This Week in West Virginia History

June 27, 1961: Honey in the Rock Debuts at Cliffside

Jun 27, 2018
Honey in the Rock
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

On June 27, 1961, the play Honey in the Rock debuted at the newly constructed Cliffside Amphitheater at Grandview in Raleigh County. The play, written by Kermit Hunter, tells of West Virginia’s founding through the experiences of a fictitious family, with some historical figures like “Stonewall” Jackson and the state’s first governor, Arthur Boreman.

The play’s alumni include Academy Award nominee Chris Sarandon and actor, director, and playwright David Selby.

June 22, 1926: Earl Olgebay Dies at 77

Jun 22, 2018
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

Earl Oglebay died on June 22, 1926, at age 77. The son of a wealthy Wheeling businessman, he became head of his father’s bank at age 28, making him the nation’s youngest bank president. In the late 1800s, Oglebay partnered with John D. Rockefeller in a Cleveland iron business. He amassed a small fortune in 1901, when he sold his iron interests to U.S. Steel.

WV statehood
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

On June 20, 1863, West Virginia entered the Union as the nation’s 35th state. It was the end of an unprecedented ladder to statehood that began with the outbreak of the Civil War.

Although some Western Virginians had been frustrated with the Virginia state government in Richmond for decades, it took Virginia’s secession from the Union in April 1861 to get the West Virginia statehood process moving.

Crafty politicians—now remembered as our founders—used Virginia’s secession as an excuse to create a separate government of Virginia—one that remained loyal to the Union.

June 18, 1674: Needham and Arthur Exploration Ends

Jun 18, 2018
This Week in West Virginia History.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online.

On June 18, 1674, the Needham and Arthur exploration into present-day West Virginia ended. A year earlier, explorer, politician, and militia commander Abraham Wood had dispatched James Needham, Gabriel Arthur, and eight Indian guides on an expedition through the South.

June 15, 1963: First Passengers Board Train at Cass Scenic Railroad

Jun 15, 2018
A passenger train from the Cass Scenic Railroad passes the water tower Friday, Sept. 14, 2007, in Cass, W.Va.
Jeff Gentner / AP

On June 15, 1963, the first passengers climbed aboard a train at Cass Scenic Railroad. The railroad was dedicated five days before West Virginia’s Centennial as a state.

This popular excursion railroad takes visitors on a trip back in time. It’s the last remnant of a once vast rail network, started in 1900, to harvest red spruce on Cheat and Back Allegheny mountains. The red spruce, which grew up to 100 feet in height, was used to supply a pulp mill in Covington, Virginia, and the lumber mill in Cass.

June 14, 1898: Quick Earns MOH for Actions at Guantanamo Bay

Jun 14, 2018
John Henry Quick, USMC
Wikipedia / WV Humanitites Council

For his actions on June 14, 1898, Charles Town native John Henry Quick earned the Medal of Honor. His heroism occurred during a joint American-Cuban attack on the Spanish garrison at Guantanamo Bay during the Spanish-American War.

On June 14, Quick’s Marine battalion and about 50 Cuban soldiers were trying to capture the well that supplied water to the Spanish. An American gunboat, the Dolphin, was providing cover for the mission, but due to visibility problems, the boat started shelling American Marines by accident.

June 13, 1928: Nobel Prize Winner Nash Born in Bluefield

Jun 13, 2018
John Nash
WV Humanitites Council / e-WV

Nobel Prize-winning mathematician John Nash Jr. was born in Bluefield on June 13, 1928. The math prodigy excelled at Carnegie Tech (now Carnegie Mellon University) and Princeton University.

One of his mentors was professor John von Neumann, who helped develop the computer and the hydrogen bomb. Nash focused his studies on game theory, which examines rivalries in the context of theoretical math. His 1950 doctoral thesis transformed the field of economics by applying game theory to business competition.

June 11, 1884: Riverside Iron Works Make Steel Useing Bessemer Converter

Jun 11, 2018
Bessemer Converter
Wikipedia

On June 11, 1884, the state’s first Bessemer converter went into operation at the Riverside Iron Works in Wheeling. The Bessemer process made steel even stronger by introducing more air and removing more impurities from iron.

The Bessemer process was just one factor in the rise of West Virginia’s steel industry. A tariff enacted by Congress in 1890 made American tin makers more competitive with the British. It occurred just as the demand for canned foods was growing. The cans were made of thin-rolled steel coated with tin.

June 8, 2004: Judge Elizabeth Hallanan Dies at 79

Jun 8, 2018
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

Judge Elizabeth Hallanan died on June 8, 2004. She was 79 years old.

June 7, 1905: Fiddler French Carpenter Born

Jun 7, 2018
French Carpenter
brandonraykirk.wordpress.com / WV Humanitites Council

Fiddler French Carpenter was born in Clay County on June 7, 1905.

