West Virginia

On October 7, 1923, the first miles of the Appalachian Trail were opened in New York state. Within 14 years, the trail would stretch some 2,200 miles—from Maine to Georgia.

The Appalachian Trail crosses into West Virginia in two places. In southeastern West Virginia, the trail crosses Peters Mountain a few miles east of Peterstown in Monroe County. Here, it zigzags along the state line for close to 13 miles. This stretch offers commanding views of Allegheny Mountain before dropping off into Virginia.

Michelle Hanks

What is the human impact of a failure to prioritize workplace safety? In this episode, we’ll explore how weak regulatory laws, and a failure to prioritize worker safety, may be contributing to more deaths, and a higher risk of workplace accidents -- both at the state and national levels. 


Ben Curtis / AP Photo

Editor's Note: The alleged victim of this incident filed paperwork on Tuesday, June 11, 2019 to discontinue the police's investigation of the incident.

 

A reported attack on a black, gay man in Morgantown over Memorial Day weekend has sparked reaction from the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community, as well as renewed attention on West Virginia’s hate crime laws.

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.

Illustration of the Diamond Department Store at the corner of Capitol and Washington Streets in Charleston
e-WV Encyclopedia

On May 3, 1960, Charleston’s Diamond Department Store integrated its lunch counters. The Diamond was the largest department store of its kind in Charleston and one of the leading stores in the state. For years, it barred African-Americans from eating at its popular lunch counter.

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.

April 26, 1816: General Alexander Welch Reynolds Born in Lewisburg

Apr 26, 2019
Alexander Welch Reynolds
e-WV Encyclopedia

General Alexander Welch Reynolds was born in Lewisburg on April 26, 1816. After graduating from West Point in 1838, he served as an army officer in the Seminole War, the Mexican War, and in the West. 

When the Civil War began in 1861, Reynolds joined the Confederate army and saw considerable combat. 

In September 1861, he led a regiment at the Battle of Carnifex Ferry in Nicholas County. The battle, which was fought on the banks of the Gauley River, left him with the nickname “Old Gauley.”

April 15, 1861: President Lincoln Calls for Volunteer Troops

Apr 15, 2019
BotMultichillT / wikimedia Commons

On April 15, 1861, three days after the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter in South Carolina, President Abraham Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteer troops. At the time, the U.S. Army had only about 16,000 soldiers. While most historians point to Fort Sumter as the beginning of the war, some suggest the war didn’t really begin until Lincoln’s call for troops. His action spurred four of the “holdout” states—Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Arkansas—to secede from the Union and join the Confederacy.

April 5, 1856: Educator Booker T. Washington Born in Franklin County, VA

Apr 5, 2019
Booker T. Washington
e-WV Encyclopedia / Library of Congress

Educator Booker T. Washington was born a slave in Franklin County, Virginia, on April 5, 1856. After the Civil War, he relocated to Malden, a few miles east of Charleston, where he attended a one-room school for blacks.

He also was tutored by Viola Ruffner, whom he later credited for instilling in him the qualities of cleanliness and hard work.

After graduating from Hampton Institute in Virginia, Washington returned to West Virginia as a teacher. In 1879, he went back to Hampton as a professor. But when school was out, he’d come home to work in West Virginia’s coal mines.

March 28, 1868: Eli ‘‘Rimfire’’ Hamrick Born in Webster County

Mar 28, 2019
WV Division of Culture and History / Michael Keller

Eli ‘‘Rimfire’’ Hamrick was born at Bergoo in Webster County on March 28, 1868. Considered one of the best woodsmen of his time, he often led coal and lumber barons on hunting expeditions.

In 1907, he was hired by the Webster Springs Hotel as a guide and handyman. One of his jobs was to kill and dress chickens for the hotel kitchen.

That’s when Rimfire supposedly acquired his nickname. When asked how he killed the chickens for the hotel, he replied, ‘‘With a rimfire rifle, by God.’’

e-WV Encyclopedia / Chris Dorst/The Charleston Gazette

The first state boys’ high school basketball tournament began in Buckhannon on March 21, 1914. The event was hosted by West Virginia Wesleyan College, which had West Virginia’s largest and finest gymnasium. Elkins High School took that first state title.

