The explorers who discovered the New River in 1671 weren't the first Europeans to reach the outer edges of what has become West Virginia. But the discovery gave England the clout it needed to lay claim to the entire Ohio Valley. The expedition was undertaken at the behest of Major General Abraham Wood, an Englishman interested in developing the western fur trade. He had been directed by the colonial governor of Virginia, Sir William Berkeley, to mount the expedition. The leader of the mission, Captain Thomas Batts, was accompanied by an Indian guide, an indentured servant, Thomas Wood, and Robert Fallam, who kept a journal of the trip. The group left Fort Henry along the Appomattox River near present-day Petersburg, Virginia, on September 1. Within two weeks, it had reached Swope's Knob in what is now Monroe County in southeastern West Virginia. Batts and Fallam's discovery of the New River a day later was significant because they were the first Europeans to lay claim to a westward flowing river. The expedition continued along the New River for 3 days until it reached Peters Falls near the Virginia-West Virginia border. In the ensuing years, fur traders and explorers continued to penetrate western Virginia's wilderness but it was the Batts and Fallam expedition that allowed England to compete with France over control of the Ohio Valley. The French claimed the famous explorer La Salle had reached the Ohio country in 1669, two years before Batts and Fallam discovered the New River. The dispute brewed for nearly 100 years until the British defeated the French in the French and Indian War and established control over present-day West Virginia.
World War II in the Pacific came to an end in Tokyo Bay on the Battleship U.S.S. Missouri. Representatives from both the Allies and Japan gathered on board the Missouri September 2, 1945, to sign the articles of surrender which a West Virginian helped prepare. Richard Sutherland, the son of former U.S.Senator Howard Sutherland, was serving on General Douglas MacArthur's staff at the time and attended the surrender ceremony.
Earlier, on VJ Day, August 14, well-known West Virginia broadcaster Ernie Saunders did a live broadcast from the streets of downtown Charleston. Saunders interviewed a number of West Virginians who were celebrating the news of Japan's surrender.
H. L. Hames, "The Mule School: The West Virginia Home Front in World War II," Goldenseal Spring 1991: 30-33.
Louis E. Keefer, "Harvesting the Victory: Richwood Joins the WWII Effort," Goldenseal Fall 1991: 18-24.
Louis Keefer, "The West Virginia WWII Home Front: Bell Bottoms at Bethany," Goldenseal Fall 1992: 9-17.
Wh at Did You Do in the War, Grandma? Oral histories of Rhode Island women during World War II by high school students
During World War II, 218,665 West Virginians served in the military. The war boosted West Virginia's economy, providing men and women jobs in factories, chemical plants, and ordnance plants (weapons manufacturing).
The West Virginia Conference Seminary was established in Buckhannon September 3, 1890. The seminary became known later as West Virginia Wesleyan College. Dr. Ken Welliver, a professor of religion and director of the Humanities Program at Wesleyan, says the Methodist church attempted to establish schools in West Virginia several times but was unsuccessful:
Then, after the Civil War, they got serious about trying to establish a school for men and women. In the very beginning, they wanted education for both boys and girls. And, it would have been in the '80s, they pretty well decided to go ahead and start a school and had a committee to look at various sites.
In 1887, the committee decided to locate the proposed seminary in Buckhannon.
Welliver: Which they considered to be centrally located and, as I think one of the statements said, "relatively far from sin," no taverns and things like that and a very hospitable population.
Welliver says the West Virginia Conference Seminary started out as more or less a high school with about 70 students. But, by 1904, the school was able to offer a complete college degree. He says the history of the college over the years has been a battle with finances:
And, it's interesting to read back and the various attempts to keep a budget balanced. One year, they had a $9,000 budget and had a $19 deficit and that was a problem.
The West Virginia Conference Seminary changed its name to West Virginia Wesleyan College in June 1906.
It's been 76 years since armed coal miners in Kanawha County marched to Logan County to unionize southern West Virginia's coalfields. The march was ill fated. The union men and their sympathizers ended up fighting a pitched battle with sheriff's deputies and armed guards on Blair Mountain near the Logan-Boone county line. State and federal troops were called in and World War I airplanes were used to bomb union forces. Chris Holt was 14 years old at the time of the armed march. When he was interviewed in 1985 for the West Virginia Public Television program, Even the Heavens Weep, he remembered when the soldiers arrived in Logan County:
Well, the soldiers came in. They set up a headquarters down here at Sharples and they sent up patrols and, the next thing you know, everything quieted down. You saw these men coming in empty handed, get on the train, and the train took them on out to St. Albans or wherever they were going to. No names were taken by the Army. They just came in and, when they marched out into the field, everything stopped.
