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

Waitman T. Willey
e-WV Encyclopedia / WV State Archives (WVSA)

On May 13, 1861, political leaders, mostly from northwestern Virginia, gathered in Wheeling to address Virginia’s recent secession from the Union. At the start of the Civil War in April, delegates to the Virginia secession convention in Richmond had voted to leave the Union and join the Confederacy. However, the measure wouldn’t become official until voters approved it later in May.

May 12, 1942: Mine Explosion Kills 56 in Osage

May 12, 2020
e-WV Encyclopedia / Library of Congress

On May 12, 1942, a worker in the Christopher No. 3 mine at Osage—just outside Morgantown—left a ventilation door open, and methane accumulated in a dusty area of the mine. At 2:25 in the afternoon, an electric arc from machinery set off an explosion that coursed through three sections of the mine, killing 53 men, destroying ventilation equipment, and causing roof falls. Three others later suffocated in the noxious ‘‘afterdamp’’ gasses. Several miners managed to reach safety through a return airway.

May 11, 1909: Wheeling Filmmaker Ellis Dungan Born in Ohio

May 11, 2020
e-WV Encyclopedia / Wheeling News-Register and Goldenseal

Wheeling filmmaker Ellis Dungan was born on May 11, 1909, in nearby Barton, Ohio. He eventually hitchhiked across the United States several times, studied photography in Paris, and attended the University of Southern California’s film school. 

May 8, 1892: U.S. and Confederate Congressman Alexander Boteler Dies

May 8, 2020
Alexander Boteler
E-WV, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

U.S. and Confederate Congressman Alexander Boteler died on May 8, 1892, shortly before his 77th birthday. Before launching his political career, Boteler was a farmer and the owner of a hydraulic cement plant on the Potomac River at Shepherdstown. He entered the U.S. House of Representatives as a Whig in 1859. That same year, he interviewed John Brown extensively after Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry. A skilled artist, Boteler also made a sketch of the imprisoned abolitionist.

May 7, 1972: Activist Lenna Lowe Yost Dies at 94

May 7, 2020

Activist Lenna Lowe Yost died on May 7, 1972, at age 94. The Marion County native and West Virginia Wesleyan College graduate had become involved in women’s issues as a young adult. For 10 years, she was president of the state chapter of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union. The WCTU, as it’s known, principally opposed the consumption of alcohol but also supported social reforms for women.

e-WV Encyclopedia

Activist and physician Martin Delany was born a free African-American at Charles Town in Jefferson County on May 6, 1812. When Delany was 10, his family had to flee Charles Town for violating a Virginia law that forbid educating blacks. They settled in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, and Delany eventually moved on to Pittsburgh, where he became a medical assistant.

May 5, 1923: Fire Destroys Luna Park in Charleston

May 5, 2020
Luna-Park
e-WV Encyclopedia

On May 5, 1923, an accidental fire started by welders destroyed most of Luna Park on Charleston’s West Side. The seven-acre amusement park had been built in 1912 on a former three-hole golf course.

May 4, 1887: W.Va. Legislature Elects Charles Faulkner Jr. to the Senate

May 4, 2020
Charles Faulkner Jr.
e-WV Encyclopedia

On May 4, 1887, the West Virginia Legislature pulled its support from incumbent U.S. Senator Johnson Camden and elected Charles Faulkner Jr. of Martinsburg to the Senate. At the time, U.S. senators were chosen by state legislatures.

May 1, 1930: Labor Leader Mother Jones Celebrates 100th Birthday

May 1, 2020
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia / Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division

On May 1, 1930, labor leader “Mother” Jones celebrated her 100th birthday at a party in Maryland. The firebrand did what she did best: ruffle feathers. On this occasion, she denounced the nation’s prohibition on alcohol, saying it violated her right as an American to drink beer instead of water.

April 30, 1938: 'Uncle Jack' McElwain Dies In Wainville

Apr 30, 2020
It’s hard to overestimate McElwains’ influence on fiddle playing.
e-WV / WV Humanities Council

Musician Lewis Johnson “Uncle Jack” McElwain died at Wainville in Webster County on April 30, 1938, at age 82. During his lifetime—all of which was spent at Wainville on Laurel Creek—he was considered the best fiddler in all of central West Virginia. He took part in many fiddle contests, and no one recalls him ever losing one. His most notable win was at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893.

April 29, 1999: Labor Leader Dan Maroney Dies in Charleston

Apr 29, 2020
e-WV Encyclopedia / West Virginia & Regional History Collection

Labor leader Dan Maroney died in Charleston on April 29, 1999, at age 77. A native of Cabin Creek in Kanawha County, he attended East Bank High School; Beckley College, which later became Mountain State University; and Morris Harvey College, which is now the University of Charleston.

