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

It devastated communities along the entire 1000-mile stretch of the Ohio.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online. / WV Humanities Council

On January 28, 1937, the Ohio River crested in Huntington nearly 20 feet above flood stage. Days earlier, it’d crested at the same level in Parkersburg and 10 feet above flood stage in Wheeling.

The Ohio River had always been prone to flooding. Just 10 months before, the Ohio had hit record levels at Wheeling.

He later recalled that the spirit of God had told him to build crosses across the countryside.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online, Charleston Newspapers, Frank Herrera / WV Humanities Council

On January 27, 1925, the Reverend Bernard Coffindaffer was born at Craigsville in Nicholas County.

During World War II, he served in the Marines and was wounded on Iwo Jima. After the war, he returned to West Virginia and amassed a small fortune through a coal-washing business.

at least 476 men died of silicosis while working in the tunnel
E-WV / WV Humanities Council

On January 25, 1936, Newsweek magazine ran a story about deadly cases of silicosis associated with the Hawks Nest Tunnel construction in Fayette County.

It was the first time many Americans had heard of the tunnel disaster, which the magazine attributed to an “atmosphere of deadly dust.”

In 1875, Alexander Martin left WVU
E-WV / WV Humanities Council

Educator and clergyman Alexander Martin was born in Scotland on January 24, 1822. When he was 14, he moved with his parents to Jefferson County, Ohio, adjoining the Northern Panhandle.

Martin became principal of Kingwood Academy in Preston County in 1846 and later taught at and served as principal of Clarksburg’s Northwestern Academy.

He also was a Methodist pastor in Charleston, Moundsville, and Wheeling. During the Civil War, Martin became the West Virginia president of the Christian Commission, a social services agency that relieved some of the war’s hardships.

UMWA District 17, encompassing most of West Virginia
E-WV / WV Humanities Council

On January 23, 1890, the United Mine Workers of America was formed in Columbus, Ohio. Three months later, UMWA District 17, encompassing most of West Virginia, held its first meeting in Wheeling.

District President M. F. Moran immediately launched what would become an extraordinary struggle to unionize the state’s coal mines over the next four decades.

At the beginning of the Civil War, Virginia seceded from the Union, and Jackson was appointed a Confederate brigadier general.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online. / WV Humanities Council

Thomas Jackson was born in Clarksburg around midnight on the evening of January 20, 1824. He was raised by an uncle at Jackson’s Mill in Lewis County and then attended the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

He fought gallantly during the Mexican War but resigned from the army after the war.

He spent the next 10 years teaching philosophy and artillery at the Virginia Military Institute.

Hardy’s hanging probably would have been the end of the story if not for a ballad written about the event.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online. / WV Humanities Council

John Hardy was hanged in the McDowell County seat of Welch on January 19, 1894.

The black railroad worker had been convicted of murdering a man in a gambling dispute at present-day Eckman.

Hardy was just one of tens of thousands of African Americans who poured into southern West Virginia in the late 1800s and early 1900s to work in the coal and railroad industries.

Hardy’s hanging probably would have been the end of the story if not for a ballad written about the event. The song circulated by word of mouth, with the details changing over time.

Neely, who died at age 83, was one of the leading political figures in West Virginia history.
E-WV / WV Humanities Council

On January 18, 1958, Matthew Neely died in Washington, D. C., while serving in the U.S. Senate. Neely, who died at age 83, was one of the leading political figures in West Virginia history.

Over his long political career, the Democrat served two terms as mayor of Fairmont, five terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, one term as governor, and parts of five terms in the U.S. Senate.

Perhaps most significantly, though, Neely headed the powerful pro-labor liberal faction of the state’s Democratic Party from the 1930s until his death.

In November 1918, just as Nitro was nearing completion, World War I ended.
E-WV / WV Humanities Council

On January 17, 1918, the U.S. War Department hired a New York engineering firm to build a nitrocellulose plant along the Kanawha-Putnam county border. The DuPont Company had previously chosen the site to manufacture munitions for World War I.

However, there were political objections to one company receiving such a large contract, so DuPont abandoned its plans, and the federal government picked up the task.

At Caperton’s urging, the legislature enacted a major reorganization of state government, new ethics legislation, and the largest tax increase in state history.
E-WV / WV Humanities Council

Gaston Caperton—our state’s 31st governor—was sworn into office on January 16, 1989. He was born in Charleston in 1940 and eventually worked at his father’s insurance company, where he rose to president.

