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April 1998 Programs


April 1, 1925: Charleston lawyer blocks premiere of Birth of a Nation

D. W. Griffith's controversial 1915 film Birth of a Nation didn't reach audiences in Charleston, West Virginia for ten years. But the movie's local debut faced stiff opposition.

On April 1, 1925, the movie was scheduled to open for a 3-day engagement at Charleston's Rialto Theatre. But civil rights activists, led by Charleston attorney T. G. Nutter, were determined to block the film, due to its racist depiction of African Americans and glorification of the Ku Klux Klan in the post-Civil War South.

Nutter, state supervisor of black schools W. W. Sanders, and G. E. Ferguson, who operated the Ferguson Hotel, pleaded their case to Charleston Mayor W. W. Wertz. They reminded Wertz of a state law co-sponsored by Nutter in the 1919 legislature that prohibited any form of entertainment demeaning to a race or class of people. They also pointed out that the movie violated a city statute forbidding the showing of any film judged to be indecent or immoral.

Mayor Wertz banned the film's debut and threatened to arrest the theatre's staff if the film was shown. The Rialto took the issue to court and obtained an injunction against Wertz's order. The film was shown twice on April 1. However, the Kanawha County Circuit Court dissolved the injunction and blocked further screenings of the movie. The theatre appealed to the West Virginia Supreme Court, which upheld the 1919 law and the circuit court ruling.

This was the first major civil rights victory for T. G. Nutter, who went on to lead the Charleston and state chapters of the N.A.A.C.P.

For more information:
Posey, Thomas. The Negro Citizen of West Virginia. Institute: Press of West Virginia State College, 1934.

Biography of T. G. Nutter

For Discussion:
Although the U.S. Constitution guarantees freedom of speech, there are limitations, particularly when this speech injures a segment of society.

April 2, 1908: Death of Morris Harvey

Religious denominations have played key roles in establishing colleges in West Virginia. The Methodists created West Virginia Wesleyan in Buckhannon, Marshall University in Huntington, and the University of Charleston.

UC's beginnings can be traced to Barboursville Seminary in the former Cabell County Courthouse. The seminary opened in 1888 but struggled financially. By 1900, the school was faced with closing its doors but businessman Morris Harvey came to the rescue.

Harvey had made a fortune by buying up acreage along the New River and Loup Creek in Fayette County, land others considered unuseable. He convinced the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway to build a line through the New River Gorge to develop southern West Virginia's coalfields. When the railroad was completed, Harvey's previously worthless riverfront property provided the only access to the mines of the New River Gorge.

Like many other wealthy 19th-century entrepreneurs, Harvey became a philanthropist late in life, donating large sums of money to various groups and institutions. He and his wife Rose were devout Methodists and helped the Barboursville Seminary pay its outstanding debts. To thank the Harveys, the seminary's trustees renamed the school Morris Harvey College.

The Harveys donated $100,000 for a new campus to be located in Charleston. Morris Harvey died in Fayetteville on April 2, 1908 at the age of 87. Twenty-seven years later, in the fall of 1935, school president Leonard Riggleman finally moved the college to Charleston, offering its first classes at the Kanawha County library. Harvey's dream of a Charleston campus wasn't realized until 1947, when the school moved to its present site opposite the State Capitol along the Kanawha River. The college's name was changed to University of Charleston in 1979, but the school still honors its early benefactor with the Morris Harvey Division of Arts and Sciences.

For more information:
Carper, Helen. "A Grand Move: Morris Harvey College Comes to the City." Goldenseal 14(4), 46.

Krebs, Frank J. Where There Is Faith: The Morris Harvey College Story, 1888-1970. Charleston: Morris Harvey College, 1974.

West Virginia Blue Book college & university listings.

For Discussion:
The University of Charleston, formerly Morris Harvey College, is one of the few remaining private colleges or universities in West Virginia.