The tournament grew quickly in popularity. In 1922, a field of 64 teams was broken into ‘‘A’’ and ‘‘B’’ divisions, classified based on team strength rather than school size. In 1933, the tournament was reorganized with sectional winners advancing to eight regional tournaments.

March 15, 1988: Reformer Mary Behner Christopher Dies at 81

Mar 15, 2019
e-WV Encyclopedia / Bettijane Burger

Reformer Mary Behner Christopher died in Morgantown on March 15, 1988, at age 81. The Ohio native came to West Virginia in the 1920s as a missionary for the Presbyterian church. From 1928 to 1937, she worked in the impoverished coal communities along Scotts Run, outside of Morgantown.

This once-prosperous region had fallen on hard times after the coal market plummeted in the ‘20s. Thousands of families, including numerous immigrants and African-Americans, were stranded by the economic depression.

February 22, 1963: Athlete Ira "Rat" Rodgers Dies at 67

Feb 22, 2019
Athlete Ira Rodgers
e-WV Encyclopedia

Ira Rodgers died on February 22, 1963, at age 67. "Rat," a nickname adapted from his middle name of Erret, was one of West Virginia University's greatest football players. The Bethany native was named to Walter Camp’s All-American team three times: in 1916, ‘17, and ‘19—the first of WVU's All-Americans. In 1919, Rodgers led the nation in scoring with 147 points—49 of them coming in one game. Sportswriter Grantland Rice wrote that “there was no greater all-around football player in the land.”

February 15, 1902: Confederate Veteran Isaiah Welch Dies at 76

Feb 15, 2019
A 1946 Saturday afternoon, Main Street, Welch.
Russell Lee via e-WV Encyclopedia

Industrial promoter, land speculator, and railroad developer Isaiah Welch died at St. Albans in Kanawha County on February 15, 1902. He was about 76.

Like scores of other Western Virginians, Isaiah Welch went west during the California Gold Rush in the late 1840s. He came home without striking it rich. That would come later.

During the Civil War, he reached the rank of captain in the Confederate Army. He also served in the legislature of Confederate Virginia throughout the war.

February 8, 1915: Photographer Volkmar Wentzel Born in Germany

Feb 8, 2019
Volkmar Kurt Wentzel
e-West Virginia Encyclopedia / Peter Wentzel & Viola Wentzel

Photographer Volkmar Wentzel was born in Germany on February 8, 1915. He and his family immigrated to New York State when he was 11. He eventually ended up in Preston County, West Virginia, where he attended high school.

As a teenager, he joined up with some Washingtonians who’d formed an artists’ colony in the forests of Preston County. While working at the artists’ colony, Wentzel built a darkroom in a pump house and began shooting local scenery for postcards.

January 25, 1715: Thomas Walker Born in King and Queen County

Jan 25, 2019
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

Thomas Walker was born in King and Queen County, Virginia, on January 25, 1715. He was a widely respected physician, farmer, merchant, and legislator.

He also was an investor, agent, and surveyor for the Loyal Company of Virginia, which promoted settlement in present southern West Virginia, southwestern Virginia, and southeastern Kentucky.

January 18, 1937: Homer Holt Becomes W.Va.'s 20th Governor

Jan 18, 2019
Governor Homer Holt (1898-1976).
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia / WV State Archives (WVSA)

On January 18, 1937, Democrat Homer Holt became the state’s 20th governor. Just four years earlier, the Lewisburg native had been swept into statewide office as attorney general in a Democratic wave that ended the Republicans’ long-standing domination of West Virginia politics. He was only 34 at the time.

Becoming attorney general during the darkest days of the Great Depression, he worked with Governor H. Guy Kump to shore up the state’s finances.

January 11, 1994: Author Agnes Smith Dies in Fairmont

Jan 11, 2019
Illustration for An Edge of the Forest
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia / Jan Sharkey Thomas

Author Agnes Clifford Smith died in Fairmont on January 11, 1994, at age 87. She spent her childhood in Clarksburg and Charleston before going to a private academy in New York State. She returned to West Virginia and graduated from Fairmont State College (now University) with an English degree. She married Richard Bruce Parrish, who, for many years, was editor of Fairmont’s afternoon newspaper, The West Virginian. For more than 50 years, the couple lived near Worthington, cultivating hay, oats, and other grains.

