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Williams Memorial Methodist Episcopal Church
Williams Memorial Methodist Episcopal Church

The First Father's Day

By Thomas Koon

On Sunday, June 18, Father's Day will be celebrated across the country as our nation pauses once again to honor those called "Dad." Cards will be exchanged, gifts will be opened, and families will gather to recognize the strength, wisdom, and sacrifices of these special men.

What few people will recognize, however, is that this important national holiday began right here in West Virginia on July 5, 1908.

That year as Independence Day neared, Mrs. Grace Golden Clayton of Fairmont thought of the importance of fathers and how well-loved most of them are. Her own father, Methodist minister Reverend Fletcher Golden, had died in 1896, and she still missed his fatherly guidance. Then on December 6, 1907, a horrible mine explosion at Monongah killed more than 360 men, 210 of whom were fathers [see "December 6, 1907: No Christmas at Monongah," by Eugene Wolfe; Winter 1993 and Winter 1999]. 250 widows and more than 1,000 children were left grieving by this disaster. Thoughts of these lonely persons touched Grace Clayton deeply.

She was later quoted as saying, "It was partly the explosion that set me to think how important and loved most fathers are. All those lonely little children and those heartbroken wives and mothers, made orphans and widows in a matter of a few minutes! Oh, how sad and frightening to have no father, no husband, to turn to at such an awful time."

You can read the rest of this article in the Summer 2000 issue of Goldenseal, available in bookstores, libraries or direct from Goldenseal.