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December 6, 1907: The Monongah Mine Explodes in Marion County

Dec 6, 2019
Fairmont Coal Company’s No. 6 and 8 mines at Monongah in Marion County
Appalachian History.net

On December 6, 1907, a massive explosion ripped through the Fairmont Coal Company’s No. 6 and 8 mines at Monongah in Marion County. The powerful blast killed at least 361 men, and that number is likely low due to poor record keeping. It was the worst mine disaster in U.S. history.

December 5, 1916: Benjamin Gravely Receives Patent for Motor Plow

Dec 5, 2019
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online.

On December 5, 1916, Benjamin Franklin Gravely of South Charleston received a patent for his Gravely Motor Plow.

He had first started working on the invention five years earlier.  Gravely’s first crude attempt had combined a push plow, a tractor wheel, and a two-and-a-half-horsepower motorcycle engine. From this simple start, he kept adapting the plow until he perfected it.

December 4, 1883: Reformer Stella Fuller Born

Dec 4, 2019
Salvation Army officials thought Fuller was wielding too much power and was insubordinate.
appalachianhistory.net

Social reformer Stella Fuller was born in Point Pleasant on December 4, 1883. After graduating from a Huntington business college, she worked for a law firm in Welch. At age 23, she returned to Huntington and became actively involved in the Salvation Army. Her work with the organization turned into an obsession. She even lived for 20 years in the group’s citadel building.

Robert C. Byrd
E-WV

  

On November 18, 2009, Senator Robert C. Byrd became the nation’s longest-serving member of Congress.  He was first elected to public office in 1946.  After serving two terms in the West Virginia House of Delegates and one in the state senate, he was elected to three terms in the U.S. House of Representatives.  In 1958, voters sent him to the U.S. Senate, where he would remain from 1959 until his death in 2010 at age 92.

November 11, 1918: World War I Ends

Nov 11, 2019
The last-surviving WWI veteran was Frank Buckles died at Charles Town in 2011 at the age of 110.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online. / Frank Buckles, WWI, Charles Town,

On November 11, 1918, World War I ended after more than four years of brutal fighting. Nearly 39 million soldiers had been killed, wounded, or listed as missing. American soldiers arrived on the scene only during the last year-and-a-half of the war. Still, some 116,000 died in the conflict.

About 58,000 West Virginians served in the war. Of these, more than 1,100 were killed in action, and nearly 700 died in training. Many others died from influenza or other diseases.

In the days before refrigeration, pioneers needed this natural resource to preserve meat. As such, it is one of the few products that settlers would spend money on or trade for.
E-WV, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

November 4, 1985: Flooding from Tropical Storm Juan

Nov 4, 2019
Floodwaters roar past a house in Parsons during the 1985 flood
Credit e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online; The Parson's Advocate.

In the predawn hours of November 4, 1985, a large band of rain began forming from North Carolina to West Virginia. The storm was stronger than most because it was picking up moisture from Tropical Storm Juan, which had hit the Southeast just days before. 

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

Nov 1, 2019
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.

On this day in Mountain Stage history, iconic alt-rock band R.E.M. appeared on the show. It was one of only three shows the band would play that year.

February 7, 1732: General Charles Lee Born in England

Feb 7, 2019
After being captured in 1776, Lee supplied the British with plans to defeat the Americans.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online. / WV Humanities Council

General Charles Lee was born in England on February 7, 1732. As a young man, he served with distinction in the British army before immigrating to America in the early 1770s. When the Revolutionary War began, he sided with the Americans and served as a major general in the Continental Army.

February 5, 1890: Cam Henderson Born in Marion County

Feb 5, 2019
Henderson played the tournament with only eight players due to budget restrictions on travel.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online. / WV Humanities Council

Coach Cam Henderson was born in Marion County on February 5, 1890. He grew up in Harrison County before attending Glenville State College, where he played football, basketball, and baseball. In 1923, he started a successful 12-year run as head football and basketball coach at Davis and Elkins College. Then, in 1935, he moved on to Marshall College.

February 4, 1951: Fiddler "Blind Ed" Haley Dies in Ashland KY

Feb 4, 2019
For years after Haley’s death, stories circulated about the fiddler’s remarkable talent.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online. / WV Humanities Council

Legendary fiddler “Blind Ed” Haley died in Ashland, Kentucky, on February 4, 1951.

The Logan County native never made any commercial recordings during his lifetime because he feared that record companies would cheat a blind musician. However, just by playing on street corners, courthouse squares, and other public places, he became one of the most influential fiddlers of his day. Fiddle great Clark Kessinger considered him the best he’d ever heard.

