This Week in West Virginia History

January 17, 1947: Labor Lawyer Harold Houston Dies in Florida

Jan 17, 2020
In later years, he was involved in an automobile dealership and a real estate addition in the Spring Hill section of South Charleston
e-WV / WV Humanities Council

Labor lawyer Harold Houston died in Florida on January 17, 1947, at age 74. When he was young, his parents moved from Ohio to Jackson County and then to Charleston.

In 1901, after getting a law degree from West Virginia University, Houston opened a legal practice in Parkersburg.

January 16, 1989: Gaston Caperton Sworn in as Governor

Jan 16, 2020
Gaston Caperton
E-WV/The Humanities Council

Gaston Caperton—our state’s 31st governor—was sworn into office on January 16, 1989. He was born in Charleston in 1940 and eventually worked at his father’s insurance company, where he rose to president.

By the late 1980s, the McDonough-Caperton Insurance Group was one of the nation’s largest privately owned insurance companies.

January 13, 1941: Matthew Neely Inaugurated Governor of West Virginia

Jan 13, 2020
Governor Matthew M. Neely (1874-1948).
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia / WV State Archives (WVSA)

Matthew Neely was inaugurated governor on January 13, 1941—one of many political career changes for the Democrat stalwart.

January 10, 1969: Novelist Tom Kromer Died in Huntington

Jan 10, 2020
Kromer attended Marshall College (now University) for brief periods in the late ‘20s before crisscrossing the country, often hopping freight trains.
e-WV / WV Humanities Council

Novelist and short story writer Tom Kromer died in Huntington on January 10, 1969, at age 62. During his childhood, his family moved frequently—living in Huntington, Fairmont, Kingwood, and Williamstown—wherever his father could find work in the coal or glass industries.

January 10, 1940: Bartley Mine Explosion

Jan 10, 2020
United Mine Workers monument at the site of the Bartley mine disaster
E-WV

On January 10, 1940, the Pond Creek Number 1 mine exploded at Bartley in McDowell County. The blast killed 91 miners; 47 men escaped. Most of the men who perished died instantly. Although, some asphyxiated following the explosion, and two left farewell letters.

Pond Creek Number 1 was a deep-shaft mine owned by an affiliate of Island Creek Coal. Investigators blamed methane gas for the fatal explosion since the mine’s coal dust had been treated properly.

January 9, 1986: West Virginia Sells First Lottery Tickets

Jan 9, 2020

On January 9, 1986, West Virginia sold its first “scratch-off” lottery tickets. The state lottery had been authorized by an amendment to the state constitution, passed by voters in 1984.

As the number of lottery games expanded, so did revenues. Within eight years, instant ticket sales had increased by 336 percent and would eventually bring in more than a billion dollars a year.

January 3, 1959: Robert C. Byrd Sworn into US Senate

Jan 3, 2020
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

On January 3, 1959, Democrat Robert C. Byrd was sworn in as a member of the U.S. Senate—in the presence of three future presidents: then-Vice President Richard Nixon and Senators John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson.

Byrd was assigned to the powerful Appropriations Committee. He used his political skills to become Democratic majority whip in 1971, upsetting the incumbent, Ted Kennedy. Byrd’s mastery of the rules and popularity among fellow senators helped him defeat Hubert Humphrey to become majority leader in 1976.

January 2, 2006: Rabbi Samuel Cooper Dies

Jan 2, 2020
Rabbi Samuel Cooper
E-WV / WV Humanities Council

Rabbi Samuel Cooper died in Florida on January 2, 2006, at age 97. The Toronto native visited Charleston in 1932 to lead the High Holiday services for the B’nai Jacob Synagogue. The congregation was so impressed that a delegation followed him on his return home, caught up with him in Baltimore, and hired him as full-time rabbi. Cooper returned to Charleston to begin nearly a half-century in the B’nai Jacob pulpit.

