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, 2020
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.

Upon their arrival, Clendenin’s group built a two-story fort and sturdy cabins to protect against Indian attacks. The stockade, originally called Clendenin’s Fort, was later renamed Fort Lee to honor Virginia Governor Henry Lee.

March 31, 1943: The First Buna-S Synthetic Rubber Shipped at Institute

Mar 31, 2020
Synthetic rubber production at Institute
e-WV Encyclopedia / Library of Congress

On March 31, 1943, the first Buna-S synthetic rubber was shipped from Union Carbide’s plant at Institute in Kanawha County. It was a significant development in our nation’s fight against the Axis powers during World War II.

March 30, 1838: Marshall Academy Incorporated Into Huntington

Mar 30, 2020
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia / West Virginia Division of Tourism / David Fattaleh

On March 30, 1838, Marshall Academy was incorporated in what is now Huntington. The school had been established the previous year as a private school to educate the children of farmers in the region. The first classes were held in a small log church on the knoll where Marshall’s Old Main building now stands.

In 1858, the Virginia Assembly granted college status to Marshall. However, the school closed its doors a little more than two years later when the Civil War began.

March 27, 1862: Milton Humphreys Enlists in Confederate Army

Mar 27, 2020
Milton Humphreys
E-WV / WV Humanities Council

Milton Humphreys enlisted in the Confederate army on March 27, 1862. The Greenbrier County native served in Bryan’s Battery of the Virginia Artillery. It was only two months before he entered the annals of military history.

During a battle at Fayetteville in May 1862, Sergeant Humphreys fired his cannon at Union artillery from behind an intervening forest. When the shells rained down on a Union fort, the troops thought they’d come from the sky. This technique, known as indirect fire, was a first in battle and would become a precedent for modern warfare.

March 26, 1863: Voters Approve WV Constitution

Mar 26, 2020
This Week in West Virginia History.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online.

On March 26, 1863, voters overwhelmingly approved the first West Virginia Constitution, which had been nearly a year-and-a-half in the making. The constitutional debates had started at a convention in Wheeling in November 1861. Delegates tackled some surprisingly quarrelsome issues, such as the new state’s name and which counties to include.

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, 2020
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.

March 23, 2003: Private Jessica Lynch Captured by Iraqi Forces

Mar 23, 2020
Pfc. Jessica Lynch receives the Purple Heart from Lt. Gen. James B. Peake, U.S. Army surgeon general, during a ceremony at Walter Reed Army Medical Center on July 21, 2003. Lynch also received the Bronze Star and the Prisoner of War Medal.
Brett McMillan / US Army

On March 23, 2003, Private Jessica Lynch of Wirt County was captured by Iraqi forces. Soon, Lynch would be a household name throughout the nation.

Two years earlier, the 18 year old had joined the Army to earn money for college. Just days after the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, her convoy was ambushed by Iraqi forces, and her Humvee was wrecked. Lynch was seriously injured and then captured.

March 20, 1864: Skirmish at the Sinks of Gandy

Mar 20, 2020
Sinks of Gandy
E-WV / WV Humanities Council

On March 20, 1864, a Civil War skirmish occurred at the north end of the Sinks of Gandy in Randolph County. In the shootout, Union troops killed three Confederates and recaptured goods the Rebels had stolen from a Tucker County general store.

The dominant teams in the late ‘40s and ‘50s were Garnet of Charleston and Douglass of Huntington.
e-WV / WV Humanities Council

On March 19, 1925, the state’s first basketball tournament for black high schools kicked off on the campus of West Virginia State College (now University) at Institute.

It featured 24 teams, with Lincoln High of Wheeling defeating Kimball in the championship. Kimball and other regions with large African-American populations were perennial favorites in the tournament. This included other McDowell County schools such as Gary and Excelsior High School of War as well as Beckley’s Genoa High.

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: NFL, WVU Hall Of Fame Athlete Joe Stydahar Born

Mar 17, 2020
Joe Stydahar
E-WV, The West Virginia 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.

e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia / via Michael Keller

On March 16, 1742, John Peter Salling and four others started out from Natural Bridge, Virginia, on a trip to explore the Mississippi River. Their goal was to strengthen England’s claims to western lands.

Salling kept a journal of the trip, including his trek through what is now southern West Virginia. When they reached the New River, they built a boat and covered it with buffalo hides.

March 13, 2002: Herbalist Clarence "Catfish" Gray Dies

Mar 13, 2020
Catfish Gray
E-WV / WV Humanities Council

Herbalist and folk doctor Clarence Frederick “Catfish” Gray died in Huntington on March 13, 2002, at age 84. A native of Jackson County, he worked in various jobs, raised 10 children, and was a walking encyclopedia of traditional plant lore.

After a workplace accident in the early 1950s left him unable to do physical labor, Gray began gathering and selling wildflowers and herbs, while dispensing advice for using them medicinally. He sorted and packaged his unique blend of herbs in little bags at his home near Glenwood in Mason County.

