This Week in West Virginia History

WV Division of Tourism (WVDT) / David Fattaleh

July 3, 1863, was a pivotal day in the Civil War. On that day, the Union Army scored a key victory in the Pennsylvania town of Gettysburg, and Confederates offered their surrender at Vicksburg, Mississippi. The Battle of Gettysburg ended the Confederates’ last major invasion of the North and is viewed by some as the war’s turning point. The Confederate loss of Vicksburg was perhaps more important because it opened the way for the North to seize control of the entire Mississippi River, cutting the Confederacy in half.

July 2, 1934: Woodchopping Star Arden Cogar Sr. Born in Webster Co.

Jul 2, 2020
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

One of West Virginia’s most successful athletes hailed from the unusual sport of woodchopping. Arden Cogar Sr. was born in Webster County on July 2, 1934. When he was 21, he won nine titles at what would become the Lumberjack World Championships. He demonstrated his skills at the 1965 New York World’s Fair and quickly became the sport’s leading figure, with regular spots on ABC’s Wide World of Sports. He eventually set more than 50 world records, many after he turned 40. He still holds nine records.

June 29, 1940: Jehova's Witnesses Detained in Richwood

Jun 29, 2020
This Week in WV History.
WV Humanitites Council / WV Public Broadcasting

On June 29, 1940, in the Nicholas County town of Richwood, Deputy Sheriff Martin Catlette and Police Chief Bert Stewart detained seven Jehovah’s Witnesses, whose patriotism had been questioned by the local American Legion.

The Legionnaires forced four of the Jehovah’s Witnesses to drink doses of castor oil. They then marched all seven through a jeering mob to the post office, where the Witnesses refused to salute the flag due to conflicts with their religion.

June 26, 1914: Musician Doc Williams Born in Cleveland

Jun 26, 2020
Over more than 70 years, Doc William kept alive the traditional style of country music.
E-WV, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

Musician Doc Williams was born in Cleveland on June 26, 1914. Williams and his Border Riders band came to Wheeling radio station WWVA in 1937. With only slight interruption, he was associated with the Wheeling Jamboree radio program for the rest of his career.

The Border Riders at times included Doc’s fiddle-playing brother Cy, blind accordionist Marion Martin, wife Chickie Williams, and such comedians as Froggie Cortez, “Hiram Hayseed,” and Smoky Pleacher. Doc and Chickie’s daughters, Barbara, Madeline, and Karen, periodically joined in with the band.

June 25, 1980: Two Women Murdered Traveling to Rainbow Gathering

Jun 25, 2020
Joseph Paul Franklin, a white supremacist and serial killer, confessed to the murders.
E-WV / WV Humanities Council

On June 25, 1980, Nancy Santomero and Vicki Durian, who were apparently hitchhiking to the Rainbow Family reunion in Webster County, were murdered on Droop Mountain, in southern Pocahontas County.

The Rainbow Family is a loosely organized group, variously characterized as hippies and drifters, or as peaceful nature lovers and ecologists.

The annual gatherings, first held in Aspen, Colorado, grew from popular social, political, and cultural movements of the 1960s and early 1970s. The name “rainbow” signifies the diversity of people involved.

June 24, 1831: Rebecca Harding Davis Born

Jun 24, 2020
Author Rebecca Harding Davis
Wikipedia / WV Humanitites Council

Author Rebecca Harding Davis was born in Pennsylvania on June 24, 1831. She and her family moved to Wheeling about 1836, and she later wrote for the Wheeling Intelligencer newspaper. During the 1860s, she published a number of stories and serialized novels in the Atlantic Monthly.

Her best-known story, “Life in the Iron Mills: A Story of Today” powerfully depicts the plight of mill workers in a town based on Wheeling. Her first two novels focused on worker exploitation and moral and political conflicts raised by the Civil War.

June 22, 1865: Gen. Joseph Lightburn Resigns

Jun 22, 2020
Gen. John Lightburn, USA
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

On June 22, 1865, two months after Civil War hostilities ended, General Joseph A. J. Lightburn resigned from the U.S. Army, ending his military service.

The Pennsylvania native had moved with his family to Lewis County in 1840. As a young man, he was friends with Thomas Jackson—later to be known as “Stonewall.” Lightburn wanted to attend West Point, but Jackson received the appointment from his region instead.

June 18, 1674: Needham and Arthur Exploration Ends

Jun 18, 2020
This Week in West Virginia History.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online.

On June 18, 1674, the Needham and Arthur exploration into present-day West Virginia ended. A year earlier, explorer, politician, and militia commander Abraham Wood had dispatched James Needham, Gabriel Arthur, and eight Indian guides on an expedition through the South.