April 3, 1867: Establishment of West Virginia University

West Virginia University was one of many schools created by the Morrill Act, passed by Congress during the Civil War. The Morrill Act appropriated funding for each state to establish a college to teach scientific farming methods. State leaders debated the location of West Virginia's land grant college, suggesting Charleston, Frankford in Greenbrier County, Bethany, Point Pleasant, Greenwood in Doddridge County, Harrisville, and Martinsburg. In the end, Morgantown was selected because two local schools -- the Monongalia Academy and Woodburn Female Seminary -- offered to donate property. In 1867, the Agricultural College of West Virginia was established. On April 3, the college's board, led by future Governor William Stevenson, elected officers, including President Alexander Martin, who had been instrumental in developing the state's free public school system.

Within the first year, Martin expressed concerns about the name of the school. He felt Agricultural College was misleading since courses were also offered in literature, natural science, military science, and teaching. Martin suggested West Virginia College, however a school by that name already existed at Flemington in Taylor County. In December 1868, the legislature designated the Agricultural College of West Virginia as West Virginia University.

Funding was appropriated for WVU to construct its own buildings, the first of which, University Hall, was completed in 1870. It was later renamed Martin Hall in honor of the school's first president and is still in use today.

The First Morrill Act of 1862 did not provide funding for black colleges. In 1890, Congress passed the Second Morrill Act, allotting money for black land grant colleges. As a result, the West Virginia Colored Institute was opened in Kanawha County in 1892. It continues in operation today as West Virginia State College.

For more information
Doherty, William T. and Festus P. Summers. West Virginia University: Symbol of Unity in a Sectionalized State. Morgantown: West Virginia University Press, 1982.

Time Trail: WV Legislature rejects proposal to admit women to WVU

WVU Extension Service. About the Land-Grant System

For Discussion:
West Virginia University is one of the state's two land grant institutions.

April 6, 1911: Don Chafin elected to public office

The iron-fisted rule of Logan County sheriff Don Chafin during West Virginia's Mine Wars eventually exploded into open warfare between coal operators and union sympathizers. Chafin's reign in office coincided with the United Mine Workers' (UMW) drive to organize West Virginia's southern coalfields.

Chafin first entered public life as part of a family tradition. His father and brothers were active in local politics and Chafin himself was elected to several county offices, including that of assessor on April 6, 1911. He was first elected sheriff in 1912. After serving as the county clerk, he was again elected sheriff in 1920, winning by the largest margin in Logan County history.

Don Chafin was a staunch opponent of the UMW, which wasn't lost on coal operators. While he was sheriff, the Logan Coal Operators Association paid him to keep the union out of the county. With the association's financial backing, Chafin maintained a small army of deputies, many of whom were family members.

Early in the UMW's drive, Chafin made the trip to District 17 headquarters in Charleston. He warned district vice president Bill Petry not to send any organizers to Logan. Both men drew their guns and Chafin was shot in the chest. He left the office and supposedly walked to a hospital. After the confrontation, Chafin's deputies met every train coming into Logan and ordered suspected union organizers out of town. Reports of beatings, false arrests, and other harassment of union sympathizers filtered out of the county.

Angered by the abuses of power throughout the southern coalfields, armed union miners attempted a march on Logan in 1921. They were met at the Boone-Logan county line by Sheriff Chafin and 1,300 deputies, mine guards, and state police. The ensuing Battle of Blair Mountain raged for four days along a thirty-mile front. Fighting ended only after federal troops were dispatched to the battle zone.

Chafin found himself on the wrong side of the law when he was convicted of running a tavern during Prohibition. He served 10 months in the federal penitentiary in Atlanta. Chafin eventually moved to Huntington, where he was active in real estate and coal land development. He died a wealthy man in 1954. The crowd at his funeral was estimated at more than 5,000 people.

For more information
Fogelsong, Russell. "The Don Chafin Era." The Goldenseal Book of the West Virginia Mine Wars. Charleston: Pictorial Histories Publishing Co., 1991.