The coal miners' march to unionize the southern West Virginia coalfields ended with the arrival of the 10th U.S. Infantry from Fort Thomas, Kentucky, and a squadron of bombers from Langley Field, Virginia. On September 4, 1921, the federal troops marched up Hewitt Creek in Logan County and miners began to scatter. The miners' defeat at Blair Mountain killed the United Mine Workers' efforts to unionize southern West Virginia until the passage of the National Industrial Recovery Act in 1933. However, Blair Mountain is a lasting reminder of the struggles faced by coal miners in the early 20th century.
West Virginia State Archives' History of West Virginia's Mine Wars
Clayton D. Laurie, "United States Army and the Return to Normalcy in Labor Dispute Interventions: The Case of the West Virginia Coal Mine War, 1920-1921, West Virginia History 50(1991): 1- 24.
September 19 Time Trail program: Life of William Blizzard
The Battle of Blair Mountain ended the United Mine Workers' 30- year effort to organize the miners of southern West Virginia. Blair Mountain was a devastating blow to the union. However, the courage of the miners became a symbol of pride for future labor causes. After looking at the History of West Virginia's Mine Wars, consider the following questions:
In 1956, Matoaka High School in Mercer County opened the school year with about 20 newly enrolled black students. On the second day of school, September 5, a crowd of about 200 gathered outside Matoaka High to protest integration. As the morning wore on, the crows became restless, shouting insults and threats.
At the noon recess, the crowd finally began breaking up because Matoaka High's principal allowed parents to take their children home. A television reporter covering the protest interviewed the father of a Matoaka High student:
Q: I understand a few of the colored boys were hurt by rocks and things thrown at them this morning. Do you agree and how do you feel about them having to be punished, having to be hurt?
A: Well, I don't believe in violence at all. I think that it ought to be handled without violence.
Q: Do you think there will be more violence?
A: Well, I think there will be if it continues like it is.
Q: Do you think the state police will be able to control it?
A: Well, as long as the school kids is all that's involved, they'll be able to control it.
Q: Do you think there'll be peaceful integration tomorrow?
A: No, there'll never be peaceful integration nowhere.
A boycott of schools in Mercer County spread from Matoaka High to nearby Springton and Arista elementary schools. A group of parents objecting to integration voted to keep their children out of school, but when it became apparent the board of education would not budge on the issue, the parents gradually began sending their children back to school and the boycott died for lack of support.
Some minor disturbances were reported in both Logan and McDowell counties but the Mercer County protest against integration was the largest during the 1956-57 school year.
West Virginia State Archives' History of African Americans in West Virginia
Alice E. Carter, "Segregation and Integration in the Appalachian Coalfields: McDowell County Responds to the Brown Decision", West Virginia History 54(1995), 78- 104.
In 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled public schools could not be separated on the basis of race. In West Virginia, integration was relatively peaceful compared to schools in the South. However, in some instances, courts had to force traditionally white schools to enroll black students.
Republicans have long been in the minority in West Virginia politics but that hasn't always been the case. Republicans held the governor's office for most of a 36-year span, beginning near the turn of the century. Between 1897 and 1933, the string of Republican governors was broken only once--by Democratic newspaper editor John Jacob Cornwell. In fact, Cornwell was the only Democrat elected to a statewide office in 1916.
Cornwell's administration was marked by violence at home and abroad. When he took office in 1917, Cornwell was confronted immediately with the prospect of sending young West Virginians to the battlefields of World War I, during which West Virginia ranked first in the number of draftees in the armed forces.
Cornwell, like other governors before and after him, faced unrest in West Virginia's coalfields. He created the state police, ostensibly to enforce prohibition and reduce other crimes, but also to put down strikes. He prevented an armed miners' march in 1919 by personally promising to address the miners' grievances. Cornwell's failure to follow up on the issue further escalated hostilities. Supposedly, some of the labor leaders considered assassinating him during a meeting in the governor's office. As labor unrest spiraled in southern West Virginia in the fall of 1920, Cornwell placed Mingo County under martial law to quell strike-related violence.
