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

August 25, 1903: Folklorist Pat Gainer Born in Parkersburg

Aug 25, 2017
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

Folklorist Pat Gainer was born in Parkersburg on August 25, 1903. He was raised in the Gilmer County community of Tanner during a time when superstitions, shape-note singing, and working “bees” were commonplace.

When he was only 21, Gainer began traveling the state to record folk songs and tales.

He traced many of the Mountain State’s musical traditions directly to the British Isles, from where the ancestors of many West Virginians originally hailed. Armed with his dulcimer and a clear tenor voice, Gainer regaled listeners with ancient ballads and folk stories.

August 24, 1921: Miners March to Protest Martial Law in Mingo County

Aug 24, 2017
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia / WV State Archives (WVSA), Coal Life Collection

On August 24, 1921, a group of armed miners started out on a long march southeast from Marmet near Charleston.

Their goal was to end the governor’s order of martial law in Mingo County and to wipe out the anti-union mine guard and deputy sheriff systems in Logan and Mingo counties.

E-WV / WV Humanities Council

On August 23, 1970, the first Mormon “stake” in West Virginia was organized in Charleston. It was an important milestone because it demonstrated that the Mormon religion had grown significantly in West Virginia.

E-WV / WV Humanities Council

On August 22, 1872, West Virginians narrowly ratified a new state constitution by less than 5,000 votes, while rejecting a separate proposal that would have restricted office-holding to whites only.

This 1872 version of the constitution, our state’s second, remains in effect today, with amendments. The first state constitution was approved in 1863, just before West Virginia became a state.

August 21, 1915: Jazz Singer Ann Baker Born

Aug 21, 2017
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

Jazz singer Ann Baker was born on August 21, 1915. She got her start performing in Pittsburgh jazz clubs and made her Broadway debut with Louis Armstrong’s band in the early 1940s.

She later joined the bands of Lionel Hampton and Count Basie. 

In 1946, she landed her signature gig, replacing Sarah Vaughan in Billy Eckstine’s band, which included, at different times, jazz legends Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, Art Blakey, and Dexter Gordon.

August 18, 1823: Greenbrier County Pioneer John Stuart Dies at 74

Aug 18, 2017
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

Greenbrier County pioneer John Stuart died on August 18, 1823, at age 74.

As a young man, he helped survey the Greenbrier Valley and, in 1770, built the county’s first known mill —in the community of Frankford. He was given command of Fort Spring, which became a place of refuge for early settlers in the event of Indian attacks.

August 17, 1944: Heroic Actions Earns Fayete Co. Native Medal of Honor

Aug 17, 2017
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

Stanley Bender’s heroic actions on August 17, 1944, would earn him the Medal of Honor. Bender was born in Fayette County in 1909, the son of a coal miner and Russian immigrant. His family moved to Chicago in 1930, and Bender enlisted in the Army in 1939.

E-WV / WV Humanities Council

On August 16, 1890, Salem Academy in Harrison County changed its name to Salem College. The academy had opened its doors a year earlier with the help of the Seventh-Day Baptist denomination. One of the school’s founders was Jesse Randolph, the grandfather of future U.S. Senator and Salem alumnus Jennings Randolph.

It started with a single building on Main Street in Salem, which was in the heart of an oil boom at the time. Around 1900, a drunken mob with torches tried to burn down the college, but the school’s president backed down the rioters with a pistol and a shotgun.

E-WV / West Virginia Humanities Council

Coal operator Joseph Beury was born in Pennsylvania on August 15, 1842. During the Civil War, he served as a Union captain, though he was later known as “colonel” in the West Virginia coalfields.

Beury worked in his father’s Pennsylvania anthracite mines and brought that knowledge with him to the New River Gorge about 1872. He established the Fayette County town of Quinnimont and opened the New River Coal Company mine. When the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway arrived the following year, he shipped the first load of coal from the New River Coalfield.

