This Week in West Virginia History

General Jesse L. Reno
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

On September 14, 1862, General Jesse Lee Reno was killed during the Battle of South Mountain in Maryland. The Wheeling native was the highest-ranking Union general from present-day West Virginia to be killed during the Civil War.

Reno graduated in the same West Point class that included George McClellan and another cadet from Western Virginia: Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. During the Mexican War, Reno served in a howitzer battery and was wounded at the Battle of Chapultapec.

Chu Berry
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

Musician Leon “Chu” Berry was born in Wheeling on September 13, 1910. He became one of the most highly regarded saxophonists of the Swing Era, ranking alongside Coleman Hawkins and Lester Young.

At West Virginia State College (now University), Berry performed with the Edwards Collegians and other regional groups.

Great Bend Tunnel
Library of Congress/e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

The Great Bend Tunnel, also known as the Big Bend, was completed in present-day Summers County on September 12, 1872.

At more than a mile long, it cut off a seven-mile meander of the Greenbrier River and was the longest tunnel on the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway.

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

Publicist Sam Mallison was born in North Carolina on September 9, 1894. He worked for several small newspapers in the Tar Heel State before becoming city editor of the Clarksburg Telegram in 1916.

He later covered the West Virginia Legislature for the paper and gave a young Salem College student named Jennings Randolph a job as a sportswriter.

Lost River State Park
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

Kermit McKeever died in Charleston on September 8, 1995, at age 85. The man remembered as the “father of West Virginia’s modern state park system” was born in Greenbrier County in 1910.

After graduating from Glenville State College and West Virginia University, McKeever began his career as superintendent of Lost River State Park.

Eddon Hammon on Fiddle
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

On September 7, 1955, the great fiddler Edden Hammons died at age 80. The Pocahontas County native was part of an extended family known for its music and traditional ways.

The family had migrated into the Webster-Pocahontas county area just before the Civil War.

In 1947, Edden Hammons was recorded by folklorist and West Virginia University professor Louis Chappell in a Richwood hotel room. The resulting 52 tunes document a frontier fiddling tradition with links to the Old World. Here’s a sample:

Jesse Frank James
e-wv

On September 6, 1875, two men walked into the Bank of Huntington with their revolvers drawn. Two others kept guard outside. The four men left the bank with $20,000 and rode south out of town.

Appalachian Bible College Chapel
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

Appalachian Bible College—originally known as Appalachian Bible Institute—opened at Sylvester in Boone County on September 5, 1950. The nondenominational, independent Christian college was the brainchild of Raleigh County minister Robert Guelich.

Before the school opened, southern West Virginians had to travel all the way to Pikeville, Kentucky, if they wanted to take advanced Bible studies.

West Virginia Centennial Logo
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

On September 2, 1963, the Centennial exhibits train wrapped up its tour of West Virginia with a stop in South Charleston.

During the summer of 1963, the nine-car train had reached more West Virginians than any other part of our state’s Centennial celebration.

It was a collaboration among the Centennial Commission and leading railroads, including the Chesapeake & Ohio, Baltimore & Ohio, Norfolk & Western, New York Central, and the Pennsylvania.

Ft Henry, Wheeling
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

On the morning of September 1, 1777, about 200 Wyandot and Mingo Indians attacked Fort Henry at Wheeling. The fort was defended by about 60 militia—nearly half of whom were lured outside the post and killed by the Indians.

The Indians then launched a siege of the fort for three days and nights. After burning cabins and outbuildings in the region, they withdrew across the Ohio River.

It was the first of two Indian attacks on Fort Henry during the Revolutionary War. The second attack, which occurred five years later, was the occasion for Betty Zane’s heroic actions.

Wheeling's Suspension Bridge
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

On August 31, 1852, a new federal law gave the Wheeling Suspension Bridge special protection as a mail-carrying route. While it may sound humdrum, the law was actually pivotal in ensuring the bridge’s survival.

The Wheeling Suspension Bridge had opened to great fanfare in 1849.With a 1,010-foot main span, it was the longest bridge of its type in the world.