January 30, 1895: Mingo County Formed

Jan 30, 2019
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online. / WV Humanities Council

West Virginia’s youngest county came into existence on January 30, 1895, when the legislature created Mingo County from Logan County. When West Virginia entered the Union in 1863, it had 50 counties. Grant, Mineral, Lincoln, and Summers counties were added during the first four years of statehood.

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.

January 28, 1937: Worst Recorded Flooding Occurs Along the Ohio River

Jan 28, 2019
Nobody living between Huntington and Parkersburg had ever seen anything like the 1937 flood, which was brought on by melting snow and 19 straight days of rain.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online.

On January 28, 1937, the Ohio River crested in Huntington nearly 20 feet above flood stage. Days earlier, it’d crested at the same level in Parkersburg and 10 feet above flood stage in Wheeling.

January 23, 1888: Labor Leader Fred Mooney Born

Jan 23, 2019
This was a particularly active period in the Mine Wars—a violent time that pitted miners against coal operators.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online. / WV Humanities Council

Labor leader Fred Mooney was born in Kanawha County on January 23, 1888. At age 13, he began working in coal mines as a trapper boy. 

Six years later, at the young age of 19, he became secretary-treasurer of District 17 of the United Mine Workers of America.

January 22, 1927: Confederate General John McCausland Died

Jan 22, 2019
In 1857, he graduated first in his class at the Virginia Military Institute and returned a year later to teach mathematics.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online. / WV Humanities Council

Confederate Brigadier General John McCausland died at his Mason County home on January 22, 1927. He was 90 years old and the next-to-the-last living Confederate general. He was survived by a little more than a year by Felix Robertson.

McCausland had grown up at Henderson, near Point Pleasant. In 1857, he graduated first in his class at the Virginia Military Institute and returned a year later to teach mathematics.

January 21, 1906: First Passenger Train on the Coal & Coke Railroad

Jan 21, 2019
When he started on the Coal & Coke, all but 107 miles of the track between Elkins and Charleston already existed as part of other railroads.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online. / WV Humanities Council

On January 21, 1906, the first passenger train on the Coal & Coke Railway ran from Elkins to Charleston. The railroad was the brainchild of industrialist and former U.S. Senator Henry Gassaway Davis. It allowed him to market coal and timber resources from his vast landholdings in Randolph, Upshur, Braxton, Gilmer, and Barbour counties. When he started on the Coal & Coke, all but 107 miles of the track between Elkins and Charleston already existed as part of other railroads. Davis simply acquired those lines and completed the missing segment.

January 16, 1892: Activist Robert Simmons Dies

Jan 16, 2019
 Sumner was the first school for African American children in present-day West Virginia and south of the Mason-Dixon Line.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online. / WV Humanities Council

Robert Simmons died at his Parkersburg home on January 16, 1892. A free black man during the days of slavery, he moved to Parkersburg in 1841 and earned a living as a barber. He and his wife Sarah worried that their nine children wouldn’t receive a proper education.

So, in 1862, he and other free black men established Sumner School in Parkersburg. Sumner was the first school for African American children in present-day West Virginia and south of the Mason-Dixon Line.

January 15, 1890: West Virginia Legislators Convene to Choose Governor

Jan 15, 2019
Meanwhile, the sitting governor, E. Willis Wilson, refused to leave office until the dispute could be resolved.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online. / WV Humanities Council

On January 15, 1890, West Virginia legislators convened in special session to choose the state’s new governor. The most recent gubernatorial election had been deadlocked for an incredible 14 months.

January 14, 1957: Cecil Underwood Inaugurated State's Youngest Governor

Jan 14, 2019
However, Underwood was able to pass measures to provide emergency benefits to unemployed miners and to create a new economic development agency.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online. / WV Humanities Council

On January 14, 1957, Cecil Underwood became West Virginia’s youngest governor. The 34-year-old Tyler County native also became the state’s first Republican governor in 24 years.

January 9, 1911: State Poet Laureate Louise McNeill Born

Jan 9, 2019
In 1979, Governor Jay Rockefeller named her state poet laureate.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online. / WV Humanities Council

West Virginia Poet Laureate Louise McNeill was born on her family’s Pocahontas County farm on January 9, 1911. Her first book, Gauley Mountain, was published in 1939. In it, she peppered her poems with the speech and dialect she’d grown up with.

