This Week in West Virginia History

January 22, 1810: State Founder Daniel Lamb Born in Pennsylvania

6 hours ago
Daniel Lamb
West Virginia State Archives

State founder Daniel Lamb was born in Pennsylvania on January 22, 1810. Lamb’s family moved to Wheeling when he was 13. He was elected city clerk at age 21 and worked for two Wheeling banks and an insurance company.

When the Civil War began and Virginia cast its lot with the Confederacy, Daniel Lamb became a leading pro-Union figure in Wheeling. He was a member of the West Virginia Constitutional Convention and the state’s first legislature. The first codification of West Virginia’s laws, known as the Lamb Code, was begun by Lamb but finished by James H. Ferguson.

January 19, 1818: Virginia General Assembly Creates Preston County

Jan 19, 2018
Preston County
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia / WV Humanities Council

On January 19, 1818, the Virginia General Assembly created Preston County from the eastern part of Monongalia County.

Industry in Preston County began to take off in the 1830s with the completion of the Northwestern Turnpike, which connected Winchester, Virginia, with the Ohio River. Over such roads, teamsters hauled away Preston’s agricultural products and brought back commercial goods. Today, U.S. 50 follows the route of the turnpike.

January 18, 1937: Homer Holt Becomes W.Va.'s 20th Governor

Jan 18, 2018
Governor Homer Holt (1898-1976).
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia / WV State Archives (WVSA)

On January 18, 1937, Democrat Homer Holt became the state’s 20th governor. Just four years earlier, the Lewisburg native had been swept into statewide office as attorney general in a Democratic wave that ended the Republicans’ long-standing domination of West Virginia politics. He was only 34 at the time.

Becoming attorney general during the darkest days of the Great Depression, he worked with Governor H. Guy Kump to shore up the state’s finances.

 Sumner was the first school for African American children in present-day West Virginia and south of the Mason-Dixon Line.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online. / WV Humanities Council

Robert Simmons died at his Parkersburg home on January 16, 1892. A free black man during the days of slavery, he moved to Parkersburg in 1841 and earned a living as a barber. He and his wife Sarah worried that their nine children wouldn’t receive a proper education.

So, in 1862, he and other free black men established Sumner School in Parkersburg. Sumner was the first school for African American children in present-day West Virginia and south of the Mason-Dixon Line.

January 15, 2012: Former Governor Hulett Smith Dies in Arizona

Jan 15, 2018
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

Former Governor Hulett Smith died in Arizona on January 15, 2012, at age 93. Born in Beckley, Smith was surrounded by business and politics during his youth. His father, Joe L. Smith, was a newspaper publisher, bank president, mayor of Beckley, state senator, congressman, and state Democratic Party chairman.

January 12, 1880: W.Va. National Guard Puts Down the First Coal Strike

Jan 12, 2018
Photo of coal miners in West Virginia, 1908
Wikimedia commons

On January 12, 1880, West Virginia National Guard troops arrived at Hawks Nest in Fayette County to put down one of the state’s first coal strikes. The strike started at Montgomery when coal operators told their union miners that nonunion competition from the nearby Hawks Nest mines was hurting business.

In 1979, Governor Jay Rockefeller named her state poet laureate.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online. / WV Humanities Council

West Virginia Poet Laureate Louise McNeill was born on her family’s Pocahontas County farm on January 9, 1911. Her first book, Gauley Mountain, was published in 1939. In it, she peppered her poems with the speech and dialect she’d grown up with.

With its rich tapestry of stories and characters, Gauley Mountain is still hailed as a classic work of American poetry.

Over the next few decades, she taught college English but didn’t publish another major collection until 1972.

January 8, 1926: Comedian, TV Host Soupy Sales Born

Jan 8, 2018
Soupy Sales
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

Comedian Milton Supman was born on January 8, 1926. Changing his name to Soupy Sales, he became a major TV star in the 1960s.

Although Sales was born in North Carolina, he was raised in Huntington, graduated from Huntington High School, and earned a journalism degree from Marshall College (now University). He started his comedy career as a script writer and disc jockey at WHTN Radio in Huntington. At night, he played club dates throughout the Tri-State area and honed his witty slapstick style.

January 5, 1810: Village of Guyandotte Established

Jan 5, 2018
wikimedia Commons / JaGa

On January 5, 1810, the Virginia General Assembly established the village of Guyandotte at the confluence of the Guyandotte and Ohio rivers in Cabell County.

By the late 1830s, Guyandotte was a popular Ohio River port and a busy stagecoach stop on the James River and Kanawha Turnpike. The town’s gristmill was supposedly the largest between Cincinnati and Pittsburgh.

In November 1861, Confederate troops won a battle at Guyandotte. The next day, Northern troops took back control of the town. Incensed by local support for the Confederacy, the soldiers set fire to the town.

In this Jan. 2, 2007 file photo, crosses, wreaths and a candle lay at the Sago miners' memorial in Sago, W.Va., on the one-year anniversary of the mine explosion that trapped and killed 12 miners near Buckhannon.
Jeff Gentner / Associated Press

An explosion at the Sago mine in Upshur County killed 12 men on January 2, 2006. The initial methane blast at 6:30 a.m. killed one worker. Twelve men sought refuge from the carbon monoxide fumes, but 11 men were dead by the time rescuers reached them 41 hours later.

