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 1, 1788: The Clendenins Start Their Journey to Kanawha Valley

Apr 1, 2016
e-WV Encyclopedia / The National Society of The Colonial Dames of America

On April 1, 1788, George Clendenin, along with family members and about 30 Greenbrier County Rangers, departed from present Lewisburg to make a new home for themselves in the Kanawha Valley. The previous year, Clendenin had purchased about 1000 acres of unsettled land, which would eventually become the heart of Charleston.

e-WV Encyclopedia / Library of Congress

West Virginia Attorney General Armistead Abraham Lilly was born at Jumping Branch in Summers County on March 25, 1878. He had a meteoric rise in politics, becoming a state legislator at age 22, Raleigh County prosecuting attorney at 26, and state attorney general when he was 34.

March 24, 1890: Confederate General William Lowther Jackson Dies at 65

Mar 24, 2016
Mudwall Jackson
e-WV Encyclopedia

On March 24, 1890, former Confederate General William Lowther Jackson died at age 65. Prior to the Civil War, the Clarksburg native had served as a Ritchie County judge, Virginia’s lieutenant governor, and president of the Virginia state senate.

On March 18, 1905, a freak incident led to a mine disaster at Red Ash in Fayette County. Thirteen men were under ground when a mine car ran over some explosives, igniting coal dust. The massive explosion killed all 13 miners. The next day, members of a rescue party were carelessly carrying open-flame lights. 

March 17, 1912: Athlete Joe Stydahar Born in Pennsylvania

Mar 17, 2016
e-WV Encyclopedia

Athlete Joe Stydahar was born in Pennsylvania on March 17, 1912. He and his family moved to Harrison County, West Virginia, where he graduated from Shinnston High School. He went on to become a basketball and football star at West Virginia University.

March 11, 1939: W.Va. Becomes First State to Pass Law on Surface Mining

Mar 11, 2016
Bureau of Land Management

  On March 11, 1939, the West Virginia Legislature passed the state’s first law regulating surface mining. Once referred to as strip mining, surface mining strips away earth, rock, and vegetation—known as overburden—to expose coal deposits.

March 10, 1915: The First Rotary International Club Established in W.Va.

Mar 10, 2016
Rotary Wheel
e-WV Encyclopedia

The first Rotary International Club in West Virginia was established in Wheeling on March 10, 1915. Rotary clubs were formed in Huntington and Charleston later that year.

March 4, 1924: Blues Musician Nat Reese Born in Virginia

Mar 4, 2016
Bluesman Nat Reese (1924-2012)
e-WV Encyclopedia / Michael Keller

Blues musician Nat Reese was born in Salem, Virginia, on March 4, 1924. When he was young, his family moved to Wyoming County and then to Princeton in Mercer County. He grew up listening to a variety of music, including jazz, blues, and country. And he learned to play the guitar, piano, organ, bass, and string harp.

March 3, 1866: Greenwood Cemetery Incorporated in Wheeling

Mar 3, 2016
Wikimedia Commons

Wheeling’s Greenwood Cemetery was incorporated on March 3, 1866, by a group of prominent citizens. The first burial occurred the following July, though prior to that, several bodies had been relocated to Greenwood from other cemeteries. Civil engineer James Gilchrist laid out Greenwood as a park-like setting—a common cemetery design in the mid-1800s. It’s adorned with shrubbery, flowers, trees, and picket fences.

March 2, 1927: West Virginia’s Pasteboard Capitol Burns to the Ground

Mar 2, 2016
West Virginia's Victorian-era capitol
e-WV Encyclopedia / WV State Archives (WVSA)

On March 2, 1927, West Virginia’s so-called pasteboard capitol burned to the ground. It was the second time in six years that a West Virginia capitol had been destroyed by fire.

Stephen B. Elkins
e-WV Encyclopedia / Library of Congress

On February 29, 1888, Stephen B. Elkins gave his first political speech in West Virginia—at a rally in Wheeling. He soon bought into the state’s leading Republican newspaper and built a summer mansion in the Randolph County town that would bear his name.

