The game of modern basketball owes much to coaching legend Clair Bee, who was born at Pennsboro in Ritchie County on March 2, 1896. The game was still in its infancy when Bee played for the Grafton YMCA team. One of his opponents was Clarksburg's Bristol High School, coached by basketball innovator Cam Henderson, who later gained national prominence at Marshall College.
Like Henderson, Bee took coaching to new levels, introducing high-scoring strategies at a time when most games rarely exceeded 30 points. In 3 seasons at Rider College and 20 at Long Island University, Bee won 82 percent of his games, the highest winning percentage of any coach in college basketball history.
Bee's Long Island team won two national championships and might have won a third had it not been for a first-round upset in the 1942 National Invitational Tournament to West Virginia University, which went on to garner its only national title. Bee resigned in 1951 after three of his players were implicated in a scheme to fix games.
Bee left coaching but he didn't leave sports. In retirement, Bee became a popular author, using his own experiences in Grafton as the basis of 24 fictional books for young readers about high school athlete Chip Hilton. The books inspired such basketball notables as Bobby Knight, who invited Bee to conduct clinics for his teams at West Point and Indiana. But his daughter, Cindy Farley, notes Bee was an inspiration off the court as well.
Cindy Farley: And it was true that there were a lot of neat people that came to our house and I had opportunities to meet a lot of neat people. But basically, what I remember about my dad was that he was very warm, very lovable, very demanding of himself and others. The force of his personality was . . . he was really a dynamic person. Everyone loved him.
In 1967, Bee was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. He died in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1983. Today, the college coach of the year is honored with the Clair Bee Award and the Chip Hilton Award is given to the nation's best player.
West Virginia's deaf and blind children have been educated at special schools set up for them in the Hampshire County town of Romney since just after the Civil War. Prior to 1870, the state paid to educate blind and deaf children at special schools in other states.
It was Howard Johnson, a Pendleton County teacher for the blind, who successfully convinced the legislature that West Virginia needed a school for the blind. On March 3, 1870, the legislature approved the creation of a school for the blind and a school for the deaf.
The state considered sites in Parkersburg, Wheeling, and Clarksburg before selecting Romney, whose townspeople had offered a building and 20 acres of land. The schools were opened in September 1870 with 16 students. But within just a few weeks enrollment had increased to 30 students.
The Deaf and Blind Schools in Romney, like most public schools of the day, excluded African-American students. To receive an education, black deaf and blind children were sent to a school in Maryland. Their tuition was paid with money from the budget of the Romney schools. But in 1926, the West Virginia Colored Deaf and Blind School was opened in Institute in Kanawha County.
Three African-American legislators -- T. G. Nutter, Henry Capehart, and T. J. Coleman -- pushed for the creation of the school in 1919. But the legislature failed to appropriate funding for seven years. Following the U.S. Supreme Court Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954, the school at Institute was closed and black deaf and blind students were sent to the Romney schools. Today, the West Virginia Schools for the Deaf and the Blind continue to offer traditional elementary and secondary courses as well as specialized classes.
The race for governor in 1888 produced the strangest inauguration day in West Virginia history. It was a day in which three would-be governors attempted to succeeded incumbent E. Willis Wilson. It would be nearly a year before one of them would be allowed to assume the governor's duties.
The 1888 election pitted Democrat A. B. Fleming against Republican Nathan Goff. Initially, it looked as though Fleming lost the election by only 106 votes. Fleming protested, claiming 2,000 fraudulent votes had been cast, mostly by blacks in southern West Virginia.
While the legislature was considering the issue, Governor Wilson's term ended. Since the legislature hadn't chosen a winner, both Fleming and Goff claimed to be the lawful governor. State senator Robert Carr entered the fray, declaring his constitutional right as senate president to assume the governor's duties. On inauguration day, March 4, 1889, in separate ceremonies, Fleming, Goff, and Carr were all sworn in as West Virginia's eighth governor. Meanwhile, Governor Wilson announced his intention to remain in office until the legislature determined an official winner. Nine days later, the West Virginia Supreme Court sided with Wilson, ruling he should continue as governor until the controversial election could be settled legally.