December 28, 1879: Brigadier General Billy Mitchell Born in France

Dec 28, 2018
Brigadier General William "Billy" Mitchell
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia / United States Air Force

Brigadier General Billy Mitchell was born in France on December 28, 1879. By 1921, he’d become chief of the Army Air Service. After seeing the potential military impact of aircraft during World War I, he wanted to demonstrate how planes could be used to quell civil unrest at home.

December 14, 1857: Coal Operator Justus Collins Born in Alabama

Dec 14, 2018
Justus Collins, e-WV
E-WV / WV Humanities Council

Coal operator Justus Collins was born in Alabama on December 14, 1857. He got his start in coal mining in the Deep South but moved north about 1887 to pursue his fortune in the coalfields of southern West Virginia.

In Mercer County, Collins organized the Louisville Coal & Coke Company, one of the first mines to ship coal on the Norfolk and Western Railway. In 1893, he opened Collins Colliery at Glen Jean in Fayette County. About the same time, he started Greenbrier Coal & Coke and later opened the Whipple mine near Mount Hope.

The Great Textbook War

Nov 21, 2018

In 1974, a fierce controversy erupted over some newly adopted school textbooks in Kanawha County, West Virginia. School buildings were hit by dynamite and Molotov cocktails, buses were riddled with bullets, journalists were beaten and surrounding coal mines were shut down by protesting miners. Textbook supporters thought they would introduce students to new ideas about literature and multi-culturalism. Opponents felt the books undermined traditional American values.

 

The Enemy of the People

Nov 16, 2018

Political debate in this country has become anything but civil. Who's to blame?

Nearly a third of Americans surveyed by NPR said: “the media.”

Can the news media win back trust?

In this episode, Red State host Trey Kay goes to a Trump rally to see how reporters are treated, and Blue State host Chery Glaser talks with a West Coast journalist about how journalists should respond.

The way you read the results of the midterm election might depend on where you live.

In California, candidates were rewarded for opposing President Trump -- critics like California’s new Gov. Gavin Newsom won big. But in West Virginia, Sen. Joe Manchin was returned to office while siding with the president on key issues.

What's going on?

Two Voters Talk It Out

Nov 2, 2018

When we cast a ballot, it's personal. About as personal as it gets.

That’s easy to forget when we talk about big blocks of voters -- congressional districts or entire states.

So Blue State host Chery Glaser takes it to the personal level and talks with two voters.

Sen. Joe Manchin
Simon Edelman, U.S. Energy Department

West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin voted to confirm Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump’s pick for the U.S. Supreme Court. Manchin was the only Democrat in the Senate to cross party lines, and he did it in a very public way. Manchin’s vote didn’t surprise many Mountain State voters, but it left a lot of people in other states asking, “Why is he even a Democrat?”

StoryCorps

StoryCorps recently visited Charleston, West Virginia to help over 100 people record their stories. One of the conversations recorded was between Mountain Stage Host Larry Groce and jazz musician Bob Thompson. Thompson grew up in New York City, but moved to West Virginia in the 60s to attend college at West Virginia State. 


Three Things That Make West Virginia Special

Apr 27, 2018

West Virginia's unique culture is an underappreciated asset, according to the hosts of The Front Porch.

In our latest episode, we focus on three aspects that make us special.

April 20, 1963: W.Va. Legislature Meets at the Custom House in Wheeling

Apr 20, 2018
e-WV Encyclopedia / WV Division of Tourism via Steve Shaluta

On April 20, 1963, the West Virginia Legislature met in a special ceremonial session at the old U.S. Custom House in Wheeling.

It marked the 100th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s proclamation certifying that West Virginia would become a state.

The legislative event was a turning point for the building, which was more than a century old. During the Civil War, it’d been the capitol of the pro-Union Reorganized Government of Virginia and the location of West Virginia’s statehood debates.

Teachers John and Kerry Guerini of Fayetteville, West Virginia, hold signs at a rally at the state Capitol in Charleston, W.Va., Monday, Feb. 26, 2018.
John Raby / Associated Press

The public education uprisings that began in West Virginia and spread to Arizona, Oklahoma and Kentucky share similar origin stories.

Teachers, long tired of low wages and a dearth of state funding, begin talking to each other online.

Their Facebook groups draw tens of thousands of members. They share stories of their frustrations and then they demand change.

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