December 29, 1970: "Take Me Home, Country Roads" Is Complete

Dec 29, 2017
John Denver
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

On December 29, 1970, songwriters Bill Danoff, Taffy Nivert, and John Denver finished writing what would become one of the most popular tunes in history and one of West Virginia’s official state songs. “Take Me Home, Country Roads” also branded the Mountain State with its most recognizable slogan: “almost heaven.”

December 28, 1879: Brigadier General Billy Mitchell Born in France

Dec 28, 2017
Brigadier General William "Billy" Mitchell
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia / United States Air Force

Brigadier General Billy Mitchell was born in France on December 28, 1879. By 1921, he’d become chief of the Army Air Service. After seeing the potential military impact of aircraft during World War I, he wanted to demonstrate how planes could be used to quell civil unrest at home.

Hayslett continued making instruments well into his nineties.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online. / WV Humanities Council

Harold Hayslett was born in Putnam County on December 26, 1917. After serving in France during World War II, he worked as a pipefitter for Union Carbide in South Charleston. He retired in 1980 after 33 years of service.

While working at Carbide, he started a side hobby—making violins, cellos, and other instruments. His reputation spread quickly—first locally, and then worldwide. The Violin Society of America honored Hayslett on several occasions.

December 25, 1937: Statesman Newton Baker Dies at 66 in Cleveland

Dec 25, 2017
Newton Diehl Baker
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia / Library of Congress

Statesman Newton Baker died in Cleveland on Christmas Day 1937 at age 66. The Martinsburg native earned a law degree in 1894 and practiced law briefly in his home town. In 1896, he became private secretary to U.S. Postmaster General William L. Wilson, a native of Charles Town and former president of West Virginia University. After a year in Washington, Baker resumed his Martinsburg law practice before moving to Cleveland, Ohio, where he served as city solicitor and mayor. 

December 22, 1981: Louis Watson Chappell Dies at 91

Dec 22, 2017
Louis Chappell
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia / West Virginia Historical Photographs Collection

Louis Watson Chappell, a leading authority on West Virginia folk music, died on December 22, 1981, at age 91. The North Carolina native joined West Virginia University’s English Department in 1921. He soon became fascinated with regional folk songs, spurred on by his WVU colleague and pioneering folklorist, John Harrington Cox.

December 21, 1891: Senator Frank Hereford Dies in Monroe County

Dec 21, 2017
Honorable Frank Hereford
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia / Library of Congress

Former U.S. Senator Frank Hereford died at Union in Monroe County on December 21, 1891, at age 66. The Virginia native had gone west in 1849, during the California Gold Rush, and practiced law in Sacramento. After the Civil War, he moved back east, settled in Union, and married Alice Caperton, who came from a prominent Monroe County family. 

Hereford, a Democrat, was a leader in the successful push to restore voting rights and other political privileges to West Virginia’s ex-Confederates. Shortly thereafter, he was elected to Congress.

Ruby Bradley
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online

Ruby Bradley was born near Spencer on December 19, 1907. As a member of the Army Nurse Corps, she would become one of the most decorated women in U.S. military history.

Bradley’s ordeal also is one of the most incredible stories of World War II. Just hours after attacking Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Japan bombed American defenses in the Philippines, where Bradley was stationed as an Army nurse.

About three weeks later, she was captured and imprisoned in an internment camp in Manila. Conditions in the camp were brutal and kept deteriorating as the war dragged on.

December 18, 1944: Bernard Bell Earns the Medal of Honor

Dec 18, 2017
Bernard Bell
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia / United States Army

On December 18, 1944, during World War II, Bernard Bell captured more than 30 German prisoners, earning the Medal of Honor. 

December 15, 1772: Grant of Land for John Savage and 59 Soldiers

Dec 15, 2017
Lord Dunmore
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

  On December 15, 1772, Virginia Governor Lord Dunmore granted nearly 29,000 acres of British land along the Ohio River and the lower Guyandotte and Big Sandy rivers to 60 men as compensation for their service during the French and Indian War. The land grant was specifically for soldiers who had served under George Washington at the Battle of Great Meadows in Pennsylvania. The land transactions are known collectively as the Savage Grant, named for Captain John Savage.

December 14, 1857: Coal Operator Justus Collins Born in Alabama

Dec 14, 2017
Justus Collins, e-WV
E-WV / WV Humanities Council

Coal operator Justus Collins was born in Alabama on December 14, 1857. He got his start in coal mining in the Deep South but moved north about 1887 to pursue his fortune in the coalfields of southern West Virginia.

In Mercer County, Collins organized the Louisville Coal & Coke Company, one of the first mines to ship coal on the Norfolk and Western Railway. In 1893, he opened Collins Colliery at Glen Jean in Fayette County. About the same time, he started Greenbrier Coal & Coke and later opened the Whipple mine near Mount Hope.

Pages