Wilson served until early February 1890, when the legislature narrowly chose A. B. Fleming as his successor. Fleming presided over an administration shortened almost a year by the controversy. Republican legislators, bitter over the ordeal, thwarted most of Governor Fleming's measures. One of the few accomplishments of his administration was the adoption of a uniform ballot to discourage election fraud.
In 1899, the West Virginia Legislature authorized the state's humane society to operate a publicly funded orphanage in Elkins. Better known today for its work with neglected animals, the society's original mission included caring for orphaned children and the elderly. The home in Elkins took in many of West Virginia's homeless or neglected children, but black children were excluded.
On March 5, 1900, the Rev. Charles McGhee opened the West Virginia Normal & Industrial School for Colored Orphans on his Cabell County farm. Three years later, the school, which came to be known as the West Virginia Colored Children's Home, moved to a 190-acre site overlooking the Guyandotte River near Huntington.
By law, states were required to maintain "separate but equal" public institutions for African Americans. However, West Virginia dragged its feet when it came to establishing facilities for blacks. African-American institutions, such as a hospital for the mentally ill, a school for the deaf and blind, a tuberculosis sanitarium, and industrial schools for girls and boys, were not funded until well after similar facilities for whites.
The West Virginia Colored Children's Home and the state's other black institutions closed their doors after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled segregation in public schools unconstitutional in 1954.
Many of West Virginia's major coal mine disasters can be traced to a deadly build up of methane gas. Improperly ventilated mines run the danger of trapping methane which often leads to explosions.
On the morning of March 6, 1900, a gas explosion tore through the Red Ash mine near the Fayette County town of Thurmond. In gas explosions, fire is the most common cause of injuries and deaths. However, the Red Ash explosion was so violent that 46 miners were killed by the shear force of the blast. Three others were badly injured. Coal cars inside the mine were piled up at the mine's mouth. The blast left 24 children fatherless.
Lack of safety regulations around the turn of the century made coal mining one of the most dangerous occupations. In 1900 alone, 150 miners died in West Virginia's mines. In addition to Red Ash, major explosions occurred at Berryburg in Barbour County and Farmington in Marion County.
In 1905, a second disaster forced the closing of the Red Ash mines and the community disappeared. Red Ash was one of many once thriving New River Gorge coal towns which quickly vanished. Today, remnants of these mines and communities can be seen by whitewater rafters as they paddle down the New River.
Dillon, Lacy A. They Died for King Coal. Winona, MN: Apollo Books, 1985.
On March 9, 1990, a memorial service was held for one of West Virginia's most honored war heroes. Thirty-nine years after his death in Korea, the body of Sgt. Cornelius Charlton was removed from a family cemetery in Mercer County and reinterred in the American Legion Cemetery in Beckley, close to his East Gulf birthplace. Most highly decorated veterans earn the right to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery. But the government had refused Charlton a hero's burial in 1951 because he was black.
Charlton was living in the Bronx, New York when he enlisted. Originally assigned to a desk job, Charlton volunteered for combat duty with Company C of the 24th Infantry Regiment of the 25thArmy Infantry Division. On June 2, 1951, Charlton's platoon commander was wounded and evacuated from the field. Charlton took command of the unit's assault against Hill 543, knocked out two enemy positions, and killed six. Even though he had suffered a serious chest wound, Charlton led a third charge to capture the hill. Without regard for his own safety, he personally attacked the last enemy position on the other side of the hill. Fatally wounded by a grenade, Charlton struggled onward and singlehandedly took out the enemy.
The government posthumously awarded Charlton the Purple Heart and the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest accolade for military valor. Yet, he was barred from the hallowed ground of this country's oldest national cemetery. His family laid the 21-year-old war hero to rest in a small family cemetery on the state line near Pocahontas, Virginia. After the caretaker's death, the cemetery was neglected and Charlton's grave was forgotten by many. In 1989, the national Medal of Honor Society launched a two-year campaign to locate the lost graves of heroes and Charlton's grave was rediscovered. Cornelius Charlton finally received a burial befitting a soldier who had sacrificed his life for his country.
However, Charlton's deeds had not been totally forgotten. A tree in the Bronx was dedicated to his memory and his native state named one of the first bridges on the West Virginia Turnpike in his honor. The 1,334-foot-long bridge over the Bluestone Gorge in Mercer County still bears the name Charlton Memorial Bridge.