March 12, 1971: Politician Ivor Boiarsky Dies

Mar 12, 2020

On March 12, 1971, Ivor Boiarsky, speaker of the West Virginia House of Delegates, died suddenly of a heart ailment. He was only 50.

Boiarsky was born in Charleston in 1920 and went on to become president of Charleston Federal Savings and Loan Association. First elected to the House of Delegates in 1958, he was a rising star in the Democratic Party, becoming chairman of the House Finance Committee and then House speaker.

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, 2020
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.

Appalachian Regional Commission

On March 9, 1965, President Lyndon Johnson signed a bill creating the Appalachian Regional Commission, known as the ARC. The agency’s goal was to bring impoverished areas of Appalachia into the mainstream American economy. While the ARC serves parts of 13 states, West Virginia is the only one that lies entirely within the boundaries of Appalachia.

March 6, 1973: Author Pearl S. Buck Dies

Mar 6, 2020

Author Pearl Buck died in Vermont on March 6, 1973, at age 80. She was born in 1892 at her maternal grandparents’ home at Hillsboro in Pocahontas County. Buck grew up with Southern Presbyterian missionary parents who traveled around the world. To her, the family home at Hillsboro—now a museum—represented “security and peace.”

At an early age, she spent time with her parents in China and learned to speak Chinese almost as early as English. She later visited small Chinese farming villages, which would provide settings for her most popular novels.

March 5, 1880: James River and Kanawha Canal Co. Ceases Operation

Mar 5, 2020

On March 5, 1880, the James River and Kanawha Canal Company ceased operations. 

The original company had been formed by Virginia in 1785, at the urging of George Washington, who’d traveled through the Ohio and Kanawha valleys the previous year. Washington envisioned a navigable water route, with canals, connecting Richmond and the Ohio River.

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

Mar 4, 2020
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, 2020
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, 1992: Musician Virginia Wilson Dies at 92

Mar 2, 2020
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia / West Virginia Division of Culture and History

Musician Virginia Wilson died on March 2, 1992, at age 92. She was born in 1900 in what is now part of Chief Logan State Park.

Wilson was a master of the clawhammer-style banjo but was little known outside of her native Logan County for much of her life. That changed at age 58, when she was discovered by West Virginia University folklorist Patrick Gainer.

February 28, 1909: Athlete John Zontini Born in Boone County

Feb 28, 2020
In his freshman year playing football at Marshall College (now University), he rushed for 865 yards, and his season of 9.5 rushing yards per carry is still a Marshall record.
E-WV/The Humanities Council

John Zontini was born in Boone County on February 28, 1909. To this day, he’s considered one of the greatest athletes in West Virginia history.

He was nicknamed the “Sheik of Seth” because of his great football career at Sherman High School, located at Seth in Boone County. His 1929 rushing average of 27 yards per carry remains a state high school record. In 1931, he also set the state javelin record with a throw of 172 feet, one inch.

February 27, 1869: D.T. Farnsworth Becomes Second Governor

Feb 27, 2020
E-WV/The Humanities Council

On February 27, 1869, West Virginia’s first governor, Arthur Boreman, resigned as the state’s chief executive to take a seat in the U.S. Senate. Daniel D. T. Farnsworth, president of the senate, stepped in to fill Boreman’s role, becoming West Virginia’s second, and shortest-serving, governor—since Boreman resigned just before the end of his term.

Five days after Farnsworth became governor, the state’s newly elected governor, William Stevenson, replaced him.

Lydia Boggs Shepherd
e-WV Encyclopedia

Society hostess Lydia Boggs Shepherd Cruger was born in present Berkeley County on February 26, 1766. Her family moved near Wheeling in 1774.

Lydia and her husband, Moses Shepherd, became wealthy landowners in the Wheeling area. Their magnificent home, Shepherd Hall, hosted six U.S. presidents. One of the most famous stories about Lydia involves a visit from Senator Henry Clay.

February 25, 1911: Newspaperman Jim Comstock Born in Richwood

Feb 25, 2020
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia / via Doug Chadwick / Goldenseal

Newspaperman Jim Comstock was born in Richwood on February 25, 1911. After serving in the Navy during World War II, he returned to his hometown and established the Richwood News Leader. Then, in 1957, he founded the legendary West Virginia Hillbilly newspaper. The Hillbilly became a forum for Comstock’s conservative politics and wry wit.

February 25, 1903: Lawman Cunningham Leads an Armed Posse into Stanaford

Feb 25, 2020
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, 2020
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 21, 1895: Bluefield State College Founded

Feb 21, 2020
Bluefield State College
E-WV / WV Humanities Council

On February 21, 1895, the legislature established the Bluefield Colored Institute, which would become Bluefield State College.

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, thousands of African-Americans moved into Mercer, McDowell, Raleigh, and Fayette counties to work in the mines and for the railroads. At the time, there was a shortage of higher education opportunities for blacks in West Virginia, particularly black teachers.

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