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

April 12, 1912: Willard Hotel Opens in Grafton

Apr 12, 2018
e-WV Encyclopedia

On April 12, 1912, the Willard Hotel opened in Grafton with an elaborate banquet attended by state and local dignitaries and officials of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. It was built by Grafton attorney and industrialist John T. McGraw and named in honor of the B&O’s president, Daniel Willard.

April 11, 1964: Writer Pinckney Benedict Born in Lewisburg

Apr 11, 2018
Hollins University
e-WV Encyclopedia

Writer Pinckney Benedict was born in Lewisburg on April 11, 1964, and grew up on his family’s dairy farm. After graduating from Princeton University and the University of Iowa, he published his first two collections of short stories, Town Smokes and The Wrecking Yard, and the novel Dogs of God. The New York Times Book Review named all three to its Notable Books list. In 2010, after taking 14 years off from publishing, he released a new collection of short stories entitled Miracle Boy.

Today, most archaeologists consider both the Braxton County and Grave Creek tablets to be frauds.
e-WV / WV Humanities Council

The Braxton County Rune Stone—also known as the Wilson Stone and Braxton County Tablet—was found by Blaine Wilson on April 10, 1931, about eight miles west of Gassaway.

The piece of sandstone—measuring about a square foot—has inscriptions similar to a stone found in the Grave Creek Mound in Moundsville in 1838. Nearly a century earlier, the Grave Creek Tablet had become the center of an archaeological controversy, with one eminent ethnographer believing it had been carved by Celts from ancient Spain or Britain, rather than by early Indians.

AftDr. Maggie, as she was affectionately known, returned to Monroe County and pursued her lifelong interests in genealogy and local history.
e-WV / WV Humanities Council

Physician Maggie Ballard was born on April 9, 1900, at Greenville in Monroe County, where her father was postmaster and owned a general store.

She attended school in Greenville and at the Alleghany Collegiate Institution in Alderson. After receiving her undergraduate degree from WVU, she became one of the first women to earn a medical degree from the University of Maryland. For the next four decades, she was a physician in Baltimore, specializing in obstetrics and gynecology, and served on the faculty of the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

April 6, 1938: Civilian Conservation Corps Establish Camp Kanawha

Apr 6, 2018
Wikimedia Commons / Andrew Springer

On April 6, 1938, the Civilian Conservation Corps established Camp Kanawha at the mouth of Shrewsbury Hollow, about seven miles south of Charleston. Over the next four years, CCC workers transformed the site, which had been heavily mined and timbered, into Kanawha State Forest.

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

Apr 5, 2018
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.

April 4, 1944: Critic John Bishop Dies at 51

Apr 4, 2018
Carl Van Vechten / Princeton University Library

Critic John Peale Bishop died in Massachusetts on April 4, 1944, at age 51. He was born at Charles Town in Jefferson County in 1892 and attended high school in Hagerstown, Maryland.

When he was 17, he experienced a temporary and unexplainable bout of blindness. That’s when he decided to become a writer. In 1912, his poem, ‘‘To a Woodland Pool,’’ was published in Harpers Weekly.

A charter member of Charleston’s Capitol City Lodge Number 1, Starks served 16 years as grand chancellor of the state’s black Pythians.
e-WV / WV Humanities Council

Samuel Starks—the first African-American in the nation to serve as a state librarian—died of peritonitis in Charleston on April 3, 1908, at age 42. He served as state librarian the last seven years of his life, having been appointed by Governor A. B. White.

Outside of West Virginia, Starks was best known for his work with the Knights of Pythias. A charter member of Charleston’s Capitol City Lodge Number 1, Starks served 16 years as grand chancellor of the state’s black Pythians. In 1897, he was elected supreme chancellor—the lodge’s highest national office.

The Main Hall at West Liberty
e-WV Encyclopedia

On March 30, 1837, the Virginia legislature chartered a private academy at West Liberty, north of Wheeling.

The first 65 students met for classes the following year. In 1857, public-spirited citizens completed the red-brick Academy Hall, which survived until the mid-1970s.

March 29, 1973: Educator Fannie Cobb Carter Dies in Charleston

Mar 29, 2018
Educator Fannie Cobb Carter (1872-1973)
e-WV Encyclopedia / WV State Archives (WVSA)

African-American educator Fannie Cobb Carter died on March 29, 1973, six months after her 100th birthday.

