This Week in West Virginia History

Sept. 5, 1950: Appalachian Bible College Founded

Sep 5, 2018
Appalachian Bible College Chapel
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

Appalachian Bible College—originally known as Appalachian Bible Institute—opened at Sylvester in Boone County on September 5, 1950. The nondenominational, independent Christian college was the brainchild of Raleigh County minister Robert Guelich.

Before the school opened, southern West Virginians had to travel all the way to Pikeville, Kentucky, if they wanted to take advanced Bible studies.

September 4, 1957: Engineer Frank Duff McEnteer Dies in Clarksburg

Sep 4, 2018

Engineer Frank Duff McEnteer died on September 4, 1957, at age 74. The Pennsylvania native and graduate of Harvard’s engineering school moved to Clarksburg in 1911 to supervise construction of the Palace Furniture Company building, which is still in use. It was one of West Virginia’s first reinforced concrete buildings and launched McEnteer’s career in that fledgling field.

August 31, 1957: Historian Charles Ambler Dies at 81

Aug 31, 2018
Charles Ambler
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

Historian Charles Ambler died on August 31, 1957, at age 81. He was one of the most influential historians in West Virginia history.

August 29, 1952: Ground Broken for WV Turnpike

Aug 29, 2018
WV Turnpike Bridge
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

On August 29, 1952, groundbreaking ceremonies for the West Virginia Turnpike were held in Mercer County. The state’s only toll road eventually cut driving time between Charleston and Princeton from four hours to two.

The road took less than two years to construct. Despite early plans for a four-lane highway, project costs limited the turnpike to only two lanes in most places. Still, the road was considered modern for the day.

It was first opened to traffic between Princeton and Beckley in September 1954 and then on to Charleston two months later.

August 28, 1894: Publisher, Diplomat William Cooper Howells Dies at 87

Aug 28, 2018
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

Publisher and diplomat William Cooper Howells died on August 28, 1894, at age 87.

The native of Wales emigrated as a child with his family to Wheeling.

At 21, Howells began working as an apprentice typesetter at the Virginia Statesman, a Wheeling newspaper. Before starting two Wheeling newspapers of his own, he worked at the print shop of Alexander Campbell, founder of Bethany College and the Disciples of Christ religious denomination.

August 27, 1902: Blues Legend 'Diamond Teeth Mary' Born in Huntington

Aug 27, 2018
"Diamond Teeth" Mary McClaine Huntington
E-WV

Singer Mary Smith McClain was born in Huntington on August 27, 1902. She would become a blues legend.

At age 13, she was desperate to escape beatings from her stepmother. So, she disguised herself as a boy, hopped a train, and began performing in the circus. Throughout the 1920s and ’30s, she performed in medicine and minstrel shows. In the 1940s, she had diamonds implanted in her front teeth and took the name “Diamond Teeth Mary.” Over the years, McClain shared the stage with such performers as Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan, Big Mama Thornton, Ray Charles, Duke Ellington, and Bessie Smith, who was her half-sister.

August 24, 1921: Miners March to Protest Martial Law in Mingo County

Aug 24, 2018
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia / WV State Archives (WVSA), Coal Life Collection

On August 24, 1921, a group of armed miners started out on a long march southeast from Marmet near Charleston.

Their goal was to end the governor’s order of martial law in Mingo County and to wipe out the anti-union mine guard and deputy sheriff systems in Logan and Mingo counties.

August 23, 1891: Congressman Chester Hubbard Died

Aug 23, 2018
Congressman Chester Hubbard
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

Congressman, businessman, and state founder Chester Hubbard died in Wheeling on August 23, 1891, at age 76. The Connecticut native moved with his family to Wheeling as a child.

Hubbard joined his father’s lumber mill business and helped develop Wheeling as an iron and steel manufacturing center. He was president of the German Bank of Wheeling; the Pittsburgh, Wheeling & Kentucky Railroad; and C. D. Hubbard and Company.

August 22, 1862: Jenkins Begins Raiding Western Virginia

Aug 22, 2018
Albert Gallatin Jenkins
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

On August 22, 1862, newly appointed Confederate Brigadier General Albert Gallatin Jenkins began a raid through Western Virginia. It was in response to a string of events that began with Robert E. Lee’s impending invasion of Maryland.