Lawman Cunningham Leads an Armed Posse into Stanaford

Feb 25, 2016
Lawman Dan Cunningham
e-WV Encyclopedia / WV State Archives

On February 25, 1903, an early labor-related shootout took place at Stanaford, near Beckley. At dawn, Deputy U.S. Marshal Dan Cunningham led an armed posse into Stanaford. Several days before, striking miners had prevented Cunningham and others from serving court papers.

February 24, 1918: Judge K. K. Hall Born in Boone County

Feb 24, 2016
Scale of Justice
Wikimedia Commons

Judge Kenneth Keller “K. K.” Hall was born in Boone County on February 24, 1918. During World War II, he served on an aircraft carrier in the Pacific, earning 11 battle stars.

February 18, 1890: Ellison “Cotton Top” Mounts Hanged in Kentucky

Feb 18, 2016
The Story of a Mountain Feud, Munsey's Magazine Volume 24
e-WV Encyclopedia

On February 18, 1890, Ellison "Cotton Top" Mounts was hanged in Pikeville, Kentucky, for his role in the Hatfield-McCoy Feud. It was the only legal execution of the feud.

Mounts was believed to be the illegitimate son of Ellison Hatfield—the brother of Hatfield family patriarch, "Devil"Anse. In 1882, Mounts’ father was killed by three of Randolph McCoy's sons. The Hatfields retaliated for Ellison’s murder by tying the three McCoy boys to pawpaw bushes and executing them.

e-WV Encyclopedia / WV State Archives (WVSA)

On February 17, 1863, the West Virginia Constitutional Convention adopted the Willey Amendment, which settled the issue of slavery and paved the way for West Virginia to become the 35th state.

February 16, 1821: Financier Morris Harvey Born in Raleigh County

Feb 16, 2016
Stan Cohen Via e-WV Encyclopedia / The S. Spencer Moore Co.

Civic leader and financier Morris Harvey was born in Raleigh County on February 16, 1821. He worked at his uncle's store in Fayetteville, where he learned the ins and outs of politics and business. When the Civil War began, he enlisted in Thurmond's Rangers, a local Confederate unit. 

Wikimedia Commons

On February 11, 1923, eight gangsters were arrested in Harrison County for their involvement in Black Hand activities. Black Hand was a name given to underworld extortion techniques, such as threatening lives in exchange for money. During the early 20th century, it was most commonly associated with Italian and Sicilian mobsters who extorted money from their fellow countrymen who had emigrated to the United States.

February 10, 1904: The Murder of Jay Legg

Feb 10, 2016
Wikimedia Commons

On February 10, 1904, Sarah Ann Legg shot and killed her husband, Jay, in their home at Harden’s lumber camp in Clay County. Jay floated logs downstream on the Elk River to Charleston. On the day of the shooting, he returned home early and was fatally shot with his own rifle.

November 25, 1896: Athlete Clint Thomas Born in Kentucky

Nov 25, 2015
Clint Thomas
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia / J.E. Miller, K.C. via Library of Congress

Athlete Clint Thomas was born in Greenup, Kentucky, on November 25, 1896. Thomas was a baseball star in the Negro Leagues in the 1920s and ’30s, during the days of racial segregation.

Wikimedia commons / U.S. National Archives and Records Administration

On November 18, 1846, Virginia Governor William Smith called for state troops to fight in the Mexican-American War. The two-year war followed the United States’ annexation of Texas. The conflict was primarily fought over the disputed southern border of Texas, which was claimed by both the United States and Mexico. The war was largely opposed in this country by the Whig Party, including a young Congressman from Illinois, Abraham Lincoln, who saw it as an effort to pilfer territory from Mexico.

Memorial Arch
Wikimedia Commons

The cornerstone for Huntington’s Memorial Arch was laid on November 11, 1924—the sixth anniversary of Armistice Day. The arch was built in honor of Cabell County soldiers who had fought in World War I.

Governor William C. Marland (1918-1965)
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia / WV State Archives (WVSA)

On November 4, 1952, Democrat William Marland defeated Rush Holt to become West Virginia’s governor. For Holt, it was the virtual end of a once-promising political career.