After leaving office in 1921, Cornwell served in several high- level positions with the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad before retiring to Romney. When he contracted pneumonia in the summer of 1953, Cornwell was taken to Cumberland Memorial Hospital in Maryland. He died there on September 8th. Governor John Jacob Cornwell is buried at Indian Mound Cemetery in Romney.
WV State Archives' Biography of Governor John J. Cornwell.
John G. Morgan, West Virginia Governors 1863-1980 (Charleston: Charleston Newspapers, 1980).
The Ambassador to the Court of St. James's in London, John W. Davis, returned to his native West Virginia, September 9, 1920, to a rousing welcome home celebration in Clarksburg. About 500 people packed into a room built for only 250 at the Harrison County Courthouse. Organizers had planned to hold the celebration outside but rain got in the way.
John W. Davis was a lawyer, a diplomat, and a Democratic presidential candidate in 1924. In 1954, he represented the school systems in the historic U.S. Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education, in which the court ruled it was unconstitutional for states to segregate public schools based on race.
Davis' daughter, Julia, traveled widely throughout her life. In an interview conducted in the 1960s, she recalled an experience she had as a young girl in London as she danced with a member of the royal family:
I fell down between the two rooms where we were dancing with Prince Albert. We were spinning merrily along when somebody kicked him by myself and he started to fall and I should have let him go but I tried to catch him. He went down on his back and I landed on my hands and knees on the royal stomach. The generals and important people rushed forward and picked up the prince and, if he hadn't remembered me, I think I'd have been there yet. I was just sitting there stunned and he finally remembered me and helped up. They were readjusting the ribbon across his breast that had gotten disarranged and I couldn't laugh because he wasn't laughing. He was bright red.
Julia Davis died dancing at a reception in Charles Town in 1993 at the age of 92. In her lifetime, she published numerous books beginning with a series of children's novels in the late 1920s. She was named a Distinguished West Virginian in 1992.
Julia Davis and Dolores Fleming, eds., The Ambassadorial Diary of John W. Davis: The Court of St. James's 1918-1921.
William H. Harbaugh, Lawyer's Lawyer: The Life of John W. Davis.
Julia Davis, The Embassy Girls.
William Theriault, "Julia Davis: West Virginia Wordcrafter," Goldenseal (1992), 25.
One of the more daring feats of frontier heroism occurred in what is now West Virginia in 1782 after some 250 Indians and British rangers approached Fort Henry in present-day Wheeling September 10 and laid siege. Margaret Brennan, the president of the Wheeling Area Historical Society, says a man named Silas Zane, who was in command of Fort Henry during the siege, soon realized he had more problems:
Silas called the people in the fort together and, very seriously, he had to tell them. He said, now, we don't have enough gunpowder to continue this.
Silas asked for volunteers to run to his brother Ebenezer's cabin, where more gunpowder was stored. Three men stepped forward but Silas' 16-year-old sister Elizabeth persuaded him to let her make the run.
If a man went outside that gate--the men were the fighters--they'd be cut down immediately.
So, Elizabeth Zane made the dangerous 60-yard run from the fort to the cabin. No shots were fired to stop her. But, when she ran back to the fort loaded down with several pounds of gunpowder, the attackers realized what she was up to and opened fire. But, Elizabeth made it back to the fort unharmed and the defenders were able to hold on until the siege was lifted.
There is some question whether it was really Elizabeth Zane who made the run. Sixty-seven years later, one of the last surviving eyewitnesses of that siege, Lydia Cruger, signed an affidavit contending it had been a woman named Molly Scott who made the run and that Scott had been in no danger since the Indians and British rangers were too far distant to shoot at her. Cruger's affidavit said that Elizabeth Zane wasn't even at the fort during the siege. An article in last year's West Virginia History journal suggests that Cruger may have confused two different sieges of Fort Henry.
William Hintzen, "Betty Zane, Lydia Boggs, and Molly Scott: The Gunpowder Exploits at Fort Henry," West Virginia History 55(1996): 95-109.
Elizabeth Zane's run is one of the few West Virginia history stories whose hero is a woman. Females played as important role in history as men but most of their stories have not been recorded.
As a starter, check out the Encyclopedia of Women's History
The United States was facing a shortage of trained pilots when World War II broke out in Europe, so the federal government, through the Civilian Aeronautics Authority (CAA), set up the Civilian Pilot Training Program. Dr. Charles Ledbetter, the executive assistant to the president of West Virginia State College in Institute, says it was the Authority's attention to set up pilot training programs on college campuses.