But, while Wheeling celebrated its new landmark, western Pennsylvanians were quietly plotting its destruction.

Blair Mountain Battlefield
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

On August 30, 1921, John Wilburn of Blair assembled between 50 and 75 armed men to attack Logan County Sheriff Don Chafin’s troops, which were entrenched at the pinnacle of Blair Mountain.

The 45-year-old coal miner and Baptist preacher told his followers it was time for him to lay down his Bible, take up his rifle, and fight for the union.

WV Turnpike Bridge
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

On August 29, 1952, groundbreaking ceremonies for the West Virginia Turnpike were held in Mercer County. The state’s only toll road eventually cut driving time between Charleston and Princeton from four hours to two.

The road took less than two years to construct. Despite early plans for a four-lane highway, project costs limited the turnpike to only two lanes in most places. Still, the road was considered modern for the day.

It was first opened to traffic between Princeton and Beckley in September 1954 and then on to Charleston two months later.

The RCB Radio Telescope
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

On August 25, 2000, the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope was dedicated at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Pocahontas County. At 16-million pounds, it’s the world’s largest fully steerable radio telescope.

Its accuracy is so precise it’s like seeing the width of a human hair from six feet away. The telescope’s 2,004 panels are mounted on actuators, little motor-driven pistons that adjust the shape of the surface.

The telescope replaced an earlier 300-foot meridian transit telescope that operated from 1961 until collapsing in 1988.

Joe Manchin, Senator, Governor
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

U.S. Senator and former governor Joe Manchin was born in Fairmont on August 24, 1947. Growing up in the Marion County town of Farmington, he worked in his family’s grocery and furniture stores. He later returned to Farmington to run Manchin’s Carpet Center and eventually his own energy-brokering firm.

In the 1980s, the lifelong Democrat served a term in the House of Delegates and began a 14-year stint in the state Senate, where he promoted welfare, health care, and Medicaid reforms. A staunch Catholic, he opposed abortion rights, putting him at odds with many Democrats.

Congressman Chester Hubbard
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

Congressman, businessman, and state founder Chester Hubbard died in Wheeling on August 23, 1891, at age 76. The Connecticut native moved with his family to Wheeling as a child.

Hubbard joined his father’s lumber mill business and helped develop Wheeling as an iron and steel manufacturing center. He was president of the German Bank of Wheeling; the Pittsburgh, Wheeling & Kentucky Railroad; and C. D. Hubbard and Company.

Albert Gallatin Jenkins
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

On August 22, 1862, newly appointed Confederate Brigadier General Albert Gallatin Jenkins began a raid through Western Virginia. It was in response to a string of events that began with Robert E. Lee’s impending invasion of Maryland.

Earlier that month, the Union Army had shifted some 5,000 troops from the Charleston area to help protect Washington, DC. So, the Confederates took advantage of the troop reduction.

Spencer State Hospital
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

Spencer State Hospital opened in Roane County on July 18, 1893. It was intended to relieve the overcrowding at Weston State Hospital in caring for people with mental illnesses. At times, its mission was expanded to treat diseases such as typhoid fever, tuberculosis, and pneumonia.

Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston Coat of Arms
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

On July 19, 1850, Pope Pius IX established the Diocese of Wheeling to oversee Catholic parishes in what was then Western Virginia. Previously, Catholics in the western part of the state had been under the care of the Archbishop of Richmond, Richard Whelan.

However, Whelan realized the population in Western Virginia was growing so quickly that the vast region needed its own Catholic diocese. Whelan moved to Wheeling and became bishop of the new diocese.

Edward Franzheim
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

Edward Franzheim was born in Wheeling on July 20, 1866. After studying in Boston and abroad, he returned to Wheeling in 1890 to practice architecture. He was one of the first West Virginians to receive a formal, academic training in architecture.

One of his best-known works is Wheeling’s Vance Memorial Presbyterian Church. The 1896 building is one of the most exuberant and lavish churches in the state. By 1902, Franzheim was recognized by many as West Virginia’s most successful architect.

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