This Week in West Virginia History

June 14, 1957: Newspaperman Cal Price Dies

Jun 14, 2019
Cal Price, Pocahontas Times
E-WV / WV Humanities Council

Newspaperman “Cal” Price died in Marlinton on June 14, 1957, at age 76. Price—the longtime owner and editor of the Pocahontas Times newspaper—was known for his civic involvement and conservation endeavors, such as his famous “Field Notes” column and his panther and bear stories.

The 10,000-acre Calvin W. Price State Forest in southern Pocahontas County was dedicated in his honor in 1954.

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

On June 13, 1861, a committee led by John Carlile of Clarksburg presented a Declaration of Rights of the People of Virginia to the Second Wheeling Convention.

The convention was the first major step toward West Virginia statehood, and the declaration is perhaps the most significant document in our state’s history.

June 12, 1771: Frontiersman Patrick Gass Born in Pennsylvania

Jun 12, 2019
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

On June 12, 1771, frontiersman Patrick Gass was born near present Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. In the 1790s, he was stationed as a ranger at Yellow Creek, Ohio, and later across the Ohio River at Bennett’s Fort on Wheeling Creek. His job was to guard the frontier against Indian attacks. By 1797, Patrick Gass and his family were living in Brooke County. He joined the army two years later and was dispatched to Kaskaskia in the Illinois Territory.

June 7, 1926: Explosion Kills Six at Berkeley Glass Sand Company

Jun 7, 2019
Drilling to blast
E-WV / WV Humanities Council

On June 7, 1926, a crew mining for sand in Morgan County was preparing an explosion when a spark set off what the Berkeley Glass Sand Company maintained was dynamite. Others, though, claimed it was more dangerous black powder. Six men were killed.

Their deaths inspired John Unger, a local blind singer, to write the ballad “The Miner’s Doom,” which was recorded in 1927 by early country music star Vernon Dalhart.

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

Just after midnight on June 6, 1979, an old Douglas DC-6 cargo plane carrying 12 tons of marijuana attempted to land at Charleston’s Kanawha Airport—now Yeager Airport.

Two Ryder rental trucks were waiting at the airport to haul away the illegal cargo, but the scheme went awry when the plane plummeted off the edge of the runway. Hundreds of bales of marijuana spewed from the plane before it caught fire.

May 31, 2008: Mount de Chantal Visitation Academy Graduates Last Class

May 31, 2019
e-WV Encyclopedia

The Mount de Chantal Visitation Academy in Wheeling graduated its last class of students on May 31, 2008. 

May 30, 1940: Smoke Hole Caverns Opens for Tours in Grant County

May 30, 2019
e-WV Encyclopedia / David Fattaleh via WV Division of Tourism (WVDT)

On May 30, 1940, Smoke Hole Caverns in Grant County opened for tours. Of our state’s four commercial caves, the Smoke Hole Caverns is likely the most visited.

May 29, 1961: Elderson Muncie Receives First Food Stamps in Nation

May 29, 2019
e-WV

On May 29, 1961, Elderson Muncie of Bradshaw in McDowell County received the first food stamps in the nation. Muncie, an unemployed miner and father of 15, took his stamps to John Henderson’s supermarket in Welch and bought two watermelons.

The new federal program was intended to provide supplemental income for welfare recipients and families below certain income levels. Because of high unemployment and poverty rates, West Virginia has been a focus of the program since its inception.

Labor spy C. E. Lively died in Huntington on May 28, 1962, at age 75. Lively first came to Matewan in Mingo County in 1920 and joined the union during the drive to organize Tug Fork miners. He also befriended Sid Hatfield, the police chief of Matewan, who became a hero to miners after the 1920 Matewan Massacre.

May 24, 1896: Former Confederate General John Echols Dies in Staunton

May 24, 2019
e-WV Encyclopedia / Library of Congress

Former Confederate General John Echols died in Staunton, Virginia, on May 24, 1896. In 1843, the Lynchburg, Virginia, native had moved to Union in Monroe County to practice law. He remained in Union until the Civil War began in 1861.