June 17, 1916: State Athletic Association Organized

Jun 17, 2020
In 1955, the organization changed its name to the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission.
E-WV, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

On June 17, 1916, the West Virginia High School Athletic Association was organized in Charleston. The 11 charter members were Bluefield’s Beaver High School, Clarksburg’s Washington Irving High School, and Charleston, Elkins, Fairmont, Grafton, Huntington, Parkersburg, St. Marys, Sistersville, and Wheeling high schools. 

Musician Henry Reed Dies: June 16, 1968

Jun 16, 2020
Josh and Henry Reed
E-WV / WV Humanities Council

On June 16, 1968, musician Henry Reed died in Glen Lyn, Virginia, at age 84. He was born and grew up in Monroe County, where he learned local tunes dating back generations.

One example is “Quince Dillion’s High-D Tune,” which Reed supposedly learned from a veteran of the Mexican War and Civil War.

June 15, 1960: Educator W.W. Trent Dies

Jun 15, 2020
W. W. Trent, who served as West Virginia State Superintendent of Schools from 1933 to 1957, was born on January 31, 1878 in Nicholas County.
E-WV, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

Educator W. W. Trent died on June 15, 1960, at age 82. Having served as state superintendent of schools for nearly a quarter-century, Trent was known to legions of West Virginia schoolchildren for his scrawled signature on their report cards.

June 11, 1884: Riverside Iron Works Make Steel Using Bessemer Converter

Jun 11, 2020

On June 11, 1884, the state’s first Bessemer converter went into operation at the Riverside Iron Works in Wheeling. The Bessemer process made steel even stronger by introducing more air and removing more impurities from iron.

The Bessemer process was just one factor in the rise of West Virginia’s steel industry. A tariff enacted by Congress in 1890 made American tin makers more competitive with the British. It occurred just as the demand for canned foods was growing. The cans were made of thin-rolled steel coated with tin.

June 10, 1913: Paint Creek-Cabin Creek Hearings Begin

Jun 10, 2020
Stacked arms during Cabin Creek strike.
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

On June 10, 1913, a U.S. Senate subcommittee opened hearings on the bloody Paint Creek-Cabin Creek strike in Kanawha County. This marked the first time a congressional committee had investigated the actions of a state government. The hearings were prompted by labor leader “Mother” Jones, who’d been held under house arrest in the Kanawha County town of Pratt. She’d secretly sent letters to the outside world through a trap door.

June 9, 1926: Politician C. Donald Robertson Born

Jun 9, 2020
C. Donald Robertson
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

Politician C. Donald Robertson was born in Clarksburg on June 9, 1926.

He served Harrison County in the West Virginia House of Delegates for four years beginning in the late 1950s.

He was elected attorney general in 1960 and again in 1964. In 1968, he ran for governor but lost in the Democratic primary to James Sprouse, who would go on to lose to Arch Moore in the general election.

Entrepreneur Donald Franklin Duncan was born in Rome, Ohio, on June 8, 1893, but spent his childhood in Huntington.

He left Huntington in his mid-teens and became a successful salesman for the Brock Candy Company in Chicago during World War I. In 1920, he introduced Good Humor ice cream to the world.

June 5, 1853: St. Joseph Settlement Founded

Jun 5, 2020
St. Joseph Church at the St. Joseph Settlement.
Micheal Keller / Goldenseal

The earliest record of the St. Joseph Settlement, a community of German Catholic immigrants, dates to June 5, 1853. The settlers originally came from the southern German states of Bavaria and Hesse—areas that opposed Frederick William IV’s absolute monarchy.

They emigrated to the United States and settled St. Joseph on the hills above the Ohio River on the Marshall-Wetzel county border.

June 4, 1971: Glenn Elmo Riggs Hijacks Plane At Kanawha Airport

Jun 4, 2020
Glen Riggs arrested
Skyjacker of the Day / tumblr.com

On June 4, 1971, West Virginia’s only documented plane hijacking occurred in Charleston. Glenn Elmo Riggs, a 58-year-old retired coal miner from Boone County, hijacked a United Airlines flight that had stopped over at Kanawha Airport—now known as Yeager Airport. 

He boarded the flight with a .32-caliber pistol and a box of bullets. Shortly after takeoff, he hijacked the 737 and demanded that the pilots fly him to Israel so he could help build a new temple.

June 3, 1856: Harriet Jones MD Born

Jun 3, 2020
Harriet Jones, MD
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

Physician Harriet Jones was born in Pennsylvania on June 3, 1856, but grew up at Terra Alta in Preston County.

After attending Wheeling Female College, she graduated from the Women’s Medical College of Baltimore.

In 1886, Jones opened a private practice in Wheeling, becoming the first woman licensed to practice medicine in West Virginia. Her specialties were gynecology and abdominal surgery.

June 2, 1999: Musician Rex Parker Dies in Princeton

Jun 2, 2020

Musician Rex Parker died at Princeton in Mercer County on June 2, 1999.