The national women's suffrage movement is usually traced back to 1848, when suffragists held a convention at Seneca Falls, New York. Historians date West Virginia's suffrage movement to 1895 and the formation of the West Virginia Equal Suffrage Association in Grafton. The West Virginia association combined nine smaller clubs into a statewide organization.
Suffrage organizations weren't the only groups campaigning for a woman's right to vote. The Women's Christian Temperance Union's main purpose was to lobby against the sale and consumption of alcohol, which it considered to be the source of many domestic problems. Its members believed women would elect more virtuous public officials, who would vote to ban the sale of alcohol.
Suffragists pressured the West Virginia Legislature into taking the issue to the people. The state's male electorate decisively rejected a proposed amendment to the state constitution in November 1916. After World War I, women nationwide pushed for a suffrage amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The 19th Amendment was sent to the states for consideration.
In February 1920, the West Virginia Legislature met in special session. Lawmakers were lobbied heavily by the state's suffragists, led by Marion County native Lenna Lowe Yost, a past president of the state W.C.T.U. The House of Delegates first passed the amendment. Then, on March 10, by a vote of 15 to 14, the state Senate made West Virginia the 34th of the 36 states needed to ratify the amendment.
The 19th Amendment was ratified in August 1920 and women cast their first votes in national elections that November.
WV State Archives' A Brief History of the Suffrage Movement in West Virginia
Violent confrontation is no stranger to West Virginia's mining industry. On many occasions, the state activated its militia to restore order and put down strikes. The state militia was first mobilized to quell labor unrest during the national railroad strike, which began at Martinsburg in 1877. Three years later, troops were sent to Fayette County to end a strike against the Hawks Nest Coal Company.
The strike had spread from the Kanawha Valley, where miners had staged a work stoppage for better wages. Ironically, it was Kanawha Valley coal operators, not miners, who wanted to carry the strike into Fayette County. They felt the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway provided an unfair advantage to Fayette County coal operators, drawing business away from the Kanawha Valley. By disrupting work at the competing Fayette mines, the Kanawha operators hoped to persuade the C&O to furnish more rail cars to haul their own coal.
State militia troops were mobilized from Charleston and Lewisburg by Governor Henry Mathews, who feared violence would erupt as it had in Martinsburg. Ultimately, 25 miners were arrested by the Fayette County sheriff and charged with intimidation and unlawful interference. A year after the troubles ended, on March 11, 1881, the West Virginia Legislature appropriated more than $1,300 to pay the troops for their service during the Hawks Nest strike. It was the first time the legislature authorized payment for troops to put down labor unrest and it wouldn't be the last. On several occasions in 1912 and 1913, Governor William Glasscock declared martial law and dispatched the militia to the Paint Creek and Cabin Creek strike area in Kanawha County.
During World War I, the militia was called into national service and was no longer available to the state. In its absence, the legislature established the state police in 1919 to quash conflict associated with the mine wars in southern West Virginia.
West Virginia State Police: 75th Anniversary, 1919-1994. Columbus, OH: Walsworth Publishing, 1994.
The Wheeling-Ohio County Hospital has continuously served West Virginia's northern panhandle, at one site or another, since 1850. Wheeling Hospital was incorporated March 12 that year. Wheeling historian Margaret Brennan says it was founded during a boom period for Wheeling.
Brennan: And because Wheeling was the most important city in western Virginia in the 1850s, it attracted early on a lot of prominent men who were well educated in their time in the medical profession.
Brennan says Wheeling city councilman Simon Houlihan originally tried to get the city to establish the hospital. But when the city refused, he collaborated with the Catholic Church.
Brennan: And they decided to incorporate the first hospital in the state of West Virginia -- of course, it wasn't a state at that time -- but it is today the oldest hospital in the state.
During the Civil War, the nuns who worked at Wheeling Hospital provided care for wounded soldiers. Brennan says at one point over 200 casualties arrived in one day.
Brennan: Overwhelming -- they had them in the courtyard, they had them in the halls, the sisters had to actually get out of their beds and sleep on the floors in a little chapel area so that the men could have the cots.
