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

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.

Mack Day
E-WV / WV Humanities Council

On February 14, 1925, lawman Mack Day was shot dead by a bootlegger at Pageton in McDowell County. The Virginia native had come to McDowell as a young man to mine coal.

He built a 14-room house for his wife and 12 children on Belcher Mountain. He joined the local Odd Fellows, Knights of Pythias, and eventually the Ku Klux Klan, during the Klan’s early-20th-century revival in West Virginia.

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

Author Fanny Kemble Johnson died in Charleston on February 15, 1950, at age 81.

Born in Rockbridge County, Virginia, in 1868, she moved to West Virginia in her late 20s and began her writing career. She and her husband, Vincent Costello, moved from Charleston to Wheeling in 1907, and back to Charleston in 1917.

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

On February 13, 1899, newspaperman Archibald Campbell died at age 65. A graduate of Bethany College, he became editor of the Wheeling Daily Intelligencer in 1856.

At the time, the Intelligencer was the only daily Republican newspaper in Virginia. During Campbell’s first years at the paper, the country was rapidly plunging toward civil war.

February 12, 1901: Congressman Jacob Blair Dies at 79

Feb 12, 2018
Jacob Beeson Blair
e-WV Encyclopedia

Congressman Jacob Blair died in Utah, on February 12, 1901, at age 79. He was born in Parkersburg in 1821 and orphaned at a young age. He studied law under his uncle John Jay Jackson Sr., was admitted to the bar, and then elected prosecuting attorney of Ritchie County.

February 9, 1843: Politician Nathan Goff Jr. Born in Clarksburg

Feb 9, 2018
Nathan Goff Jr.
e-West Virginia Encyclopedia

Politician Nathan Goff Jr. was born in Clarksburg on February 9, 1843. He served in the Union Army during the Civil War, rising from a private to brevet brigadier general. In 1864, he was captured at Moorefield and sent to Richmond’s notorious Libby Prison. He was released in a prisoner exchange personally authorized by President Lincoln.

February 8, 1915: Photographer Volkmar Wentzel Born in Germany

Feb 8, 2018
Volkmar Kurt Wentzel
e-West Virginia Encyclopedia / Peter Wentzel & Viola Wentzel

Photographer Volkmar Wentzel was born in Germany on February 8, 1915. He and his family immigrated to New York State when he was 11. He eventually ended up in Preston County, West Virginia, where he attended high school.

As a teenager, he joined up with some Washingtonians who’d formed an artists’ colony in the forests of Preston County. While working at the artists’ colony, Wentzel built a darkroom in a pump house and began shooting local scenery for postcards.

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 7, 1913, striking miners from the Holly Grove tent encampment in Kanawha County fired on a coal company-owned ambulance and attacked a store at nearby Mucklow.

Their actions triggered one of the most notorious incidents of the bloody Paint Creek-Cabin Creek Strike.

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.

Morris Shawkey
E-WV / WV Humanities Council

Educator Morris Shawkey died on February 6, 1941, at age 72. The Pennsylvania native came to West Virginia in 1895 to teach education at West Virginia Wesleyan.

In 1906, he became superintendent of Kanawha County schools and, in 1909, began three terms as state superintendent of free schools. During this time, he launched a program to build new high schools and junior highs, establish libraries in each school, consolidate schools, bus students, and upgrade teacher standards. Under his leadership, 125 new high schools were built in the state between 1909 and 1921.

February 5, 1942: Lawman Dan Cunningham Dies at 92

Feb 5, 2018
Dan Cunningham
e-West Virginia Encyclopedia / WV State Archives

Dan Cunningham died on February 5, 1942, at age 92. The legendary lawman was involved in some of the most violent and eventful moments in West Virginia history—sometimes finding himself on both sides of the legal system.

February 2, 1895: Preacher Shirley Donnelly Born in Jackson County

Feb 2, 2018
This Week in West Virginia History.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online.

Preacher and historian Shirley Donnelly was born in Jackson County on February 2, 1895. When he was 14, he and his family moved from the village of Rock Castle to Charleston. After attending seminary in Richmond, he became an ordained Baptist minister.

e-West Virginia Encyclopedia

On February 1, 1975, 25 Catholic bishops from Appalachia released a pastoral letter called “This Land is Home to Me.” It was officially distributed from Wheeling College (now Wheeling Jesuit University). 

It was written in response to a report from the Catholic Committee of Appalachia, highlighting the region’s economic and political inequalities. For a year, committee members traveled throughout Appalachia and collected stories of hardship from individuals and from community and church groups. The committee members then folded these stories into the pastoral letter.

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