May 23, 1862: The Battle of Lewisburg Fought in Greenbrier County

May 23, 2019
e-WV Encyclopedia

On May 23, 1862, the Battle of Lewisburg was fought in Greenbrier County. It occurred as Union troops were moving from Western Virginia toward Tennessee in the spring of 1862. Union General John C. Frémont planned to move his forces southwest from Monterey, Virginia, to the Virginia & Tennessee Railroad near Christiansburg. There, Frémont was to connect with troops under General Jacob Cox.

e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

  On May 22, 1861, Thornsberry Bailey Brown became the first Union soldier killed in battle during the Civil War. It occurred during a brief stand-off at Fetterman in Taylor County.

At the beginning of the war, both Union and Confederate forces were scheming to control the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, which had arrived in Taylor County in 1857. The railroad would be a key to moving troops and supplies.

May 21, 1971: Historian Festus Summers Dies at 76

May 21, 2019
WV Regional and History Collection

One of West Virginia’s foremost historians, Festus Summers, died on May 21, 1971, at age 76. The Nicholas County native started his teaching career in a one-room Clay County school and later taught in Fayette and Mercer counties. He also served as superintendent of schools in Jane Lew. In 1928, he became a professor of history and political science at Morris Harvey College (now University of Charleston), which was then located in Barboursville.

e-WV Encyclopedia / WV State Archives (WVSA), Marion County Historical Society Collection.

On May 17, 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the case of Brown v. Board of Education that segregated schools are unconstitutional, leading eventually to the integration of all schools across the country.

May 16, 1778: Wyandot and Mingo Indians Attack the Fort Randolph

May 16, 2019
e-WV Encyclopedia

On May 16, 1778, about 300 Wyandot and Mingo Indians attacked the garrison at Fort Randolph in Point Pleasant. Located at the confluence of the Ohio and Kanawha rivers, Fort Randolph was one of the most important military outposts in Western Virginia during the Revolutionary War.

Michael Keller / West Virginia Humanities Council

On May 15, 1880, West Virginia’s first telephone exchange was placed in service in Wheeling with about 25 subscribers. Actually, the state’s first telephone line was strung in Wheeling the year before, connecting two grocery stores owned by the Behrens brothers. At first, only local calls were possible, but long-distance service was started between Wheeling and Pittsburgh in 1883.

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.

May 10, 1960: Kennedy Wins the West Virginia Primary

May 10, 2019
e-WV Encyclopedia / Charleston Newspapers (CN)

On May 10, 1960, John F. Kennedy defeated Hubert Humphrey in the most important presidential primary ever held in West Virginia. Kennedy, a Catholic, had won the Wisconsin Democratic primary a month earlier. However, some attributed his success to Wisconsin’s relatively large percentage of Catholics.

Oil wells near Parkersburg around 1910
e-WV Encyclopedia

On May 9, 1863, Confederate raiders set fire to the prosperous oil works at Burning Springs in Wirt County. Just two years before the Civil War, Burning Springs had become the birthplace of Western Virginia’s oil industry. When the war began, it was one of only two oil-producing fields in the world.

May 8, 1951: Mike D’Antoni Born in Mullens

May 8, 2019
Matt Hickey / WV Encyclopedia

Mike D’Antoni was born in Mullens in Wyoming County on May 8, 1951. He was a basketball star at Mullens High School and Marshall University and went on to a pro career with the NBA Kansas City-Omaha Kings and San Antonio Spurs and with the Spirits of St. Louis in the American Basketball Association. He then had 13 great seasons with Olimpia Milano in Italy, where he was a local hero, not only due to his court skills but because his grandfather had emigrated to the United States from Italy in 1908.

May 7, 1928: Keith Albee Theater Opens in Huntington

May 7, 2019
David Fattaleh / WVDT

The Keith-Albee Theatre opened in Huntington on May 7, 1928, with the comedy film Good Morning, Judge, a newsreel, and five stage acts. It was one of the most lavish motion picture houses ever built and, with 3,000 seats, was supposedly second in size only to New York City’s Roxy.

American Legion
e-WV Encyclopedia

On May 2, 1919, the West Virginia department of the American Legion first convened at a meeting in Charleston. At the time, the Legion was only about six weeks old, having been founded in Paris by members of the American Expeditionary Force after World War I.