For generations, the Carpenter family was renowned for its musical ability, and French may have been the best of the lot. He learned most of his music directly from his father, Tom, a fiddling preacher.

Tom had learned from his father, Sol, one of the most influential fiddlers in central West Virginia.

Here’s a clip of French Carpenter playing “Camp Chase,” which his grandfather Sol supposedly came up with to win a fiddle contest and his freedom from a Union prison during the Civil War.

Childrens Author Cynthia Rylant Born: June 6, 1954

Jun 6, 2018

Children’s author Cynthia Rylant was born June 6, 1954, in Hopewell, Virginia.

  

She was raised in Raleigh County and earned degrees from Morris Harvey College—which is now the University of Charleston—and Marshall and Kent State universities.

June 5, 1853: St. Joseph Settlement Founded

Jun 5, 2018
St Joseph Community
E-WV / WV Humanities Council

The earliest record of the St. Joseph Settlement, a community of German Catholic immigrants, dates to June 5, 1853. The settlers originally came from the southern German states of Bavaria and Hesse—areas that opposed Frederick William IV’s absolute monarchy.

They emigrated to the United States and settled St. Joseph on the hills above the Ohio River on the Marshall-Wetzel county border.

June 4, 1971: Retired Coal Miner Hijacks Plane

Jun 4, 2018
Glen Riggs arrested
Skyjacker of the Day / tumblr.com

On June 4, 1971, West Virginia’s only documented plane hijacking occurred in Charleston. Glenn Elmo Riggs, a 58-year-old retired coal miner from Boone County, hijacked a United Airlines flight that had stopped over at Kanawha Airport—now known as Yeager Airport. 

He boarded the flight with a .32-caliber pistol and a box of bullets. Shortly after takeoff, he hijacked the 737 and demanded that the pilots fly him to Israel so he could help build a new temple.

June 1, 1956: Artist Blanche Lazelle Dies at 77

Jun 1, 2018
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

Artist Blanche Lazzell died on June 1, 1956, at age 77. She was born in Maidsville in Monongalia County in 1878. After receiving a diploma from the West Virginia Conference Seminary and an art degree from West Virginia University, she moved to New York City and studied with influential artists Kenyon Cox and William Merritt Smith. A remarkably independent woman for the time, Lazzell traveled twice to Paris, where she became enthralled with the avant-garde Cubism movement.

e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

  On May 29, 1778, Dick Pointer, a black slave, helped save some 60 settlers in the Greenbrier Valley. Warned of an impending Shawnee Indian attack, settlers had taken shelter at Fort Donnally near Lewisburg. The Shawnee arrived the next morning.

Pointer and a white settler named Philip Hammond were the first to hear the alarm. The Shawnee warriors tried to use tomahawks to break through a door at the fort. However, Pointer and Hammond had braced the door using a large barrel or “hogshead” of water. Pointer grabbed a musket, began firing at the attackers, and awoke the fort’s sleeping inhabitants. Pointer and the other settlers successfully fought off the attack, and the Shawnee retreated at dark.

On May 25, 1937, William Kendrick, a pioneer of West Virginia’s 4-H program, died at age 55. “Teepi,” as he was nicknamed, was born in Alabama and moved to Morgantown to attend West Virginia University. In the decade before World War I, WVU had established corn clubs for boys and canning clubs for girls as a way to teach modern agriculture. Kendrick became the state agent in charge of these groups and adopted the 4-H name. He soon broadened the scope of the clubs beyond agriculture to emphasize various aspects of youth development.

e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

On May 21, 1864, Confederate General and former Congressman Albert Gallatin Jenkins was killed at the Battle of Cloyd’s Mountain, Virginia. He was 33.

As a young man, the Cabell County native had attended Marshall Academy, Jefferson College, and Harvard Law School before being elected twice to Congress. In 1859, he inherited his father’s plantation in Cabell County and became one of the largest slaveholders in present West Virginia.

Minnie Buckingham
E-WV / WV Humanities Council

  On May 15, 1886, Minnie Buckingham was born in Putnam County. She later moved to Keystone in McDowell County and married E. Howard Harper, who was elected to the legislature in 1926. When Harper died in the middle of his term, the county Republican executive committee unanimously recommended Minnie to replace him. In January 1928, Governor Howard Gore appointed Minnie Buckingham Harper to complete her husband’s term, making her the first African-American woman in U.S. history to serve in a state legislature.

On May 14, 1982, Judge Arthur Recht handed down a legal ruling that reshaped the course of public education in West Virginia.

