months into the Civil War, the battle was a significant loss for the Confederacy.

General Robert E. Lee—at the time commander of the Department of Northwestern Virginia—was trying to protect railroad lines in Western Virginia while keeping what would become northern West Virginia in Confederate hands, thereby thwarting the young statehood movement.

Sept. 11, 1913: Huntington's Ritter Park Opens to the Public

Sep 11, 2019
Ritter Park
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

Huntington’s Ritter Park first opened to the public on September 11, 1913. Five years earlier, the city had purchased most of the current site for a municipal incinerator.

But neighboring residents opposed that plan, so Mayor Rufus Switzer converted the property into the city’s first major public park. It got its name from lumberman Charles Ritter, who donated an additional 20 acres, bringing the park’s total to 75 acres.

Carnifex Ferry
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

On September 10, 1861, a Civil War battle was fought at Carnifex Ferry in Nicholas County. The clash had been unfolding for nearly two months, after Confederate troops were forced from the Kanawha Valley. For weeks, the Southern troops had occupied the important crossroads of Gauley Bridge in Fayette County. After defeating a small Union force at Kesslers Cross Lanes in Nicholas County, some 2,000 Confederates, under former Virginia Governor John Floyd, encamped along the steep cliffs of the Gauley River.

e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

On September 9, 1915, historian Carter Woodson helped found the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History. This group became the cornerstone for the study of black history in the United States

John Denver
RCA / AP Images

On September 6, 1980, singer John Denver and some 50,000 West Virginia University fans belted out a rousing rendition of “Country Roads” to dedicate new Mountaineer Field in Morgantown.

The big day also marked the first game for new football coach Don Nehlen. WVU’s 41-27 victory over Cincinnati would be the first of 149 wins at WVU for Nehlen, who was on his way to becoming the most successful coach in school history and a member of the College Football Hall of Fame.

E-WV / WV Humanities Council

On September 5, 1716, Virginia Lieutenant Governor Alexander Spotswood and about 50 men reached the crest of the Allegheny Mountains, likely in present Pendleton County, and claimed the land for King George the First of Great Britain.

Spotswood and his men—described as “gentlemen, servants, Indians, and rangers”—journeyed up the Rappahannock River and crossed over the Blue Ridge Mountains into the Shenandoah Valley. Robert Brooke, a member of the expedition and the king’s surveyor general, made the first scientific observations west of the Alleghenies.

Sept. 4, 1964: Businessman A.W. Cox Dies at 79

Sep 4, 2019
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

Businessman A. W. Cox died on September 4, 1964. He was 79 years old.  

The Roane County native attended a one-room school through the eighth grade. And, by 17, he was operating his father’s sawmill. After a brief teaching career, he got a part-time job at a store in Clendenin in northern Kanawha County. While working there, Cox decided to make a career of retail sales. He moved to Charleston in 1914, when he was 29, and bought out a downtown department store. It became the first in a chain of 21 A. W. Cox Department Stores in West Virginia, Virginia, Ohio, and Kentucky. 

Kanawha Textbook War
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

On September 3, 2974, Kanawha County schools opened amid high tensions. Months earlier, school board member Alice Moore had objected to the content of new language arts books the county was adopting. She felt that many were anti-religious or anti-American. Fueled by the efforts of conservative ministers, an opposition movement to the books grew rapidly, particularly in rural parts of Kanawha County. Despite petitions bearing 12,000 signatures and public condemnation of the books by 27 ministers on the grounds of immorality and indecency, the board approved most of the books.

September 2, 1907: Judge John Jay Jackson, Jr. Dies at 83

Sep 2, 2019
Judge John Jay Jackson Jr.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

Judge John Jay Jackson Jr. died on September 2, 1907, at age 83. His long career on the bench and in politics stretched from the West Virginia statehood movement to the early years of the mine wars.

August 30, 1921: John Wilburn Leads Miners Against Blair Mountain

Aug 30, 2019

On August 30, 1921, John Wilburn of Blair assembled between 50 and 75 armed men to attack Logan County Sheriff Don Chafin’s troops, which were entrenched at the pinnacle of Blair Mountain.

The 45-year-old coal miner and Baptist preacher told his followers it was time for him to lay down his Bible, take up his rifle, and fight for the union.

August 30, 1968: Wally Barron Acquitted of Federal Charges

Aug 30, 2019
E-WV / WV Humanities Council

On August 30, 1968, Wally Barron was acquitted of federal charges stemming from alleged money kickbacks and rigged state contracts during the time he was governor. Several of Barron’s associates weren’t so fortunate. His road commissioner, Burl Sawyers; Deputy State Road Commissioner, Vincent J. Johnkoski; Finance and Administration Commissioner Truman Gore; longtime Barron friend Bonn Brown of Elkins; and Clarksburg auto dealer Fred Schroath were all convicted in the kickback scheme. 

E-WV / WV Humanities Council

On August 29, 1854, the Greenbrier Agricultural Society hosted its first annual fair on two acres of land in what is now downtown Lewisburg. The fair distributed awards for everything from livestock, farm implements, and crops to homemade food, quilts, oil paintings, and penmanship. The Lewisburg event was one of many local 19th-century fairs. One on Wheeling Island was referred to as the “state fair,” but it was still more of a local celebration. The Wheeling Island fair was eventually discontinued due to periodic flooding on the island.

August 28 1921: Armed Miners March on Blair Mountain

Aug 28, 2019
Heidi Perov / WV Humanities Council

August 28, 1921, was a pivotal day in the armed miners’ march on Logan County. The march by thousands of pro-union miners, which had begun in Kanawha County three days earlier, was a key event during the Mine Wars.

