This Week in West Virginia History

November 21, 1810: US Senator Allen Taylor Caperton Born

7 hours ago
US Senator Allen Taylor Caperton became the first ex-Confederate elected to the U.S. Senate and only former Confederate senator to serve in the U.S. Senate after the Civil War.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online

Allen Taylor Caperton was born on November 21, 1810, on his family’s estate in Monroe County. During the 1840s and 1850s, he served as a Whig in the Virginia House of Delegates and Senate. 

As the Civil War approached, Caperton was personally opposed to secession.  However, in April 1861, he served as a delegate to the Virginia secession convention and voted with the majority to join the Confederacy.

November 20, 1831: Banker John Q. Dickinson Born in Virginia

Nov 20, 2019
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

Banker and saltmaker John Q. Dickinson was born in Virginia on November 20, 1831. During the Civil War, he served in the Confederate Army. He was a prisoner of war for the last year of the conflict.

After the war, Dickinson ventured to the Kanawha Valley and rebuilt the salt furnace his grandfather had started at Malden in 1832, which had been partially destroyed by the flood of 1861 and then finished off by Union troops.

Wikimedia commons / W. Bailey, HABS photographer

On November 19, 1909, the Lincoln County Courthouse in Hamlin burned to the ground. While devastating fires were fairly commonplace in the early 20th century, it has been widely speculated that the Lincoln County Courthouse was an act of arson.

Lincoln—one of five counties formed after West Virginia became a state—was always agricultural in nature. In particular, it was one of the state’s most productive farming regions for tobacco.

Robert C. Byrd


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 13, 1923: Attorney Virginia Mae Brown Born in Putnam County

Nov 13, 2019
Virginia Mae Brown
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia / West Virginia State Archives

Attorney Virginia Mae Brown was born at Pliny, in Putnam County, on November 13, 1923. After graduating from the West Virginia University College of Law, she forged a pioneering career in government. In 1952—before she’d turned 30—Brown became the first woman to serve as assistant attorney general in West Virginia history.

In 1961, Governor Wally Barron named her West Virginia Insurance Commissioner, the first woman to hold that post in any state. The next year, Brown became the first woman ever appointed to a state Public Service Commission.

Downtown Shepherdstown
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia / David Fattaleh/WV Division of Tourism (WVDT)

On November 12, 1762, Thomas Shepherd presented articles of incorporation for the town of Mechlenburg to the Virginia General Assembly. Along with Romney, Mechlenburg, which was later renamed Shepherdstown, would become one of present West Virginia’s first two incorporated towns.

Shepherd established a grist mill there along the Potomac River as early as 1739, but it’s believed that German immigrants might have settled at Shepherdstown more than 20 years before. Located along Pack Horse Ford—an ancient Potomac crossing—Shepherdstown is among West Virginia’s most historic places.

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 7, 1775: Pioneers Form Forks-of-Cheat Baptist Church

Nov 7, 2019
Forks-of-Cheat Baptist is the oldest church in West Virginia west of the Alleghenies with continuous records.

On the night of November 7, 1775, the Reverend John Corbly and 12 others organized the Forks-of-Cheat Baptist Church. The meeting took place near Stewartstown, about six miles north of Morgantown.

The church remains in service today. As such, it is the oldest church in West Virginia west of the Alleghenies with continuous records. Its earliest artifact is the small hand-written minute book of that charter meeting in 1775.

November 5, 1949: Lawyer T. C. Townsend Dies in Charleston

Nov 5, 2019
Thomas Chasteene Townsend (1877-1949)
West Virginia Blue Book via Flickr

Lawyer T. C. Townsend died in Charleston on November 5, 1949, at age 72. As a young man, he mined coal and saved up enough to attend West Virginia University. He opened a law practice in Fayetteville in 1903 and later served as Kanawha County prosecuting attorney. He also served twice as state tax commissioner, in which capacity he tried to change the state’s tax structure and shift the burden away from low-income families.

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

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.

October 31, 1990: Ravenswood Aluminum Workers Locked Out

Oct 31, 2019

On October 31, 1990, union workers at Ravenswood Aluminum arrived as usual for their midnight shift.

Only this time, they were turned away from the gates. Thus began one of the most bitter labor disputes of the late 20th century.

From the time Kaiser Aluminum opened the Ravenswood plant in 1954 until it sold its operations in 1988, there had never been a strike. But, workers felt that the new owners’ cost-cutting measures were jeopardizing their safety. In fact, four workers had been killed on the job just the summer before the conflict began.

