West Virginia

April 20, 1963: W.Va. Legislature Meets at the Custom House in Wheeling

Apr 20, 2018
e-WV Encyclopedia / WV Division of Tourism via Steve Shaluta

On April 20, 1963, the West Virginia Legislature met in a special ceremonial session at the old U.S. Custom House in Wheeling.

It marked the 100th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s proclamation certifying that West Virginia would become a state.

The legislative event was a turning point for the building, which was more than a century old. During the Civil War, it’d been the capitol of the pro-Union Reorganized Government of Virginia and the location of West Virginia’s statehood debates.

Teachers John and Kerry Guerini of Fayetteville, West Virginia, hold signs at a rally at the state Capitol in Charleston, W.Va., Monday, Feb. 26, 2018.
John Raby / Associated Press

The public education uprisings that began in West Virginia and spread to Arizona, Oklahoma and Kentucky share similar origin stories.

Teachers, long tired of low wages and a dearth of state funding, begin talking to each other online.

Their Facebook groups draw tens of thousands of members. They share stories of their frustrations and then they demand change.

Kara Lofton / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

When Oklahoma teacher Sally Salmons saw momentum building toward teacher protests in her state, she immediately reached out to family ties and educators in West Virginia. She said teacher walkouts in the Mountain State provided her and colleagues across the state with the courage they needed to take a stand.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

In this week's episode of Inside Appalachia, we visit communities impacted by creation of flood-control lakes. In one, the Village of Lilly, about 40 families were pushed off their land along the Bluestone River in Summers County, W.Va., in the 1940s. Many of these families had lived there for more than 200 years. 


AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

West Virginia fourth-grade students showed slight improvements in math and reading scores on the latest Nation's Report Card but remain below the national average. 


April 5, 1856: Educator Booker T. Washington Born in Franklin County, VA

Apr 5, 2018
Booker T. Washington
e-WV Encyclopedia / Library of Congress

Educator Booker T. Washington was born a slave in Franklin County, Virginia, on April 5, 1856. After the Civil War, he relocated to Malden, a few miles east of Charleston, where he attended a one-room school for blacks.

He also was tutored by Viola Ruffner, whom he later credited for instilling in him the qualities of cleanliness and hard work.

After graduating from Hampton Institute in Virginia, Washington returned to West Virginia as a teacher. In 1879, he went back to Hampton as a professor. But when school was out, he’d come home to work in West Virginia’s coal mines.

The Main Hall at West Liberty
e-WV Encyclopedia

On March 30, 1837, the Virginia legislature chartered a private academy at West Liberty, north of Wheeling.

The first 65 students met for classes the following year. In 1857, public-spirited citizens completed the red-brick Academy Hall, which survived until the mid-1970s.

March 28, 1868: Eli ‘‘Rimfire’’ Hamrick Born in Webster County

Mar 28, 2018
WV Division of Culture and History / Michael Keller

Eli ‘‘Rimfire’’ Hamrick was born at Bergoo in Webster County on March 28, 1868. Considered one of the best woodsmen of his time, he often led coal and lumber barons on hunting expeditions.

In 1907, he was hired by the Webster Springs Hotel as a guide and handyman. One of his jobs was to kill and dress chickens for the hotel kitchen.

That’s when Rimfire supposedly acquired his nickname. When asked how he killed the chickens for the hotel, he replied, ‘‘With a rimfire rifle, by God.’’

e-WV Encyclopedia / Chris Dorst/The Charleston Gazette

The first state boys’ high school basketball tournament began in Buckhannon on March 21, 1914. The event was hosted by West Virginia Wesleyan College, which had West Virginia’s largest and finest gymnasium. Elkins High School took that first state title.

The tournament grew quickly in popularity. In 1922, a field of 64 teams was broken into ‘‘A’’ and ‘‘B’’ divisions, classified based on team strength rather than school size. In 1933, the tournament was reorganized with sectional winners advancing to eight regional tournaments.

TYLER EVERT / ASSOCIATED PRESS

The nine-day teachers’ strike in West Virginia made headlines across the country, and some are wondering what the events mean for state’s political landscape. How did a widespread labor strike, a practice normally associated with Democrats, happen in a state that voted so heavily for Donald Trump?

We wanted to take a step back to explore how politics have been changing here over the past generation. West Virginia has been dubbed the heart of Trump Country, but politics here are anything but straightforward.

March 16, 1971: Industrialist J. G. Bradley Dies at 89

Mar 16, 2018
e-WV Encyclopedia

Industrialist J. G. Bradley died on March 16, 1971, at age 89. The New Jersey native moved to West Virginia in 1904 and soon became president of the Elk River Coal & Lumber Company.

The company’s landholdings in central West Virginia were so significant that the county of Clay couldn’t meet its financial obligations until the company paid its taxes each year.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Lawmakers discussed several bills around opioid abuse and prevention this session, including the Opioid Reduction Act and have re-examined the state's medical marijuana law. Michael Brumage is the new director of the WV office of Drug Control Policy. Health reporter Kara Lofton talked to him last week about the role his office plays in implementing legislative policy. 