Union District 17 president Frank Keeney had caught up with the marchers at Madison and implored them to return home. To this day, nobody’s quite sure whether Keeney was secretly giving the miners a different message in private. Regardless, his words had a mixed effect. Some miners began to return home, while others pushed on.

August 27, 1952: Activist Judy Bonds Born in Raleigh County

Aug 27, 2019
Photo Courtesy of the Goldman Environmental Prize

Activist Judy Bonds was born in Marfork Hollow in Raleigh County on August 27, 1952. Like generations of her family, Bonds spent most of her life in the Coal River Valley region. Her father, a coal miner, died of black lung disease. Bonds, a single mother, worked in convenience stores, as a waitress, and as a restaurant manager.

August 26, 1887: Bridge Builder Lemuel Chenoweth Dies at 76

Aug 26, 2019
lemuel chenoweth
E-WV

Bridge builder Lemuel Chenoweth died at his home in Beverly in Randolph County on August 26, 1887, at age 76. He was a renowned builder of churches, houses, sideboards, beds, buggies, wagons, and even dominoes; however, he’s best remembered for his covered bridges.

E-WV / WV Humanities Council

On August 23, 1970, the first Mormon “stake” in West Virginia was organized in Charleston. It was an important milestone because it demonstrated that the Mormon religion had grown significantly in West Virginia.

August 22, 1872: West Virginians Narrowly Ratify a New State Constitution

Aug 22, 2019
On August 22, 1872, West Virginians narrowly ratified a new state constitution by less than 5,000 votes, while rejecting a separate proposal that would have restricted office-holding to whites only.
E-WV

On August 22, 1872, West Virginians narrowly ratified a new state constitution by less than 5,000 votes, while rejecting a separate proposal that would have restricted office-holding to whites only.

This 1872 version of the constitution, our state’s second, remains in effect today, with amendments. The first state constitution was approved in 1863, just before West Virginia became a state.

August 21, 1861: Confederate Troops Cross Gauley River at Carnifex Ferry

Aug 21, 2019
United States Army Corps of Engineers / Library of Congress

On the night of August 21, 1861, more than 2,000 Confederate troops under General John B. Floyd crossed the Gauley River at Carnifex Ferry and entrenched at Keslers Cross Lanes in Nicholas County. Four days later, about 850 Union troops from the 7th Ohio Infantry, led by Colonel Erastus Tyler, advanced from Gauley Bridge and ended up three miles from Floyd’s camp at Keslers Cross Lanes. Tyler failed to scout the area properly or post sufficient pickets.

August 20, 1851: Statue of Patrick Henry Dedicated in Morgantown

Aug 20, 2019
e-WV

On August 20, 1851, a nine-foot wood carving of Patrick Henry was dedicated atop the Monongalia County Courthouse in Morgantown. Henry had served as the governor of Virginia in 1776, when Monongalia became a county. It was moved from the cupola to indoor storage in 1890. Today, it’s considered the oldest sculpture in West Virginia.

Perhaps the state’s second-oldest statue is a monument honoring Confederate war dead in Romney. It was unveiled at Indian Mound Cemetery in 1867, making it one of the first of its kind to honor Confederate soldiers.

August 19, 1863: Union Troops Destroy Saltpeter Works Near Franklin

Aug 19, 2019
General William Averell
E-WV, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

On August 19, 1863, Union troops under General William Averell destroyed the saltpeter works near Franklin, the seat of Pendleton County. This was the first of Averell’s three cavalry raids in 1863, launched from West Virginia toward Confederate railroads, troops, and supplies in western Virginia. Averell had been more or less banished to the West Virginia theater due to his failures during the Chancellorsville campaign.

E-WV / WV Humanities Council

On August 16, 1890, Salem Academy in Harrison County changed its name to Salem College. The academy had opened its doors a year earlier with the help of the Seventh-Day Baptist denomination. One of the school’s founders was Jesse Randolph, the grandfather of future U.S. Senator and Salem alumnus Jennings Randolph.

It started with a single building on Main Street in Salem, which was in the heart of an oil boom at the time. Around 1900, a drunken mob with torches tried to burn down the college, but the school’s president backed down the rioters with a pistol and a shotgun.

August 15, 1906: Niagara Movement Meets in Harpers Ferry

Aug 15, 2019
The leaders of the Niagra Movement chose Harpers Ferry for its first public meeting in honor of abolitionist John Brown, who’d led an ill-fated raid on the town’s armory in 1859.
E-WV

The Niagara Movement—an important civil rights group—held its first public meeting at Harpers Ferry’s Storer College on August 15, 1906.

The movement emerged from increasing philosophical differences between Booker T. Washington—the most powerful black leader of his day—and more radical intellectuals.

While Washington wanted to work more closely with the white community to improve African-Americans’ economic status, his critics—led by W. E. B. DuBois, William Monroe Trotter, and others—urged a more militant approach.

August 15, 1842: Coal Operator and Union Captain Joseph Beury Born

Aug 15, 2019
E-WV / West Virginia Humanities Council

Coal operator Joseph Beury was born in Pennsylvania on August 15, 1842. During the Civil War, he served as a Union captain, though he was later known as “colonel” in the West Virginia coalfields.

Beury worked in his father’s Pennsylvania anthracite mines and brought that knowledge with him to the New River Gorge about 1872. He established the Fayette County town of Quinnimont and opened the New River Coal Company mine. When the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway arrived the following year, he shipped the first load of coal from the New River Coalfield.

Pages