She was born in Charleston in 1872, just months before the state’s new constitution prohibited black children and white children from attending school together.

After earning a teaching degree from Storer College in Harpers Ferry, Cobb returned home to teach in Kanawha County’s public schools. In 1908, she organized the teacher-training department at West Virginia Colored Institute, which is now West Virginia State University.

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

Mar 28, 2018
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, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

Statesman Cyrus Vance was born in Clarksburg on March 27, 1917. After serving as a navy gunnery officer during World War II, he became an attorney in New York City.

His first government post was as a special counsel to then-Senator Lyndon Johnson’s committee on space and aeronautics. In this role, he helped write the law that created NASA.

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

On March 26, 1863, voters overwhelmingly approved the first West Virginia Constitution, which had been nearly a year-and-a-half in the making. The constitutional debates had started at a convention in Wheeling in November 1861. Delegates tackled some surprisingly quarrelsome issues, such as the new state’s name and which counties to include.

March 23, 1803: Pioneer Joseph Ruffner Dies in Charleston

Mar 23, 2018
Joseph Ruffner
Jan Smith Richardson

Pioneer Joseph Ruffner died in Charleston on March 23, 1803. Nine years earlier, the Shenandoah Valley native had purchased some 500 acres in Kanawha County from John Dickinson, including lands rich in salt deposits.

By the close of the 18th century, Ruffner had acquired much of present Charleston and had settled on what’s now the town’s East End.

Benjamin L. Rosenbloom
e-WV Encyclopedia

Former Congressman Benjamin Rosenbloom died in Cleveland on March 22, 1965, at age 84. Rosenbloom, the only Jewish congressman in West Virginia history, was born in Pennsylvania and attended West Virginia University, where he played football in 1901 and 1902.

He went on to study law at WVU and was admitted to the state bar in 1904. He was a practicing lawyer in Wheeling until his retirement in 1951.

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.

e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

Musician Frank Hutchison was born in Raleigh County on March 20, 1897. As a child, he moved to Logan County, where he encountered blacks who had migrated from the Deep South to work in the southern West Virginia coalfields. After listening to the music all around him, Hutchison started merging the blues with traditional Appalachian mountain music. He also developed a distinct style, featuring his slide guitar and high-pitched vocals.

The dominant teams in the late ‘40s and ‘50s were Garnet of Charleston and Douglass of Huntington.
e-WV / WV Humanities Council

On March 19, 1925, the state’s first basketball tournament for black high schools kicked off on the campus of West Virginia State College (now University) at Institute.

It featured 24 teams, with Lincoln High of Wheeling defeating Kimball in the championship. Kimball and other regions with large African-American populations were perennial favorites in the tournament. This included other McDowell County schools such as Gary and Excelsior High School of War as well as Beckley’s Genoa High.

March 16, 1971: Industrialist J. G. Bradley Dies at 89

Mar 16, 2018
e-WV Encyclopedia

Industrialist J. G. Bradley died on March 16, 1971, at age 89. The New Jersey native moved to West Virginia in 1904 and soon became president of the Elk River Coal & Lumber Company.

The company’s landholdings in central West Virginia were so significant that the county of Clay couldn’t meet its financial obligations until the company paid its taxes each year.

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

Mar 15, 2018
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.

March 14, 1974: Dr. I. E. Buff Dies at 65

Mar 14, 2018
Dr. I. E. Buff
University of Virginia Library

Dr. I. E. Buff died in Charleston on March 14, 1974, at age 65. Buff was the first physician to protest publicly that many coal miners’ deaths were inaccurately being labeled as heart attacks.

He argued that the coronaries were being caused by a widespread disease known commonly as black lung. He suggested that as many as half of West Virginia’s 40,000 miners suffered from black lung.

e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

On March 13, 1756, the beleaguered Sandy Creek Expedition came to a halt. The French and Indian War campaign had been initiated by Virginia’s governor in response to Indian raids in the New, Greenbrier, and Tygart valleys.

In the most famous of these raids, Shawnee Indians kidnapped Mary Draper Ingles, who later escaped captivity and walked hundreds of miles back home.