The Weston native had burst onto the scene as a Democratic legislator in the early 1930s. In 1934, at age 29, he defeated incumbent Senator Henry Hatfield to become the youngest person ever elected to the U.S. Senate. Since senators must be 30 to serve, Holt had to wait nearly six months to take his seat.

August 27, 1902: Blues Legend 'Diamond Teeth Mary' Born in Huntington

Aug 27, 2015
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

  Singer Mary Smith McClain was born in Huntington on August 27, 1902. She would become a blues legend.

At age 13, she was desperate to escape beatings from her stepmother. So, she disguised herself as a boy, hopped a train, and began performing in the circus. Throughout the 1920s and ’30s, she performed in medicine and minstrel shows. In the 1940s, she had diamonds implanted in her front teeth and took the name “Diamond Teeth Mary.” Over the years, McClain shared the stage with such performers as Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan, Big Mama Thornton, Ray Charles, Duke Ellington, and Bessie Smith, who was her half-sister.

August 20, 1946: Football Coach Fielding Yost Dies at 75

Aug 20, 2015
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

Football coach Fielding Yost died in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on August 20, 1946, at age 75. In 1895 and ’96, the Marion County native played tackle for one of West Virginia University’s earliest football teams while earning a law degree.

August 13, 1900: Railroad Mogul Collis P. Huntington Dies at 78

Aug 13, 2015

  Railroad mogul Collis P. Huntington died on August 13, 1900, at age 78. The Connecticut native grew up in poverty before moving to California during the 1848 Gold Rush. Unlike the miners, he realized that the real money was to be made from selling supplies, not panhandling for gold. After amassing a fortune, he became one of the “Big Four” railroad moguls who built two giant rail systems: the Central Pacific and Southern Pacific.

e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

  On August 6, 1864, a colony of eight Catholic nuns wound up their long treacherous wartime trek from Washington, D.C., to Parkersburg. The Sisters of the Visitation of Holy Mary established a teaching order in Parkersburg and, in 1867, founded a school for poor children. In 1900, they took possession of a new home and school located on the outskirts of Parkersburg. They named the large red-and-brick monastery DeSales Heights, in honor of St. Francis DeSales. Their former school building became home to St. Joseph’s Hospital.

July 30, 2006: Aviator Rose Agnes Rolls Cousins Dies at 86

Jul 30, 2015
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

Aviator Rose Agnes Rolls Cousins died on July 30, 2006, at age 86. The Fairmont native had entered West Virginia State College in 1932, when she was 16. The school’s new pilot training program, introduced in 1939, rekindled in her a childhood desire to fly planes. She became the first black woman trained as a solo pilot through the college’s Civilian Pilot Training Program. West Virginia State was the first of six historically black colleges in the nation authorized to establish one of these federally funded programs.

July 29, 1918: Novelist Mary Lee Settle Born in Charleston

Jul 29, 2015

Novelist Mary Lee Settle was born in Charleston on July 29, 1918. During World War II, she served in the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force. She later wrote movingly about this time in her book All the Brave Promises. After the war, Settle worked as an editor and taught fiction writing at Bard College and at the University of Virginia. Even though Settle spent most of her adult life outside West Virginia, her work often drew inspiration from her family’s deep roots in the Mountain State, including ancestors who’d settled in eastern Kanawha County in the 1840s.

July 23, 1919: Novelist Davis Grubb Born in Moundsville

Jul 23, 2015
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

Novelist Davis Grubb was born in Moundsville on July 23, 1919. He came from a prosperous background, but his family was hit badly by the Great Depression and evicted from their home. The incident likely influenced his later writings, which often criticized politicians and wealthy capitalists.

July 22, 1930: Fayette County's Dun Glen Hotel Destroyed By Arson

Jul 22, 2015
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

On July 22, 1930, one of West Virginia’s most popular—and most notorious—landmarks burned to the ground. On that day, arsonists destroyed the Dun Glen Hotel in Fayette County.

The Dun Glen was opened in 1901 across the New River from the town of Thurmond. Thanks to the coal and railroad industries, money poured in and out of the region. At one point, the town of Thurmond and the surrounding area accounted for almost 20 percent of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway’s revenues, shipping more freight than Cincinnati or Richmond.

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