Ledbetter: When they initiated the program in 1939, records show that only 20 African Americans in the United States were licensed as pilots at that time and, being a historically black college, the chance of getting the program seemed very slim. But, we ended up being - - we meaning West Virginia State College -- we ended up being the first historically black college in the nation to be granted the program.
On September 11, 1939, State College President John Warren Davis received approval from the CAA to establish a Civilian Pilot Training Program and, eventually, Dr. Charles Byrd became one of the program's instructors. He says State's program played a part in the struggle to get African Americans accepted in the Army Air Corps.
Ledbetter: When they decided to have the first blacks into the Air Corps and organized the 99th Pursuit Squadron -- the fellows were flying P- 47s -- the first five who were commissioned, two of them were graduates of the program at State.
Those two graduates were George Spencer Roberts of Fairmont and Mac Ross of Dayton, Ohio. They became part of the group known as the Tuskegee Airmen. Rose Agnes Rolls, a State graduate, was the first African- American woman to receive flight training through the CAA She and Joseph Greider, a music professor at State, later joined the West Virginia Civil Air Patrol, the first black Americans to do so. The Civilian Pilot Training Program at West Virginia State was discontinued in 1942.
Ancella R. Bickley, "Dubie, Spanky, and Mr. Death: West Virginia's Pioneering Black Family," Goldenseal Summer 1997: 42-44.
Mary Rodd Furbee, "`I Was Never Afraid of Anything': Pilot Rose Rolls Cousins," Goldenseal Summer 1997: 36-41.
Louis Keefer, "On the Homefront in World War II: Soldier-Scholars at West Virginia State College," West Virginia History 53(1994): 119-132.
Dolly Withrow, West Virginia State College (1891-1991): From the Grove to the Stars.
Until 1947, blacks and whites in the military were segregated into separate units. The important role African Americans played in World War II forced the government to give them equal military status.
At the beginning of the 1974 school year, the Kanawha County school system was in turmoil. Protests erupted against textbooks chosen by the county school board. The controversy had started the previous April when board member Alice Moore objected to the selection process for textbooks. The criticism eventually turned to the books themselves. Over the summer, critics branded many of the books as anti-American, anti-religious, and discriminatory. The situation was volatile.
On September 12, 1974, the school board began removing the controversial books and about 1,200 students at Charleston's George Washington High School walked out in protest. Virtually everyone in the county came down on one side or the other of the debate. Kanawha County coal miners went on a wildcat strike in support of the textbook critics. Workers went on sympathy strikes throughout southern West Virginia to protest the books. A Smith Transfer Trucking Company employee was shot while demonstrating in Belle. Another employee, Everett Mitchell, was accused of the shooting. Mitchell thought he needed a gun for protection:
Mitchell: Because I heard they was throwing rocks in the area of Smith Transfer, I fired the gun after the rock throwing started -- a shower of rocks which continued until the end. I do not feel I am guilty because I was protecting myself and there wasn't any police in the area to protect me.
In retaliation, Mitchell was badly beaten after the shooting. Board members eventually kept most of the books but allowed parents the option of choosing alternate books for their children. The Kanawha County textbook controversy wound down by the spring of 1975, but not before a leader of the protestors was convicted of conspiring to blow up two elementary schools.
James Moffett, Storm in the Mountains: A Case Study of Censorship, Conflict, and Consciousness.
Charleston Daily Mail and the Charleston Gazette newspapers from this period.
In the 1960s and 1970s, West Virginia appeared in the national news numerous times. Most of these instances portrayed the state's people in a negative fashion. The textbook controversy showed schools shut down by angry mobs and acts of violence.
General Stonewall Jackson's capture of Harpers Ferry in 1862 was the largest surrender of Union troops during the Civil War. The capture still ranks as the third largest surrender of a United States army in history. General Robert E. Lee ordered Jackson to take Harpers Ferry to clear the area of federal troops in preparation for the first Confederate invasion of northern territory. Lee wanted to prevent the federals from disrupting his lines of supply and communication.
Jackson was given only three days to gain control of the lower Shenandoah Valley. But the 2,300 men he commanded were up to it. After easily capturing Martinsburg, Jackson surrounded Harpers Ferry, which was little more than a shell of what it had been before the war. The town's armory and arsenal had been destroyed by northern troops the year before and its population had dwindled from 3,000 to about 100. But Harpers Ferry was still important strategically because of the presence of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad.
