This Week in West Virginia History

Sept. 18, 1947: Historian Minnie Kendall Lowther Dies in Harrisville

7 hours ago
Minnie Kendall Lowther
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

 Historian and journalist Minnie Kendall Lowther died in Harrisville on September 18, 1947, at age 78.

September 17, 1897: Folklorist Ruth Ann Musick Born in Missouri

Sep 17, 2019
The Telltale Lilac Bush and other West Virginia Ghost Tales by Ruth Ann Musick
University Press of Kentuck

Folklorist Ruth Ann Musick was born in Missouri on September 17, 1897. She earned a Ph.D. in English from the State University of Iowa, where she developed a lifelong interest in folklore. She first came to West Virginia in 1946 to teach mathematics and English at Fairmont State College, which is now Fairmont State University. Musick quickly made a big impact on the Mountain State by starting a folk literature class at Fairmont State and helping to revive the West Virginia Folklore Society. And in 1951, she founded the West Virginia Folklore Journal. She retired from both the journal and Fairmont State in 1967.

Charles Washington began construction of his home, Happy Retreat, near the future site of Charles Town, in 1780 but did not live to see its completion.
E-WV / The Humanities Council

Charles Washington, the youngest full brother of George Washington, died in Charles Town on September 16, 1799, at age 61. Charles Washington first came to present Jefferson County in 1780 and began constructing his home, Happy Retreat, on land he’d inherited from his half-brother. In 1786, Charles Washington laid out plans for Charles Town on 80 acres. The town square, where the courthouse now stands, was deeded by Washington as a gift to the town. Charles Town was incorporated the following year, and Charles Washington is buried nearby in the family plot at Happy Retreat.

Sept. 11, 1913: Huntington's Ritter Park Opens to the Public

Sep 11, 2019
Ritter Park
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

Huntington’s Ritter Park first opened to the public on September 11, 1913. Five years earlier, the city had purchased most of the current site for a municipal incinerator.

But neighboring residents opposed that plan, so Mayor Rufus Switzer converted the property into the city’s first major public park. It got its name from lumberman Charles Ritter, who donated an additional 20 acres, bringing the park’s total to 75 acres.

Carnifex Ferry
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

On September 10, 1861, a Civil War battle was fought at Carnifex Ferry in Nicholas County. The clash had been unfolding for nearly two months, after Confederate troops were forced from the Kanawha Valley. For weeks, the Southern troops had occupied the important crossroads of Gauley Bridge in Fayette County. After defeating a small Union force at Kesslers Cross Lanes in Nicholas County, some 2,000 Confederates, under former Virginia Governor John Floyd, encamped along the steep cliffs of the Gauley River.

e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

On September 9, 1915, historian Carter Woodson helped found the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History. This group became the cornerstone for the study of black history in the United States

Sept. 4, 1964: Businessman A.W. Cox Dies at 79

Sep 4, 2019
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

Businessman A. W. Cox died on September 4, 1964. He was 79 years old.  

The Roane County native attended a one-room school through the eighth grade. And, by 17, he was operating his father’s sawmill. After a brief teaching career, he got a part-time job at a store in Clendenin in northern Kanawha County. While working there, Cox decided to make a career of retail sales. He moved to Charleston in 1914, when he was 29, and bought out a downtown department store. It became the first in a chain of 21 A. W. Cox Department Stores in West Virginia, Virginia, Ohio, and Kentucky. 

Kanawha Textbook War
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

On September 3, 2974, Kanawha County schools opened amid high tensions. Months earlier, school board member Alice Moore had objected to the content of new language arts books the county was adopting. She felt that many were anti-religious or anti-American. Fueled by the efforts of conservative ministers, an opposition movement to the books grew rapidly, particularly in rural parts of Kanawha County. Despite petitions bearing 12,000 signatures and public condemnation of the books by 27 ministers on the grounds of immorality and indecency, the board approved most of the books.

September 2, 1907: Judge John Jay Jackson, Jr. Dies at 83

Sep 2, 2019
Judge John Jay Jackson Jr.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

Judge John Jay Jackson Jr. died on September 2, 1907, at age 83. His long career on the bench and in politics stretched from the West Virginia statehood movement to the early years of the mine wars.

August 26, 1887: Bridge Builder Lemuel Chenoweth Dies at 76

Aug 26, 2019
lemuel chenoweth
E-WV

Bridge builder Lemuel Chenoweth died at his home in Beverly in Randolph County on August 26, 1887, at age 76. He was a renowned builder of churches, houses, sideboards, beds, buggies, wagons, and even dominoes; however, he’s best remembered for his covered bridges.

