This Week in West Virginia History

Celoron de Blainville
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

On August 18, 1749, explorer Pierre-Joseph Celoron de Blainville buried a lead plate at Point Pleasant as part of his task to claim the entire Ohio Valley for France.

In the mid-1700s, France and Great Britain were continually on the brink of war around the world, particularly in places where the two nations contended for the same land.

Perhaps no place was more tense than the North American frontier, which included most of present West Virginia.

NMHSA Complex
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

The National Mine Health and Safety Academy opened at Beaver, near Beckley, on August 17, 1976. The 80-acre campus, which can accommodate 600 students, is the largest in the world devoted solely to mine safety and health.

It is the central training facility for federal mine inspectors and mine safety professionals, with a stated goal of reducing accidents and improving miners’ health and safety.

In addition to coal miners, the academy also serves those who mine sand and gravel, gold, silver, copper, uranium, and other minerals.

John Nash
WV Humanitites Council / e-WV

Nobel Prize-winning mathematician John Nash Jr. was born in Bluefield on June 13, 1928. The math prodigy excelled at Carnegie Tech (now Carnegie Mellon University) and Princeton University.

One of his mentors was professor John von Neumann, who helped develop the computer and the hydrogen bomb. Nash focused his studies on game theory, which examines rivalries in the context of theoretical math. His 1950 doctoral thesis transformed the field of economics by applying game theory to business competition.

William Hope "Coin" Harvey
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

Social reformer William Hope ‘‘Coin’’ Harvey was born at Buffalo in Putnam County on August 16, 1851. He was a teacher, lawyer, silver miner, politician, land speculator, geologist, and bestselling author.

Harvey attended Buffalo Academy and Marshall College (now Marshall University) before becoming a lawyer. He opened his first law practice in Huntington at age 19.

James E Watson
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

Businessman James Edwin Watson died in Fairmont on August 2, 1926, at age 67. He was the son of James Otis Watson, one of the first coal operators in northern West Virginia.

In 1852, James Otis Watson and future West Virginia founder Francis Pierpont opened a mine near Fairmont and shipped the first coal from Western Virginia on the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad.

Killing the McCoys Munsey mag
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

One of the pivotal events in the Hatfield-McCoy Feud occurred on August 8, 1882. Tensions between the two families had started rising a few days earlier, when Ellison Hatfield—the brother of Hatfield patriarch “Devil Anse”—was mortally wounded by three of Randolph McCoy’s sons in a drunken election-day brawl. Apparently, the fight occurred over a small debt owed on a fiddle.

After learning of the incident, “Devil Anse” Hatfield gathered up his wounded brother. His sons and other family members captured Tolbert, Pharmer, and Randolph McCoy Jr.

Greenville Treaty
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

On August 3, 1795, the United States and several Indian tribes signed the Treaty of Greenville. Although the treaty was signed in western Ohio, it had a major impact on the region that would later become West Virginia.

Under the terms of the treaty, the Indians ceded to the United States about two-thirds of present Ohio. By pushing the tribes west, it ended the threat of Indian attacks on the Western Virginia frontier.

Billy Cox
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

Country-and-western musician Billy Cox was born near Charleston on August 4, 1897. He started his career in 1928, singing and playing guitar and harmonica on Charleston’s WOBU radio station, which later became WCHS.

During the 1930s, Cox was recognized as one of West Virginia’s premier singer songwriters.

Among his 150 recordings were future country standards like “Sparkling Brown Eyes” and this song, “Filipino Baby,” which he performed with Cliff Hobbs of Cedar Grove.

Berkeley Co. WV
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

On August 5, 1863, the West Virginia Legislature voted to admit Berkeley County officially into West Virginia. Three months later, the legislature also admitted Berkeley’s neighbor, Jefferson County.

Earlier in 1863, residents of the two counties had voted to join the new state. The vote was curious, though—to say the least—because Berkeley and Jefferson had been decidedly pro-Southern in their political leanings, with closer ties to the Shenandoah Valley and Virginia.

Logan County Sheriff Don Chafin
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

On August 9, 1954, former Logan County Sheriff Don Chafin died in Huntington at age 67. Chafin had been elected Logan County assessor at the young age of 21 and sheriff at 25. After a term as county clerk, he was reelected sheriff in 1920.

Sheriff Chafin bitterly opposed labor unions, and, with funding from coal companies, used his deputies—including ones hired off the street—to keep the United Mine Workers of America out of Logan County.

Charleston's Yeager Airport
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

On August 10, 1968, a Piedmont Airlines plane was approaching Charleston’s Kanawha Airport when it clipped some trees, crashed into a hillside, and burned; 35 of the 37 people on board were killed.

The passenger plane was en route from Louisville, Kentucky, to Roanoke, Virginia, with stops in Cincinnati and Charleston.

E Willis Windy Wilson
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

West Virginia governor E. Willis Wilson was born at Harpers Ferry on August 11, 1844. The Democrat was elected to the state House of Delegates in 1869 and to the senate three years later.

After moving to Charleston in 1874, he again served in the House and became speaker in 1880.

Founding members of the Niagara Movement.
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

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.

Jackson County Courthouse
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

On July 4, 2002, President George W. Bush delivered a 45-minute “salute to veterans” at Ripley’s annual Fourth of July ceremonies.

It was the first Independence Day following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The president used the opportunity to comment on the nation’s War on Terrorism, praised the effort of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, and reassured the crowd about homeland security.