May 8, 1892: U.S. and Confederate Congressman Alexander Boteler Dies

May 8, 2018
 Alexander Boteler
E-WV / WV Humanities Council

U.S. and Confederate Congressman Alexander Boteler died on May 8, 1892, shortly before his 77th birthday. Before launching his political career, Boteler was a farmer and the owner of a hydraulic cement plant on the Potomac River at Shepherdstown. He entered the U.S. House of Representatives as a Whig in 1859. That same year, he interviewed John Brown extensively after Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry. A skilled artist, Boteler also made a sketch of the imprisoned abolitionist.

May 7, 1972: Activist Lenna Lowe Yost Dies at 94

May 7, 2018

  Activist Lenna Lowe Yost died on May 7, 1972, at age 94. The Marion County native and West Virginia Wesleyan College graduate had become involved in women’s issues as a young adult. For 10 years, she was president of the state chapter of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union. The WCTU, as it’s known, principally opposed the consumption of alcohol but also supported social reforms for women.

Children's Home Society of West Virginia
E-WV / WV Humanities Council

On May 4, 1896, the Children’s Home Society of West Virginia was founded in Charleston. The Society was part of a national movement to place orphaned and neglected children with caring families, rather than crowding them into county poorhouses, where children often lived in squalor, with conditions resembling a Dickens novel.

May 1, 1930: Labor Leader Mother Jones Celebrates 100th Birthday

May 1, 2018
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia / Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division

On May 1, 1930, labor leader “Mother” Jones celebrated her 100th birthday at a party in Maryland. The firebrand did what she did best: ruffle feathers. On this occasion, she denounced the nation’s prohibition on alcohol, saying it violated her right as an American to drink beer instead of water.

WVU Tech Old Main Building, Montgomery, WV
E-WV / WV Humanities Council

The first classes at Montgomery Preparatory School in Fayette County began on January 4, 1897. It was established due to the lack of high schools in the area. Previously, most students in that region had to end their formal educations after eighth grade, or even earlier.

By World War I, there was less need for a preparatory school since many high schools had been recently established. In 1917, an attempt at converting it to a vocational school failed.

November 8, 1936: Darrell McGraw Born in Wyoming County

Nov 8, 2017
Darrell McGraw helped to expand the rights of injured workers to sue employers
Yahoo Images

Darrell McGraw was born in Wyoming County on November 8, 1936. After graduating from Pineville High School, he earned degrees from Berea Academy and West Virginia University, where he served as student body president. He also served a stint in the army.

October 18, 1778: Martinsburg Incorporated

Oct 18, 2017
Martinsburg took off with the arrival of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad IN 1842.
e-WV / WV Humanities Council

The town of Martinsburg in Berkeley County was incorporated on October 18, 1778. The place had been settled originally by Joseph and John Morgan in the 1740s. But it was Scotland native Adam Stephen who put Martinsburg on the map. Stephen established mills along the banks of Tuscarora Creek, built himself a limestone house, and, in 1773, laid out the town. He named it for Colonel Thomas Bryan Martin, a nephew of Lord Thomas Fairfax, who owned much of the present Eastern Panhandle.

October 11, 1811: State Founder Waitman Willey Born

Oct 11, 2017
State founder Waitman Willey served as one of West Virginia’s first two U.S. senators from 1863 to 1871.
e-WV / WV Humanities Council

State founder Waitman Willey was born near Farmington in Marion County on October 11, 1811. He opened his first law practice in Morgantown in 1833 and served as Monongalia County Court clerk for more than a decade.

Willey gained statewide attention for his “Liberty and Union” speech at the 1850-51 Virginia Constitutional Convention. At the start of the Civil War, he spoke passionately against secession and war. After Virginia seceded from the Union, Willey was elected to represent the loyal citizens of Virginia in the U.S. Senate.

TWWVH
West Virginia Public Broadcasting / WV Humanities Council

On October 4, 1890, a traveling circus called French & Company’s Great Railroad Show arrived in the town of Alderson on the Greenbrier-Monroe county line. What started as a circus show would lead to one of the more bizarre incidents in West Virginia.

Opera Soprano Eleanor Steber
e-WV / WV Humanities Council

Soprano Eleanor Steber died on October 3, 1990, at age 76. The Wheeling native attended the New England Conservatory of Music, studied voice in New York City, and joined the Metropolitan Opera radio in 1940. That year, her hometown honored her by proclaiming Eleanor Steber Day in Wheeling. The celebration featured a special Baltimore & Ohio railroad car named for her and a homecoming concert, attended by Governor Homer Holt.

WV statehood
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

On June 20, 1863, West Virginia entered the Union as the nation’s 35th state. It was the end of an unprecedented ladder to statehood that began with the outbreak of the Civil War.

Although some Western Virginians had been frustrated with the Virginia state government in Richmond for decades, it took Virginia’s secession from the Union in April 1861 to get the West Virginia statehood process moving.

Crafty politicians—now remembered as our founders—used Virginia’s secession as an excuse to create a separate government of Virginia—one that remained loyal to the Union.

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