On September 14th, with Confederate generals Lafayette McLaws and John Walker stationed on mountains overlooking Harpers Ferry, Jackson unleashed a massive artillery bombardment on the trapped Union forces. 1,500 Union cavalrymen managed a daring escape by sneaking past Confederate guards in the middle of the night. But, by the morning of September 15th, all hope was gone for the remaining federal troops. Union commander Colonel Dixon Miles was killed by an artillery shell just seconds after raising the white flag. So his second in command made the final surrender arrangements.
In all, over 12,000 Union troops were captured by Jackson, who then marched into Maryland to rejoin Lee's army and face the bloodiest single day of the war, the Battle of Antietam.
In the 1790s, President George Washington feared another war with England and possibly with France. It was felt that conditions in Europe threatened the security of the United States. When the 3rd Congress passed legislation in 1794 to establish arsenals to manufacture and store military arms, it allowed President George Washington to select where the arsenals would be located. He was expected to choose the existing state arsenals at Springfield, Massachusetts, and Carlisle, Pennsylvania. But, in a letter to Secretary of War Timothy Pickering, dated September 16, 1795, Washington touted the advantages of Harpers Ferry at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers. John King, a park ranger at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, says Washington chose Harpers Ferry for three reasons:
King: One is the resources. One is the waterpower. And, one is the fact that it's fairly far inland and wouldn't be subject to enemy raids along the coast.
The actual manufacture of weapons at Harpers Ferry didn't start until late 1796. The armory turned out mostly rifles and muskets. Over the years, it produced more than half a million weapons, averaging about 10,000 a year. But that ended when the Civil War began.
King: It basically died on one day. When the Civil War started, the state of Virginia here, this part of Virginia then, left the Union. And, militia was coming to seize it for the state of Virginia, practically seize it for the Confederate states, basically. And, there was a small U.S. Army guard here under an Army lieutenant that set fire to the building and retreated. So, from that point on, no weapons were made here in any large numbers.
Despite the destruction, the Confederates were able to salvage machinery from the Harpers Ferry Armory. They shipped the equipment south and used it to continue making weapons during the war.
The Democratic nominee for president in 1972, Senator George McGovern of South Dakota, traveled to West Virginia to make his first appearance on a college campus after winning the party's nomination. McGovern visited the Huntington campus of Marshall University, September 17, 1972.
McGovern: I've been reading these public opinion polls that say that for some mysterious reason during the past summer all of the young people of this country are swinging over to Richard Nixon. So, I came here to Marshall University tonight to find out whether or not that was true.
McGovern offered his opinion on the Nixon administration's policies regarding the war in Vietnam:
And, I frankly reject the president's explanation of why we hang on in this tragic war, of why the bombing is going on at this very moment. B-52s fanning out across those little countries, day after day, to rain down death and fire and steel from the skies. I reject the notion that the president offers that we do that in order to secure the release of our prisoners. The truth of the matter is that our men are in those cells because of the bombing and, over the last three months, we've added another 100 men in missing in action and prisoners of war during the heaviest bombing of the war. There's only one way to restore our prisoners to their homes, to stop the killing, to bring our soldiers home - - and that is to recognize that we must at long last set a deadline for the withdrawal of every American soldier lock, stock, and barrel from Indochina.
McGovern wound up his visit to West Virginia the next day with another speach at the Logan County Courthouse.
Alderson-Broaddus College in Philippi is the product of a merger between two schools ooperated under the auspices of the Baptist church. Broaddus College traces its roots back to 1871, when it had its beginnings as an elementary and secondary school in Winchester, Virginia. In 1876, Broaddus moved to Clarksburg, West Virginia, and, in 1908, the school moved to the Barbour County town of Philippi.
Alderson-Broaddus College can also trace its roots back to Greenbrier County. Dick Withers, a retired instructor at A-B, helped put together a pictorial history of the college. He says Alderson Academy was established September 18, 1901, under the sponsorship of the old Greenbrier Baptist Church at Alderson.
Withers: It was started by the pastor and a local educator who belonged to that church, Miss Emma Alderson. She was the guiding light for that institution throughout all of its existence.
But, in 1932, the two schools merged.
Withers: That was a very significant event, forced by economic circumstances, and it was a very tragic thing for Alderson, particularly for Miss Emma. It was her whole life and it was really a terrible thing to see her life's work sort of being vanquished. Now, she was put on the board of trustees of the new college but she was so disappointed at the demise of Alderson Academy and Junior College that she never visited the campus of Broaddus, even though some faculty members from Alderson joined the new institution.
