This Week in West Virginia History

Monday through Friday, at 6:30am & 4:48pm

The West Virginia Humanities Council, publishers of e-WV, and West Virginia Public Broadcasting have created two-minute radio segments for "This Week in West Virginia History" to introduce listeners to important people, places, and events in Mountain State history. Each daily segment is keyed to the actual date in history on which it occurred. The radio scripts, drawn from the content of e-WV, were written by historian Stan Bumgardner and produced by West Virginia Public Broadcasting's Operations Director, Bob Powell. Our composer, Matt Jackfert, composed the original theme music for the program.

Author and storyteller Colleen Anderson serves as the on-air voice. "This Week" airs Monday through Friday, both morning and afternoon during the news.

e-WV is the online version of the West Virginia Encyclopedia, which became a regional bestseller following its publication in 2006. It is the go-to place for concise, authoritative information on the broad spectrum of things to do with West Virginia. The history features are generated daily from a timeline of more than 12,000 items on the e-WV website.

Visitors to the online encyclopedia may dig deeper into e-WV's 2,300 articles, interactive maps, videos, illustrations, opinion polls, and quizzes that test your "WV-IQ." Visit www.wvencyclopedia.org

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.

May 26, 1888: City Founder Alfred Beckley Dies at 86

May 26, 2017
Alfred Beckley
E-WV / WV Humanities Council

  City founder Alfred Beckley died on May 26, 1888. It was his 86th birthday. He was the son of John James Beckley, the first Librarian of Congress and a political ally of Thomas Jefferson. With help from President James Monroe, Alfred Beckley received an appointment to West Point.

May 25, 1937: William Kendrick, Pioneer of West Virginia’s 4-H Program, Dies at 55

May 25, 2017

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.

John Btrown
John Bowles / Public Domain

On May 24, 1856, John Brown and his followers killed five slaveholders at Pottawatomie Creek, Kansas—a prelude to his more ambitious raid on Harpers Ferry three years later. Deeply religious, Brown committed himself in the 1850s to abolishing slavery through violent action. He took an Old Testament view of his cause, believing that the great sin of human bondage had to be purged from the land by the shedding of blood.

Rod Thorn
Public Domain

Athlete Rod Thorn was born in Princeton on May 23, 1941. He was Princeton High School’s best basketball and baseball player and was heavily recruited by colleges. The straight-A student was leaning toward Duke University when the West Virginia Legislature passed an unprecedented resolution declaring him a state natural resource.

Thorn ultimately picked West Virginia University, where he wore number 44, the same as Jerry West, who’d just preceded him in Morgantown. During his senior year, the six-foot-four guard was named an All-American.

e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

  On May 22, 1861, Thornsberry Bailey Brown became the first Union soldier killed in battle during the Civil War. It occurred during a brief stand-off at Fetterman in Taylor County.

At the beginning of the war, both Union and Confederate forces were scheming to control the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, which had arrived in Taylor County in 1857. The railroad would be a key to moving troops and supplies.

May 19, 1920: Miners, Baldwin-Felts Agents Killed in Matewan Massacre

May 19, 2017
West Virginia Focus

On May 19, 1920, one of the bloodiest events in the West Virginia Mine Wars unfolded in the Mingo County town of Matewan. Four months earlier, the United Mine Workers of America had launched a major campaign to organize southern West Virginia’s non-union coalfields. Along the West Virginia-Kentucky line, some 3,000 miners joined the union and were fired from their jobs. Hundreds had to leave their coal company-owned houses. Those who refused were evicted by the detested Baldwin-Felts Detective Agency.

May 18, 1932: Industrialist I.T. Mann Dies at 68

May 18, 2017
I.T. Mann
E-WV / WV Humanities Council

Financier and industrialist I. T. Mann died in Washington on May 18, 1932, at age 68. As a young man, the Greenbrier County native apprenticed at his father’s bank. Then, in 1889, he helped organize the Bank of Bramwell in Mercer County. The bank became a financial pillar of the southern coalfields and attracted wealthy coal operators to the town. Bramwell soon achieved the distinction of being the “richest small town in America.”