The Fayette County native was the patriarch of the Parker Family, a popular musical fixture on West Virginia radio and television stations for more than a half century.

June 1, 1880: Colliers Hosts World Championship Bout

Jun 1, 2020
Patrick "Paddy" Ryan was an Irish American boxer
E-WV/The Humanities Council

A world championship prize fight was held in the Brooke County town of Colliers on June 1, 1880.

At the time, boxing was illegal in every state. To avoid big-city police, promoters often held matches in rural railroad villages. Colliers was a perfect location, being close to Pittsburgh and several Ohio towns.

e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

  On May 29, 1778, Dick Pointer, a black slave, helped save some 60 settlers in the Greenbrier Valley. Warned of an impending Shawnee Indian attack, settlers had taken shelter at Fort Donnally near Lewisburg. The Shawnee arrived the next morning.

Pointer and a white settler named Philip Hammond were the first to hear the alarm. The Shawnee warriors tried to use tomahawks to break through a door at the fort. However, Pointer and Hammond had braced the door using a large barrel or “hogshead” of water. Pointer grabbed a musket, began firing at the attackers, and awoke the fort’s sleeping inhabitants. Pointer and the other settlers successfully fought off the attack, and the Shawnee retreated at dark.

May 27, 1922: Labor Leader Bill Blizzard Acquitted of Treason Charges

May 27, 2020
e-WV Encyclopedia

On May 27, 1922, a jury acquitted labor leader Bill Blizzard of committing treason against West Virginia. The charges were related to the recent Battle of Blair Mountain. Blizzard was one of several more radical leaders who’d risen to power in the United Mine Workers of America during the 1910s. After the battle, prosecutors brought Blizzard to trial first, believing they had the best case against him.

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.

e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

On May 21, 1864, Confederate General and former Congressman Albert Gallatin Jenkins was killed at the Battle of Cloyd’s Mountain, Virginia. He was 33.

As a young man, the Cabell County native had attended Marshall Academy, Jefferson College, and Harvard Law School before being elected twice to Congress. In 1859, he inherited his father’s plantation in Cabell County and became one of the largest slaveholders in present West Virginia.

May 19, 2002: Sergeant Gene A. Vance Jr. Dies in the Afghan War

May 19, 2020
US Army honor guards carry a flag-draped coffin with the remains of Sgt. Gene Arden Vance Jr. from Morgantown, West Virginia, off a C-17 plane at the Ramstein, western Germany, US Air Base, Monday May 20, 2002.
Axel Seidemann / AP

Sergeant Gene A. Vance Jr. of Morgantown was killed in combat in Afghanistan on May 19, 2002. Vance was the only member of the West Virginia National Guard to die in the Afghan War, but 14 other West Virginians in active duty also lost their lives in the conflict.

Minnie Buckingham
E-WV, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

On May 15, 1886, Minnie Buckingham was born in Putnam County. She later moved to Keystone in McDowell County and married E. Howard Harper, who was elected to the legislature in 1926. When Harper died in the middle of his term, the county Republican executive committee unanimously recommended Minnie to replace him. In January 1928, Governor Howard Gore appointed Minnie Buckingham Harper to complete her husband’s term, making her the first African-American woman in U.S. history to serve in a state legislature.

On May 14, 1982, Judge Arthur Recht handed down a legal ruling that reshaped the course of public education in West Virginia.

May 8, 1892: U.S. and Confederate Congressman Alexander Boteler Dies

May 8, 2020
Alexander Boteler
E-WV, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

U.S. and Confederate Congressman Alexander Boteler died on May 8, 1892, shortly before his 77th birthday. Before launching his political career, Boteler was a farmer and the owner of a hydraulic cement plant on the Potomac River at Shepherdstown. He entered the U.S. House of Representatives as a Whig in 1859. That same year, he interviewed John Brown extensively after Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry. A skilled artist, Boteler also made a sketch of the imprisoned abolitionist.

May 7, 1972: Activist Lenna Lowe Yost Dies at 94

May 7, 2020

Activist Lenna Lowe Yost died on May 7, 1972, at age 94. The Marion County native and West Virginia Wesleyan College graduate had become involved in women’s issues as a young adult. For 10 years, she was president of the state chapter of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union. The WCTU, as it’s known, principally opposed the consumption of alcohol but also supported social reforms for women.

May 1, 1930: Labor Leader Mother Jones Celebrates 100th Birthday

May 1, 2020
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia / Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division

On May 1, 1930, labor leader “Mother” Jones celebrated her 100th birthday at a party in Maryland. The firebrand did what she did best: ruffle feathers. On this occasion, she denounced the nation’s prohibition on alcohol, saying it violated her right as an American to drink beer instead of water.

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