April 7, 1977: Floods devastate southern West Virginia

Governor Jay Rockefeller toured southern West Virginia in the spring of 1977, but his visit was far from just another political appearance. High water had left hundreds homeless and thousands more without food, water, or electricity. Rockefeller toured the devastation by helicopter.

Rockefeller: We've seen a good deal from the air and I'm going on from here to Mingo County. But both McDowell and Mingo County, you have a 22-foot crest and a 54-foot crest of water -- a lot of damage, a lot of small damage, and a lot of larger damage in McDowell County. In Mingo County -- Matewan and south Williamson, Williamson Hollow -- I'm not sure what the situation will be because I haven't gotten there yet. But 54 feet of water is an awful lot of water.

Rockefeller declared 10 southern West Virginia counties disaster areas and requested federal assistance. He received federal support on April 7, 1977, when President Jimmy Carter signed a disaster declaration for Mingo, McDowell, Logan, Lincoln, Raleigh, Cabell, Greenbrier, Summers, Wayne, and Wyoming counties.

Rockefeller put State Police Superintendent Harley Mooney in charge of relief efforts.

Mooney: First day or two was the business of just trying to make sure we had a lifesaving and life-sustaining operation. We're now continuing to improve on that life-sustaining operation. We're getting power systems back in. We're getting water systems back in. We're gonna start by having heavy emphasis on getting the cleanup phase -- that's already underway.

The flooding took a heavy toll. Initial estimates from the Red Cross indicated 6,900 families were homeless and 400 businesses had been heavily damaged or destroyed in Mingo County alone. The Red Cross also reported more than 3,600 families in other flood-ravaged counties were forced into temporary shelters.

Another devastating flood in 1984 prompted U.S. Senator Robert Byrd to secure federal funding for flood walls to protect the towns of Matewan and Williamson.

For Discussion:

April 8, 1951: National Guard plane crash at Charleston

The 21 West Virginia airmen aboard a military C-47 transport plane had little warning before their plane crashed and burned on April 8, 1951. The plane crashed just 20 minutes after its pilot radioed air traffic controllers that he would attempt to land at Charleston's Kanawha Airport.

The plane slammed into a hillside near Little Sandy Creek, north of Charleston. It skidded about 400 feet through mud and heavy underbrush and one wing was torn off before the plane erupted in flames.

Seven officers and twelve enlisted men died on impact and two officers were thrown clear of the wreckage but died later of severe burns. The airmen were from Kentucky's Godman Air Force Base, where they were training for overseas duty during the Korean War. All but one of the dead were West Virginians, most from the Charleston area.

The plane was one of two on its way to Kanawha County for the funeral of a colleague, Major Jock Sutherland of St. Albans, who had died three days before in a plane collision in Florida. Both planes carried 21 airmen and were expected to land just after noon. The other plane returned to Kentucky after learning of the crash.

News of the tragedy reached people in Charleston just after Sunday church services. Governor Okey Patteson and Mayor Carl Andrews requested flags be flown at half staff for a week.

The death toll equaled West Virginia's worst aviation accident involving a military plane. In 1942, another transport plane had crashed into a mountain near Welch in McDowell County, also killing 21.


April 9, 1872: Approval of the new West Virginia Constitution

West Virginia's first constitution was created during the Civil War by Radical Republicans who had led the statehood movement. However, by the early 1870s, Democrats, many of whom were ex-Confederates, had gained control of state government. In the summer of 1871, West Virginia voters authorized a convention to change the original constitution drafted by the Republicans.

Of the 78 convention delegates who met in Charleston in January 1872, 12 were Republicans. Only one delegate, Waitman Willey, had attended the first constitutional convention in Wheeling. As a sign of the changing political times, Samuel Price, the former lieutenant governor of Confederate Virginia, was chosen to preside over the convention. On April 9, 1872, delegates approved a new constitution which was ratified by voters that summer.

Nearly a century later, Governor Hulett Smith attempted to rouse interest in constitutional reform. In 1965, the legislature approved a constitutional convention, but the act was overturned by the state Supreme Court. Smith says he thought the idea had merit.