E-WV / West Virginia Humanities Council

The Civil War Battle of Pigeon Roost occurred at Princeton in Mercer County on May 17, 1862. The battle ended a month-long series of engagements in which Union forces under General Jacob Cox aimed to destroy a strategic railroad at Dublin, Virginia, which was defended by Confederates under General Humphrey Marshall. Under Cox’s command were two officers who’d later become presidents, Rutherford B. Hayes and William McKinley.

E-WV / West Virginia Humanities Council

Author Henry William Hoffman was born in Charleston on May 16, 1925. After his father left the family in the early 1930s, William and his only sibling, Janet, were raised primarily by a domineering but much loved grandmother. A staunch Presbyterian, Hoffman’s fiction was influenced by his religious upbringing and his studies at Hampden-Sydney College.

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.

May 12, 1971: Nurse Col. Florence Blanchfield Dies at 87

May 12, 2017
 Florence Blanchfield
E-WV / WV Humanities Council

Colonel Florence Blanchfield died in Washington on May 12, 1971, at age 87. She was born in Shepherdstown in 1884, the daughter of a nurse and a stonecutter. After training as a nurse in Pittsburgh and Baltimore, she enlisted in the Army Nurse Corps in 1917 and served in France during World I.

May 11, 1930: Artificial-Heart Researcher John C. Norman, Jr. Born in Charleston

May 11, 2017
 John C. Norman, Jr.
E-WV / WV Humanities Council

Physician John C. Norman Jr., a pioneer in artificial-heart research, was born in Charleston on May 11, 1930. His father was West Virginia’s first licensed African-American architect.

Norman was valedictorian of his class at Charleston’s Garnet High School in 1946. He went on to Harvard Medical School, graduating in 1954. As a surgeon at Boston City Hospital in the 1960s, he began researching organ transplants and, in 1967, successfully transplanted the spleen of a healthy dog into a hemophiliac dog. He also started experimenting with a battery-operated pump for heart patients.

May 10, 1908: First Mother's Day Observance

May 10, 2017
E-WV / West Virginia Humanities Council

On May 10, 1908, the nation’s first Mother’s Day observance was held at Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church in Grafton on the third anniversary of Anna Reeves Jarvis’s death. Jarvis’s humanitarian efforts were well known in Taylor County. She had worked at Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church for 30 years and long dreamed of a day dedicated to mothers.

E-WV / West Virginia Humanities Council

Labor leader Walter Reuther was killed in a plane crash on May 9, 1970. He was 62.

Reuther was born in Wheeling in 1907. His father, Valentine, was president of the Wheeling brewers union and led the city’s Socialist Party.

May 5, 1923: Golfer Bill Campbell Born in Huntington

May 5, 2017
Bill Campbell
E-WV / WV Humanities Council

Golfer Bill Campbell was born in Huntington on May 5, 1923. He would win more than 30 championships over seven decades, establishing him as one of the greatest amateur golfers in history.

  His father introduced him to the game when Bill Campbell was only three. At age 15, he played in his first U.S. Amateur Tournament, where he met Sam Snead. Snead would become first a mentor and then lifelong friend to Campbell.

May 4, 1896: Children’s Home Society of West Virginia Founded in Charleston

May 4, 2017
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.

E-WV / West Virginia Humanities Council

On May 3, 1924, a devastating flood at Harpers Ferry wiped out a highway bridge and permanently shut down the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal.

Gray Barker
E-WV / West Virginia Humanities Council

Flying saucer investigator Gray Barker was born at Riffle in Braxton County on May 2, 1925. He spent most of his life in central West Virginia, earning a degree from Glenville State College, teaching school, and booking acts for local theaters.

Barker’s interest in unidentified flying objects was sparked by mysterious sightings of the Flatwoods Monster in 1952. Based on Albert Bender’s “Men in Black” theory, Barker published his best-known book, They Knew Too Much About Flying Saucers.

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

May 1, 2017
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.

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