And, Alderson was well-represented by students at the newly created college. Many of A-B's original 132 students came from the old Alderson Academy.
West Virginia coal miners of the early part of this century often looked to a brash young man named William Blizzard for leadership. Blizzard was an outspoken leader whose name is associated with some of the bloodiest confrontations of West Virginia's mine wars. His son, Bill, says his father achieved national prominence as a young man of 29 after the Battle of Blair Mountain in which miners fought a pitched battle against sheriff's deputies and armed guards. State and federal troops were called in and even World War I planes were used to bomb union forces.
Blizzard: Because it was national news, with the Army called out and the air force and all that kind of thing, you know.
The elder Blizzard was born September 19, 1892, in Kanawha County. He began union work as a teenager and became well known after Blair Mountain because he was charged with leading what was termed an "armed insurrection against the state." He and others were indicted for treason.
Blizzard: We would sometimes laugh about it, his role in the armed march. I remember we were talking about it. My father, he jokingly said, "Well, I guess I'm famous." And, I said something about there's a difference between being famous and notorious -- that's what I think I said. I was just a kid, twelve years old or something like that. The family just roared.
Ultimately, Blizzard was acquitted but he still had to face murder charges associated with the battle. His first trial on those charges ended in a hung jury. The charges were eventually dismissed. Later, Blizzard served as the United Mine Workers' legislative representative. He was also vice president and then president of the union's District 17 based in Charleston. Blizzard retired in 1955 and died of cancer at a hospital in Charleston at the age of 65.
When West Virginia's first black newspaper folded, it wasn't because it lacked the money to keep operating. The Pioneer Press of Martinsburg was forced to close by the federal government because of editorials written by its owner and editor J. R. Clifford. After Clifford repeatedly challenged the United States' involvement in World War I, the government claimed the paper violated postal laws. When it ceased publication September 22, 1917, the Pioneer Press had operated continuously for thirty-five years, making it the longest running black newspaper of its time. It was also one of the most respected black newspapers in the country.
J. R. Clifford established the Pioneer Press in 1882. Five years later, he became the first African American admitted to the West Virginia Bar. As a lawyer, Clifford argued two landmark civil rights cases before the West Virginia Supreme Court. He unsuccessfully challenged the state's segregated school system in 1896. However, two years later, he won the nation's first ruling to declare racial discrimination illegal.
Clifford's civil rights activism wasn't limited to the courtroom. In 1905, he co-founded the Niagara Movement, a forerunner of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). But Clifford eventually broke from the NAACP because he felt the group wasn't moving quickly enough on civil rights issues. He also objected strongly to the use of the word "colored" in the NAACP's title.
Clifford died in 1933 and was buried at Martinsburg's Mount Hope Cemetery. His remains were moved to Arlington National Cemetery in 1954 to honor his service in the Union Army during the Civil War.
West Virginia State Archives' Biography of J. R. Clifford.
Smith, Douglas C., "A West Virginia Dilemma: Martin vs. Board of Education," West Virginia History 40(Winter 1979): 158-163.
Booker T. Washington is often called the most famous black West Virginian, although he lived here only about 9 years. Meanwhile, very little is known about J. R. Clifford, who lived his whole life in the state and made important contributions to the fields of education, journalism, and civil rights.
The Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), a national black rights group which used non-violent direct action techniques against discrimination, organized a chapter in Charleston in August of 1958. The Rev. Paul Gilmer, an early supporter of the chapter, remembers that its first order of business was to call a meeting with the management of one of Charleston's most popular department stores, The Diamond:
You could shop in the store but you could not sit down and have lunch in the store. And that is grossly unfair. So, if you can't eat there, you don't need to spend your money there.
Open seating at lunch counters and restaurants is nothing unusual now but, in 1958, The Diamond and other businesses didn't allow blacks. Shortly after the Charleston chapter of the Congress of Racial Equality, or CORE, was formed, it initiated a boycott.
Gilmer: For downtown accomodations, as far as lunch, were concerned, you couldn't actually sit down at any of the ten-cent stores. At Kresge's, you had to eat at the counter and McCrory's. The boycott method and the sit-in was a method to bringing that to the attention of the city officials.
