This Week in West Virginia History

Charleston's Yeager Airport
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

On August 10, 1968, a Piedmont Airlines plane was approaching Charleston’s Kanawha Airport when it clipped some trees, crashed into a hillside, and burned; 35 of the 37 people on board were killed.

The passenger plane was en route from Louisville, Kentucky, to Roanoke, Virginia, with stops in Cincinnati and Charleston.

E Willis Windy Wilson
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

West Virginia governor E. Willis Wilson was born at Harpers Ferry on August 11, 1844. The Democrat was elected to the state House of Delegates in 1869 and to the senate three years later.

After moving to Charleston in 1874, he again served in the House and became speaker in 1880.

Founding members of the Niagara Movement.
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

The Niagara Movement—an important civil rights group—held its first public meeting at Harpers Ferry’s Storer College on August 15, 1906.

The movement emerged from increasing philosophical differences between Booker T. Washington—the most powerful black leader of his day—and more radical intellectuals.

While Washington wanted to work more closely with the white community to improve African-Americans’ economic status, his critics—led by W. E. B. DuBois, William Monroe Trotter, and others—urged a more militant approach.

WV high schools organized 1916.
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

On June 17, 1916, the West Virginia High School Athletic Association was organized in Charleston. The 11 charter members were Bluefield’s Beaver High School, Clarksburg’s Washington Irving High School, and Charleston, Elkins, Fairmont, Grafton, Huntington, Parkersburg, St. Marys, Sistersville, and Wheeling high schools.

Jackson County Courthouse
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

On July 4, 2002, President George W. Bush delivered a 45-minute “salute to veterans” at Ripley’s annual Fourth of July ceremonies.

It was the first Independence Day following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The president used the opportunity to comment on the nation’s War on Terrorism, praised the effort of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, and reassured the crowd about homeland security.

Loyal Company
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

On July 12, 1749, the Colony of Virginia granted the Loyal Company 800,000 acres in what is today parts of southern West Virginia, southwestern Virginia, and southeastern Kentucky. The Loyal Company promoted settlement in Western Virginia at a time when few pioneers dared to venture west of the Allegheny Mountains.

By 1754, the land company had settled about 200 families, including some along the New and Bluestone rivers. Most of these settlements, though, were destroyed by Indians during the French and Indian War.

Madonna of the Trail
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

The Madonna of the Trail monument was dedicated on the outskirts of Wheeling Park on July 7, 1928. It was the second of 12 identical statues erected along the old National Road between Maryland and California.

The 10-foot-tall monuments were sponsored by the Daughters of the American Revolution and designed by sculptor August Leimbach. Each statue features a pioneer woman holding a baby with one arm while a small boy clutches her skirt. In the woman’s other arm is a rifle, which Leimbach based on a drawing of Daniel Boone’s gun.

Bill Withers
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

On July 8, 1972, Bill Withers’s song “Lean on Me” topped the Billboard charts for the first time. Rolling Stone magazine later ranked “Lean on Me” as the 205th greatest song of all time.

The Raleigh County native wrote the tune while thinking about the close community ties he experienced in Beckley and in the nearby mining camp of Slab Fork. It was in Beckley where Withers first honed his skills by singing gospel music.

Corricks Ford Map
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

On July 13, 1861, the Battle of Corrick’s Ford was fought in Tucker County. After the Confederate defeat at Rich Mountain in neighboring Randolph County two days earlier, General Robert Garnett pulled his men back to present-day Elkins along the Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike.

There, Garnett received bad intelligence that Union forces controlled the town of Beverly, located just to the south, so he turned his troops to the northeast.

Union Brigadier General Thomas Morris chased Garnett’s men to Shavers Fork in Tucker County and overtook them on July 13 at Kalers Ford.

Starland Theatre entrance.
A.M. / WV Humanitites Council

On July 6, 1950, the Starland Theatre opened along U.S. Route 52, four miles east of Welch. The drive-in—the first in McDowell County—was the brainchild of Weldon Cook of Man and Robert Livingston Russell Sr. of Bluefield.

When it opened, Starland had speakers for 450 cars and showed six different movies a week. It was right at the beginning of the drive-in craze. By the mid-1950s, West Virginia had 76 drive-ins.