The Civil War soldiers were treated at a north Wheeling mansion which the hospital had acquired in 1856. The hospital also established the first orphanage in present-day West Virginia in 1856 and the first school of nursing in 1895. In 1975, the hospital moved to a site outside city limits which was soon damaged by a flood. The hospital buildings used prior to 1975 have been torn down. The hospital plans to create a historic site on the spot.
Several college basketball powerhouses emerged from West Virginia in the 1940s. West Virginia University won a national title in 1942 and Cam Henderson's Marshall College team captured the National Intercollegiate Basketball Tournament in 1947. The following year, it was West Virginia State College's turn.
Long considered one of the nation's finest academic black colleges, State dominated athletics as well. All but one of its opponents were out-of-state schools. Despite the rigors of prolonged road trips, Coach Mark Cardwell's '47-'48 team won all 20 regular season games heading into the national Colored Intercollegiate Athletic Association Tournament in Washington. The Yellow Jackets annihilated Johnson C. Smith College in the opening round by 34 points. In the second round, they won a narrow victory over North Carolina College, setting up the championship match against Howard University on March 13. In a close, low-scoring game, State took the lead with 9 minutes remaining and never relinquished it, winning 42 to 31. In 1949, the Yellow Jackets successfully defended their title, defeating North Carolina to win back-to-back national championships.
They were led both seasons by Clarence "Bumpy" Clark, Joe Gilliam, Bob Wilson, and 6-foot-7 Earl Lloyd. Two years later, Lloyd became the first African American to play in a National Basketball Association game, when he debuted with the Washington Capitals on October 31, 1950. Lloyd wasn't the only pathbreaker. Several other blacks were drafted the same year as Lloyd, including State teammate Bob Wilson. However, since the Washington Capitals' season began first, Lloyd is credited with breaking the NBA's color barrier.
Early in his rookie season, the Korean War began and Lloyd was drafted into the Army. He returned to the NBA and played eight seasons with the Syracuse Nationals and Detroit Pistons. In 1960, Lloyd was named an assistant with the Pistons, becoming the NBA's first black coach.
West Virginia State was integrated 6 years after its first national championship and joined the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, comprised of historically white colleges. State made it to a national championship game again in 1987, but lost in the finals of the NAIA Tournament for small colleges.
In the early 1800s, poor transportation routes isolated western Virginia from lucrative eastern markets. Beginning with President George Washington, the federal government supported internal improvements as a way to connect the young nation. The earliest attempt to link present- day West Virginia with the East was the construction of the National Road, completed to Wheeling in 1818. However, by the mid-1820s, the federal government had lost interest in funding such projects.
Spurred by the success of the National Road, the state of Virginia invested $100,000 to build the James River and Kanawha Turnpike through the southern part of the state. Another venture, the Northwestern Turnpike, linked Parkersburg with Clarksburg, Grafton, Romney, and Winchester. The last major effort to connect eastern and western Virginia was the Staunton and Parkersburg Turnpike.
The Staunton and Parkersburg engineers faced the daunting task of carving a road across the rugged peaks of Pocahontas County and traverse the numerous waterways of northwestern Virginia. Planning and surveying began in 1823 but the counties of Wood, Lewis, Randolph, Pocahontas, and Pendleton struggled to raise their share of construction costs. Work finally began on March 16, 1838. Because the region was sparsely populated at the time, European immigrants, particularly Irish laborers, poured into what is now central West Virginia to work on the road. Among the young laborers on this turnpike was a 13-year-old Thomas Jackson, who became known to the world as "Stonewall" during the Civil War.
The completion of the road in 1847 promoted the growth of towns such as Monterey, Beverly, Buckhannon, and Weston. Control of the turnpike was a key objective for both sides during the Civil War, leading to one of the war's first engagements, the Battle of Rich Mountain near Beverly. The federal army's victory at Rich Mountain and command of the turnpike ensured northwestern Virginia would remain in Union hands, an important factor in West Virginia's statehood.
West Virginia's early turnpikes became the framework for the National Highway System in West Virginia. The National Road became US 40, the James River and Kanawha Turnpike became US 60, the Northwestern Turnpike became US 50, and the Staunton and Parkersburg Turnpike is now US 250.