He was the synagogue’s first rabbi born in North America. He guided the congregation from old-style Orthodox Judaism to a more modern Orthodox perspective.

January 1, 1973: Songwriter Jack Rollins Dies

Jan 1, 2020
Jack Rollins
WV Encyclopedia

Songwriter Jack Rollins died on New Year’s Day 1973 at age 66. The prolific composer wrote more than 500 songs but will always be remembered for two holiday favorites.

December 27, 2006: Artist June Kilgore Dies

Dec 27, 2019
Kilgore’s modern and abstract work evokes intense emotion and a sense of the spiritual.
E-WV / Humanities Council

Artist June Kilgore died on December 27, 2006, at age 79. The Huntington native was an expressionist painter who spent 30 years as an art professor at Marshall University. Kilgore’s modern and abstract work evokes intense emotion and a sense of the spiritual.

An eloquent communicator, she had a significant influence on her students at Marshall and inspired many accomplished West Virginia artists, including Dolly Hartman and Sally Romayne.

December 20, 1999: Newspaperman Jack Maurice Dies in Charleston at Age 86

Dec 20, 2019

Newspaperman Jack Maurice died in Charleston on December 20, 1999, at age 86. Maurice was born in 1913 in the McDowell County coal town of Vivian. During his childhood, his family moved frequently around the West Virginia and Kentucky coalfields. He graduated from Huntington High School and Marshall College (now University) and immediately started his career with the Huntington Herald-Dispatch in 1935. Three years later, he joined the staff of the Charleston Daily Mail.

December 13, 1926: Wheeling Radio Station WWVA Goes On The Air

Dec 13, 2019
In 1933, WWVA launched a program that would become a mainstay. The Wheeling Jamboree was broadcast to 17 other states and six Canadian provinces.
E-WV

Wheeling radio station WWVA went on the air on December 13, 1926. The 50-watt station broadcast from the basement of John Stroebel, a physics teacher and wireless pioneer. By November of the next year, WWVA had established studios in a Wheeling office building and boosted its power to 500 watts, which, on some nights, could transmit its signal halfway around the world. Early programming on the station included contemporary recorded music, informal announcements, music by local amateurs, and children’s shows.

  

Jackson Arnold, first State Police superintendent
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia / WV State Archives (WVSA), West Virginia State Police

On December 10, 1949, the West Virginia State Police Academy graduated its first class. Those first 20 cadets had started their training two months earlier, shortly after the building was completed at Institute in Kanawha County. For the first 30 years of its existence, the State Police had lacked a training academy.

November 30, 1865: Composer, Author Ida L. Reed Born Near Philippi

Nov 30, 2019
Ida L. Reed
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

Composer and author Ida L. Reed was born on a hilltop farm near Philippi on November 30, 1865. In the face of illnesses, family deaths, and constant poverty, she was a devout Methodist all her life.

She wrote some 2,000 hymns and songs, many of which have been translated into other languages. Her best-known composition was “I Belong to the King,” which still appears in Protestant hymnals. An estimated four million copies of this hymn have been circulated.

November 29, 1878: Writer Margaret Prescott Montague Born

Nov 29, 2019

Writer Margaret Prescott Montague was born at White Sulphur Springs on November 29, 1878.  Her books, which were set mostly in the southern mountains, included The Poet, Miss Kate, and I; The Sowing of Alderson Cree; Calvert’s Valley; and Linda—all written before she’d turned 35.

Her brother was superintendent of the West Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind in Romney. Montague’s interest in his students inspired her book Closed Doors.

November 28 1891: WVU Plays First Football Game

Nov 28, 2019
Mountaineer Field
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online. / West Virginia University Football, Washington and Jefferson College, F.L. Emory, WVU Athletic Association

On November 28, 1891, West Virginia University played its first football game ever. The contest didn’t go as hoped. About 250 fans showed up at a field south of Morgantown to watch Washington and Jefferson shut out WVU 72 to 0.