On September 23, 1958, not much more than a month after the Charleston CORE chapter formed, stores such as Woolworth, Kresge, and Newberry opened their lunch counters to blacks. The Lobby Restaurant and the Capitol Theater were next to adopt integrated seating policies. The Diamond, though, held out longer.
Gilmer: They were all peaceful, peaceful sit-ins and a person would try to go through the line at The Diamond and they were refused so they stationed pickets at the entrance of The Diamond on Captiol Street and Washington Street.
It took 18 months before CORE of Charleston was successful in obtaining the right for blacks to sit down for a meal at The Diamond.
Charleston Daily Mail and the Charleston Gazette newspapers from this period.
National Civil Rights Museum
Even after the desegregation of the military and public schools many businesses refused to serve African Americans. Civil rights leaders achieved success with non-violent forms of protest, such as sit-ins. Other civil rights shows include integration of Matoaka High School and the West Virginia State College Civilian Pilot Training Program.
Dwight Eisenhower's 1952 presidential campaign proved to be pivotal to the career of his vice presidential running mate Richard Nixon. During the campaign, there were charges that Nixon used a fund created after he won his Senate seat in 1950 for personal expenses and that he did favors for contributors.
Many in the Republican party wanted Nixon off the ticket. But the political winds changed after he answered his critics during a national broadcast in which he delivered his famous "Checkers" speech.
After the broadcast, Eisenhower suggested Nixon meet with him at Wheeling, West Virginia. So, on the evening of September 24, 1952, Nixon's plane landed at Wheeling's airport. Eisenhower was there to greet him. During a campaign stop in Wheeling four years later, Nixon was asked about that meeting.
Reporter: What did the president say to you when he first met you alone in the cabin of that airplane that night?
Nixon: Well, it's a strange thing but my memory of that is not too clear. I was so surprised when we landed at Wheeling to hear that the president was hear at the airport that frankly I was pulling on my coat when I began to move toward the door and then, all of a sudden, somebody said the president is in the plane. And when he walked up with me and shook hands, I don't really recall what was said. Reporters who were with me reported that I said, which I imagine is probably true, that I said that, "Mr. President, you didn't have to do that." And that the president said something to the effect, "Well Dick, you're my man," or something of that sort, or "You're my boy." I don't know what he said but my recollection is not clear and I will have to rely on what the reporters who were present did recall.
The Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs has existed in one form or another since the late eighteenth century. But Bob Conte, The Greenbrier's historian, says it wasn't until September 25, 1913, that the current Greenbrier Hotel began accepting guests:
Some people are surprised to hear that, because they understand The Greenbrier is older than that. What's older was an old summer resort, which consisted of cottages, a lot of which are still here and an earlier hotel called the Old White. So, by the time The Greenbrier opens, there already has been a resort here for well over a hundred years and this was a famous and fashionable society resort by that point.
By the early twentieth century, the Old White had seen better days and needed plenty of money to restore to its previous glory. Former Governor William MacCorkle stepped in and looked for a buyer to invest in a new hotel building. He turned to the C&O Railway, which had a long associated with the resort. The C&O bought the property in 1910.
Conte: They poured a lot of money into building a new hotel, The Greenbrier, a new bath facility for taking the waters, and golf. And, all this happens all about the same time, 1912, 1913, 1914. So, they transformed this kind of fading old summer resort into now a fashionable year-round resort.
The Greenbrier resort has played host to influential people from generals and presidents to royalty. For a time, enemy diplomats of World War II were housed there. The army ultimately drafted the hotel during the war and used it as a hospital. Today, The Greenbrier remains one of the premier resorts in the eastern United States.
Robert S. Conte, The History of The Greenbrier: America's Resort.
One of West Virginia's most acclaimed artists and journalists, David Hunter Strother, was born September 26, 1816, in the Berkeley County town of Martinsburg. He lived most of his life in Berkeley Springs in Morgan County. Mark Snell, the director of the Civil War Center at Shepherd College, says Strother was better known under the pen name, "Porte Crayon."
Snell: Which basically means "carries a pencil" in English.
Strother became popular before the Civil War as a reporter who specialized in illustrated travelogues. He was a correspondent for Harper's Weekly and, in 1859, he covered John Brown's raid at Harpers Ferry and the subsequent treason trial at Charles Town.
Snell: Because Strother lived in this area during the time that John Brown staged his raid on the Harpers Ferry Armory and Arsenal, he was able to get down to Harpers Ferry within a few hours after the raid was over. He was one of the first artists to render an illustration of the attack of the Marines under Colonel Lee -- Colonel Robert E. Lee -- on the Fire Engine House where John Brown and his fellow conspirators were holed up.
