This Week in West Virginia History

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.

As a Union officer, he fought, was captured, and made a daring escape during the Confederate raid on Guyandotte in Cabell County in November 1861.
e-WV / WV Humanities Council

On April 23, 1861, Union loyalists from Virginia’s 11th District elected Kellian Whaley to the U.S. House of Representatives, replacing former Congressman Albert Gallatin Jenkins, who’d stepped down to support the Confederacy.

The vote came just six days after Virginia had voted to secede from the Union at the start of the Civil War.

Whaley, a native of upstate New York, had moved to near the present site of Ceredo in Wayne County in 1842. A lumber dealer by trade, Whaley was one of five pro-Union congressmen who represented Virginia in the 37th Congress.

e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia / Library of Congress

On April 22, 1861, some 1,200 protesters gathered at the Harrison County Courthouse in Clarksburg to vent their anger about Virginia seceding from the Union. Five days earlier, Virginia delegates had adopted an Ordinance of Secession, just days after the start of the Civil War.

April 17, 1757: Col. Washington Orders Closing Ft. Ashby

Apr 17, 2019
By 1757, Washington could no longer provide enough forces to protect Forts Ashby and Cocke, so he abandoned both sites.
e-WV / WV Humanities Council

On April 17, 1757, George Washington ordered the Virginia militia to abandon Fort Ashby in present Mineral County. Captain Ashby of the Virginia militia had overseen the fort’s construction, and Fort Cocke—to the south, during the summer and fall of 1755.

March 22, 1922: Physician Mildred Mitchell-Bateman Born

Mar 22, 2019
Mildred Mitchell-Bateman
E-WV / WV Humanities Council

Physician Mildred Mitchell-Bateman was born in Georgia on March 22, 1922. Her career in West Virginia began in 1947, when she became a staff physician at Lakin State Hospital in Mason County. Lakin was the state hospital for African-American mental patients.

Mitchell-Bateman left Lakin to establish her own practice but returned in 1955 and became the hospital’s superintendent three years later.

February 21, 1913: Legislature Passes Workers' Compensation System

Feb 21, 2019
This Week in West Virginia History is a co-production of West Virginia Public Broadcasting and the West Virginia Humanities Council.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online. / e-WV

On February 21, 1913, the legislature passed an act creating a workers’ compensation system.

It had been a major campaign issue for incoming Governor Henry Hatfield. In his work as a coalfields physician, Hatfield recognized the need to support injured workers financially.

The system went into effect in October 1913. In the case of a fatal accident, workers’ compensation paid the funeral expenses of the deceased and a stipend for widows and children. In the case of partial disability, workers received half their salaries.

February 14, 1968: Governor Barron and Others Indicted

Feb 14, 2019
The former first lady was included because she allegedly handed a paper bag containing $25,000 to the jury foreman’s wife
e-WV / WV Humanities Council

On February 14, 1968, former Governor Wally Barron and five others were indicted by a federal grand jury on bribery and conspiracy charges.

The indictments alleged that members of the Barron Administration, including the governor himself, had set up “dummy corporations” and received kickbacks from people doing business with the state. Five state vendors testified they’d made payments to the dummy firms. After 18 hours of deliberation, the jury found everyone but Barron guilty.

January 31, 1922: Actress Joanne Dru Born in Logan

Jan 31, 2019
Dru attended Wheeling High School but, relocated to New York, where she worked as a model and cover girl.
E-WV / WV Humanities Council

Movie and television actress Joanne Dru was born in Logan on January 31, 1922. Originally named Joan Lacock, her father was a pharmacist in Logan.

The family moved to Huntington, where Dru’s brother, Ralph Pierre Lacock, was born. He later changed his name to Peter Marshall and was the longtime host of the Hollywood Squares game show.

January 24, 1822: WVU's First President Alexander Marton Born

Jan 24, 2019
In 1875, Alexander Martin left WVU
E-WV / WV Humanities Council

Educator and clergyman Alexander Martin was born in Scotland on January 24, 1822. When he was 14, he moved with his parents to Jefferson County, Ohio, adjoining the Northern Panhandle.

Martin became principal of Kingwood Academy in Preston County in 1846 and later taught at and served as principal of Clarksburg’s Northwestern Academy.

He also was a Methodist pastor in Charleston, Moundsville, and Wheeling. During the Civil War, Martin became the West Virginia president of the Christian Commission, a social services agency that relieved some of the war’s hardships.

January 17, 1918: Engineering Firm Hired to Build Plant at Nitro

Jan 17, 2019
In November 1918, just as Nitro was nearing completion, World War I ended.
E-WV / WV Humanities Council

On January 17, 1918, the U.S. War Department hired a New York engineering firm to build a nitrocellulose plant along the Kanawha-Putnam county border. The DuPont Company had previously chosen the site to manufacture munitions for World War I.

However, there were political objections to one company receiving such a large contract, so DuPont abandoned its plans, and the federal government picked up the task.

January 3, 1921: State Capitol Burns

Jan 3, 2019
State Capitol burns.
E-WV / WV Humanities Council

On January 3, 1921, the West Virginia state capitol building in downtown Charleston was destroyed by fire. Originally dedicated in 1885 and completed in 1887, the 85-room Victorian structure was our state’s fourth capitol—and the second in Charleston.

Firefighters struggled to put out the blaze due to the intense heat, and rescue efforts were pulled back after one firefighter was killed by a collapsing masonry wall.

