Fayette County

July 3, 1989: Governor Okey Patteson Dies

Jul 3, 2019
Okey Patteson
E-WV

On July 3, 1989, West Virginia’s 23rd Governor Okey Patteson died at age 90. As a child, the Mingo County native had moved with his family to Mount Hope in Fayette County, where he later sold cars and real estate.

May 14, 1910: Businessman W. D. Thurmond Dies in Fayette County

May 14, 2019

Businessman W. D. Thurmond died in Fayette County on May 14, 1910, at age 89. He was born in Virginia and came to Fayette County as a young man with his family in 1845.

During the Civil War, he served as a captain with Thurmond’s Rangers—a Confederate guerrilla force commanded by his brother Philip, who was killed in Putnam County in 1864. According to his family, W. D. Thurmond remained an “unreconstructed Rebel” the rest of his long life.

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.

January 29, 1873: Chesapeake & Ohio Completed

Jan 29, 2019
More than 7,000 men—including many African Americans—laid track through the New River Gorge and cut tunnels through the mountains between Hinton and Covington, Virginia.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online. / WV Humanities Council

On January 29, 1873, railroad officials gathered at Hawks Nest in Fayette County to drive the last spike on the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway. The C&O, as it was known, connected the Ohio River with the Atlantic Ocean and gave birth to the modern coal and timber industries in southern West Virginia.

Jada Reeves (center) as she was recognized by Gov. Jim Justice during his 2019 State of the State Address.
Will Price / West Virginia Legislative Photography

A fifth-grade teacher has been named West Virginia's Teacher of the Year for 2019.

The state Education Department said in a news release that Jada Reeves of Bradley Elementary in Mount Hope was presented the award on Thursday. It includes more than $15,000 and the use of a new car.

November 1, 1968: Charles Rogers of Fayette County Earned Medal of Honor

Nov 1, 2018
Charles Rogers of Fayette County earned the Medal of Honor for his actions during a battle in the Vietnam War.
Photo Courtesy of HomeOfHeroes.com

On November 1, 1968, Charles Rogers of Fayette County earned the Medal of Honor for his actions during a battle in the Vietnam War. The 40-year-old Rogers had previously received Army ROTC training at West Virginia State College (now University).

In the early hours of November 1, he was commanding an army infantry battalion near the Cambodian border. The fire-support base he was protecting was under attack from heavy shelling and a ground wave assault.

September 28, 1955: Labor Activist Mother Blizzard Dies

Sep 28, 2018
Sarah "Mother" Blizzard
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

Labor activist Sarah “Mother” Blizzard died on September 28, 1955, at age 90. She spent her early years on her family’s farm in Fayette County.

August 17, 1944: Heroic Actions Earns Fayette Co. Native Medal of Honor

Aug 17, 2018
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

Stanley Bender’s heroic actions on August 17, 1944, would earn him the Medal of Honor. Bender was born in Fayette County in 1909, the son of a coal miner and Russian immigrant. His family moved to Chicago in 1930, and Bender enlisted in the Army in 1939.

E-WV, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

On July 9, 1936, the electric power plant at Union Carbide’s metallurgical plant in Alloy went into operation. The power at the Fayette County plant was generated by water, which flowed through the manmade Hawks Nest Tunnel. Most of the tunnel’s construction had occurred between 1930 and 1932—primarily by black laborers from the South.

July 6, 1934: Coal Operator Sam Dixon Dies at 77

Jul 6, 2018
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

Coal operator Sam Dixon died in Raleigh County on July 6, 1934, at age 77. A native of England, Dixon emigrated to Fayette County in the 1870s and worked for a while in his uncle’s coal mine. In 1893, he and a partner opened their own mine in Fayette County, quickly followed by several other mines.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this episode of West Virginia Morning, we’ll learn how a theater company in Morgantown is looking to contribute to community conversations about substance abuse issues ravaging the region. 


CSX train derailment, April 16, 2018, Fayette County.
Courtesy Photo

This is a developing story. Please check back for more details.

Updated Tuesday, April 17 at 12:06 p.m.

New River Gorge National River spokeswoman Julena Campbell said in a news release the engine that derailed landed on its side near the New River.

She said no diesel fuel spilled and that crews are working to remove 5,000 gallons of fuel from the locomotive. CSX stated the ten derailed cars remained upright.

Acts of violence and protests resisting racial integration were features in many American communities in the 1950s and 60s. A tiny town in the coalfields of South Central West Virginia appears to have been a notable exception.

January 12, 1880: W.Va. National Guard Puts Down the First Coal Strike

Jan 12, 2018
Photo of coal miners in West Virginia, 1908
Wikimedia commons

On January 12, 1880, West Virginia National Guard troops arrived at Hawks Nest in Fayette County to put down one of the state’s first coal strikes. The strike started at Montgomery when coal operators told their union miners that nonunion competition from the nearby Hawks Nest mines was hurting business.

Sept. 28, 1955 - Labor Activist Mother Blizzard Dies

Sep 28, 2017
Sarah "Mother" Blizzard
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

Labor activist Sarah “Mother” Blizzard died on September 28, 1955, at age 90. She spent her early years on her family’s farm in Fayette County.

