This Week in West Virginia History

June 28, 1943: Bishop Matthew Wesley Clair, Senior Dies

Jun 28, 2019
This Week in West Virginia History.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online.

Bishop Matthew Wesley Clair Sr. died in Covington, Kentucky, on June 28, 1943, at age 77. He was born in Monroe County to former slaves just months after the Civil War ended.

His family moved to Charleston, where Clair joined Simpson Methodist Episcopal Church. He graduated from college in 1889 and began a four-stint leading the Methodist Episcopal Church in Harpers Ferry.

June 27, 1929: Shott Brothers Launch WHIS-AM Bluefield

Jun 27, 2019
WHIS AM Bluefield
E-WV / WV Humanities Council

On June 27, 1929, one of West Virginia’s pioneer radio stations, WHIS, hit the airwaves in Bluefield, featuring a performance by the local Lions Club quartet.

The station was the brainchild of Hugh and Jim Shott, the sons of local newspaper owner and future congressman Hugh Ike Shott. During its first two decades, WHIS expanded from 100 watts to 5,000. In 1939, WHIS became affiliated with NBC, but local programming remained important.

June 26, 1936: NBA Hall of Famer Hal Greer Born in Huntington

Jun 26, 2019
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

Basketball hall of famer Hal Greer was born in Huntington on June 26, 1936. In the early ’50s, he was a standout guard at Huntington’s segregated Frederick Douglass High School. Coaching legend Cam Henderson recruited Greer to play for Marshall College—now Marshall University.

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

Jun 25, 2019
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 21, 1920: Wheeling Steel Created

Jun 21, 2019
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.

June 20, 1963: JFK Speaks at WV Birthday Celebration

Jun 20, 2019
This Week in West Virginia History.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online.

On June 20, 1963—the 100th birthday of West Virginia—John F. Kennedy made his last appearance in the Mountain State. 

Speaking on the state capitol steps in Charleston, he credited West Virginia with making him president—a reference to the state’s Democratic primary in 1960, when he beat Hubert Humphrey.

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, Alderson Muncy of Bradshaw in McDowell County received the first food stamps in the nation. Muncy, 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.

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