Smith: We'd just gone through the hundredth anniversary and we were still operating on a constitution that was a hundred years old. Most of it hadn't been changed. It was designed for a very rural nature. We've got today, you can see for yourself, we've got counties that have complete government organizations that have less than 3,000 people in them. So, really, what I was talking about, why don't we look at West Virginia as it is now and write a new, change the thing to fit the circumstances now and let it go. It didn't pay. It didn't catch.

Although it has been amended many times, the 1872 constitution is still in effect today.

For Discussion:
West Virginia's constitution has been rewritten on only one occasion (1872), although it has been amended many times.

April 10, 1848: Birth of U.S. Senator John E. Kenna

Statues of only two West Virginians stand in the U.S. Capitol's Statuary Hall --Francis Pierpont and John Edward Kenna. Kenna's father Edward emigrated from Ireland at age 14 and married Margery Lewis, a direct descendant of colonial military leader and land speculator Andrew Lewis. The Kennas eventually settled at present-day St. Albans in Kanawha County, where their only son, John Edward was born on April 10, 1848.

Margery Kenna moved to Missouri after her husband died. Sixteen-year-old John Kenna enlisted in the Confederate Army late in the Civil War and was wounded in battle. He returned to West Virginia after the war and attended St. Vincent's Academy in Wheeling. He studied law in Charleston and was accepted to the Bar in 1870. Kenna entered politics and moved quickly through the ranks, serving as Kanawha County Prosecutor and as a circuit court judge. Kenna was one of the leaders of the Kanawha Ring, a group of young Charleston attorneys, including future Governor William MacCorkle and future U.S. Senator William Chilton, who controlled a segment of the state's Democratic Party.

At age 28, Kenna was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, becoming the nation's youngest Congressman. He was reelected for three subsequent terms. In 1876, Kenna was instrumental in relocating West Virginia's capital from Wheeling to Charleston and secured funding for the first series of locks and dams on the Kanawha River.

The Kanawha Ring's crowning achievement was Kenna's election to the U.S. Senate in 1883, defeating a faction led by state Democratic kingpin Henry G. Davis. At age 35, Kenna was the youngest member of the U.S. Senate. A fatal heart attack at age 44 ended Kenna's meteoric rise through Democratic politics. Sculptor Alexander Doyle immortalized Kenna with a marble statue which the state of West Virginia donated to the U.S. Capitol in 1901.

For Discussion:

April 13, 1990: Indictment of former governor Arch Moore

Moundsville native Arch Moore made his first foray into state politics in 1952, when he was elected to the West Virginia House of Delegates. A decorated World War II combat veteran and a graduate of West Virginia University's Law School, Moore also served 14 years in Congress before being elected the state's governor in 1968. During his first term, he presided over the establishment of the Department of Highways and the development of the interstate highway system. Moore also intervened in labor disputes, firing striking road maintenance workers and Charleston transit workers and negotiating a settlement to a national coal strike.

The passage of the Governor's Succession Act in 1970 allowed Moore to become the first governor to serve 2 consecutive, 4-year terms. During his second term, West Virginia's coal industry skyrocketed and Moore was considered to be a potential Republican presidential candidate, but a scandal temporarily derailed the Moore bandwagon. In 1975, Moore became the first sitting governor to be officially charged with a crime when he and his campaign manager were indicted for extortion in connection with his 1972 gubernatorial bid. They were found not guilty, but many suspected this was just the tip of the iceberg.

Throughout his first 2 terms, Moore had faced allegations of accepting illegal campaign contributions, income tax evasion, bribery, and misusing state funds. Despite these well- publicized accusations, Moore became the first West Virginia governor to serve 3 four-year terms when he was elected again in 1984. But the charges against him continued.