August 19, 1863: Union Troops Destroy Saltpeter Works Near Franklin

Aug 19, 2019
General William Averell
E-WV, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

On August 19, 1863, Union troops under General William Averell destroyed the saltpeter works near Franklin, the seat of Pendleton County. This was the first of Averell’s three cavalry raids in 1863, launched from West Virginia toward Confederate railroads, troops, and supplies in western Virginia. Averell had been more or less banished to the West Virginia theater due to his failures during the Chancellorsville campaign.

August 15, 1906: Niagara Movement Meets in Harpers Ferry

Aug 15, 2019
The leaders of the Niagra Movement chose Harpers Ferry for its first public meeting in honor of abolitionist John Brown, who’d led an ill-fated raid on the town’s armory in 1859.
E-WV

The Niagara Movement—an important civil rights group—held its first public meeting at Harpers Ferry’s Storer College on August 15, 1906.

The movement emerged from increasing philosophical differences between Booker T. Washington—the most powerful black leader of his day—and more radical intellectuals.

While Washington wanted to work more closely with the white community to improve African-Americans’ economic status, his critics—led by W. E. B. DuBois, William Monroe Trotter, and others—urged a more militant approach.

Alpha Psi Omega

On August 12, 1925, the Alpha Psi Omega fraternity was formed at Fairmont State Normal School—now Fairmont State University. At the time, the college’s drama club wanted to join a national honorary theater organization. But the club members discovered that no such organization existed, so they formed their own, under the leadership of English professor Paul Opp.

e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

On August 11, 1958, the Congress of Racial Equality—or CORE—launched a sit-in movement at several Charleston lunch counters. Prior to this time, African-Americans in Charleston could order takeout food at many white-owned diners but were not allowed to sit down and eat.

Brigadier General Frank Kendall "Pete" Everest Jr. (August 9, 1920 – October 1, 2004) was a U.S. Air Force officer who is best remembered as an aeroengineer and test pilot during the 1950s.
Public Domain

General “Pete” Everest was born in Fairmont on August 10, 1920. A pioneer pilot of rocket planes, Everest once earned the nickname of “the fastest man alive.”

During World War II, he first flew in the European Theater, completing 94 combat missions. Everest later flew 67 combat missions in the China-Burma-India region. During this time, he destroyed four Japanese aircraft before being shot down in May 1945.

He spent the last few months of the war as a Japanese prisoner of war.

e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

 On August 5, 1958, Jennings Randolph defeated former Governor William Marland in a Democratic primary. The special election was part of a process to fill the U.S. Senate seat left vacant by the death of Matthew Neely. In the general election, Randolph beat incumbent Senator Chapman Revercomb, who had been appointed temporarily to fill Neely’s seat.

August 6, 1873: First Meeting of State Supreme Court of Appeals

Aug 6, 2019
Thorney Lieberman / West Virginia Supreme Court

On August 6, 1873, the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals met for the first time in the Jefferson County seat of Charles Town. During the state’s first 10 years, Supreme Court proceedings had been held solely at the state capitals, respectively Wheeling and Charleston. In 1873, though, the legislature decided to rotate the court’s three annual sessions among Charleston, Wheeling, and Charles Town.

July 30, 1973: Frederick Hotel Closes in Huntington

Jul 30, 2019
The Frederick Hotel Postcard
E-WV / The Humanities Council

On July 30, 1973, Huntington’s Frederick Hotel closed its doors. Prominent Huntington architect James Stewart had designed the building, which was erected in 1905 and ’06 for $400,000. Supposedly, the furnishings alone cost $100,000.

In its day, the Frederick was touted as the most elegant hotel between Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. In addition to its 125 sleeping rooms, it had 11 private dining rooms plus the Colonade Restaurant and the Elephant Walk Club. It also had its own power generators.

July 12, 1980: Educator John W. Davis Dies in New Jersey

Jul 12, 2019
Davis stepped down from West Virginia State in 1951, after 32 years at the helm.
E-WV

Educator John Warren Davis died in New Jersey on July 12, 1980, at age 92. The Georgia native moved to Kanawha County in 1919 to become president of what was then called West Virginia Collegiate Institute. 

He quickly bolstered the school’s faculty and curriculum, making it one of the first four black colleges in the United States—and the first public college in West Virginia—to be accredited. In 1929, it became West Virginia State College—and is now a University.

July 2, 1829: Potter and Businessman A.P. Donaghho Born

Jul 2, 2019
A.P.Donnaghho pottery
E-WV / WV Humanities Council

Potter and businessman A. P. Donaghho was born in Washington County, Pennsylvania, on July 2, 1829. After learning the pottery trade in his native state, he moved to Parkersburg in 1870 and opened a pottery operation there in 1874.