In retaliation, the Virginians planned to attack Shawnee villages in Ohio. Major Andrew Lewis amassed more than 300 men, including nearly 100 Cherokee Indians.

March 9, 1832: Politician George Latham Born in Prince William County

Mar 9, 2018
e-WV Encyclopedia / Library of Congress

George Latham was born on March 9, 1832, in Prince William County, Virginia, on what would later become the Bull Run Battlefield.

He moved to Taylor County in 1849 and taught in local schools while studying to become a lawyer. He opened his legal practice in Grafton in 1860.

When the Civil War began the next year, Latham transformed his law office into a military recruiting station for Northern troops. He formed Company B of the 2nd Virginia Infantry and detained them in Grafton long enough to vote against Virginia’s secession from the Union.

West Virginia State Flag
Lulla / Dollar Photo Club

On March 8, 1963, the West Virginia Legislature adopted blue and “old gold” as the official state colors.

Many West Virginians think that blue and “old gold” have always been the state colors, but it didn’t occur officially until West Virginia’s Centennial celebration in 1963.

Prior to that, the state often used blue and gold in ceremonies because those were the official colors of West Virginia University. So, when the legislature adopted blue and “old gold,” it came as a surprise to many West Virginians that we didn’t already have official colors.

e-WV Encyclopedia / Library of Congress

On March 7, 1942, aviator “Spanky” Roberts completed his training at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, becoming one of the first five Tuskegee Airmen.

Roberts, a native of London in eastern Kanawha County, moved to Fairmont as a child. He graduated from Fairmont’s segregated Dunbar High School before earning a degree in mechanical arts from West Virginia State College (now University). He went through the college’s Civilian Pilot Training Program and became the first black licensed pilot in the state.

A new road—known as the James River and Kanawha Turnpike—linked the town of Covington with the falls of the Kanawha River near Gauley Bridge and then continued to the confluence of the Ohio and Big Sandy rivers at Kenova.
e-WV / WV

On March 5, 1880, the James River and Kanawha Canal Company ceased operations.

The original company had been formed by Virginia in 1785, at the urging of George Washington, who’d traveled through the Ohio and Kanawha valleys the previous year. Washington envisioned a navigable water route, with canals, connecting Richmond and the Ohio River.

March 1, 1925: New River Pocahontas Coal Company Acquires Kaymoor

Mar 1, 2018
Kaymoor
Jet Lowe, HAER staff photographer / Library of Congress

On March 1, 1925, the New River Pocahontas Coal Company acquired the Fayette County town of Kaymoor and its mining operations.

The new owner, a huge international company, began shipping coal from Kaymoor to the Atlantic Coast in Virginia, where the coal was used to fuel naval and merchant marine vessels.

WV Hills
E-WV / WV Humanities Council

On February 28, 1963, the legislature adopted two more songs to join “The West Virginia Hills” as official state songs.

The two new tunes were “West Virginia, My Home Sweet Home” by Colonel Julian Hearne Jr. of Wheeling and “This is My West Virginia” by Iris Bell of Charleston. They were added in honor of the state’s centennial.

While “The West Virginia Hills” had been adopted as the official state song only two years before, it had long been the unofficial song—at least in West Virginia classrooms.

He was nicknamed the “Sheik of Seth”
e-WV / WV Humanities Council

John Zontini was born in Boone County on February 28, 1909. To this day, he’s considered one of the greatest athletes in West Virginia history.

He was nicknamed the “Sheik of Seth” because of his great football career at Sherman High School, located at Seth in Boone County. His 1929 rushing average of 27 yards per carry remains a state high school record. In 1931, he also set the state javelin record with a throw of 172 feet, one inch.

Daniel D.T. Farnsworth
E-WV / WV Humanities Council

On February 27, 1869, West Virginia’s first governor, Arthur Boreman, resigned as the state’s chief executive to take a seat in the U.S. Senate. Daniel D. T. Farnsworth, president of the senate, stepped in to fill Boreman’s role, becoming West Virginia’s second, and shortest-serving, governor—since Boreman resigned just before the end of his term.

Five days after Farnsworth became governor, the state’s newly elected governor, William Stevenson, replaced him.

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