In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, William E. Chilton was one of West Virginia's most influential politicians, lawyers, and journalists. The Chilton family is still closely associated with the Charleston Gazette. William E. Chilton was born March 17, 1858, in the Kanawha County town of Coalsmouth, present-day St. Albans. Shortly after joining the state bar in 1880, Chilton became a protege of John Kenna, who served in both the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate. Chilton, along with his law partners William MacCorkle and brother Joseph E. Chilton, formed the powerful Kanawha Ring, which controlled local Democratic politics. Chilton served at various times as Kanawha County's prosecuting attorney, chair of the Democratic State Executive Committee, and Secretary of State. He also worked fervently to elect MacCorkle to the Governor's office in 1892.
In 1907, Chilton acquired the Charleston Gazette and served as its editor for 15 years before turning it over to his son William E. Chilton II. In 1911, the West Virginia Legislature elected Chilton to the U.S. Senate. During his term, the U.S. Constitution was changed, allowing the public to elect senators directly and Chilton lost the 1916 election to Republican Howard Sutherland. Eight years later, he ran for West Virginia's other Senate seat, but was defeated by Guy D. Goff. The Republican landslide in 1924 was so overwhelming that Democratic presidential candidate John W. Davis could not even carry his native state of West Virginia. In his last attempt at public office, Chilton finished third in the 1934 U.S. Senate primary, won by Rush D. Holt.
In retirement, Chilton served as vice president and associate editor of the Gazette, which he used skillfully to promote his political views. He died in Charleston in 1939, at the age of eighty-one.
The story of West Virginia's most famous mass murderer first hit the local newspapers in Clarksburg in the late summer of 1931. It didn't take long for the national press to pick up the story and relate Harry Powers' grisly deeds to a Depression-weary nation.
Powers and his wife ran a grocery store in Clarksburg and lived south of town in Quiet Dell. When he was arrested, police found trunks filled with love letters and the personal effects of one of his victims. They later discovered five corpses, two women and three children, buried in a drainage ditch beside Powers' garage. Upon further investigation, police determined Powers had served time in other states for defrauding widows.
A police investigation found Powers had befriended the two women under the assumed name of Cornelius Pierson. He first abducted Asta Eicher and her three children from their home in Park Ridge, Illinois. Powers reassured suspicious neighbors, telling them the children were in Europe. Dorothy Lemke of Northboro, Massachusetts, was Powers' last victim, because police had traced the name Cornelius Pierson to a Clarksburg post office box.
Interest in Powers' trial was so intense it had to be held in a specially constructed courtroom at Moore's Opera House in Clarksburg. Even though Powers maintained his innocence, it took a jury only two hours to return a guilty verdict. During the trial, prison guards claimed Powers confessed to the murders as well as the killing of a salesman with whom he had worked at a Clarksburg carpet company.
Powers had come to be known nationally as the "Bluebeard of Quiet Dell." He was hanged on March 18, 1932, at the West Virginia Penitentiary in Moundsville.
Harry Powers' story was the basis for a classic novel by former Clarksburg author Davis Grubb. Grubb used the name Harry Powell for the lead character in his book, Night of the Hunter, set in Depression-era West Virginia. Like Harry Powers, Grubb's character played upon the affections of a widow and killed her for money.
Bunting, Camilla. "When Hollywood Came to Moundsville: Filming Davis Grubb's Fool's Parade." Goldenseal 21(Summer 1995): 48-56.
Grubb, Davis. Night of the Hunter. New York: Harper, 1953.
The Night of the Hunter (1955), film directed by Charles Laughton (distributed by MGM/UA Home Video).
Pauley, Michael J. "Remembering Davis Grubb." Goldenseal 7(Jan.-Mar. 1981): 70-71.
The 1954 U.S. Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education was the beginning of the end for segregation in public schools. The decision had a profound effect on school life from academics to athletics.
For thirty-three years, black students competed in the West Virginia Athletic Union, whose first basketball tournament began on March 19, 1925, at West Virginia State College in Institute. Eleven of West Virginia's 25 black high school basketball teams met in the inaugural tournament with Lincoln High School of Wheeling defeating Kimball High School in the finals. A prominent African-American newspaper, the Pittsburgh Courier, reported the competition was the first of its kind among black schools in West Virginia and one of the first ever in the country.