Following his loss to Gaston Caperton in the 1988 election, Moore became embroiled in a federal investigation of corruption in West Virginia. On April 13, 1990, Moore was formally indicted on charges of tax evasion, mail fraud, extortion, and obstruction of justice. Ironically, some of Moore's illegal activity involved the Black Lung Compensation Fund, which he had helped to create. He was charged with receiving $373,000 from the president of Maben Energy. In return, Moore supposedly used his influence to obtain a refund of more than $2 million which the coal company had paid into the Black Lung Compensation Fund.

He eventually pled guilty to 5 felony charges and was sentenced to 5 years and 10 months at the federal prison in Montgomery, Alabama. He served 2 years and, in 1995, settled a lawsuit with the state by agreeing to pay $750,000 to recoup money he had received through extortion and kickbacks.

For more information:
West Virginia State Archives' Biography of Arch Moore

Morgan, John J. West Virginia Governors 1863-1980. Charleston: Charleston Newspapers, 1990.


April 14, 1913: Governor Henry Hatfield dictates end to coal strike

Governor Henry Hatfield's resolution of one of the nation's most violent labor disputes only quieted West Virginia's coalfields for a few years. Miners along Paint Creek and Cabin Creek in Kanawha County were fighting mainly for the right to be represented by the United Mine Workers, but the coal operators refused to recognize the union. Guards hired by the operators and miners had been engaged in what was essentially guerrilla warfare for nearly a year when Hatfield took office as the state's fourteenth governor. His predecessor, William Glasscock, had declared martial law and dispatched state militia on three occasions.

Hatfield initially seemed sympathetic to the miners. He visited the strike-torn areas and, as a doctor, assisted the wounded. He demanded an end to the strike and proposed a settlement on April 14, 1913. He gave the combatants a 36-hour deadline to accept what has come to be known as the "Hatfield Contract." Coal operators quickly agreed to Hatfield's terms, but the miners weren't so easily persuaded. The proposal didn't guarantee the right to organize and it didn't eliminate the mine guard system, the two most important issues. Hatfield gave the miners an ultimatum -- accept the terms or face deportation from the state. He also refused to release ailing labor leader Mother Jones from house arrest and closed two Socialist newspapers which had backed the miners. UMW delegates approved the contract as did the miners along Paint Creek. However, Cabin Creek strikers held out for several more months before reluctantly signing.

Once the Hatfield Contract was accepted by both sides, West Virginia's coalfields experienced relative peace for a few years. But the state's mine wars erupted again after World War I, culminating in the Battle of Blair Mountain in 1921.

For more information:
Fagge, Roger. "Eugene V. Debs in West Virginia, 1913: A Reappraisal". West Virginia History 52(1993): 1-18.

Lewis, Ronald L. "The Black Presence in the Paint-Cabin Creek Strike, 1912-13." West Virginia History 46(1985-86): 59-72.

WV State Archives' Biography of Henry Hatfield

WV State Archives' West Virginia's Mine Wars

For Discussion:

April 15, 1872: Death of statehood leader & U.S. Senator Peter G. Van Winkle

Peter Godwin Van Winkle was a native New Yorker who made his mark in West Virginia as a leader in the statehood movement. Van Winkle was born in 1808. He moved to Parkersburg in 1835 and studied law under General John Jay Jackson. In 1852, Van Winkle entered the railroad business and became president of the Northwestern Virginia Railroad, which managed the Baltimore and Ohio line from Grafton to Parkersburg. He was also active in Parkersburg politics, serving as a councilman, mayor, and city recorder.

At the beginning of the Civil War, tensions ran high between Union and Confederate sympathizers in northwestern Virginia. In Parkersburg, a riot broke out over control of military arms stored in the Wood County Jail. Van Winkle, a prominent Union supporter, took command of federal forces and ended the riot before anyone was killed.

During the war, Van Winkle helped forge West Virginia's statehood in the Second Wheeling Convention and the state's first constitutional convention. In addition, he represented Wood County in the state's first legislature and was one of West Virginia's first two U.S. Senators.

