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

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.

Lydia Boggs Shepherd
e-WV Encyclopedia

Society hostess Lydia Boggs Shepherd Cruger was born in present Berkeley County on February 26, 1766. Her family moved near Wheeling in 1774.

Lydia and her husband, Moses Shepherd, became wealthy landowners in the Wheeling area. Their magnificent home, Shepherd Hall, hosted six U.S. presidents. One of the most famous stories about Lydia involves a visit from Senator Henry Clay.

February 23, 1884: Writer Mary Meek Atkeson Born in Putnam County

Feb 23, 2018
Wikimedia Commons / West Virginia University

Writer Mary Meek Atkeson was born at Buffalo in Putnam County on February 23, 1884. She earned a bachelor's degree and a master's degree from West Virginia University. Her master's thesis catalogued the works of 87 writers in what is now West Virginia dating back to colonial times. She later earned a Ph.D. from The Ohio State University and taught at WVU.

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

Feb 22, 2018
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.”

This Week in West Virginia History is a co-production of West Virginia Public Broadcasting and the West Virginia Humanities Council.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online. / e-WV

On February 21, 1913, the legislature passed an act creating a workers’ compensation system.

It had been a major campaign issue for incoming Governor Henry Hatfield. In his work as a coalfields physician, Hatfield recognized the need to support injured workers financially.

The system went into effect in October 1913. In the case of a fatal accident, workers’ compensation paid the funeral expenses of the deceased and a stipend for widows and children. In the case of partial disability, workers received half their salaries.

Bluefield State College
E-WV / WV Humanities Council

On February 21, 1895, the legislature established the Bluefield Colored Institute, which would become Bluefield State College.

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, thousands of African-Americans moved into Mercer, McDowell, Raleigh, and Fayette counties to work in the mines and for the railroads. At the time, there was a shortage of higher education opportunities for blacks in West Virginia, particularly black teachers.

E-WV / WV Humanities Council

On February 20, 1883, the Grand Army of the Republic met in Clarksburg to form a state chapter, or department. The GAR, as it was known, was a national fraternal organization of Civil War veterans who fought on the Union side.

Formed nationally in 1866, the GAR’s membership grew slowly at first. It wasn’t until the 1880s that its numbers began to take off. By 1890, there were more than 400,000 members across the country.

Wikimedia Commons / User Fir0002

On February 20, 1995, the Golden Delicious apple was officially named the state fruit of West Virginia. It’s one of two popular apples that originated in the Mountain State. The first was the Grimes Golden, discovered in the early 1800s on the Brooke County farm of Thomas Grimes.

Legend has it that the Grimes Golden tree grew from a seed planted by John Chapman, better known as Johnny Appleseed. The original Grimes Golden tree blew down in 1905, after bearing fruit for a century.

February 19, 1908: The Eccentric Orval Brown Born in Clay County

Feb 19, 2018
e-WV Encyclopedia

An eccentric who would become known as the Clay County Wild Man was born near Lizemores on February 19, 1908. Orval Brown grew up fairly conventionally. He lived on his family's farm, went to school through eighth grade, loved to read, and played outdoors. But, even from an early age, he didn’t like to wear many clothes.

By the time he was 20, Brown had become a local legend. Stories spread about a Tarzan-like man who dressed in a loin cloth and lived in a cave. People paid him a quarter to have their picture taken with him. And he'd sell photos of himself at carnivals and fairs.

On February 16, 1917, the West Virginia Legislature established what was then known as the West Virginia State Colored Tuberculosis Sanitarium at Denmar. It opened at a time when the state’s public institutions were segregated by race. The Pocahontas County facility treated African American patients who suffered from TB. It was part of a movement by black legislators to build more facilities for African Americans. Prior to that, African Americans with TB had to be sent to a facility in Virginia.

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