December 13, 1861: Battle of Allegheny Mountain

Dec 13, 2018
The Battle of Allegheny Mountain was fought in Pocahontas County
Brian Powell / Wikipedia/Creative Commons

On December 13, 1861, the Battle of Allegheny Mountain was fought in Pocahontas County. Following the Battle of Greenbrier River at Camp Bartow on October 3, the Confederate army had withdrawn to winter quarters atop Allegheny Mountain. Union General Robert Milroy likely believed the Confederates were demoralized and launched an attack on the cold mountain summit. Milroy’s force of about 1,900 went up against the Confederate’s 1,200 troops.

November 26, 1921: Publisher Ned Chilton Born

Nov 26, 2018
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online

Ned Chilton was born on November 26, 1921. A liberal Democrat, Chilton served four terms in the state House of Delegates in the 1950s. He made his biggest political splash, however, after becoming publisher of the Charleston Gazette newspaper in 1961. He used the Gazette’s pages to tackle the leading progressive issues of the day, including passionate crusades against racial discrimination, censorship, the death penalty, and drunk driving.

November 23, 1869: C&O Railroad Company Transfers Ownership

Nov 23, 2018
Engineer William E. Bailey boards his C&O locomotive
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia / WV State Archives (WVSA), Gauley Bridge Historical Society Collection

On November 23, 1869, the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad Company transferred ownership of its struggling rail line to Collis Huntington and others. It was a major turning point in a venture that would transform southern West Virginia into a coal-producing giant.

November 20, 1968: Farmington Mine Explosion Kills 78

Nov 20, 2018

In the predawn hours of November 20, 1968, a massive explosion ripped through the Consolidation Coal Company’s Number 9 mine near Farmington. Twenty-one miners were able to escape. But another 78 were trapped inside.

At first, the intense heat from the fire kept rescuers out of the mine. When they finally got inside, the mine was unstable, and officials feared another explosion. After nine days, the mine was sealed as a safety precaution with all 78 miners still inside. It was reopened a year later. Most of the bodies were recovered, but 19 were never found.

November 16, 1898: Carrie Williams Case Tried in Supreme Court of Appeals

Nov 16, 2018
J. R. Clifford
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

On November 16, 1898, the case of Carrie Williams versus The Board of Education of Fairfax District, Tucker County, was tried before the West Virginia Supreme Court.

To save money, the Tucker County Board of Education had reduced the school term of black schools from eight months to five months. A black teacher from Tucker, Carrie Williams, consulted with J. R. Clifford—West Virginia’s first licensed black lawyer. On his advice, she continued teaching for the entire eight months.

November 13, 1879: Arthurdale Educator Elsie Clapp Born

Nov 13, 2018
Educator Elsie Clapp was born in Brooklyn Heights and influenced by progressive educator John Dewey.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online. / John Dewey, Elsie Clapp, Arthurdale, Preston County

Educator Elsie Clapp was born on November 13, 1879, in Brooklyn Heights. She was influenced by progressive educator John Dewey, who believed that schools should have a direct impact on the communities they serve.

In 1934, Clapp brought this philosophy with her to West Virginia as director of the community school at Arthurdale. The Preston County town was the first of the nation’s New Deal subsistence homesteads. A pet project of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, Arthurdale was intended to give unemployed miners and their families a fresh start.

November 12, 1844: Wheeling Businessman Henry Schmulbach Born

Nov 12, 2018
Schmulbach was one of many German immigrants who turned Wheeling into an important brewing center in the late 1800s.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online. / Wheeling, Henry Schmulbach, Nail City Brewery, Schmulbach Brewing, Mozart Park, The Wheeling Bridge Company

Henry Schmulbach was born in Germany on November 12, 1844. When he was a child, he and his family immigrated to Wheeling. By the time he was a young adult, Schmulbach had become one of the city’s most successful businessmen, selling retail groceries and wholesale liquor.

In 1881, he purchased Wheeling’s Nail City Brewery. The next year, he changed its name to Schmulbach Brewing and increased the plant’s annual output to 200,000 barrels of beer. Schmulbach was one of many German immigrants who turned Wheeling into an important brewing center in the late 1800s.

November 9, 1952: Opening of The Huntington Museum of Art

Nov 9, 2018
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia / David Fattaleh / WV Division of Tourism (WVDT)

On November 9, 1952, the Huntington Galleries opened in the Park Hills section of Huntington. It was West Virginia’s largest art museum. By the time the name of the galleries was changed to the Huntington Museum of Art in 1987, the collection had grown to more than 15,000 objects.

November 5, 1891: Birthday of "Greasy" Neale

Nov 5, 2018
Neale also was a football innovator, developing the “naked reverse,” the five-man defensive line, and man-to-man pass defense. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1969.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online. / Greasy Neale, 1919 World Seies, Canton Bulldogs, Cincinnati Reds, National Football League

Alfred Earle Neale was born in Parkersburg on November 5, 1891. As a youth, he excelled at virtually every sport. On the football field, he was particularly hard to tackle, earning him the nickname “Greasy.” He went on to enjoy a spectacular football, baseball, and basketball career at West Virginia Wesleyan College.

October 30, 1930: First Mountain State Forest Festival Held

Oct 30, 2018
It also features arts-and-craft shows, wood chopping contests, old English knight tournaments, a carnival, and a fire-engine parade representing departments from across West Virginia.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online. / Mountain State Forest Festival, Elkins, 1930, Neil Armstrong, Randolph County, Queen Silvia

The first Mountain State Forest Festival began in Elkins on October 30, 1930. Since then, it has been held every October except for the years 1941 to 1949.

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