August 17, 1944: Heroic Actions Earns Fayete Co. Native Medal of Honor

Aug 17, 2017
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

Stanley Bender’s heroic actions on August 17, 1944, would earn him the Medal of Honor. Bender was born in Fayette County in 1909, the son of a coal miner and Russian immigrant. His family moved to Chicago in 1930, and Bender enlisted in the Army in 1939.

July 6, 1934: Coal Operator Sam Dixon Dies at 77

Jul 6, 2017
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

Coal operator Sam Dixon died in Raleigh County on July 6, 1934, at age 77. A native of England, Dixon emigrated to Fayette County in the 1870s and worked for a while in his uncle’s coal mine. In 1893, he and a partner opened their own mine in Fayette County, quickly followed by several other mines.

Fayette County Map
David Benbennick / wikimedia commons

Fayette County would close several existing school buildings under a plan approved by the county Board of Education.

The board agreed on the plan Tuesday to close schools, transfer students and reconfigure grade levels to reduce the number of public schools from 18 to 11. Most of the closings involve elementary schools.

Fayette County Map
David Benbennick / wikimedia commons

Fayetteville officials have renewed an effort to restore the old Fayetteville High School building.

The Register-Herald of Beckley reports Mayor Dennis Hanson and the school preservation board announced a drive Monday to raise funds for the restoration. To date, the board has raised more than $343,600.

Giles, Fayette & Kanawha Turnpike
E-WV / WV Humanities Council

On March 1, 1837, the Virginia General Assembly formed the Giles, Fayette & Kanawha Turnpike Company to build a 15-foot-wide road from Pearisburg, Virginia, to Gauley Bridge in Fayette County.

Begun in 1838, the turnpike was completed a decade later, running from Pearisburg to Red Sulphur Springs in Monroe County, to near present-day Hinton and Beckley, through Fayetteville, crossing Cotton Hill and New River, and connecting with the James River and Kanawha Turnpike—present Route 60—near Gauley Bridge.

Hundreds of men died from a debilitating lung disease known as silicosis.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online. / WV Humanities Council

On February 2, 1946, novelist Hubert Skidmore died at age 36. In the late 1930s and early ’40s, the Webster County native wrote several novels featuring West Virginia settings.

A common theme was the endurance of mountain people in the face of adversity. His best-known book never reached the public during his lifetime. Hawk’s Nest is a fictionalized account of what has been described as America’s worst industrial accident.

at least 476 men died of silicosis while working in the tunnel
E-WV / WV Humanities Council

On January 25, 1936, Newsweek magazine ran a story about deadly cases of silicosis associated with the Hawks Nest Tunnel construction in Fayette County.

It was the first time many Americans had heard of the tunnel disaster, which the magazine attributed to an “atmosphere of deadly dust.”

Fayette County Map
David Benbennick / wikimedia commons

After seven years of state control, Fayette County is on the verge of regaining partial control of its local school system.

The West Virginia Board of Education voted Thursday to give Fayette's local school board control of its schools except for the ability to replace their state-appointed superintendent, facilities or finances related to facilities.

Fayette County Map
David Benbennick / wikimedia commons

West Virginia officials are investigating how a Fayette County substance abuse rehabilitation facility that has never opened spent the state's grant money.

The Register-Herald reports that Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin announced a $501,100 grant for Mount Hope-based Open Minds Recovery Services in February as part of a $1.5 million grant package for substance abuse treatment services.

Fayette County Map
David Benbennick / wikimedia commons

The West Virginia School Building Authority has voted to fund $48.8 million in facilities projects statewide.

Monday's vote includes $12.6 million for the start of a school consolidation plan in Fayette County.

Fayette County Map
David Benbennick / wikimedia commons

The state School Building Authority is set to vote on funding for facilities projects in West Virginia.

The Charleston Gazette-Mail reports that one of the proposals under consideration is a consolidation plan for Fayette County schools.

Elementary Classroom
Douglaspperkins / Wikimedia Commons

West Virginia school officials have approved Fayette County's plan to trim 18 schools down to 11.

The West Virginia School Building Authority voted unanimously Monday in favor of the consolidation plan following a nine-month review of Fayette County Schools. The vote means Superintendent Michael Martirano will be able to start asking the SBA for money.

Frank Thomas
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

Aviator Frank Thomas was born at Lansing in Fayette County on September 16, 1921. Known by the nicknames “Flying Frank” and “Five Dollar Frank,” he flew charter trips, guided sight-seeing tours over the New River Gorge, gave flight lessons, searched for downed aircraft with the Civil Air Patrol, spotted forest fires, and did just about everything else connected with aviation.

In 1946, he almost single-handedly built Fayette Airport, which he owned and operated. Weather permitting, he took up one of his planes every day.

Slick-o-bot / wikimedia Commons

The West Virginia Board of Education is set to vote this week on a consolidation plan for Fayette County's public school system and a policy waiver that would again stop the requirement that teachers be evaluated based on their students' standardized test scores.

The Charleston Gazette-Mail reports that State schools Superintendent Michael Martirano intends to ask the School Building Authority board to provide $22.6 million to help fund the consolidation plan.

Oxfordian Kissuth / wikimedia Commons

The Fayette County Board of Health has decided not to vote on proposed amendments to the county's Clean Indoor Air Regulation.

The Register-Herald reports that the board refused to take up the agenda item during its meeting last week. The amendments would prohibit smoking inside hotels, private clubs, bingo operations, fairs and festivals.

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