Earlier that month, the Union Army had shifted some 5,000 troops from the Charleston area to help protect Washington, DC. So, the Confederates took advantage of the troop reduction.

August 21, 1915: Jazz Singer Ann Baker Born

Aug 21, 2018
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

Jazz singer Ann Baker was born on August 21, 1915. She got her start performing in Pittsburgh jazz clubs and made her Broadway debut with Louis Armstrong’s band in the early 1940s.

She later joined the bands of Lionel Hampton and Count Basie. 

In 1946, she landed her signature gig, replacing Sarah Vaughan in Billy Eckstine’s band, which included, at different times, jazz legends Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, Art Blakey, and Dexter Gordon.

August 20, 1946: Football Coach Fielding Yost Dies at 75

Aug 20, 2018
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

Football coach Fielding Yost died in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on August 20, 1946, at age 75. In 1895 and ’96, the Marion County native played tackle for one of West Virginia University’s earliest football teams while earning a law degree.

August 17, 1944: Heroic Actions Earns Fayette Co. Native Medal of Honor

Aug 17, 2018
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

Stanley Bender’s heroic actions on August 17, 1944, would earn him the Medal of Honor. Bender was born in Fayette County in 1909, the son of a coal miner and Russian immigrant. His family moved to Chicago in 1930, and Bender enlisted in the Army in 1939.

August 16, 1851: Reformer Coin Harvey Born

Aug 16, 2018
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.

August 14, 1894: Entertainer Ada 'Bricktop' Smith Born in Alderson

Aug 14, 2018
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

  On August 14, 1894, entertainer Ada Beatrice Queen Victoria Louise Virginia Smith was born at Alderson. At age five, Ada made her stage debut in Chicago, appearing in Uncle Tom’s Cabin. By age 16, she was performing on the vaudeville circuit. Soon afterward, a New York saloon keeper gave her the nickname ‘‘Bricktop’’ for her blazing red hair, unusual for an African-American.

August 9, 1954: Logan County Sheriff Don Chafin Died

Aug 9, 2018
In 1921, Chafin led the resistance to the miners’ armed march on Logan County.
E-WV

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.

e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

In a referendum on August 7, 1877, West Virginia voters chose Charleston to be the permanent state capital. The capital’s location had become a running joke, as government records had been moved from Wheeling to Charleston and then back to Wheeling again, all in 14 years.The capital was on the move so much on West Virginia riverboats, it earned the nickname of “the floating capital.”

James Edward Watson Born: August 2, 1926

Aug 2, 2018
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.

Sid Hatfield
E-WV

On August 1, 1921, Matewan police chief Sid Hatfield and his friend Ed Chambers were gunned down by Baldwin-Felt Detectives in front of the McDowell County Courthouse in Welch.

The trouble between Hatfield and the Baldwin-Felts had started more than a year earlier. In May of 1920, a shootout in the Mingo County town of Matewan had pitted Baldwin-Felts detectives against Hatfield and a crowd of angry miners.

A shootout left seven of the detectives, two miners, and the town’s mayor dead in the streets of Matewan.

July 30, 2006: Aviator Rose Agnes Rolls Cousins Dies at 86

Jul 30, 2018
Aviator Rose Agnes Rolls Cousins
E-WV

Aviator Rose Agnes Rolls Cousins died on July 30, 2006, at age 86. The Fairmont native had entered West Virginia State College in 1932, when she was 16. The school’s new pilot training program, introduced in 1939, rekindled in her a childhood desire to fly planes. She became the first black woman trained as a solo pilot through the college’s Civilian Pilot Training Program. West Virginia State was the first of six historically black colleges in the nation authorized to establish one of these federally funded programs.

July 26, 1942: Camp Washington Carver Dedicated

Jul 26, 2018
Camp Washington-Carver's Lodge
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

Camp Washington-Carver was dedicated as West Virginia’s black 4-H camp on July 26, 1942. Named for Booker T. Washington and George Washington Carver, the camp is located at Clifftop in Fayette County.