November 27, 1848: African-American Educator William H. Davis Born

Nov 27, 2019

African-American educator William H. Davis was born in Columbus, Ohio, on November 27, 1848. As a young man of 15, he enlisted in the Union Army and served in a Light Guard company that helped protect President Abraham Lincoln.

November 27, 1933: WVU President Daniel Purinton Dies

Nov 27, 2019
Daniel B. Purinton taught logic, mathematics, metaphysics, and vocal music. He also wrote about 40 songs in his lifetime. In 1881, he became acting president of the university and was an early supporter of co-education.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

Daniel B. Purinton died in Morgantown on November 27, 1933. A native of Preston County, he was one of West Virginia University’s early graduates. He earned a bachelor of arts from the school in 1873 and a master of arts in 1876. He later received a doctorate from the University of Nashville.

November 26, 1952: Fire Kills 17 at Huntington State Hospital

Nov 26, 2019
e-WV

A fire broke out at the Huntington State Hospital on November 26, 1952—the night before Thanksgiving—killing 17 patients.

The hospital was established in 1897 as the Home for Incurables. At the time, mentally ill people were often placed in these so-called insane asylums to remove them from society. A tall wire fence and iron gates made the facility appear more like a prison than a hospital. The hospital’s name was changed to the West Virginia Asylum in 1901 and to Huntington State Hospital in 1916.

November 25, 1927: First WV State Geologist I.C. White Dies

Nov 25, 2019
During I.C. White's lifetime, he revolutionized the use of geology to uncover oil and gas reserves.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online. / Israel Charles White, anticlines, WV oil and gas industry, Monongalia County,

Geologist Israel Charles White died on November 25, 1927, at the age of 79.  During his lifetime, he revolutionized the use of geology to uncover oil and gas reserves.  He later published an article suggesting that the folds in rock formations, known as anticlines, could predict the locations of oil and gas deposits.

November 22, 1825: Kanawha Valley Pioneer Anne Bailey Dies

Nov 22, 2019
Anne Bailey’s services to frontier settlements were invaluable and remain a powerful symbol of the fortitude of pioneer women.
e-WV West Virginia Encyclopedia

Kanawha Valley pioneer Anne Bailey died in Gallipolis, Ohio, on November 22, 1825, at about age 83. It’s not clear when the native of Liverpool, England, emigrated to America. However, she was living in Staunton, Virginia, by 1761.

After her husband was killed by Indians in the 1774 Battle of Point Pleasant, she swore to avenge his death. She taught herself how to shoot a gun and became a scout. Some say this is when she earned the nickname “Mad Anne.”

November 19, 1899: Sculptor Gladys Tuke Born

Nov 19, 2019
In 1956, Tuke reopened The Greenbrier’s Art Colony.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online. / Gladys Tuke, The Greenbrier, The Greenbrier Resort Art Colony, Pocahontas County,

Sculptor Gladys Tuke was born in Pocahontas County on November 19, 1899. After studying art in Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia, she returned to West Virginia in the 1930s. She took up residency at The Greenbrier resort’s Art Colony and became well known for her sculptures of horses. During World War Two, Tuke taught sculpture and pottery to soldiers who were recovering at The Greenbrier, which had been converted into an army hospital. She set up her own studio in White Sulphur Springs after the war.

November 15, 2010: Aracoma Hotel in Logan Badly Damaged by Fire

Nov 15, 2019
On November 15, 2010, the Aracoma Hotel in Logan was badly damaged by fire, leading to its demolition several months later.
e-WV West Virginia Encyclopedia

On November 15, 2010, the Aracoma Hotel in Logan was badly damaged by fire, leading to its demolition several months later.

Named for the Indian princess Aracoma, the daughter of Chief Cornstalk, the landmark hotel experienced many brushes with history. Built in 1917 for $50,000 by Syrian immigrant Harvey Ghiz, the hotel was the largest downtown building erected after Logan’s great fire of 1912. During construction, workers unearthed roughly a square-block field of bones and relics that had once been an Indian burial site.