With its rich tapestry of stories and characters, Gauley Mountain is still hailed as a classic work of American poetry.

Over the next few decades, she taught college English but didn’t publish another major collection until 1972.

January 8, 1964: President Johnson Declares War on Poverty

Jan 8, 2019
For instance, community organizers in Mingo County and other parts of southern West Virginia fought to clean up their local governments. In the process, they drew the wrath of powerful politicians.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online. / WV Humanities Council

On January 8, 1964, President Lyndon Johnson called on Congress to declare an “unconditional war on poverty.” Combatting poverty had been a big thrust of John F. Kennedy’s campaign in 1960. Johnson introduced the War on Poverty legislation less than seven weeks after his predecessor’s assassination.

January 7, 1933: Jamboree Airs on WWVA

Jan 7, 2019
Capitol Music Hall in Wheeling
Steve Shaluta / Humanities Council

On January 7, 1933, the Jamboree first aired on WWVA radio in Wheeling. Along with other radio shows of the day—like the Grand Old Opry, the Chicago Barn Dance, and the Louisiana Hayride—the weekly Jamboree helped make country music an international sensation. At its peak, it could be heard across much of the East Coast and even in parts of Canada. Its listenership went national for a while in the ’50s, when CBS radio picked up a portion of the broadcasts every third week.

January 5, 1887: New Capitol Building Dedicated in Charleston

Jan 5, 2019
Charleston Capitol Circa 1887
E-WV / WV State Archives

On January 5, 1887, Governor E. Willis Wilson hosted a ball and banquet to dedicate West Virginia’s new capitol building in downtown Charleston. The event marked the end of what had become a running joke in the state’s early years—the location of the capital city. In the first two decades of statehood, the capital had already been moved from Wheeling to Charleston and back to Wheeling, again.

The dedication event in Charleston marked the capital’s final journey—at least in terms of host cities.

January 2, 2006: Sago Mine Explosion Kills 12 Miners

Jan 2, 2019
In this Jan. 2, 2007 file photo, crosses, wreaths and a candle lay at the Sago miners' memorial in Sago, W.Va., on the one-year anniversary of the mine explosion that trapped and killed 12 miners near Buckhannon.
Jeff Gentner / Associated Press

An explosion at the Sago mine in Upshur County killed 12 men on January 2, 2006. The initial methane blast at 6:30 a.m. killed one worker. Twelve men sought refuge from the carbon monoxide fumes, but 11 men were dead by the time rescuers reached them 41 hours later. 

December 31, 1952: Hank Williams' Final Concert

Dec 31, 2018
By the end of 1952, Williams was trying to get his life and career back on track. He’d even released a new single entitled “I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive.”
E-WV / Humanities Council

On New Year’s Eve 1952, country music legend Hank Williams was scheduled to perform at Charleston’s Municipal Auditorium as part of his comeback tour.

His life had been descending into turmoil for a long time. Various issues were to blame, including marriage troubles, back problems, prescription drug abuse, and alcoholism. In August 1952, he had been fired from the Grand Ole Opry because his notorious unreliability had finally overshadowed his incomparable talent.

The resulting law increased mine inspections; allowed the government to shut down unsafe mines; placed stricter limits on coal dust; improved ventilation, roof supports, and methane detection; and provided compensation to miners suffering from black lung.
E-WV / Humanities Council

On December 30, 1969, President Richard Nixon signed into law the Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act.  Since the Monongah mine disaster in Marion County more than 60 years earlier, Congress had been passing laws to address coal mine safety. However, most were filled with loopholes or lacked funding for enforcement.

The tide turned after another Marion County disaster. The 1968 Farmington explosion killed 78 miners. Americans watched in horror as the drama unfolded on national TV. 

December 25, 1887: Folk Artist James T. Rexrode Born

Dec 25, 2018
At first, he drew only from his photographs but then started painting what he called the “old-timey subjects” of his youth.
liveauctioneers.com / e-WV

Folk artist James T. Rexrode was born in Pendleton County on Christmas Day 1887. Although he’d always been an amateur photographer, he didn’t start painting until late in life.

December 24, 1852: B&O Railroad Completed Near Moundsville

Dec 24, 2018
When West Virginia statehood leaders carved out the new state’s borders, the eastern panhandle counties were included primarily to keep the B&O in West Virginia and outside of Confederate Virginia.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online. / e-WV

On Christmas Eve 1852, the last spike was driven on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad between Baltimore and the Ohio River. The event occurred at Rosbys Rock near Moundsville.

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