This Week in West Virginia History

October 18, 1778: Martinsburg Incorporated

Oct 18, 2017
Martinsburg took off with the arrival of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad IN 1842.
e-WV / WV Humanities Council

The town of Martinsburg in Berkeley County was incorporated on October 18, 1778. The place had been settled originally by Joseph and John Morgan in the 1740s. But it was Scotland native Adam Stephen who put Martinsburg on the map. Stephen established mills along the banks of Tuscarora Creek, built himself a limestone house, and, in 1773, laid out the town. He named it for Colonel Thomas Bryan Martin, a nephew of Lord Thomas Fairfax, who owned much of the present Eastern Panhandle.

October 11, 1811: State Founder Waitman Willey Born

Oct 11, 2017
State founder Waitman Willey served as one of West Virginia’s first two U.S. senators from 1863 to 1871.
e-WV / WV Humanities Council

State founder Waitman Willey was born near Farmington in Marion County on October 11, 1811. He opened his first law practice in Morgantown in 1833 and served as Monongalia County Court clerk for more than a decade.

Willey gained statewide attention for his “Liberty and Union” speech at the 1850-51 Virginia Constitutional Convention. At the start of the Civil War, he spoke passionately against secession and war. After Virginia seceded from the Union, Willey was elected to represent the loyal citizens of Virginia in the U.S. Senate.

TWWVH
West Virginia Public Broadcasting / WV Humanities Council

On October 4, 1890, a traveling circus called French & Company’s Great Railroad Show arrived in the town of Alderson on the Greenbrier-Monroe county line. What started as a circus show would lead to one of the more bizarre incidents in West Virginia.

Opera Soprano Eleanor Steber
e-WV / WV Humanities Council

Soprano Eleanor Steber died on October 3, 1990, at age 76. The Wheeling native attended the New England Conservatory of Music, studied voice in New York City, and joined the Metropolitan Opera radio in 1940. That year, her hometown honored her by proclaiming Eleanor Steber Day in Wheeling. The celebration featured a special Baltimore & Ohio railroad car named for her and a homecoming concert, attended by Governor Homer Holt.

WV statehood
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

On June 20, 1863, West Virginia entered the Union as the nation’s 35th state. It was the end of an unprecedented ladder to statehood that began with the outbreak of the Civil War.

Although some Western Virginians had been frustrated with the Virginia state government in Richmond for decades, it took Virginia’s secession from the Union in April 1861 to get the West Virginia statehood process moving.

Crafty politicians—now remembered as our founders—used Virginia’s secession as an excuse to create a separate government of Virginia—one that remained loyal to the Union.

at least 476 men died of silicosis while working in the tunnel
E-WV / WV Humanities Council

On January 25, 1936, Newsweek magazine ran a story about deadly cases of silicosis associated with the Hawks Nest Tunnel construction in Fayette County.

It was the first time many Americans had heard of the tunnel disaster, which the magazine attributed to an “atmosphere of deadly dust.”

WVU Tech Old Main Building, Montgomery, WV
E-WV / WV Humanities Council

The first classes at Montgomery Preparatory School in Fayette County began on January 4, 1897. It was established due to the lack of high schools in the area. Previously, most students in that region had to end their formal educations after eighth grade, or even earlier.

By World War I, there was less need for a preparatory school since many high schools had been recently established. In 1917, an attempt at converting it to a vocational school failed.

Battle of Allegheny Mountain: December 13, 1861

Dec 13, 2016
Union General Robert Milroy’s force of about 1,900 went up against the Confederate’s 1,200 troops.
Wikipedia

On December 13, 1861, the Battle of Allegheny Mountain was fought in Pocahontas County. Following the Battle of Greenbrier River at Camp Bartow on October 3, the Confederate army had withdrawn to winter quarters atop Allegheny Mountain. Union General Robert Milroy likely believed the Confederates were demoralized and launched an attack on the cold mountain summit. Milroy’s force of about 1,900 went up against the Confederate’s 1,200 troops.

Darrell McGraw, Born in Wyoming County: November 8, 1936

Nov 8, 2016
Darrell McGraw helped to expand the rights of injured workers to sue employers
Yahoo Images

Darrell McGraw was born in Wyoming County on November 8, 1936. After graduating from Pineville High School, he earned degrees from Berea Academy and West Virginia University, where he served as student body president. He also served a stint in the army.