November 14, 1970: Marshall University Plane Crash

Nov 14, 2019
1970 Marshall University Football Team
Marshall University

On the night of November 14, 1970, a Southern Airways DC-9 approached a foggy and rainy Tri-State Airport in Wayne County. The airliner slammed into a hillside just short of the runway and burst into flames. All 75 passengers were killed. 

On board were nearly the entire Marshall University football team along with the head coach, athletic director, and 36 other fans, coaches, announcers, and crew members. It is still the deadliest sports-related air disaster in U.S. history.

November 8, 1936: Darrell McGraw Born in Wyoming County

Nov 8, 2019
Darrell McGraw helped to expand the rights of injured workers to sue employers
Yahoo Images

Darrell McGraw was born in Wyoming County on November 8, 1936. After graduating from Pineville High School, he earned degrees from Berea Academy and West Virginia University, where he served as student body president. He also served a stint in the army.

November 6, 1863: Battle of Droop Mountain

Nov 6, 2019
Observation tower at Droop Mountain State Park overlooking the Greenbrier River valley.
Chad Matlick

On November 6, 1863, one of the most important Civil War battles in West Virginia occurred in Pocahontas County. In August of that year, Union General William W. Averell had launched a series of raids to disrupt the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad in southwestern Virginia.

October 26, 1934: Basketball Star Rod Hundley Born in Charleston

Oct 26, 2019
Hot Rod Hundley
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia / West Virginia & Regional History Collection

Basketball star Rod Hundley was born in Charleston on October 26, 1934. He was a sensation at Charleston High School, dazzling opponents with his tricks and talent. His flashy style is rarely seen today, outside of the Harlem Globetrotters.

His repertoire included trick shots, a signature behind-the-back dribble, and spinning the ball on his finger—all during games. His flair on the court earned him the nickname the “clown prince of basketball.” But he’ll always be remembered as “Hot Rod.”

October 25, 1918: Athlete Biggie Goldberg Born

Oct 25, 2019
Biggie
e-WV West Virginia Encyclopedia / West Virginia Humanities Council

Athlete Marshall “Biggie” Goldberg was born in Elkins on October 25, 1918. He was an all-state football and basketball player at Elkins High School. After graduating, he became a two-time All-American at the University of Pittsburgh and led Pitt to the 1937 national football championship.

As a senior, Goldberg asked to switch from tailback to fullback. Pitt’s coach tried to discourage him, but Goldberg made the move and repeated as an All-American.

October 24, 1861: Voters Approve State of West Virginia

Oct 24, 2019
Many western Virginia residents had few options because the U.S. Constitution forbids any state to be carved from another state without the original state’s approval.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online. / 1872, Western Virgnia, Reorganized Government of Virginia

On October 24, 1861, voters formally approved the formation of West Virginia. Many western Virginia residents had been frustrated with the Virginia state government for years. But, they had few options at their disposal because the U.S. Constitution forbids any state to be carved from another state without the original state’s approval.

The Virginia state government in Richmond would not have willingly given away one-third of its territory. But, when Virginia left the Union at the beginning of the Civil War, western Virginia politicians seized their window of opportunity.

October 18, 1778: Martinsburg Incorporated

Oct 18, 2019
Martinsburg took off with the arrival of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad IN 1842.
e-WV / WV Humanities Council

The town of Martinsburg in Berkeley County was incorporated on October 18, 1778. The place had been settled originally by Joseph and John Morgan in the 1740s. But it was Scotland native Adam Stephen who put Martinsburg on the map. Stephen established mills along the banks of Tuscarora Creek, built himself a limestone house, and, in 1773, laid out the town. He named it for Colonel Thomas Bryan Martin, a nephew of Lord Thomas Fairfax, who owned much of the present Eastern Panhandle.

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