Donaghho made pottery by hand, “throwing” it on a potter’s wheel just as it’d been done for hundreds of years. It was salt-glazed, meaning that damp salt reacted in the hot kiln to produce a sodium aluminum silicate glaze. When thoroughly dry, the ware was placed in a bottle kiln to be fired.

e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

On June 30, 1904, the Kelly Axe and Tool Company acquired 53 acres of land along the Kanawha River on the West End of Charleston. It eventually became home to the world’s largest axe factory.

The company was founded in 1874 by William C. Kelly, who established his first factory in Kentucky before relocating to Indiana and then West Virginia. Kelly was attracted to the Kanawha Valley by the availability of abundant natural gas and good access to river and rail transportation.

On June 25, 1939, musicians from the Wheeling Steel Corporation performed at New York’s World’s Fair before 26,000 listeners. The performers, selected from Wheeling Steel’s extended family, had become the surprise sensation of the late ’30s. It was all the brainchild of Wheeling Steel’s advertising director, John Grimes, as a way to promote the corporation’s image and products.

e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

On June 24, 1934, businessman and state founder Granville Davisson Hall died at age 96. Growing up in Harrison County, he learned the technique of stenography, which would serve him well in coming years. He started his career teaching school when he was 17. In 1861, at the young age of 23, he recorded the proceedings of the Wheeling conventions that would lead to West Virginia becoming a state. He later published his notes in the book The Rending of Virginia, the most influential memoir about the West Virginia statehood movement.

June 23, 1944: 103 People Die in State's Deadliest Tornado Outbreak

Jun 23, 2019
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

On June 23, 1944, the deadliest tornado outbreak in West Virginia history nearly destroyed the Harrison County community of Shinnston. Sixty-six people died in and around the town, with victims ranging in age from 85 years to only 6 days. Overall, the outbreak killed 103 West Virginians and seriously injured another 430.

Oak Park, Preston County
WV & Regional History Center / WVU

Oak Park, an amusement park about a mile west of Masontown in Preston County, opened June 19, 1909.

The park was an easy train ride from Morgantown—as well as nearby Maryland and Pennsylvania—which helped fill up the park on weekends and holidays. On one day in that summer of 1909, 14 trains brought more than 4,000 people to Oak Park.

June 19, 1786: Indian Ambush Changes Lewis Wetzel's Life

Jun 19, 2019
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

On June 19, 1786, a tragic hunting trip changed pioneer Lewis Wetzel’s life forever. Wetzel, his father, and two brothers ventured out from their home near Wheeling and were ambushed by Indians. The attackers killed his father and one brother and badly wounded the other brother.

June 18, 1937: John D. Rockefeller IV Born in New York City

Jun 18, 2019
Office of Jay Rockefeller

John D. Rockefeller IV was born in New York City on June 18, 1937, just weeks after the death of his great-grandfather, business tycoon John D. Rockefeller. Jay—as the wealthy Rockefeller heir was known—first came to West Virginia as a poverty volunteer in the 1960s. He soon attracted national attention by switching his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat. He was elected to the West Virginia House of Delegates in 1966 and as secretary of state two years later.

June 17, 1961: Brinkley Bridge Dedicated Near Wayne

Jun 17, 2019
David Brinkley stands before the 'Brinkley Bridge' near the town Wayne, WV
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

On June 17, 1961, the Brinkley Bridge was dedicated near the town of Wayne. The previous year, it had entered West Virginia political lore. While covering the Democratic presidential primary between John F. Kennedy and Hubert Humphrey, NBC-TV newsman David Brinkley was reporting on poverty in the Mountain State and the poor condition of West Virginia’s roads and bridges. He visited a Wayne County bridge, built in 1907, that local residents had complained about for years.

June 11, 1900: Confederate Spy Belle Boyd Dies at 57

Jun 11, 2019
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

On June 11, 1900, Confederate spy Belle Boyd died of a heart attack at age 57.

Boyd was born in 1843 to an influential Berkeley County family. When the Civil War erupted, she and her family were decidedly pro-Southern. On July 4, 1861, Belle shot and killed a Yankee soldier in the Boyds’ Martinsburg home but was cleared of any criminal charges. She was only 18 at the time.

e-WV Encyclopedia

On June 10, 1775, Captain Hugh Stephenson organized the Berkeley County Riflemen in response to George Washington’s call for soldiers at the start of the Revolutionary War. These were among the first soldiers from the South to volunteer following the outbreak of hostilities in Massachusetts. The men supplied their own uniforms, weapons, equipment, and food. They wore leather leggings and moccasins, deerskin caps, and homespun shirts made of a coarse cloth called linsey-woolsey.

Pages