May 1, 1879: Jack Glasscock Makes Major League Debut

May 1, 2019
Jack Glasscock
Public Domain

Jack Glasscock—one of the best shortstops in history—made his major league debut on May 1, 1879, with the Cleveland Blues. He was born in Wheeling in 1859 and learned to play baseball on the sandlots of his hometown.

He earned the nickname “Pebbly Jack” due to his habit of picking up and tossing away pebbles in the field—and some baseball historians think the pebbles were just a figment of Jack’s imagination.

April 24, 1966: Attorney Lewis Johnson Dies in Washington, DC

Apr 24, 2019
In the 1948 election, Johnson chaired President Harry Truman’s finance committee, which helped engineer Truman’s surprise victory over Republican Thomas Dewey.
e-WV / WV Humanities Council

Attorney Louis Johnson died in Washington, D.C., on April 24, 1966, at age 75. The native of Roanoke, Virginia, had spent most of his life in Clarksburg before moving to Washington.

In 1913, Johnson co-founded the law firm that would become Steptoe and Johnson, which remains one of the leading legal practices in West Virginia. After serving in World War I, he helped found the American Legion and became its national commander in 1932.

As a Union officer, he fought, was captured, and made a daring escape during the Confederate raid on Guyandotte in Cabell County in November 1861.
e-WV / WV Humanities Council

On April 23, 1861, Union loyalists from Virginia’s 11th District elected Kellian Whaley to the U.S. House of Representatives, replacing former Congressman Albert Gallatin Jenkins, who’d stepped down to support the Confederacy.

The vote came just six days after Virginia had voted to secede from the Union at the start of the Civil War.

Whaley, a native of upstate New York, had moved to near the present site of Ceredo in Wayne County in 1842. A lumber dealer by trade, Whaley was one of five pro-Union congressmen who represented Virginia in the 37th Congress.

e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia / Library of Congress

On April 22, 1861, some 1,200 protesters gathered at the Harrison County Courthouse in Clarksburg to vent their anger about Virginia seceding from the Union. Five days earlier, Virginia delegates had adopted an Ordinance of Secession, just days after the start of the Civil War.

April 17, 1757: Col. Washington Orders Closing Ft. Ashby

Apr 17, 2019
By 1757, Washington could no longer provide enough forces to protect Forts Ashby and Cocke, so he abandoned both sites.
e-WV / WV Humanities Council

On April 17, 1757, George Washington ordered the Virginia militia to abandon Fort Ashby in present Mineral County. Captain Ashby of the Virginia militia had overseen the fort’s construction, and Fort Cocke—to the south, during the summer and fall of 1755.

March 22, 1922: Physician Mildred Mitchell-Bateman Born

Mar 22, 2019
Mildred Mitchell-Bateman
E-WV / WV Humanities Council

Physician Mildred Mitchell-Bateman was born in Georgia on March 22, 1922. Her career in West Virginia began in 1947, when she became a staff physician at Lakin State Hospital in Mason County. Lakin was the state hospital for African-American mental patients.

Mitchell-Bateman left Lakin to establish her own practice but returned in 1955 and became the hospital’s superintendent three years later.

February 21, 1913: Legislature Passes Workers' Compensation System

Feb 21, 2019
This Week in West Virginia History is a co-production of West Virginia Public Broadcasting and the West Virginia Humanities Council.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online. / e-WV

On February 21, 1913, the legislature passed an act creating a workers’ compensation system.

It had been a major campaign issue for incoming Governor Henry Hatfield. In his work as a coalfields physician, Hatfield recognized the need to support injured workers financially.

The system went into effect in October 1913. In the case of a fatal accident, workers’ compensation paid the funeral expenses of the deceased and a stipend for widows and children. In the case of partial disability, workers received half their salaries.

February 14, 1968: Governor Barron and Others Indicted

Feb 14, 2019
The former first lady was included because she allegedly handed a paper bag containing $25,000 to the jury foreman’s wife
e-WV / WV Humanities Council

On February 14, 1968, former Governor Wally Barron and five others were indicted by a federal grand jury on bribery and conspiracy charges.

The indictments alleged that members of the Barron Administration, including the governor himself, had set up “dummy corporations” and received kickbacks from people doing business with the state. Five state vendors testified they’d made payments to the dummy firms. After 18 hours of deliberation, the jury found everyone but Barron guilty.

Pages