October 30, 1825: Feudist Randolph McCoy Born in Logan County

Oct 30, 2019
Randolph McCoy
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

Feudist Randolph McCoy was born in Logan County on October 30, 1825. He married his cousin, whose father gave the couple a small farm in neighboring Pike County, Kentucky. There, they raised 13 children.

e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia / William P. Gottlieb

On October 29, 1956, the legendary R&B bandleader Louis Jordan recorded his third and final version of one of the most unusual songs about West Virginia. In “Salt Pork, West Virginia,” Jordan calls out a series of large cities as a railroad conductor would do. After reciting the names of cities like Philadelphia, Atlanta, and Houston, Jordan concludes with, ‘‘I think I’ll go on home now; Bluefield, my Salt Pork, West Virginia.’’

October 28, 1929: Painter Chuck Ripper Born in Pittsburgh

Oct 28, 2019
Charles Lewis "Chuck" Ripper
Rick Lee courtesy of Huntington Quarterly

Painter Chuck Ripper was born in Pittsburgh on October 28, 1929. His father was a blacksmith and an amateur landscape painter, who spent hours in the woods with his son. His mother was an elementary art teacher. Both encouraged Chuck’s interest in nature and art. While Ripper was a student at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, he had his first bird painting published in Nature magazine.

October 23, 1890: FFV Passenger Train Wrecks Three Miles East of Hinton

Oct 23, 2019
Wreck on the C&O
J. J. Young

Shortly before dawn on October 23, 1890, the passenger train known as the Fast Flying Virginian, or FFV, wrecked three miles east of Hinton in Summers County. The cause of the accident was a rock slide.

The eastbound luxury train was traveling from Cincinnati to Washington on the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway. Its engineer, George Washington Alley, a member of a prominent railroading family, was killed while trying to stop the train. Firemen Lewis Withrow and Robert Foster were injured.

October 22, 1864: Weston State Hospital Admits First Patients

Oct 22, 2019
Weston State Hospital, WV
Tim Kiser via Wikimedia Commons

The first patients were admitted to what would become Weston State Hospital on October 22, 1864. Built on 269 acres in Lewis County, the facility was authorized by the Virginia legislature in the early 1850s as the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum.

October 21, 1935: Country Musician Mel Street Born in Virginia

Oct 21, 2019
Mel Street
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

Country musician Mel Street was born near Grundy, Virginia, on October 21, 1935. He gained early show business experience on WHIS radio and television in Bluefield. In the late 1960s and early ‘70s, he hosted his own radio show in Bluefield. During this time, he developed his signature honky-tonk style, inspired by country crooners of the ‘50s and ‘60s.

In 1970, he recorded the song ‘‘Borrowed Angel,” which was picked up by Royal American Records and became a top-10 hit in 1972.

October 16, 1942: Devastating Flood Strikes Harpers Ferry

Oct 16, 2019
Harpers Ferry nestles between two rivers
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia / Roger Spencer

A devastating flood struck Harpers Ferry on October 16, 1942. Ironically, it occurred on the 83rd anniversary of John Brown’s raid—the event that forever put Harpers Ferry in the history books.

The town’s early history was tied to water. In the 1740s, settler Robert Harper established a ferry there, at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers, giving the town its name. Then, based on a recommendation from George Washington, one of the nation’s two government armories and arsenals was built at Harpers Ferry.

October 15, 1839: W. Va. Governor A. B. Fleming Born in Fairmont

Oct 15, 2019
Aretas B. Fleming
West Virginia State Archives / Wikimedia Commons

West Virginia Governor A. B. Fleming was born in Fairmont on October 15, 1839. In the 1860s, he started a legal practice in his hometown and married Carrie Watson, the daughter of Fairmont’s richest man.

In the 1870s, he served in the legislature and was appointed as a circuit court judge. Fleming’s basic interest in politics came from his primary interest in life: the world of business. He invested in railroads, land, timber, oil, and coal.

October 14, 1943: U.S. Army Begins Transforming Parts of Dolly Sods

Oct 14, 2019
Sunset over Dolly Sods
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia / Steve Shaluta WV Division of Tourism (WVDT)

On October 14, 1943, the U.S. Army began transforming parts of Dolly Sods into an artillery range. Troops from across the eastern United States were trained at what the Army named the “West Virginia Maneuver Area” in preparation for combat in World War II. Dolly Sods—a rugged and stunningly beautiful mountainous area located at the intersection of Grant, Randolph, and Tucker counties—was chosen because it resembled the European landscape. It also was virtually unpopulated and allowed clear sight lines for artillery training. At the same time, the Army conducted a rock-climbing school at nearby Seneca Rocks in Pendleton County and taught pack mule techniques and mountaineering skills.

