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 / via West Virginia State Archives

Governor William Marland was born in Illinois on March 26, 1918. When he was seven, his family moved to Wyoming County. After graduating from WVU Law School, he quickly moved up the political ranks. He was appointed state attorney general and, in 1952, was elected governor at age 34.

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.

e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia / via West Virginia State Archives (WVSA), Coal Life Collection

The West Virginia Mine Workers Union was founded on March 19, 1931. It was a radical alternative to the United Mine Workers of America, known as the UMWA. The new union was the brainchild of Frank Keeney, who had been a key UMWA leader during the West Virginia Mine Wars.

After the 1921 Battle of Blair Mountain, UMWA national president John L. Lewis began exerting greater control over local union matters. The year after the battle, Keeney had agreed to a temporary wage cut for miners. Lewis used the wage cuts as an excuse to fire Keeney.

e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

On March 18, 1932, convicted mass murderer Harry Powers was executed at the West Virginia Penitentiary in Moundsville. The story of his grisly murders unfolded in late 1931, with lurid details that sounded more like a pulp fiction novel than reality.

Over time, the Clarksburg resident had been scamming untold wealthy women through lonely hearts club magazines. When his lies started catching up with him, he murdered two of the women: Dorothy Lemke of Massachusetts and Asta Eicher of suburban Chicago. He also killed three of Eicher’s children. The victims were found at a garage owned by Powers in Quiet Dell, south of Clarksburg.

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.

e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

On March 12, 1850, Wheeling Hospital was chartered. Founded by Catholic Bishop Richard Whelan and Dr. Simon Hullihen, it was the only medical facility of its kind between Pittsburgh and Cincinnati.

In 1856, the hospital moved to the mansion of Michael Sweeney in North Wheeling. It would remain at this location for the next 119 years. In 1864, the U.S. Army took over the facility and used it to treat wounded Civil War soldiers. Both Union and Confederate troops were cared for side by side.

e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia / via Davis & Elkins College

Politician and industrialist Henry Gassaway Davis died on March 11, 1916, at age 92. As a young man, he’d been a brakeman on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. He invested his savings and his wife’s inheritance in cheap, undeveloped land in what is now West Virginia. The timber and coal resources on that land eventually made Davis one of the state’s richest men.

e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia / Design by Joseph H. Diss Debar

  Joseph H. Diss Debar was born in France on March 6, 1820. He immigrated to the United States at age 22. On his voyage across the Atlantic, he happened to meet and become friends with author Charles Dickens.

Diss Debar eventually wound up in Parkersburg as a land agent. For 29 years, he lived in either Parkersburg or the Doddridge County community of St. Clara, which he founded for German-Swiss immigrants. During this time, he sketched numerous people and scenes, providing some of our best images of life on the western Virginia frontier.

e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

  On March 5, 1963, country music star Hawkshaw Hawkins was killed in a plane crash in Tennessee. Born in Huntington in 1921, Hawkins got his start in music after trading five trapped rabbits for his first guitar. In the late 1930s, Hawkins performed on radio stations WSAZ in Huntington and WCHS in Charleston before joining the Army. During World War II, he fought in the Battle of Bulge and earned four battle stars in 15 months of combat.

e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia / Library of Congress

On March 4, 1866, Alexander Campbell died at age 77. A native of Ireland, he immigrated to America in 1809 and settled in present-day Bethany two years later. During his lifetime, he was variously a preacher, philosopher, author, scholar, publisher, orator, and sheep farmer. He’s best remembered, though, for two lasting contributions.

First, he helped found the Disciples of Christ. Today, the Christian Church—as it’s commonly known—is one of the largest Protestant denominations ever founded in America. Then, in 1840, he established Bethany College and served as its president until his death. Today, Bethany is the oldest degree-granting institution in West Virginia.

e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia / via Earl Benton

  On February 26, 1972, a coal mining dam collapsed at the head of Buffalo Creek in Logan County. Over the next three hours, 132-million gallons of black water raged down the hollow. The deluge obliterated or badly damaged 17 communities and claimed the lives of 125 people, including entire families. The disaster also injured 1000 people and left 80 percent of Buffalo Creek’s residents homeless.

e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia / via Doug Chadwick / Goldenseal

  Newspaperman Jim Comstock was born in Richwood on February 25, 1911. After serving in the Navy during World War II, he returned to his hometown and established the Richwood News Leader. Then, in 1957, he founded the legendary West Virginia Hillbilly newspaper. The Hillbilly became a forum for Comstock’s conservative politics and wry wit.

A consummate practical joker, Comstock once injected ramp juice into his ink as a nod to Richwood’s annual Feast of the Ramson. After the pungent newspapers were mailed to subscribers, Comstock was reprimanded by the U.S. postmaster general for sending the offensive-smelling ink through the mail. And he founded the University of Hard Knocks, an honorary society for successful individuals who never completed college.

Comstock also published the book Pa and Ma and Mr. Kennedy and the 50-volume West Virginia Heritage Encyclopedia. 

Cecelia Mason / Shepherd University

Author Homer Hickam Jr. was born in Coalwood on February 19, 1943. After serving in Vietnam, he worked for NASA for 17 years as an aerospace engineer. During this time, he wrote his first book, Torpedo Junction. His second book, published in 1998, brought Hickam international acclaim.

e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia / West Virginia Humanities Council

United Mine Workers President John L. Lewis
E-WV

Union leader John L. Lewis was born on February 12, 1880. Although he never lived in West Virginia, he had a profound impact on the Mountain State.

In 1920, Lewis became president of the United Mine Workers of America, known as the UMWA. It was in the midst of the West Virginia Mine Wars—a period of violent conflict between coal operators and miners. After the Mine Wars ended, UMWA membership declined rapidly in West Virginia. By the end of the ’20s, the union had fewer than 1000 dues-paying members in the state.

Thomas Bennett, Corporal, United States ArmyMedal of Honor Recipient
E-WV

On February 11, 1969, medic Tom Bennett was killed in action in Vietnam. As a conscientious objector, he was perhaps the Vietnam War’s most unlikely recipient of the nation’s Medal of Honor.

After being captured in 1776, Lee supplied the British with plans to defeat the Americans.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online. / WV Humanities Council

General Charles Lee was born in England on February 7, 1732. As a young man, he served with distinction in the British army before immigrating to America in the early 1770s. When the Revolutionary War began, he sided with the Americans and served as a major general in the Continental Army.

Henderson played the tournament with only eight players due to budget restrictions on travel.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online. / WV Humanities Council

For years after Haley’s death, stories circulated about the fiddler’s remarkable talent.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online. / WV Humanities Council

Legendary fiddler “Blind Ed” Haley died in Ashland, Kentucky, on February 4, 1951. The Logan County native never made any commercial recordings during his lifetime because he feared that record companies would cheat a blind musician.

e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online. / WV Humanities Council

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