By the late 1980s, the McDonough-Caperton Insurance Group was one of the nation’s largest privately owned insurance companies.

The Register was then published in the afternoons and on Sundays.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online. / WV Humanities Council

Newspaperman Charles Hodel was born in Ohio on January 13, 1889. After learning the printing trade, he moved to Beckley at age 24 and became editor and general manager of the Raleigh Register newspaper.

Thanks to the rapidly expanding coal industry, Beckley was a booming town.

In 1929, Hodel and his associates acquired the Register’s competitor, the Post-Herald, which became Beckley’s morning paper. The Register was then published in the afternoons and on Sundays.

. One of the most significant established ‘‘Mother’s Pensions.’’
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online. / WV Humanities Council

Anna Johnson Gates died on January 12, 1939, just before her 50th birthday. In the 1910s, the East Bank native fought for women’s suffrage.

After women were granted the vote nationally in 1920, she served as the associate chair of Kanawha County’s Democratic Executive Committee.

Then, in 1922, she was elected to the West Virginia Legislature, becoming the first woman ever to serve in that body.

Senator John Kenna
E-WV / WV Humanities Council

U.S. Senator John Kenna died in Washington, D.C., on January 11, 1893, at age 44. He was born in Kanawha County. When he was just a child, his father was shot and killed in Charleston. Afterward, his mother moved the family to Missouri, where Kenna served in the Confederate Army for about a year during the Civil War.

Pond Creek Number 1
E-WV / WV Humanities Council

On January 10, 1940, the Pond Creek Number 1 mine exploded at Bartley in McDowell County. The blast killed 91 miners; 47 men escaped. Most of the men who perished died instantly. Although, some asphyxiated following the explosion, and two left farewell letters.

Pond Creek Number 1 was a deep-shaft mine owned by an affiliate of Island Creek Coal. Investigators blamed methane gas for the fatal explosion since the mine’s coal dust had been treated properly.

On January 9, 1986, West Virginia sold its first “scratch-off” lottery tickets.
E-WV / WV Humanities Council

On January 9, 1986, West Virginia sold its first “scratch-off” lottery tickets. The state lottery had been authorized by an amendment to the state constitution, passed by voters in 1984.

As the number of lottery games expanded, so did revenues. Within eight years, instant ticket sales had increased by 336 percent and would eventually bring in more than a billion dollars a year.

At the end of the Civil War, Lamon was dispatched to Richmond, making him unavailable to guard the president on that fateful night at Ford’s Theater.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online. / WV Humanities Council

On January 6, 1828, Ward Hill Lamon was born in Jefferson County. He was raised at Bunker Hill, in Berkeley County, before moving to Danville, Illinois, at age 18. In 1852, Lamon’s life took a historic twist when he became the law partner of a former congressman—Abraham Lincoln.

This new Victorian Capitol was a massive stone-and-brick structure built on the site of Charleston’s first capitol.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online. / WV Humanities Council

On January 5, 1887, Governor E. Willis Wilson hosted a ball and banquet to dedicate West Virginia’s new capitol building in downtown Charleston. The event marked the end of what had become a running joke in the state’s early years—the location of the capital city. In the first two decades of statehood, the capital had already been moved from Wheeling to Charleston and back to Wheeling, again.

The dedication event in Charleston marked the capital’s final journey—at least in terms of host cities.

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.

Rabbi Samuel Cooper
E-WV / WV Humanities Council

Rabbi Samuel Cooper died in Florida on January 2, 2006, at age 97. The Toronto native visited Charleston in 1932 to lead the High Holiday services for the B’nai Jacob Synagogue. The congregation was so impressed that a delegation followed him on his return home, caught up with him in Baltimore, and hired him as full-time rabbi. Cooper returned to Charleston to begin nearly a half-century in the B’nai Jacob pulpit.

He was the synagogue’s first rabbi born in North America. He guided the congregation from old-style Orthodox Judaism to a more modern Orthodox perspective.

State Capitol burns.
E-WV / WV Humanities Council

On January 3, 1921, the West Virginia state capitol building in downtown Charleston was destroyed by fire. Originally dedicated in 1885 and completed in 1887, the 85-room Victorian structure was our state’s fourth capitol—and the second in Charleston.

Firefighters struggled to put out the blaze due to the intense heat, and rescue efforts were pulled back after one firefighter was killed by a collapsing masonry wall.