This Week in West Virginia History

Maceo Pinkard
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

Musician Maceo Pinkard died on July 21, 1962, at age 65. The Bluefield native attended Bluefield Colored Institute—now Bluefield State College—before becoming one of the most successful songwriters of the 1920s Jazz Era.

This Week in WV History
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

On July 22, 1972, a fire broke out at the Blacksville Number 1 mine in Monongalia County. It was sparked by a continuous mining machine that came into contact with an electric wire.

The volatile Pittsburgh coal seam at Blacksville ignited quickly. At the time, 43 men were underground; 34 escaped, but nine men who were working deep in the mine died after inhaling smoke and fumes. Days later, the mine was sealed at the surface to protect rescue workers from potential explosions.

Curly Ray Cline
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

Musician “Curly” Ray Cline died on August 19, 1997, at age 64. The Logan County native was one of the best bluegrass fiddlers ever to emerge from West Virginia.

In 1938, at age 15, he got together with fellow friends and relatives from Logan County to form the Lonesome Pine Fiddlers. For the first decade, the band had an old-time music sound.

That changed in 1949, when they were joined by Larry Richardson on banjo and Bobby Osborne on mandolin. Overnight, the Lonesome Pine Fiddlers became one of the pioneers of bluegrass music.

Nancy Hart and her husband
Richwooders.com / WV Humanitites Council

According to tradition, Rebel spy Nancy Hart led a Confederate raid on the Union position at Summersville in Nicholas County on July 25, 1862. Hart was only in her late teens at the time.

Early in the Civil War, she’d worked closely with the Confederate Moccasin Rangers as a scout and spy. Captured in Braxton County in the fall of 1861, she convinced Northern troops of her innocence. After being released, she returned to the Confederate lines with inside information on Union troop movements.

Camp Washington-Carver's Lodge
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

Camp Washington-Carver was dedicated as West Virginia’s black 4-H camp on July 26, 1942. Named for Booker T. Washington and George Washington Carver, the camp is located at Clifftop in Fayette County.

It was the first 4-H camp for African-Americans in the country, and its Great Chestnut Lodge is the largest log structure in West Virginia and one of the largest in the nation.

Anne Bethel Spencer
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

Poet Anne Spencer died on July 27, 1975, at age 93. Born Annie Bethel Bannister in Virginia, she and her mother moved to Bramwell in Mercer County when Anne was three years old.

During her childhood and adolescent years in Bramwell, she acquired a deep appreciation for nature as the surrounding countryside nourished her creativity and influenced her writing.

Frankie Yankovic
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

America’s Polka King, Frankie Yankovic, was born at Davis in Tucker County on July 28, 1915, to Slovenian immigrant parents. But just days after he was born, his father was caught bootlegging and moved the family to Cleveland.

Yankovic learned to play the accordion from lodgers at his home in Cleveland. By age 16, he was playing polka music regularly on a local Slovenian radio show.

Celoron de Blainville
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

On August 18, 1749, explorer Pierre-Joseph Celoron de Blainville buried a lead plate at Point Pleasant as part of his task to claim the entire Ohio Valley for France.

In the mid-1700s, France and Great Britain were continually on the brink of war around the world, particularly in places where the two nations contended for the same land.

Perhaps no place was more tense than the North American frontier, which included most of present West Virginia.

NMHSA Complex
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

The National Mine Health and Safety Academy opened at Beaver, near Beckley, on August 17, 1976. The 80-acre campus, which can accommodate 600 students, is the largest in the world devoted solely to mine safety and health.

It is the central training facility for federal mine inspectors and mine safety professionals, with a stated goal of reducing accidents and improving miners’ health and safety.

In addition to coal miners, the academy also serves those who mine sand and gravel, gold, silver, copper, uranium, and other minerals.

John Nash
WV Humanitites Council / e-WV

Nobel Prize-winning mathematician John Nash Jr. was born in Bluefield on June 13, 1928. The math prodigy excelled at Carnegie Tech (now Carnegie Mellon University) and Princeton University.

One of his mentors was professor John von Neumann, who helped develop the computer and the hydrogen bomb. Nash focused his studies on game theory, which examines rivalries in the context of theoretical math. His 1950 doctoral thesis transformed the field of economics by applying game theory to business competition.

