This Week in West Virginia History

On September 26, 1863, the first West Virginia Legislature adopted our state motto and great seal.
E-WV / The Humanities Council

On September 26, 1863, the first West Virginia Legislature adopted our state motto and great seal. Both were the brainchild of Joseph H. Diss Debar of Doddridge County. For the state motto, Debar suggested a Latin phrase, “Montani Semper Liberi,” which translates as “Mountaineers are always free.” This phrase had been long used by Swiss immigrants, like Debar, to express their independent spirit.  

September 24, 1930: Governor William MacCorkle Dies

Sep 24, 2019
William MacCorkle
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

Governor William MacCorkle died on September 24, 1930, at age 73. He was the last of six Democrats to serve as governor over 26 consecutive years. This was the longest period of domination of the governorship by one party in our state’s history.

September 20, 1879: Artist Patty Willis Born in Jefferson County

Sep 20, 2019
E-WV / WV Humanities Council

Artist Patty Willis was born in Jefferson County on September 20, 1879. A painter, printmaker, designer, sculptor, and art historian, Willis studied at the Corcoran Gallery School of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Pratt Institute.

Traveler's Rest, was the home of General Horatio Gates. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972.
Photographer Uknown / Public Domain

On September 19, 1777, Continental soldiers battled with British troops at Saratoga, New York. A month later, another conflict at Saratoga ended with the surrender of John Burgoyne’s British army. Coming after a long string of defeats for the Americans, the battles at Saratoga were a turning point in the Revolutionary War—giving patriots a shot of optimism and encouraging the French to enter the war on the American side.

September 13, 1862: The Battle of Charleston Begins

Sep 13, 2019
Joseph A. J. Lightburn
E-WV / The Humanities Council

On September 13, 1862, Charleston residents awoke to the sound of artillery. It was part of a Confederate push to take control of the region after 5,000 Union troops had been transferred from the Kanawha Valley to defend Washington. This left the remaining Union forces, led Joseph A. J. Lightburn, badly outnumbered.

  

Earthworks at Fort Milroy on Cheat Mountain Summit
Brian M. Powell

On September 12, 1861, the Battle of Cheat Mountain was fought near the Randolph-Pocahontas County line. Taking place just five months into the Civil War, the battle was a significant loss for the Confederacy.

General Robert E. Lee—at the time commander of the Department of Northwestern Virginia—was trying to protect railroad lines in Western Virginia while keeping what would become northern West Virginia in Confederate hands, thereby thwarting the young statehood movement.

John Denver
RCA / AP Images

On September 6, 1980, singer John Denver and some 50,000 West Virginia University fans belted out a rousing rendition of “Country Roads” to dedicate new Mountaineer Field in Morgantown.

The big day also marked the first game for new football coach Don Nehlen. WVU’s 41-27 victory over Cincinnati would be the first of 149 wins at WVU for Nehlen, who was on his way to becoming the most successful coach in school history and a member of the College Football Hall of Fame.

E-WV / WV Humanities Council

On September 5, 1716, Virginia Lieutenant Governor Alexander Spotswood and about 50 men reached the crest of the Allegheny Mountains, likely in present Pendleton County, and claimed the land for King George the First of Great Britain.

Spotswood and his men—described as “gentlemen, servants, Indians, and rangers”—journeyed up the Rappahannock River and crossed over the Blue Ridge Mountains into the Shenandoah Valley. Robert Brooke, a member of the expedition and the king’s surveyor general, made the first scientific observations west of the Alleghenies.

August 30, 1921: John Wilburn Leads Miners Against Blair Mountain

Aug 30, 2019

On August 30, 1921, John Wilburn of Blair assembled between 50 and 75 armed men to attack Logan County Sheriff Don Chafin’s troops, which were entrenched at the pinnacle of Blair Mountain.

The 45-year-old coal miner and Baptist preacher told his followers it was time for him to lay down his Bible, take up his rifle, and fight for the union.

August 30, 1968: Wally Barron Acquitted of Federal Charges

Aug 30, 2019
E-WV / WV Humanities Council

On August 30, 1968, Wally Barron was acquitted of federal charges stemming from alleged money kickbacks and rigged state contracts during the time he was governor. Several of Barron’s associates weren’t so fortunate. His road commissioner, Burl Sawyers; Deputy State Road Commissioner, Vincent J. Johnkoski; Finance and Administration Commissioner Truman Gore; longtime Barron friend Bonn Brown of Elkins; and Clarksburg auto dealer Fred Schroath were all convicted in the kickback scheme. 

E-WV / WV Humanities Council

On August 29, 1854, the Greenbrier Agricultural Society hosted its first annual fair on two acres of land in what is now downtown Lewisburg. The fair distributed awards for everything from livestock, farm implements, and crops to homemade food, quilts, oil paintings, and penmanship. The Lewisburg event was one of many local 19th-century fairs. One on Wheeling Island was referred to as the “state fair,” but it was still more of a local celebration. The Wheeling Island fair was eventually discontinued due to periodic flooding on the island.