It was the first 4-H camp for African-Americans in the country, and its Great Chestnut Lodge is the largest log structure in West Virginia and one of the largest in the nation.

July 25, 1862: Rebel Spy Nancy Hart Leads Raid at Summersville

Jul 25, 2018
Nancy Hart after her capture in 1862
Francis Miller - Vol 8 The Photographic History of the Civil War Soldier Life and Secret Service

According to tradition, Rebel spy Nancy Hart led a Confederate raid on the Union position at Summersville in Nicholas County on July 25, 1862. Hart was only in her late teens at the time.

Early in the Civil War, she’d worked closely with the Confederate Moccasin Rangers as a scout and spy. Captured in Braxton County in the fall of 1861, she convinced Northern troops of her innocence. After being released, she returned to the Confederate lines with inside information on Union troop movements.

July 24, 1823: West Virginia Governor Arthur Boreman Born in Pennsylvania

Jul 24, 2018
Arthur Boreman
E-WV

West Virginia Governor Arthur Boreman was born in Pennsylvania on July 24, 1823. When he was young, his family moved to Tyler County. And then, in 1845, Boreman relocated to Parkersburg, which would be his hometown for the rest of his life.

July 20, 1910: College Founder Nathan Brackett Dies at 73

Jul 20, 2018
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

 

  College founder Nathan Brackett died on July 20, 1910, at age 73. The native of Maine was a minister in the Free Will Baptist Church. In 1864, he joined the U.S. Christian Commission, which was providing assistance to Union and Confederate soldiers and to freed slaves in the Shenandoah Valley.

July 19, 1850: Pope Establishes Diocese of Wheeling

Jul 19, 2018
Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston Coat of Arms
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

On July 19, 1850, Pope Pius IX established the Diocese of Wheeling to oversee Catholic parishes in what was then Western Virginia. Previously, Catholics in the western part of the state had been under the care of the Archbishop of Richmond, Richard Whelan.

However, Whelan realized the population in Western Virginia was growing so quickly that the vast region needed its own Catholic diocese. Whelan moved to Wheeling and became bishop of the new diocese.

July 18, 1893: Spencer State Hospital Opens

Jul 18, 2018
Spencer State Hospital
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

Spencer State Hospital opened in Roane County on July 18, 1893. It was intended to relieve the overcrowding at Weston State Hospital in caring for people with mental illnesses. At times, its mission was expanded to treat diseases such as typhoid fever, tuberculosis, and pneumonia.

e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

On July 17, 1861, Confederates won one of their first victories of the Civil War at the Battle of Scary Creek in Putnam County. Union forces had been dispatched to dislodge Confederates, who had controlled the Kanawha Valley since the war began three months earlier. On July 17, about 1,300 Union troops under the direct command of Colonel John Lowe clashed at the mouth of Scary Creek with about 900 Confederates under Colonel George S. Patton of Charleston. Patton was the grandfather of General George S. Patton of World War II fame.

July 16, 1869: Philanthropist Michael Benedum Born in Bridgeport

Jul 16, 2018
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

Philanthropist Michael Benedum was born in Bridgeport on July 16, 1869. He earned the nickname the “Great Wildcatter” based on his ability to find oil and gas by drilling “wildcat” wells in unpredicted places. He first struck it rich in Pleasants County and then expanded to other sites in West Virginia, other states, and, eventually, other countries. He continued working seven days a week, even into his late 80s.

July 13, 1899: Greenbrier Co. Methodist Preacher Sam Black Dies at 86

Jul 13, 2018

  Methodist preacher Sam Black died on July 13, 1899, at age 86. The Greenbrier County native was a circuit riding minister who spread the gospel through Greenbrier, Clay, Fayette, Nicholas, Webster, and Kanawha counties. Affectionately known as ‘‘Uncle Sam,’’ he helped organize and build numerous churches with money earned by selling socks and deerskin gloves made by women from the congregations. Sam Black was an ordained deacon and a two-time delegate to the Methodist general conference. He also was one of the 16 charter members of the West Virginia Methodist Conference.

July 12, 1749: Loyal Company Granted 800,000 Acres

Jul 12, 2018
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.

July 11, 1861: Union Victory at Rich Mountain

Jul 11, 2018
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.

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