March 15, 1988: Reformer Mary Behner Christopher Dies at 81

Mar 15, 2018
e-WV Encyclopedia / Bettijane Burger

Reformer Mary Behner Christopher died in Morgantown on March 15, 1988, at age 81. The Ohio native came to West Virginia in the 1920s as a missionary for the Presbyterian church. From 1928 to 1937, she worked in the impoverished coal communities along Scotts Run, outside of Morgantown.

This once-prosperous region had fallen on hard times after the coal market plummeted in the ‘20s. Thousands of families, including numerous immigrants and African-Americans, were stranded by the economic depression.

CREDIT COURTESY OF WV STATE ARCHIVES (WVSA), COAL LIFE COLLECTION

After a nine-day statewide strike, West Virginia teachers and school service employees are back to work with a hard-won commitment from lawmakers of a 5 percent pay raise for all public workers. Gov. Jim Justice also ordered the creation of a task force to explore long-term solutions to the public employees insurance program known as PEIA.

March 9, 1832: Politician George Latham Born in Prince William County

Mar 9, 2018
e-WV Encyclopedia / Library of Congress

George Latham was born on March 9, 1832, in Prince William County, Virginia, on what would later become the Bull Run Battlefield.

He moved to Taylor County in 1849 and taught in local schools while studying to become a lawyer. He opened his legal practice in Grafton in 1860.

When the Civil War began the next year, Latham transformed his law office into a military recruiting station for Northern troops. He formed Company B of the 2nd Virginia Infantry and detained them in Grafton long enough to vote against Virginia’s secession from the Union.

February 22, 1963: Athlete Ira "Rat" Rodgers Dies at 67

Feb 22, 2018
Athlete Ira Rodgers
e-WV Encyclopedia

Ira Rodgers died on February 22, 1963, at age 67. "Rat," a nickname adapted from his middle name of Erret, was one of West Virginia University's greatest football players. The Bethany native was named to Walter Camp’s All-American team three times: in 1916, ‘17, and ‘19—the first of WVU's All-Americans. In 1919, Rodgers led the nation in scoring with 147 points—49 of them coming in one game. Sportswriter Grantland Rice wrote that “there was no greater all-around football player in the land.”

February 12, 1901: Congressman Jacob Blair Dies at 79

Feb 12, 2018
Jacob Beeson Blair
e-WV Encyclopedia

Congressman Jacob Blair died in Utah, on February 12, 1901, at age 79. He was born in Parkersburg in 1821 and orphaned at a young age. He studied law under his uncle John Jay Jackson Sr., was admitted to the bar, and then elected prosecuting attorney of Ritchie County.

February 9, 1843: Politician Nathan Goff Jr. Born in Clarksburg

Feb 9, 2018
Nathan Goff Jr.
e-West Virginia Encyclopedia

Politician Nathan Goff Jr. was born in Clarksburg on February 9, 1843. He served in the Union Army during the Civil War, rising from a private to brevet brigadier general. In 1864, he was captured at Moorefield and sent to Richmond’s notorious Libby Prison. He was released in a prisoner exchange personally authorized by President Lincoln.

February 8, 1915: Photographer Volkmar Wentzel Born in Germany

Feb 8, 2018
Volkmar Kurt Wentzel
e-West Virginia Encyclopedia / Peter Wentzel & Viola Wentzel

Photographer Volkmar Wentzel was born in Germany on February 8, 1915. He and his family immigrated to New York State when he was 11. He eventually ended up in Preston County, West Virginia, where he attended high school.

As a teenager, he joined up with some Washingtonians who’d formed an artists’ colony in the forests of Preston County. While working at the artists’ colony, Wentzel built a darkroom in a pump house and began shooting local scenery for postcards.

February 5, 1942: Lawman Dan Cunningham Dies at 92

Feb 5, 2018
Dan Cunningham
e-West Virginia Encyclopedia / WV State Archives

Dan Cunningham died on February 5, 1942, at age 92. The legendary lawman was involved in some of the most violent and eventful moments in West Virginia history—sometimes finding himself on both sides of the legal system.

February 2, 1895: Preacher Shirley Donnelly Born in Jackson County

Feb 2, 2018
This Week in West Virginia History.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online.

Preacher and historian Shirley Donnelly was born in Jackson County on February 2, 1895. When he was 14, he and his family moved from the village of Rock Castle to Charleston. After attending seminary in Richmond, he became an ordained Baptist minister.

January 26, 1850: Virginia General Assembly Creates Wyoming County

Jan 26, 2018
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

On January 26, 1850, the Virginia General Assembly created Wyoming County from part of Logan County. The original county seat was located at Oceana but was moved to Pineville in 1907.

The county’s first major industry was timbering, which began on a large scale about 1889. Before the arrival of railroads, logs had to be floated down the Guyandotte River to the Ohio River at Huntington.

January 25, 1715: Thomas Walker Born in King and Queen County

Jan 25, 2018
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

Thomas Walker was born in King and Queen County, Virginia, on January 25, 1715. He was a widely respected physician, farmer, merchant, and legislator.

He also was an investor, agent, and surveyor for the Loyal Company of Virginia, which promoted settlement in present southern West Virginia, southwestern Virginia, and southeastern Kentucky.

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.

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.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

In this episode of West Virginia Morning, we listen back to one of our favorite stories of 2017, about two flower enthusiasts who love searching for orchids in unlikely places. 


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.

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.

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