August 28 1921: Armed Miners March on Blair Mountain

Aug 28, 2019
Heidi Perov / WV Humanities Council

In August 1921, armed coal miners from the Kanawha Valley and the southern counties of Boone, Fayette, Mingo, McDowell, and Logan gathered at Marmet in Kanawha County. The miners proposed to march to Logan and Mingo counties to rescue union miners who had been jailed or mistreated in attempts to unionize the mines. Their efforts brought on the most spectacular confrontation in West Virginia’s labor history, the culminating event in the era known as the Mine Wars.

August 27, 1952: Activist Judy Bonds Born in Raleigh County

Aug 27, 2019
Photo Courtesy of the Goldman Environmental Prize

Activist Judy Bonds was born in Marfork Hollow in Raleigh County on August 27, 1952. Like generations of her family, Bonds spent most of her life in the Coal River Valley region. Her father, a coal miner, died of black lung disease. Bonds, a single mother, worked in convenience stores, as a waitress, and as a restaurant manager.

E-WV / WV Humanities Council

On August 23, 1970, the first Mormon “stake” in West Virginia was organized in Charleston. It was an important milestone because it demonstrated that the Mormon religion had grown significantly in West Virginia.

August 22, 1872: West Virginians Narrowly Ratify a New State Constitution

Aug 22, 2019
On August 22, 1872, West Virginians narrowly ratified a new state constitution by less than 5,000 votes, while rejecting a separate proposal that would have restricted office-holding to whites only.
E-WV

On August 22, 1872, West Virginians narrowly ratified a new state constitution by less than 5,000 votes, while rejecting a separate proposal that would have restricted office-holding to whites only.

This 1872 version of the constitution, our state’s second, remains in effect today, with amendments. The first state constitution was approved in 1863, just before West Virginia became a state.

August 21, 1861: Confederate Troops Cross Gauley River at Carnifex Ferry

Aug 21, 2019
United States Army Corps of Engineers / Library of Congress

On the night of August 21, 1861, more than 2,000 Confederate troops under General John B. Floyd crossed the Gauley River at Carnifex Ferry and entrenched at Keslers Cross Lanes in Nicholas County. Four days later, about 850 Union troops from the 7th Ohio Infantry, led by Colonel Erastus Tyler, advanced from Gauley Bridge and ended up three miles from Floyd’s camp at Keslers Cross Lanes. Tyler failed to scout the area properly or post sufficient pickets.

August 20, 1851: Statue of Patrick Henry Dedicated in Morgantown

Aug 20, 2019
e-WV

On August 20, 1851, a nine-foot wood carving of Patrick Henry was dedicated atop the Monongalia County Courthouse in Morgantown. Henry had served as the governor of Virginia in 1776, when Monongalia became a county. It was moved from the cupola to indoor storage in 1890. Today, it’s considered the oldest sculpture in West Virginia.

Perhaps the state’s second-oldest statue is a monument honoring Confederate war dead in Romney. It was unveiled at Indian Mound Cemetery in 1867, making it one of the first of its kind to honor Confederate soldiers.

E-WV / WV Humanities Council

On August 16, 1890, Salem Academy in Harrison County changed its name to Salem College. The academy had opened its doors a year earlier with the help of the Seventh-Day Baptist denomination. One of the school’s founders was Jesse Randolph, the grandfather of future U.S. Senator and Salem alumnus Jennings Randolph.

It started with a single building on Main Street in Salem, which was in the heart of an oil boom at the time. Around 1900, a drunken mob with torches tried to burn down the college, but the school’s president backed down the rioters with a pistol and a shotgun.

August 15, 1842: Coal Operator and Union Captain Joseph Beury Born

Aug 15, 2019
E-WV / West Virginia Humanities Council

Coal operator Joseph Beury was born in Pennsylvania on August 15, 1842. During the Civil War, he served as a Union captain, though he was later known as “colonel” in the West Virginia coalfields.

Beury worked in his father’s Pennsylvania anthracite mines and brought that knowledge with him to the New River Gorge about 1872. He established the Fayette County town of Quinnimont and opened the New River Coal Company mine. When the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway arrived the following year, he shipped the first load of coal from the New River Coalfield.

August 14, 1945: VJ Day

Aug 14, 2019
Troops learned mountain climbing at Seneca Rocks during World War II
A. Aubrey Bodine / Jennifer B. Bodine

On August 14, 1945, Japan surrendered to the Allies, effectively ending World War II. Victory over Japan—or VJ—Day was celebrated across the United States and in every West Virginia town. The Mountain State had contributed greatly to the war cause. West Virginia had the fifth-highest percentage of servicemen, with nearly 6,000 sacrificing their lives.

In a famous council on April 28, 1763, Pontiac urged listeners to rise up against the British
19th century engraving by Alfred Bobbett

On August 13, 1763, George Washington outlined his plans to defend western Virginia against Pontiac’s Rebellion. His key strategy was to station 500 Virginia militiamen on the western frontier.