October 9, 1954: Architect Elmer F. Jacobs Dies at 79

Oct 9, 2019
Woodburn Hall on the Campus of West Virginia University
Jesse Wright / WVPB

Architect Elmer Forrest Jacobs died in Morgantown on October 9, 1945, at age 79.  

The Preston County native attended West Virginia University and the Carnegie Institute of Technology before he began designing fire-resistant factories in Pittsburgh. In 1894, Jacobs set up his architectural practice in Morgantown.

Exterior of Forbes Field, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania circa 1909
Library of Congress

October 8, 1921, marked the first ever live radio broadcast of a football game. The contest pitted West Virginia University against the University of Pittsburgh at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh. It was aired on KDKA, the nation’s first radio station.

In this 17th meeting of the Backyard Brawl, WVU lost, 21 to 13. It was during a rough stretch for the Mountaineers, who had lost 10 of their last 11 to Pitt, with one tie. WVU turned the tide with wins the next two seasons but once again hit on hard times. Between 1904 and 1951, WVU won only four times against Pitt, while losing 29 and tying once. The rivalry didn’t become really competitive until the 1950s.

On October 7, 1923, the first miles of the Appalachian Trail were opened in New York state. Within 14 years, the trail would stretch some 2,200 miles—from Maine to Georgia.

The Appalachian Trail crosses into West Virginia in two places. In southeastern West Virginia, the trail crosses Peters Mountain a few miles east of Peterstown in Monroe County. Here, it zigzags along the state line for close to 13 miles. This stretch offers commanding views of Allegheny Mountain before dropping off into Virginia.

October 2, 1867: Foundation of Storer College in Harpers Ferry

Oct 2, 2019
Storer College
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia / Harpers Ferry National Historical Park

On October 2, 1867, Storer College was founded in Harpers Ferry. It was established by the Freewill Baptist Church two years after the Civil War to educate freed slaves in the Shenandoah Valley.

Storer was integrated and coeducational from the start. Before present West Virginia State University was established in 1891, Storer was the only college open to African-Americans in West Virginia. Frederick Douglass served on Storer’s board of trustees and spoke on campus in 1881.

October 1, 1854: Journalist Anne Newport Royall Dies at 85

Oct 1, 2019
Anne Newport Royall
Slashme via Wikimedia Commons

Journalist Anne Newport Royall died on October 1, 1854, at age 85. She first arrived in present West Virginia when she was 17, after spending her early years in Pennsylvania and Virginia. She and her widowed mother lived in Sweet Springs in Monroe County with Captain William Royall, whom Anne would later marry. Anne had access to Captain Royall’s immense library and was tutored in history and the politics of the American Revolution and early United States—an uncommon opportunity for women in the late 1700s.

September 30, 1832: Social Activist Ann Jarvis Born in Virginia

Sep 30, 2019
Ann Reevs Jarvis
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

Social activist Ann Reeves Jarvis was born in Virginia on September 30, 1832. Her family moved to Philippi in Barbour County in 1845. Seven years later, she and her husband moved to neighboring Taylor County, where her life was filled with tragedy. Eight of her 12 children died before adulthood.

September 25, 1913: The Greenbrier Resort Opens in White Sulphur Springs

Sep 25, 2019
Greenbrier Resort
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

On September 25, 1913, The Greenbrier resort opened in White Sulphur Springs. 

Tourists had visited the mineral springs at White Sulphur since the late 1700s. 

The waters were believed to have healing powers, and the cool mountain air lured the rich and powerful away from the sultry summers in Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and the South. Some of the prominent politicians who frequented White Sulphur included Henry Clay and Presidents Martin Van Buren and John Tyler. Robert E. Lee’s visits after the Civil War established White Sulphur as a mecca of the South. 

September 23, 1938: Cutting of the Mingo Oak

Sep 23, 2019
The Mingo Oak was reported to be the largest white oak in the world.
E-WV / The Humanities Council

On September 23, 1938, the fabled Mingo Oak was cut down, after succumbing to fumes from a burning coal refuse pile. For nearly 600 years, the ancient oak tree had stood watch near the present Logan-Mingo county line. It was reportedly the largest white oak in the world, standing 145 feet tall and just over eight feet in diameter at breast height, with a limb spread of 96 feet.