The tournament gained popularity during the 1930s and 1940s when it was hosted by Institute, Charleston, Bluefield, Clarksburg, and Northfork. By the late 1950s, the integration orders forced most black schools to close. In 1957, Bluefield's Park Central High School hosted the last West Virginia Athletic Union basketball tournament. Only 12 schools competed. The rest had either been merged into previously all-white schools or had joined the state Secondary Schools Activity Commission and played a schedule of integrated schools. The host team, Park Central, beat the defending state champion Byrd Prillerman of Raleigh County for the last Athletic Union title. After the tournament, the Athletic Union disbanded and the final 12 black schools joined the Secondary Schools Activity Commission.
By the beginning of the 1966 school year, all of West Virginia's black public schools had closed and the state's educational system was completely integrated.
Three months into Arch Moore's second term as governor, inmates staged a riot at the West Virginia Penitentiary in Moundsville. It was one of many riots over the years blamed on inadequate living conditions and poor treatment of prisoners.
A helicopter flew over the prison where 200 prisoners held five guards hostage. One state official said the riot started when an inmate overpowered guards.
Official: He had a knife on him and when they took him to the shower why he cut one of the officers slightly, he's not one of them that's down there by the way. But he was able to overpower the other two officers and then they had the keys to the hall that they were confined in and they were able to lock the doors so we can't get in.
The riot started March 20, 1973. Before it ended, one inmate was killed and two others seriously wounded. The rioting inmates were described as the prison's troublemakers.
Official: They do not represent the inmate council. There is an inmate council at this prison that speaks for the majority of the inmates in the prison. You have this dissident group, the troublemakers, and this is the group that's involved.
Governor Moore joined the negotiations in Moundsville the day after the riot started. When Moore and other officials agreed to the inmates' 20 demands, the hostages were set free.
Ten days after the riot, Governor Moore said he would keep his end of the bargain.
Moore: I expect the inmates of that institution to keep their end of the bargain and I have no reason to believe that they won't. As a matter of fact, circumstances are such that they really don't have much of a choice right at the present time, I should say. But we're moving fast in our rehabilitation program and straightening out the problems that were generated by the riot.The West Virginia Supreme Court eventually shut down the penitentiary due to overcrowding. In 1995, a state prison opened at Mt. Olive in Fayette County.
The loss of $231 million dollars from the State Consolidated Investment Fund in 1987 and 1988 spelled trouble for one of West Virginia's most flamboyant and enduring politicians. State Treasurer A. James Manchin left office amid charges of mismanagement.
On March 23, 1989, the House of Delegates voted to bring impeachment charges against Manchin. The House adopted a 7-page motion critical of his management practices. Manchin seemed ready to fight the charges but before the state Senate could hold a trial, he announced his retirement from 41 years in state politics. On West Virginia Day, Manchin spoke to reporters inside his Capitol office while a crowd of supporters spilled out into the hallway.
Manchin: I have prepared this letter for his excellency, the Governor of West Virginia, which reads as follows: Dear Governor Caperton, the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course and I have kept the faith. Accordingly, I will enter into retirement on my last day of service as treasurer of the state of West Virginia at 5 o'clock p.m. on July 9, 1989. I will seek the strength and guidance of Almighty God as I prepare to embark upon a new journey and to open new doors of public service which will enable me to continue loving and serving the people of this state until they lay me away on top of the hill at my beloved Farmington. May the bright morning star be a lamp unto our feet and being with sentiments and respect, I'm your public servant, A. James Manchin.
A. James Manchin first entered public life in 1948 as a member of the House of Delegates from Marion County. He helped organize John F. Kennedy's 1960 presidential primary campaign in West Virginia and Kennedy returned the favor by naming Manchin state director of the Farmers Home Administration. In the 1970s, Manchin gained national notoriety as the head of the Rehabilitation Environmental Action Program (REAP), a statewide effort to get rid of junked cars. He served two terms as secretary of state and was twice elected state treasurer.
Manchin maintained his innocence regarding the Consolidated Investment Fund. In 1990, former Associate Treasurer Arnold Margolin pleaded guilty to two felony charges that he gave false information to the fund's investors.
Members of the West Virginia National Guard have been called to service all over the world. In recent years, state guard units supported U.S. troops during the Persian Gulf War and in Bosnia. The West Virginia Guard did the same along the Mexican border just before the U.S. entered World War I.