When the Civil War erupted, Strother joined the Union Army and rose to the rank of general but he didn't put down his pencil.
Snell: During the war, he also did drawings. I recall one of my favorite ones, a caricature of General McClellan looking from behind a tree in the Peninsula Campaign of 1862 with his spy glass. And there's Abraham Lincoln standing behind him, I believe he had a little pitchfork or sword -- I can't remember. He's prodding McClelland to do something, to move on. That was quite normal for Strother, to render those sorts of caricatures during the Civil War.
After hostilities ceased, Strother published Porte Crayon's Personal Recollections of the War. In the 1870s, he produced a West Virginia travelogue entitled The Mountains. Strother died in 1888 and is buried at Green Hill Cemetery in Martinsburg.
The early nineteenth century brought a Scots-Irish immigrant to western Virginia who left a lasting mark on this country's educational and religious institutions. Alexander Campbell was born in Ireland in 1788. He arrived in New York on September 29, 1809, and settled in western Pennsylvania. He moved to the area that would become West Virginia's Northern Panhandle after he got married and in 1815 acquired the farm at Bethany that would become his home for the next 51 years. His father-in-law sold it to him for a dollar.
Campbell was an influential figure in the founding of one of the largest homegrown religious movements this country has ever seen. He was brought up a Presbyterian but he developed a distaste for the divisions that kept the different religious denominations apart. Campbell's eloquence on the subject of Christian unity made him one of the most prominent leaders in the Disciples of Christ movement. Today, the Disciples of Christ claim about a million members in the United States and Canada.
Campbell believed education should be available to everyone, not just the rich. In 1816, he established Buffalo Academy and, in 1840, founded Bethany College. He provided the land and money for the college's first building and served as Bethany's first president. Since its beginning, Bethany College has been affiliated with the denomination that Campbell was so instrumental in creating--the Disciples of Christ.
Alexander Campbell was a pioneer in education, a political and religious reformer, an author, a publisher, and a successful businessman. He died in 1866.
Writings of Alexander Campbell.
The Jefferson County town of Harpers Ferry has been both blessed and cursed by its abundant supply of water. Harpers Ferry is situated at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers. President George Washington chose Harpers Ferry for one of the nation's armories because of the water power the rivers provided. Years later, it was the town's arsenal and arms factories that attracted the attention of John Brown and his raiders. But the most devastating legacy of Harpers Ferry is its history of floods.
Paul Shackel, an archaeologist at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, says Harpers Ferry was just beginning to recover from the Civil War in 1870 when, on September 30, the Shenandoah River began flooding.
What made this flood so terrible was that the Potomac River was not flooding and because the Potomac River was not rising, it was not backing up the Shenandoah River, which often happened, creating a bathtup effect. But, since the Potomac River was not rising and it was not stopping the flow or slowing down the flow of the Shenandoah River, it was one of the most fiercest floods to ever hit the Harpers Ferry area.
The floodwaters ravaged Virginius Island, destroyed 70 buildings, and killed 42 people.
Shackel: There's a story of John Wernwag, who lived in a machine shop on Virginius Island, the water was reaching to his roof. Nobody saw John Wernwag. They heard a rumble and a crumble and they heard another rumble and his machine shop had fallen into the river. And all they saw was his roof and attic floating down the river and everybody thought he was dead. Then, the roof hit a tree, splitting the roof open and John Wernwag climbed up to the roof and he looked at the shore. He waved to everybody and everybody thought that was his farewell. But what actually happened was he landed several miles down river in a town called Brunswick. He took the next train to town. Everybody thought he was dead. So, when they saw John Wernwag, they thought it was his ghost that had reappeared.
Over the years, more flooding discouraged development in Harpers Ferry and wrecked the town's economy. In the 1950s, the federal government came to the town's rescue, establishing Harpers Ferry as a National Park. Today the town remains a window into what life was like in the 1800s.
For more information:
Mary Johnson, "A Nineteenth-Century Mill Village: Virginius Island, 1800-60," West Virginia History 54(1995): 1-27.
Harpers Ferry's booming economy was based on the supply of water (see the Harpers Ferry Armory show). Sadly, water also devastated the town time after time.
"Time Trail, West Virginia" September 1997 Schedule
West Virginia History Center