April 28, 1913: Peace Returns to West Virginia Coalfields

Apr 28, 2020

On April 28, 1913, coal operators and United Mine Workers of America accepted a new contract ending the yearlong Paint Creek-Cabin Creek Strike in Kanawha County. It was the bloodiest strike of the West Virginia Mine Wars. The settlement was known as the “Hatfield Contract” because it was practically dictated to both sides by new governor Henry Hatfield.

April 27, 1978: Willow Island Disaster Leaves 51 Men Dead

Apr 27, 2020
e-WV, The West Virginia Encyclopedia
WV Division of Tourism, David Fattaleh

On April 27, 1978, a disaster at Willow Island in Pleasants County left 51 men dead.

The workers were building a cooling tower at the Monongahela Power Company’s Pleasants Power Station. They were working on scaffolding 168 feet above the ground when it plunged to the ground. Most of the 51 victims were local construction workers. One unfortunate family lost four of five sons, a brother, two brothers-in-law, and three nephews.

April 24, 2001: Civil Rights Leader Leon Sullivan Dies at 78

Apr 24, 2020
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

Civil rights leader Leon Sullivan died on April 24, 2001, at age 78. The Charleston native graduated from Garnet High School and West Virginia State College before being trained in the ministry at Union Theological Seminary and Columbia University. In 1950, he became minister of Philadelphia’s Zion Baptist Church. During his 38 years at Zion Baptist, the church grew into one of the nation’s largest congregations.

On April 23, 1861, Union loyalists from Virginia’s 11th District elected Kellian Whaley to the U.S. House of Representatives, replacing former Congressman Albert Gallatin Jenkins, who’d stepped down to support the Confederacy.

The vote came just six days after Virginia had voted to secede from the Union at the start of the Civil War.

Whaley, a native of upstate New York, had moved to near the present site of Ceredo in Wayne County in 1842. A lumber dealer by trade, Whaley was one of five pro-Union congressmen who represented Virginia in the 37th Congress.

April 22, 2011: Old-Time and Bluegrass Musician Hazel Dickens Dies

Apr 22, 2020

Musician Hazel Dickens died in Washington, D.C., on April 22, 2011, at age 75. Oftentimes called the "Voice of West Virginia," Appalachian music matriarch Hazel Dickens was a pioneer of old-time and bluegrass music, known for preserving the traditional vocal styles of West Virginia

April 21, 1936: President Roosevelt Establishes Jefferson National Forest

Apr 21, 2020
Wikimedia Commons / Brian M. Powell

On April 21, 1936, President Franklin D. Roosevelt established the Jefferson National Forest, located primarily in southwest Virginia and southeast West Virginia. It covers more than 18,000 acres in Monroe County, is part of the New River Valley and New Castle Ranger Districts, and is accessible from State Routes 15, 17, and 20. Oak-pine forests cover the forest lands, which range in elevation from 2,000 to 3,600 feet.

April 20, 1939: Poet Laureate Irene McKinney Born in Belington

Apr 20, 2020
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Poet Irene McKinney was born in Belington in Barbour County on April 20, 1939. She earned degrees from West Virginia Wesleyan College and West Virginia University and, in 1976, published her first book of poems, The Girl with the Stone in Her Lap. She served as director of creative writing at West Virginia Wesleyan and, in 1984, published another poetry collection entitled The Wasps and the Blue Hexagon.  The next year, she won a poetry fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and other prestigious honors.

April 17, 1861: Virginia Politicians Vote to Secede from the Union

Apr 17, 2020
Frank Leslie / wikimedia Commons / user: Btphelps

On April 17, 1861, Virginia politicians voted to secede from the Union. The move came just days after the Civil War had erupted at Fort Sumter and after President Abraham Lincoln had called for 75,000 volunteers. For months, Virginia and other states in the Upper South had refused to join the new Confederate States of America. But, Lincoln’s call for volunteers tipped the balance.

April 16, 1920: Camden-Clark Memorial Hospital Dedicated

Apr 16, 2020
In 1920, the hospital moved to the Camden mansion on Garfield Avenue.
e-WV / WV Humanities Council

Camden-Clark Memorial Hospital was dedicated in Parkersburg on April 16, 1920. Its roots date back to the old City Hospital, a 40-bed facility that opened in 1898 on present 13th Street. It also operated a nursing school.