Rich Mountain Map
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

On July 11, 1861, the Battle of Rich Mountain was fought in Randolph County. It was the climax of a successful Union campaign to seize control of Western Virginia early in the Civil War.

Confederate General Robert Garnett had established defensive positions at Laurel Hill and Rich Mountain. Suspecting an attack on Laurel Hill, Garnett placed only about a fourth of his men on Rich Mountain, under the command of Colonel John Pegram.

Kendall Vintroux
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

Cartoonist Kendall Vintroux was born at Fraziers Bottom in Putnam County on July 5, 1896. When his father became ill, Vintroux dropped out of high school to help run the family’s farm.

His career as a cartoonist began when he submitted a humorous drawing to the Charleston Gazette about the town of Poca’s first paved road, which was only eight feet wide.

Sam Church
Tim C. Cox/Bristol Herald-Courier / WV Humanitites Council

Union leader Sam Church died in Bristol, Tennessee, on July 14, 2009, at age 72.

He was a native of Matewan in Mingo County. Both of his grandfathers had been coal miners as had his father—before becoming a barber.

In 1965, Church became a miner in Virginia and joined the United Mine Workers of America. In 1975, UMWA President Arnold Miller named Church to his staff. Church was elected vice-president of the UMWA in 1977 and moved into the presidency in 1979 following Miller’s resignation.

French Carpenter / WV Humanitites Council

Fiddler French Carpenter was born in Clay County on June 7, 1905.

For generations, the Carpenter family was renowned for its musical ability, and French may have been the best of the lot. He learned most of his music directly from his father, Tom, a fiddling preacher.

Tom had learned from his father, Sol, one of the most influential fiddlers in central West Virginia.

Here’s a clip of French Carpenter playing “Camp Chase,” which his grandfather Sol supposedly came up with to win a fiddle contest and his freedom from a Union prison during the Civil War.

Duncan Yo-yos
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

Entrepreneur Donald Franklin Duncan was born in Rome, Ohio, on June 8, 1893, but spent his childhood in Huntington.

He left Huntington in his mid-teens and became a successful salesman for the Brock Candy Company in Chicago during World War I. In 1920, he introduced Good Humor ice cream to the world.

C. Donald Robertson
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

Politician C. Donald Robertson was born in Clarksburg on June 9, 1926.

He served Harrison County in the West Virginia House of Delegates for four years beginning in the late 1950s.

He was elected attorney general in 1960 and again in 1964. In 1968, he ran for governor but lost in the Democratic primary to James Sprouse, who would go on to lose to Arch Moore in the general election.

Chuck Howley
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

Football great Chuck Howley was born in Wheeling on June 28, 1936. At Warwood High, he starred in football and basketball and in 1954 moved on to West Virginia University, where he lettered in an unprecedented five sports: football, sprinting, wrestling, the trampoline, and diving.

He was drafted by the Chicago Bears in the NFL draft but left the team with a knee injury. Howley returned to Wheeling and spent 1960 working at a gas station.

Wheeling Symphony 2006
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

The Wheeling Symphony Orchestra gave its premiere concert at Oglebay Park on June 30, 1929. Under the direction of Enrico Tamburini, the new orchestra performed Mozart’s Overture to Don Juan and Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony, among other works.

Tamburini molded the fledgling group of amateurs and professionals into a cohesive ensemble. When he left in 1934, Antonio Modarelli of the Pittsburgh Symphony took the baton. He was succeeded by Henry Mazer, who’d tutored under the great conductor Fritz Reiner in Chicago.

Watt Powell Park
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

On June 23, 1952, the Toledo Mud Hens baseball team made an unexpected midseason move to West Virginia, becoming the Charleston Senators.

As a Triple A minor league, the Senators faced off against cities like Milwaukee, Kansas City, St. Paul, Louisville, Indianapolis, Minneapolis, and Columbus.

Wheeling Steel
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

One June 21, 1920, the LaBelle Iron Works, Whitaker-Glessner, and Wheeling Steel & Iron Works combined to form the Wheeling Steel Corporation.

With some 17,000 workers, Wheeling Steel was the nation’s third-largest steelmaker.