Ken Bailey, the author of Mountaineers Are Free: A History of the West Virginia National Guard, says President Woodrow Wilson called the guard up for active duty in 1916 because of political instability in Mexico. The country was in chaos as rebels like Pancho Villa ruled the countryside.
Bailey: Mexico had gone through a revolution in the early 1900s and had not regained control of the country. There were roaming bandit groups that were actually running certain sections of the country and some of these groups were beginning to spill over into the United States across the border.
Wilson sent General "Blackjack" Pershing, who would become famous during World War I, to the Mexican border to restore order.
Bailey: However, we had very little standing army at that time. So, in order to get troops for that effort, National Guards of various states were called into active service and the West Virginia National Guard was one of those.
Bailey says West Virginia had two regiments when Wilson called for troops. But, since there was no draft and some of the troops were physically incapable of the demands of active duty along the border, there were only enough men to send one regiment.
Bailey: They spent something like 6 to 7 months along the border doing training -- doing very little other than providing security for railroads and border crossings, fords on rivers, and that kind of thing and generally being thoroughly bored and wanting to come back home. They were typical soldiers who felt that their time was being wasted.
The West Virginia guardsmen were finally released from service on March 24, 1917. But, it wasn't long before many were called up again. Two weeks after they returned to West Virginia, the United States entered World War I.
West Virginia's public radio and television stations owe a debt of gratitude to the vision of one man. Harry Brawley saw radio and television as vehicles for extending education beyond the classroom.
Public television station WPBY in Huntington interviewed Brawley for a documentary of his life and accomplishments called "Making a Difference." Brawley overcame childhood polio to become the driving force behind public broadcasting's early days in West Virginia.
Brawley: I wanted to do something to . . . make a difference. I decided on that early. I couldn't play football. I couldn't play basketball. But I did want to make a difference.
Brawley taught in Kanawha County public schools in the 1930s and 1940s, using newsreels and radio broadcasts in the classroom. Brawley eventually turned toward radio and television and hosted his own local talk show in Charleston. In 1963, Brawley was instrumental in persuading lawmakers to create the West Virginia Educational Broadcasting Authority and served as the EBA's first executive secretary.
Brawley: I'm proud of the fact that we got at least the avenues for people to improve themselves -- much more so than ever . . . the things that're being taught over the air now is amazing.
When Harry Brawley retired, West Virginia's three public television stations had begun broadcasting and plans were on the table for West Virginia Public Radio. An avid historian, he devoted his retirement years to giving public presentations on Charleston history. Harry Brawley died at his home in Charleston on March 25, 1992.
Despite opposition from members of his cabinet, President Abraham Lincoln, on the last day of 1862, signed the bill allowing the new state of West Virginia to enter the Union. The bill's original language had been altered several times. The most dramatic change was the Willey Amendment, which called for the gradual abolition of slavery. U.S. Senator Waitman Willey of Morgantown represented the Restored Government of Virginia, a state government loyal to the Union, based in Wheeling. To push the statehood bill through Congress, Willey's amendment granted freedom to all slaves when they turned twenty-one.
A draft constitution had already been approved by western Virginians. But the Willey Amendment necessitated another referendum, which began on March 26, 1863, and lasted for three days. Lincoln and Restored Government leaders took drastic measures to ensure victory for statehood. U.S. troops broke up meetings of forces opposed to the Willey Amendment and intimidated potential anti- statehood voters. Supporters of the Confederacy, including those enlisted in the Confederate Army, were prohibited from voting. By contrast, an extraordinary effort enabled western Virginians serving in the Union Army to vote. The result was an overwhelming show of support for statehood -- 28,321 votes in favor as opposed to only 572 against, with over one-fourth of the votes cast by Union soldiers.
This was the last major stepping stone for West Virginia statehood. President Lincoln issued a statehood proclamation on April 20, state officers were elected on May 28, and West Virginia entered the Union as the thirty-fifth state on June 20, 1863.
When news reached the East in 1848 that gold had been discovered in California, thousands across the nation joined in a mad rush to strike it rich. Goldfever hit Harpers Ferry, where an expedition was organized. As many as 800 prospective gold miners followed former Texas Ranger Colonel Whiting to California. It is not known whether these miners ever reached their destination.