August 13, 1900: Railroad Mogul Collis P. Huntington Dies at 78

Aug 13, 2019
After amassing a fortune, Collis P. Huntington became one of the “Big Four” railroad moguls who built two giant rail systems: the Central Pacific and Southern Pacific.
E-WV / The Humanities Council

Railroad mogul Collis P. Huntington died on August 13, 1900, at age 78. The Connecticut native grew up in poverty before moving to California during the 1848 Gold Rush. Unlike the miners, he realized that the real money was to be made from selling supplies, not panhandling for gold. After amassing a fortune, he became one of the “Big Four” railroad moguls who built two giant rail systems: the Central Pacific and Southern Pacific.

August 9, 2005: Photographer Arnout "Sonny" Hyde Jr. Dies at Age 67

Aug 9, 2019
Wonderful West Virginia Magazine Cover
Roger Foster / E-WV

Photographer Arnout “Sonny” Hyde Jr. died on August 9, 2005, at age 67. The Bluefield native was best known for his work with Wonderful West Virginia magazine. His stunning images have appeared in calendars, books, and magazines, including Life, National Geographic, Readers Digest, Southern Living, and National Wildlife.

Eldora Nuzum
E-WV / West Virginia Humanities Council

On August 8, 1974, the Elkins Inter-Mountain published its daily newspaper, but it was far from business as usual. The August 8 issue had to be printed in Parkersburg because the newspaper’s building in Elkins had been destroyed by fire the day before.

August 7, 1864: Battle of Moorefield Fought in Hardy County

Aug 7, 2019
Jedediah Hotchkiss / Library of Congress

On August 7, 1864, the Battle of Moorefield was fought in Hardy County. The Civil War skirmish occurred shortly after Confederate General John McCausland’s cavalry had burned the town of Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, in retaliation for a similar Union raid on Lexington, Virginia. The evening before the clash at Moorefield, McCausland and General Bradley Johnson had camped at nearby Old Fields. They ignored warnings from McNeill’s Rangers—a local Confederate guerrilla group—that their position had been exposed.

August 2, 1991: Interstate 68 Completed from Interstate 79

Aug 2, 2019
Interstate 68/79
E-WV / West Virginia Humanities Council

On August 2, 1991, Interstate 68 was completed from Interstate 79 eastward through Monongalia and Preston counties into Maryland. The new expressway linked Morgantown to Hancock, Maryland, and connected northern West Virginia with Baltimore and Washington via I-70. I-68 was an upgrade to Route 48, which was completed in the 1970s as Corridor E. The Appalachian Corridor System was a ‘60s-era project by the Appalachian Regional Commission to tie together rural sections of Appalachia.

As part of the massive National Steel conglomeration, Weirton Steel became our state’s largest employer and taxpayer, and the world’s largest tin-plate producer.
E-WV / The Humanities Council

On August 1, 1918, industrialist Ernest Weir renamed his company Weirton Steel. He’d founded the company with J. A. Phillips in Clarksburg in 1905 as Phillips Sheet & Tin Plate. After Phillips’ death, Weir moved his company from Clarksburg to a southern Hancock County farm that would become the city of Weirton.

July 31, 1932: Actor Ted Cassidy Born

Jul 31, 2019
Ted Cassidy
E-WV / The Humanities Council

Actor Ted Cassidy was born on July 31, 1932, in Pittsburgh, but he grew up in Philippi. By the time he was 11, Cassidy was already 6’1” and still growing—eventually reaching 6’9”.

After high school, he attended but didn’t graduate from West Virginia Wesleyan College. He then left West Virginia for a career in radio. Working as a staff announcer for a Dallas radio station, he provided on-the-scene coverage of John F. Kenney’s assassination and was one of the first to interview eyewitnesses. By the following year, Cassidy had moved to California to break into acting.

Randolph County Camp for Youth Founded: July 29, 1915

Jul 29, 2019
A young West Virginian grooms her 4-H calf.
WV State Archives

A pioneering camp for rural youth began in Randolph County on July 29, 1915. Activities included hiking, fishing, swimming, and games.

The camp was sponsored by West Virginia University’s Extension Service, which had been created just a year earlier, and was led by J. Versus Shipman, his wife, Bess, and William “Teepi” Kendrick.

July 26, 1917: West Virginia Flying Corps Commissioned

Jul 26, 2019
Louis Bennett Jr
E-WV

On July 26, 1917, Governor John Cornwell commissioned and provided funding for the West Virginia Flying Corps, headquartered at Beech Bottom in Brooke County.

The corps was the brainchild of 22-year-old Weston native Louis Bennett Jr., who’d become a pilot while attending Yale University. Bennett believed that airplanes—a relatively new invention at the time—could support the U.S. military effort in World War I. The U.S. Army, though, refused to accept the West Virginia Flying Corps as a unit, so Bennett entered flight school with the British Royal Air Force in Canada. 

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