This Week in West Virginia History

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.

October 29, 1861: General Lee Ends Three-Month Campaign

Oct 29, 2018
The rest of his Civil War career would rank Lee among the greatest generals in history. However, his first campaign was a total calamity.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online. / Robert E. Lee, Traveler, Pocahontas County, Cheat Mountain

On October 29, 1861, Confederate commander Robert E. Lee departed present-day West Virginia, near the end of his ill-fated western Virginia campaign. The rest of his Civil War career would rank Lee among the greatest generals in history. However, his first campaign was a total calamity.

He had been dispatched to the region to regain territory for the Confederacy. His plans came to a head in September 1861 atop Cheat Mountain in Pocahontas County. Lee’s attack, though, fell apart. His troops made a hasty retreat, and he soon abandoned the effort.

October 23, 1943: German POWs Arrive at Camp Ashford

Oct 23, 2018
Camp Ashford was built in the summer of 1942 by Italian POWs, who stayed at the camp until the German prisoners arrived the following year.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online; The Greenbrier / The Greenbrier, Camp Ashford, White Sulphur Springs, World War II

On October 23, 1943, German prisoners of war were moved into Camp Ashford at White Sulphur Springs. This was one of two POW camps in West Virginia during World War II. The other was at Camp Dawson in Preston County.

October 22, 1977: New River Gorge Bridge Dedicated

Oct 22, 2018
The Fayette County bridge has become one of West Virginia’s most recognizable landmarks and was featured on the state quarter.
E-WV

On October 22, 1977, the New River Gorge Bridge was dedicated in Fayette County before a crowd of 30,000. Throughout history, transportation across the rugged gorge has been a challenge. A bridge built at Fayette Station in 1889 helped considerably. But still, a drive down and back up the winding Fayette Station Road took about 45 minutes. The New River Gorge Bridge would change everything.

October 19, 1949: Writer Richard Currey Born in Parkersburg

Oct 19, 2018
Crossing Over: The Vietnam Stories by Richard Currey
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

Writer Richard Currey was born in Parkersburg on October 19, 1949. He served as navy medical corpsman from 1968 to 1972 and also studied at West Virginia University and Howard University.

Currey’s first poem was published in 1974, His first book of poetry came out in 1980, earning him a Pulitzer Prize nomination. As a result of the anthology Crossing Over: A Vietnam Journal, Currey became the D.H Lawrence Fellow in Literature and writer in residence at the University of New Mexico. He founded the Santa Fe Writers Project and continues to live in New Mexico.

October 16, 1859: John Brown Captures U.S. Armory

Oct 16, 2018
Harpers Ferry was the site of the US Armory, and played a vital role before and during the Civil War.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online. / Harpers Ferry, John Brown, US Armory, Robert E. Lee, Civil War

On the night of October 16, 1859, a band of antislavery men under John Brown captured the U.S. armory at Harpers Ferry. Earlier in the year, Brown had settled into a western Maryland farmhouse, where he trained his 18-man army in military tactics. His goal was to seize weapons from the national armory at Harpers Ferry and arm slaves, who would then overthrow their masters.

October 15, 1850: Virginia Constitutional Convention

Oct 15, 2018
Joseph Johnson, represented Harrison County in the 1980 Virginia Convention.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online. / Harrison County, Virginia Constitutional Convention, 1850

On October 15, 1850, Joseph Johnson of Harrison County called the Virginia Constitutional Convention to order. The convention had been a long time in the making. For years, residents of western Virginia had felt neglected by the state government in Richmond. This was due in large part to the region’s underrepresentation in the state legislature. This underrepresentation occurred because the eastern part of the state could use its large slave population to inflate its number of delegates despite the fact that slaves had no legal rights.

October 12, 1953: Hugh Ike Shott Died at 87

Oct 12, 2018
Hugh Isaac Shott
Wikimedia commons

Hugh Isaac Shott died on October 12, 1953, at age 87. “Hugh Ike,” as he was known, was born in Staunton, Virginia, where he learned the printing trade. He moved to Bluefield and served as a clerk on N&W Railway.

In 1896, he purchased the weekly Bluefield Telegraph newspaper and switched it to a daily publication. His timing was great because the Bluefield area was growing by leaps and bounds thanks to the rapid spread of coal mining in the area.

October 9, 2001: Actress and Model Dagmar Dies

Oct 9, 2018
Born Virginia Ruth Egnor in Logan County in 1921, she moved with her family to Huntington.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online. / Dagmar, Milton Berle, Frank Sinatra, Life Magazine, Dagmar's Canteen, Ceredo, Huntington, 1921, 2001, Huntington

The entertainer known as Dagmar died on October 9, 2001. In the 1950s, she was one of the most recognizable faces on television and even graced the cover of Life magazine.

October 8, 1764: Harman Blennerhassett Born in London

Oct 8, 2018
Harman Blennerhassett would be aquitted of treason, along with Aaron Burr
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online. / Aaron Burr, Harman Blennerhassett, 1805 plot, Thomas Jefferson, Blennerhassett Island, Ohio River

Harman Blennerhassett was born in London to a wealthy Irish family on October 8, 1764. He and his wife Margaret immigrated to the United States in 1796. Two years later, they settled on an island in the Ohio River near Parkersburg. In 1800, they built an immense mansion on what would become known as Blennerhassett Island.

October 5, 1931: U.S Senator Dwight Morrow Dies

Oct 5, 2018
Dwight W. Morrow
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia / Library of Congress

Financier, diplomat, and U.S. Senator Dwight Morrow died in New Jersey on October 5, 1931, at age 58. He was born in Huntington in 1873, while his father, James E. Morrow, was serving as the 11th principal of Marshall College—now Marshall University. When Dwight was an infant, his family moved to West Liberty, where his father served briefly as president of West Liberty Normal School—which is today West Liberty University. The Morrows then moved to Pittsburgh.

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