More is known about a group that left Charles Town on March 27, 1849. Eighty men formed a joint stock company and pooled their money. The company's constitution prohibited any work on Sunday, forbade gambling, and discouraged drinking. The company was governed by a 7-member board of directors, headed by Benjamin Washington, a great-grandnephew of George Washington.
The prospectors faced all sorts of dangers, including Indian attacks, along the 2,100-mile journey to California. During a 2-week period, half of the prospectors fell sick and 5 died. When the company finally made it to Sacramento, its members disbanded and struck out to search for gold in small parties. For weeks, the Charles Town press reported the adventures of the Jefferson County 49ers. A few were successful but most failed and returned home. Some of the prospectors remained in California, including Benjamin Washington, who became the first editor of the San Francisco Examiner.
Reinhardt, Richard. "All That Glittered." American Heritage 49(February/March 1998): 42-57.
During the Civil War, the Baltimore and Ohio (B&O) Railroad was a lifeline for Union troops in the South Branch and Shenandoah valleys. The railroad was used to transport Federal supplies and troops, which made it a target for Confederate animosity. Throughout the war, the railroad was plagued by Confederate raiders, particularly McNeill's Rangers, a band of Rebel partisans.
McNeill's Rangers were formed in present-day Hardy County in 1862 by John Hanson McNeill. The Rangers wreaked havoc in the South Branch Valley. B&O machine shops were burned in Piedmont and a bridge destroyed in Bloomington. In a daring, late-night raid on Cumberland, Maryland, the Rangers kidnapped Union generals George Crook and Benjamin Kelley and delivered them to Richmond as war prisoners.
On March 30, 1865, 30 or 40 Rangers approached the B&O just east of Patterson's Creek in present-day Mineral County and forced a group of brakemen to tear up the tracks near a sharp curve. The engine and 2 cars of an approaching passenger train derailed. The Rangers boarded the train and quickly stole passengers' watches, jewelry, and money, and captured 2 Union captains and 2 lieutenants. By the time Federal troops arrived from Patterson's Creek and Green Springs Run, McNeill's Ranger had escaped, leaving the railroad in shambles.
The incident at Patterson's Creek was the Rangers' last attack on the B&O. Eleven days later, Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox, but McNeill's Rangers refused to accept defeat. Seventy-five of the Rangers formally surrendered in May 1865, but some simply returned to their homes and slipped into anonymity. Decades later, many of McNeill's men finally emerged at Civil War reunions and took great pride in the fact they had never surrendered.
Delauter, Roger U. McNeill's Rangers. Lynchburg, VA: H. E. Howard, 1986.
On March 31, 1887, Governor E. Willis Wilson appointed Dr. Daniel Mayer as director of the West Virginia Hospital for the Insane, which later became Weston State Hospital. It was one of many honors bestowed upon Mayer, who was the first Jewish state official and first Jewish member of the West Virginia Legislature.
He was born in Germany in 1837 and immigrated to the United States at age 15. In 1859, Mayer earned a medical degree from the Ohio Medical College of Cincinnati. When the Civil War began two years later, he moved to Mason County in present-day West Virginia and raised a Union military company. In August 1861, he resigned as captain of his company to accept the commission of first lieutenant and assistant surgeon with the 5th Virginia Infantry, which later became the Fifth West Virginia regiment. Mayer was honorably discharged in 1864 and opened a medical practice in Charleston.
Mayer served as the city's health officer and on the city council. He studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1867. He worked as an attorney in Kanawha, Boone, and Logan counties, while continuing his Charleston medical practice. In 1873, Governor John Jacob appointed Mayer to succeed Joseph Diss Debar as the state's second Commissioner of Immigration. While Mayer served as immigration commissioner, many European Jews settled in West Virginia, particularly in Charleston.
After serving as the Director of the Hospital for the Insane and in the House of Delegates, Mayer was named state surgeon general by Governor George W. Atkinson. While in this post, Mayer was appointed by President William McKinley as U.S. Consul to Argentina. He and McKinley had become friends when the two fought in West Virginia during the Civil War. Mayer retired in 1905 and moved to Cincinnati, where he died in 1910.
"Time Trail, West Virginia" March 1998 Schedule
West Virginia History Center