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

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.

e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

On July 21, 1924, actor Don Knotts was born in Morgantown, where his mother ran a boarding house. During World War II, he honed his comedic skills entertaining troops in the Army.

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.

General John Hunt Morgan
E-WV / WV Humanities Council

On July 19, 1863, Confederate General John Hunt Morgan’s daring raid across Kentucky, Indiana, and Ohio came to an end on Buffington Island, located in the Ohio River near Ravenswood in Jackson County.

Morgan’s raid was the only time a large Southern force entered Indiana or Ohio during the Civil War. His 2,400 raiders led local militias and growing numbers of Union troops on a wild chase across three states.

On July 18, 1877, Governor Henry Mathews arrived in Martinsburg—on the scene of the first nationwide strike in U.S. history. Baltimore and Ohio Railroad workers had walked off the job in response to a pay cut. The strike soon spread along the rails from Baltimore to Chicago.

  

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.

William "Big Bill" Lias Arrested, September 26, 1952
collections of the Ohio County Public Library Archives.

Gangster “Big Bill” Lias was born on July 14, 1900 in either Greece or Wheeling. The uncertainty over his birthplace would later derail the government’s efforts to deport him.

  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.

John Warren Davis
E-WV / WV Humanities Council

Educator John Warren Davis died in New Jersey on July 12, 1980, at age 92. The Georgia native moved to Kanawha County in 1919 to become president of what was then called West Virginia Collegiate Institute. 

He quickly bolstered the school’s faculty and curriculum, making it one of the first four black colleges in the United States—and the first public college in West Virginia—to be accredited. In 1929, it became West Virginia State College—and is now a University.

Historian and Businessman J.P. Hale
E-WV / WV Humanities Council

Historian, physician, and businessman John P. Hale died on July 11, 1902, at age 78. The great-grandson of the legendary Mary Draper Ingles, Hale was born in present Virginia before moving to the Kanawha Valley in 1840.

He earned a medical degree but decided that medicine wasn’t as lucrative as the booming salt business. By 1860, his salt works, located between Charleston and Malden, was possibly the largest in North America.

e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

Physician Jesse Bennet was born in Pennsylvania on July 10, 1769. He studied medicine in Philadelphia under Dr. Benjamin Rush, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. In the early 1790s, Bennet settled in Rockingham County, Virginia. In 1794, he successfully performed a Caesarean section on his wife—the first operation of its kind in U.S. history. The emergency procedure, although primitive by today’s standards, saved the lives of both his wife and infant daughter.

e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

The Battle of Laurel Hill, also known as the Battle of Laurel Mountain or Belington, began on July 7, 1861. A month earlier, Southern troops had retreated south after their loss at the Battle of Philippi. Confederate commander General Robert S. Garnett had seized a key mountain pass and set up his defenses at the foot of Laurel Mountain, located in eastern Barbour County. Beginning on July 7, Union troops under General Thomas Morris attacked Garnett’s men in a series of skirmishes. The two sides fought for the next five days. In the end, the Confederates were overrun. 

July 6, 1934: Coal Operator Sam Dixon Dies at 77

Jul 6, 2017
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

Coal operator Sam Dixon died in Raleigh County on July 6, 1934, at age 77. A native of England, Dixon emigrated to Fayette County in the 1870s and worked for a while in his uncle’s coal mine. In 1893, he and a partner opened their own mine in Fayette County, quickly followed by several other mines.

Pvt. Kenneth Shadrick
Wikipedia

On July 5, 1950, Army private Kenneth Shadrick of Wyoming County was killed in action, becoming one of the first U.S. servicemen killed in action during the Korean War.

He was brought down by North Korean machine-gun fire in the opening days of the conflict. Shortly thereafter, Time magazine ran a profile of Shadrick, claiming he was the first U.S. military casualty of the war. However, it’s now believed that other Americans died earlier on that same day.

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

Wertz Field opened at Institute in Kanawha County on July 4, 1930. Named for Charleston’s mayor, it was the first airport in the Kanawha Valley to offer scheduled airline service.

In 1933, American Airlines began passenger service between Washington and Chicago via Wertz Field, and, in 1935, more flights and air freight service were added.

Passengers could wait for flights in a small but modern administration building. Wertz had three grass runways, each just long enough to accommodate an early Douglas DC-3 but inadequate for most larger planes of the 1930s.

WV Division of Tourism (WVDT) / David Fattaleh

July 3, 1863, was a pivotal day in the Civil War. On that day, the Union Army scored a key victory in the Pennsylvania town of Gettysburg, and Confederates offered their surrender at Vicksburg, Mississippi. The Battle of Gettysburg ended the Confederates’ last major invasion of the North and is viewed by some as the war’s turning point. The Confederate loss of Vicksburg was perhaps more important because it opened the way for the North to seize control of the entire Mississippi River, cutting the Confederacy in half.

e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

On June 30, 1904, the Kelly Axe and Tool Company acquired 53 acres of land along the Kanawha River on the West End of Charleston. It eventually became home to the world’s largest axe factory.

The company was founded in 1874 by William C. Kelly, who established his first factory in Kentucky before relocating to Indiana and then West Virginia. Kelly was attracted to the Kanawha Valley by the availability of abundant natural gas and good access to river and rail transportation.

June 29, 1919: West Virginia State Police Established

Jun 29, 2017
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

The West Virginia State Police was established on June 29, 1919. Governor John Jacob Cornwell had pushed to form the unit in response to the mine wars, which were rocking southern West Virginia. Cornwell had grown frustrated with ineffective sheriffs and constables who had to face reelection and, at the same time, tended to take sides in labor struggles. Also, coal companies were hiring some deputies to serve as private security guards, and coal company guards were being sworn in as deputies—all of which angered miners.

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

Bishop Matthew Wesley Clair Sr. died in Covington, Kentucky, on June 28, 1943, at age 77. He was born in Monroe County to former slaves just months after the Civil War ended.

His family moved to Charleston, where Clair joined Simpson Methodist Episcopal Church. He graduated from college in 1889 and began a four-stint leading the Methodist Episcopal Church in Harpers Ferry.

WHIS AM Bluefield
E-WV / WV Humanities Council

On June 27, 1929, one of West Virginia’s pioneer radio stations, WHIS, hit the airwaves in Bluefield, featuring a performance by the local Lions Club quartet.

The station was the brainchild of Hugh and Jim Shott, the sons of local newspaper owner and future congressman Hugh Ike Shott. During its first two decades, WHIS expanded from 100 watts to 5,000. In 1939, WHIS became affiliated with NBC, but local programming remained important.

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