August 14, 1894: Entertainer Ada 'Bricktop' Smith Born in Alderson

Aug 14, 2017
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

  On August 14, 1894, entertainer Ada Beatrice Queen Victoria Louise Virginia Smith was born at Alderson. At age five, Ada made her stage debut in Chicago, appearing in Uncle Tom’s Cabin. By age 16, she was performing on the vaudeville circuit. Soon afterward, a New York saloon keeper gave her the nickname ‘‘Bricktop’’ for her blazing red hair, unusual for an African-American.

e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

On August 11, 1958, the Congress of Racial Equality—or CORE—launched a sit-in movement at several Charleston lunch counters. Prior to this time, African-Americans in Charleston could order takeout food at many white-owned diners but were not allowed to sit down and eat.

e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

General “Pete” Everest was born in Fairmont on August 10, 1920. A pioneer pilot of rocket planes, Everest once earned the nickname of “the fastest man alive.”

During World War II, he first flew in the European Theater, completing 94 combat missions. Everest later flew 67 combat missions in the China-Burma-India region. During this time, he destroyed four Japanese aircraft before being shot down in May 1945.

He spent the last few months of the war as a Japanese prisoner of war.

E-WV / West Virginia Humanities Council

Photographer Arnout “Sonny” Hyde Jr. died on August 9, 2005, at age 67. The Bluefield native was best known for his work with Wonderful West Virginia magazine. His stunning images have appeared in calendars, books, and magazines, including Life, National Geographic, Readers Digest, Southern Living, and National Wildlife.

Eldora Nuzum
E-WV / West Virginia Humanities Council

On August 8, 1974, the Elkins Inter-Mountain published its daily newspaper, but it was far from business as usual. The August 8 issue had to be printed in Parkersburg because the newspaper’s building in Elkins had been destroyed by fire the day before.

e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

In a referendum on August 7, 1877, West Virginia voters chose Charleston to be the permanent state capital. The capital’s location had become a running joke, as government records had been moved from Wheeling to Charleston and then back to Wheeling again, all in 14 years.The capital was on the move so much on West Virginia riverboats, it earned the nickname of “the floating capital.”

August 4, 1805: Railroader Ralph Swinburn Born in England

Aug 4, 2017
Winifrede Railroad
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia / West Virginia Humanities Council

Railroader Ralph Swinburn was born in England on August 4, 1805.

As a boy, he was working on a coal-hauling railway, when he met George Stephenson, a pioneer in steam locomotives. This friendship steered Swinburn toward a career in railway civil engineering—first in England, then in America.

He emigrated to the United States in 1851 and landed a job with the Winifrede Mining and Manufacturing Company in Kanawha County. Winifrede was one of the earliest coal operations in present West Virginia.

August 3, 1977: Coal Operator W. P. Tams Dies at 94

Aug 3, 2017
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

Coal operator W. P. Tams died on August 3, 1977, at age 94. Tams studied engineering at Virginia Tech before going to work in 1904 for coal operator Sam Dixon in the southern West Virginia coalfields. Four years later, Tams launched his own company, known as Gulf Smokeless Coal in the new Winding Gulf Coalfield. He founded the Raleigh County town of Tams as his company’s headquarters and later acquired another coal operation in neighboring Wyoming County.

Interstate 68/79
E-WV / West Virginia Humanities Council

On August 2, 1991, Interstate 68 was completed from Interstate 79 eastward through Monongalia and Preston counties into Maryland. The new expressway linked Morgantown to Hancock, Maryland, and connected northern West Virginia with Baltimore and Washington via I-70. I-68 was an upgrade to Route 48, which was completed in the 1970s as Corridor E. The Appalachian Corridor System was a ‘60s-era project by the Appalachian Regional Commission to tie together rural sections of Appalachia.

Weirton Steel
E-WV / West Virginia Humanities Council

On August 1, 1918, industrialist Ernest Weir renamed his company Weirton Steel. He’d founded the company with J. A. Phillips in Clarksburg in 1905 as Phillips Sheet & Tin Plate. After Phillips’ death, Weir moved his company from Clarksburg to a southern Hancock County farm that would become the city of Weirton.

e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

  Labor leader Bill Blizzard died on July 31, 1958, at age 65. The Kanawha County native was the son of two passionate union activists.

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