April 15, 1861: President Lincoln Calls for Volunteer Troops

Apr 15, 2020
BotMultichillT / wikimedia Commons

On April 15, 1861, three days after the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter in South Carolina, President Abraham Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteer troops. At the time, the U.S. Army had only about 16,000 soldiers. While most historians point to Fort Sumter as the beginning of the war, some suggest the war didn’t really begin until Lincoln’s call for troops. His action spurred four of the “holdout” states—Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Arkansas—to secede from the Union and join the Confederacy.

Observation tower at Droop Mountain State Park overlooking the Greenbrier River valley.
Chad Matlick / WVPB

On April 14, 1928, the West Virginia Fish and Game Commission purchased Droop Mountain Battlefield in Pocahontas County. Three months later, Droop Mountain was dedicated as West Virginia’s first state park. In November 1863, one of the most important Civil War battles in West Virginia occurred at Droop Mountain, when Union forces repulsed one of the last major Confederate advances into West Virginia.

e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

Attorney and presidential candidate John W. Davis was born in Clarksburg on April 13, 1873. The Democrat launched his political career in the West Virginia House of Delegates in 1899, and was elected to Congress in 1911. He resigned shortly into his second term to become U.S. solicitor general and later served as President Woodrow Wilson’s ambassador to England.

April 10, 1932: Striptease Artist Blaze Starr Born in Wayne County

Apr 10, 2020
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

On April 10, 1932, striptease artist Blaze Starr was born in Wayne County as Fanny Belle Fleming. At age 14, she left home for Logan, where she worked at a drive-in. After catching a bus to Washington, her life soon changed in unexpected ways.

A date took her to a burlesque club in Baltimore. She bragged to the owner that she could do a better job than his current dancers. Renamed Blaze Starr, she became the star attraction at Sol Goodman’s Two O’ Clock Club.

April 9, 1900: Dr. Maggie Ballard Born In Monroe County

Apr 9, 2020

Physician Maggie Ballard was born on April 9, 1900, at Greenville in Monroe County, where her father was postmaster and owned a general store.

She attended school in Greenville and at the Alleghany Collegiate Institution in Alderson. After receiving her undergraduate degree from WVU, she became one of the first women to earn a medical degree from the University of Maryland. For the next four decades, she was a physician in Baltimore, specializing in obstetrics and gynecology, and served on the faculty of the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

April 8, 1951: C-47 Transport Plane Crashes Near Kanawha Airport

Apr 8, 2020
Pictured is a U.S. Air Force Douglas C-47 Skytrain of the 167th Fighter Squadron, West Virginia Air National Guard. The 167th flew the C-47 from 1947 to 1958.
USAF

On April 8, 1951, a C-47 transport plane crashed near Charleston’s Kanawha Airport, which is now Yeager Airport, killing 21 members of the Air National Guard. They were on their way to Charleston for the funeral of fellow Guardsmen Major Woodford Sutherland. Sutherland had been killed in a freak training accident in Florida in which his parked P-51D Mustang was hit by another plane.

April 7, 1981: Poet Roy Lee Harmon Dies at 80

Apr 7, 2020
Roy Lee Harmon
West Virginia Division of Culture and History

Poet Roy Lee Harmon died on April 7, 1981, at age 80. The founder of the West Virginia Poetry Society, Harmon was born in Boone County, grew up in Danville, and graduated from Scott District School. He attended Morris Harvey College, which is now the University of Charleston, before becoming a reporter and eventually city editor for the Raleigh Register newspaper in Beckley.

e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

Attorney and politician William T. Brotherton Jr. died on April 6, 1997, at age 70. During his long career, he’d risen to the top position in two of West Virginia’s three branches of government.

April 3, 1755: Pioneer Simon Kenton Born in Fauquier Co., Va.

Apr 3, 2020
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia / Courtesy of Ohio Historical Society

Simon Kenton was born in Fauquier County, Virginia, on April 3, 1755. He left home at age 16, after he mistakenly thought he’d killed a neighbor. Kenton first traveled north through present West Virginia to Pittsburgh. Then, during the 1770s, he spent several winters trapping game along the Ohio River between the Big Sandy and Kanawha rivers.

April 2, 1900: Marlinton Incorporated

Apr 2, 2020
e-WV

The Pocahontas County seat of Marlinton was incorporated on April 2, 1900, but its history dates back to frontier days. Jacob Marlin and Stephen Sewell’s arrival about 1749 is generally considered the first white settlement in the Greenbrier Valley. By the early 1800s, Marlin’s Bottom—as it was known—was a transportation crossroads, with turnpikes converging from Warm Springs and Greenbrier and Randolph counties. A covered bridge was built across the Greenbrier River in 1854.

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