4H Camp
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

A pioneering camp for rural youth began in Randolph County on July 29, 1915. Activities included hiking, fishing, swimming, and games.

The camp was sponsored by West Virginia University’s Extension Service, which had been created just a year earlier, and was led by J. Versus Shipman, his wife, Bess, and William “Teepi” Kendrick.

WV Folklore Society
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

The West Virginia Folklore Society was founded in Morgantown on July 15, 1915, by John Harrington Cox and Robert Allen Armstrong of West Virginia University and Walter Barnes of Fairmont State.

One of the earliest state folklore societies in the nation, it remained active for only two years. However, during this time, the society collected traditional ballads and songs that were later published in Cox’s classic book Folk-Songs of the South.

William Hope "Coin" Harvey
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

Social reformer William Hope ‘‘Coin’’ Harvey was born at Buffalo in Putnam County on August 16, 1851. He was a teacher, lawyer, silver miner, politician, land speculator, geologist, and bestselling author.

Harvey attended Buffalo Academy and Marshall College (now Marshall University) before becoming a lawyer. He opened his first law practice in Huntington at age 19.

Sid Hatfield
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

On August 1, 1921, Matewan police chief Sid Hatfield and his friend Ed Chambers were gunned down by Baldwin-Felt Detectives in front of the McDowell County Courthouse in Welch.

The trouble between Hatfield and the Baldwin-Felts had started more than a year earlier. In May of 1920, a shootout in the Mingo County town of Matewan had pitted Baldwin-Felts detectives against Hatfield and a crowd of angry miners.

A shootout left seven of the detectives, two miners, and the town’s mayor dead in the streets of Matewan.

James E Watson
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

Businessman James Edwin Watson died in Fairmont on August 2, 1926, at age 67. He was the son of James Otis Watson, one of the first coal operators in northern West Virginia.

In 1852, James Otis Watson and future West Virginia founder Francis Pierpont opened a mine near Fairmont and shipped the first coal from Western Virginia on the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad.

Killing the McCoys Munsey mag
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

One of the pivotal events in the Hatfield-McCoy Feud occurred on August 8, 1882. Tensions between the two families had started rising a few days earlier, when Ellison Hatfield—the brother of Hatfield patriarch “Devil Anse”—was mortally wounded by three of Randolph McCoy’s sons in a drunken election-day brawl. Apparently, the fight occurred over a small debt owed on a fiddle.

After learning of the incident, “Devil Anse” Hatfield gathered up his wounded brother. His sons and other family members captured Tolbert, Pharmer, and Randolph McCoy Jr.

Greenville Treaty
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

On August 3, 1795, the United States and several Indian tribes signed the Treaty of Greenville. Although the treaty was signed in western Ohio, it had a major impact on the region that would later become West Virginia.

Under the terms of the treaty, the Indians ceded to the United States about two-thirds of present Ohio. By pushing the tribes west, it ended the threat of Indian attacks on the Western Virginia frontier.

Billy Cox
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

Country-and-western musician Billy Cox was born near Charleston on August 4, 1897. He started his career in 1928, singing and playing guitar and harmonica on Charleston’s WOBU radio station, which later became WCHS.

During the 1930s, Cox was recognized as one of West Virginia’s premier singer songwriters.

Among his 150 recordings were future country standards like “Sparkling Brown Eyes” and this song, “Filipino Baby,” which he performed with Cliff Hobbs of Cedar Grove.

Berkeley Co. WV
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

On August 5, 1863, the West Virginia Legislature voted to admit Berkeley County officially into West Virginia. Three months later, the legislature also admitted Berkeley’s neighbor, Jefferson County.

Earlier in 1863, residents of the two counties had voted to join the new state. The vote was curious, though—to say the least—because Berkeley and Jefferson had been decidedly pro-Southern in their political leanings, with closer ties to the Shenandoah Valley and Virginia.

Logan County Sheriff Don Chafin
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

On August 9, 1954, former Logan County Sheriff Don Chafin died in Huntington at age 67. Chafin had been elected Logan County assessor at the young age of 21 and sheriff at 25. After a term as county clerk, he was reelected sheriff in 1920.

Sheriff Chafin bitterly opposed labor unions, and, with funding from coal companies, used his deputies—including ones hired off the street—to keep the United Mine Workers of America out of Logan County.

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