Loyal Company
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

On July 12, 1749, the Colony of Virginia granted the Loyal Company 800,000 acres in what is today parts of southern West Virginia, southwestern Virginia, and southeastern Kentucky. The Loyal Company promoted settlement in Western Virginia at a time when few pioneers dared to venture west of the Allegheny Mountains.

By 1754, the land company had settled about 200 families, including some along the New and Bluestone rivers. Most of these settlements, though, were destroyed by Indians during the French and Indian War.

Corricks Ford Map
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

On July 13, 1861, the Battle of Corrick’s Ford was fought in Tucker County. After the Confederate defeat at Rich Mountain in neighboring Randolph County two days earlier, General Robert Garnett pulled his men back to present-day Elkins along the Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike.

There, Garnett received bad intelligence that Union forces controlled the town of Beverly, located just to the south, so he turned his troops to the northeast.

Union Brigadier General Thomas Morris chased Garnett’s men to Shavers Fork in Tucker County and overtook them on July 13 at Kalers Ford.

Rich Mountain Map
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

On July 11, 1861, the Battle of Rich Mountain was fought in Randolph County. It was the climax of a successful Union campaign to seize control of Western Virginia early in the Civil War.

Confederate General Robert Garnett had established defensive positions at Laurel Hill and Rich Mountain. Suspecting an attack on Laurel Hill, Garnett placed only about a fourth of his men on Rich Mountain, under the command of Colonel John Pegram.

Kendall Vintroux
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

Cartoonist Kendall Vintroux was born at Fraziers Bottom in Putnam County on July 5, 1896. When his father became ill, Vintroux dropped out of high school to help run the family’s farm.

His career as a cartoonist began when he submitted a humorous drawing to the Charleston Gazette about the town of Poca’s first paved road, which was only eight feet wide.

Sam Church
Tim C. Cox/Bristol Herald-Courier / WV Humanitites Council

Union leader Sam Church died in Bristol, Tennessee, on July 14, 2009, at age 72.

He was a native of Matewan in Mingo County. Both of his grandfathers had been coal miners as had his father—before becoming a barber.

In 1965, Church became a miner in Virginia and joined the United Mine Workers of America. In 1975, UMWA President Arnold Miller named Church to his staff. Church was elected vice-president of the UMWA in 1977 and moved into the presidency in 1979 following Miller’s resignation.

French Carpenter
brandonraykirk.wordpress.com / WV Humanitites Council

Fiddler French Carpenter was born in Clay County on June 7, 1905.

For generations, the Carpenter family was renowned for its musical ability, and French may have been the best of the lot. He learned most of his music directly from his father, Tom, a fiddling preacher.

Tom had learned from his father, Sol, one of the most influential fiddlers in central West Virginia.

Here’s a clip of French Carpenter playing “Camp Chase,” which his grandfather Sol supposedly came up with to win a fiddle contest and his freedom from a Union prison during the Civil War.

Chuck Howley
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

Football great Chuck Howley was born in Wheeling on June 28, 1936. At Warwood High, he starred in football and basketball and in 1954 moved on to West Virginia University, where he lettered in an unprecedented five sports: football, sprinting, wrestling, the trampoline, and diving.

He was drafted by the Chicago Bears in the NFL draft but left the team with a knee injury. Howley returned to Wheeling and spent 1960 working at a gas station.

Wheeling Symphony 2006
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

The Wheeling Symphony Orchestra gave its premiere concert at Oglebay Park on June 30, 1929. Under the direction of Enrico Tamburini, the new orchestra performed Mozart’s Overture to Don Juan and Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony, among other works.

Tamburini molded the fledgling group of amateurs and professionals into a cohesive ensemble. When he left in 1934, Antonio Modarelli of the Pittsburgh Symphony took the baton. He was succeeded by Henry Mazer, who’d tutored under the great conductor Fritz Reiner in Chicago.

Watt Powell Park
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

On June 23, 1952, the Toledo Mud Hens baseball team made an unexpected midseason move to West Virginia, becoming the Charleston Senators.

As a Triple A minor league, the Senators faced off against cities like Milwaukee, Kansas City, St. Paul, Louisville, Indianapolis, Minneapolis, and Columbus.

Wheeling Steel
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

One June 21, 1920, the LaBelle Iron Works, Whitaker-Glessner, and Wheeling Steel & Iron Works combined to form the Wheeling Steel Corporation.

With some 17,000 workers, Wheeling Steel was the nation’s third-largest steelmaker.

Honey in the Rock
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

On June 27, 1961, the play Honey in the Rock debuted at the newly constructed Cliffside Amphitheater at Grandview in Raleigh County. The play, written by Kermit Hunter, tells of West Virginia’s founding through the experiences of a fictitious family, with some historical figures like “Stonewall” Jackson and the state’s first governor, Arthur Boreman.

The play’s alumni include Academy Award nominee Chris Sarandon and actor, director, and playwright David Selby.

When I Was Young in the Mountains
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

Children’s author Cynthia Rylant was born June 6, 1954, in Hopewell, Virginia.

She was raised in Raleigh County and earned degrees from Morris Harvey College—which is now the University of Charleston—and Marshall and Kent State universities.

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

May 31, 2016
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, 2016
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 23, 1862: The Battle of Lewisburg Fought in Greenbrier County

May 23, 2016
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 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.

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