La Belle Iron Works
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

The Wheeling-La Belle Nail Company closed on September 30, 2010, ending more than 150 years in business. The company was founded in 1852 in South Wheeling as the La Belle Ironworks.

It manufactured cut nails—a key construction material in 19th-century America. By 1875, Wheeling was known as the Nail City, and La Belle was the city’s leading nail producer.

Kanawha Watershed
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

On September 29, 1861, one of the worst floods on record hit the Kanawha River watershed. The river crested nearly 17 feet above flood stage in Charleston and badly damaged the valley’s salt works.

It also affected an innovative system of dams and locks that’d been built in the 1850s to transport cannel coal on the Coal River. The refined oil from cannel coal was highly popular as a source of home-lighting fuel throughout the East.

Bishop George Peterkin
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

Bishop George Peterkin died in Parkersburg on September 28, 1916, at age 75. The Maryland native had joined the Confederate Army at age 20, participated in Robert E. Lee’s ill-fated Western Virginia campaign of 1861, and was present for the Confederate surrender at Appomattox.

After the war, Peterkin was ordained as an Episcopal priest and served in churches in Virginia and Maryland. After the Diocese of West Virginia was created, he was elected bishop for the entire state and consecrated at Wheeling in 1878.

Catherine Marshal
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

Author Catherine Marshall was born in Tennessee on September 27, 1914. In the late 1920s, her family moved to West Virginia and lived in Keyser, where she graduated from high school in 1932.

While attending Agnes Scott College in Georgia, she met the Rev. Peter Marshall, and they got married in Keyser in 1936. After their son’s birth in 1940, Catherine was homebound with tuberculosis for nearly three years.

Daniel Boone
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

Frontiersman Daniel Boone died in Missouri on September 26, 1820, at age 85. Thanks to a colorful biographical sketch by John Filson, Boone was already one of America’s most famous pioneers when he moved to Point Pleasant in 1788.

While living there, Boone represented Kanawha County in the Virginia General Assembly, served as a lieutenant colonel in the Virginia militia, and won a contract to supply militia companies in Western Virginia.

Herman Hayes
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

Folk artist Herman Hayes was born at Elkview in Kanawha County on September 23, 1923. After serving in the Marines during World War II, he went to college at West Virginia Wesleyan and then at Morris Harvey (now University of Charleston).

In 1963, he became an ordained minister and later served Methodist churches across the state.

Sara Jane Moore
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

On September 22, 1975, Charleston native Sara Jane Moore tried but failed to assassinate President Gerald R. Ford in San Francisco.

Moore, who was born Sara Jane Kahn, graduated from Charleston’s Stonewall Jackson High School in 1947. She once lived in North Charleston—reportedly not far from a young Charles Manson, who himself lived in West Virginia for several years. She later moved to California, joined left-wing groups, and became an FBI informant.

Hanks Commission Marker
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

On September 21, 1929, a state commission ruled that Nancy Hanks—the mother of Abraham Lincoln—was born in what is now West Virginia.

The commission concluded that Hanks was born on February 5, 1784, near Antioch on Mikes Run in what would become Mineral County. Within four years of the finding, West Virginia had erected a replica cabin and stone memorial on the supposed site of her birth near Antioch.

Shepherdstown, WV
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

It was the morning of September 19, 1862, and two days after the Battle of Antietam. The bulk of Robert E. Lee’s retreating Confederate Army had already crossed the Potomac River at Shepherdstown.

Lee left behind a rear guard at the Potomac to defend against an anticipated attack from Union General George McClellan.

Frank Thomas
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

Aviator Frank Thomas was born at Lansing in Fayette County on September 16, 1921. Known by the nicknames “Flying Frank” and “Five Dollar Frank,” he flew charter trips, guided sight-seeing tours over the New River Gorge, gave flight lessons, searched for downed aircraft with the Civil Air Patrol, spotted forest fires, and did just about everything else connected with aviation.

In 1946, he almost single-handedly built Fayette Airport, which he owned and operated. Weather permitting, he took up one of his planes every day.

WCHS Radio
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

On September 15, 1927, Charleston’s WOBU radio station went on the air with 50 watts of power at eleven-hundred twenty kilohertz. A year later, it moved to its present frequency: five-eighty AM.

One of the station’s most popular shows was The Old Farm Hour, with early local performers including country musicians Bill Cox and the Kessinger Brothers.

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