Van Winkle is best remembered for his vote in President Andrew Johnson's impeachment trial. Van Winkle was a Republican but often opposed the party's radical element. Moderate Republicans, such as Van Winkle and President Johnson, challenged radical Reconstruction policies which punished the post-Civil War South. When Radical Republicans tried to oust Johnson from office, Van Winkle cast one of the deciding votes in favor of acquittal, one of only nine Republicans to break ranks. Van Winkle was vilified in the Radical Republican press and denounced by both houses of the West Virginia Legislature.

Van Winkle retired from public service in 1869 after one term in the Senate. He died in Parkersburg on April 15, 1872.

For more information
Bayless, R. W. "Peter G. Van Winkle and Waitman T. Willey in the Impeachment Trial of Andrew Johnson." West Virginia History 13(January 1952): 75-89.

Howard, Thomas W. "Peter G. Van Winkle's Vote in the Impeachment of Andrew Johnson: A West Virginian as a Profile in Courage." West Virginia History 35(July 1974): 290-295.


April 16, 1952: Split in the state Democratic party

On April 16, 1952, U.S. Senator Matthew Neely rocked West Virginia's political world. The leader of the state's Democratic party officially endorsed Attorney General William Marland for governor, the first split between Democratic power brokers and organized labor in nearly twenty years.

President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal policies had won the support of organized labor in the 1930s. In West Virginia, Democrats and the state's largest labor union, the United Mine Workers, often handpicked candidates. Republicans discovered it was virtually impossible to defeat this alliance. Five consecutive Democrats were elected governor before the alliance began to crumble in 1952.

In the race for governor, the UMW and State Federation of Labor supported Beckley Democrat E. H. Hedrick over Neely's choice of Marland. In the first congressional district, labor backed incumbent Congressman Robert Ramsay while Neely touted his own protege, Robert Mollohan. On primary election day, Marland defeated Hedrick and independent Democrat Cyrus Kump, the son of former Governor Guy Kump. By a narrow margin in November, Marland defeated former U.S. Senator Rush Holt, who had defected to the Republican party because of an ongoing feud with Neely.

Although the Democrats retained the governorship, the divisive 1952 campaign weakened the party's power. Governor Marland's unpopular support of a coal severance tax further hindered the party's standing. The Democrats continued to lose ground and, in 1956, Cecil Underwood defeated Robert Mollohan. Underwood became the first Republican governor in twenty-four years, a sizeable feat in a state where Democrats outnumbered Republicans by a two-to-one margin. Underwood was reelected governor in 1996 following another split in the state's Democratic party.

For more information:
Lutz, Paul F. From Governor to Cabby: The Political Career and Tragic Death of West Virginia's William Casey Marland, 1950-1965. Huntington: Marshall University Library Association, 1996.

April 17, 1924: Town of Franklin burns

The Pendleton County seat of Franklin has flourished along the South Branch of the Potomac River since the 1790s. But on the evening of April 17, 1924, it suffered a severe setback when the town's business district was devastated by fire.

The blaze started in the offices of the Pendleton Times newspaper and spread quickly after flames reached several barrels of gas and oil. The fire was difficult to fight because the town's reservoir was dry and, to make matters worse, strong winds fanned the flames and kept the fire raging. It's said the winds carried burning debris two and a half miles down river, starting smaller blazes. The main fire burned out of control for a couple of hours before the winds shifted, forcing the flames towards the river. Some parts of the town continued to burn into the next day.

By the time the fire had been completely extinguished, virtually all of Franklin's business district had been destroyed. None of the town's approximately 500 residents were killed, but 19 families were left homeless. Damages were estimated at a half million dollars. People in surrounding communities flocked to Franklin to view the ruins. There were so many visitors that town officials became concerned about looting and called in the state police for protection.

Within a couple of days, Franklin rebounded. Tents were put up for shelter and one resident allowed his home to be used for public business. The post office was located in the basement of the home and the Farmers' Bank was set up in the living room. The Franklin Bank conducted business in the parsonage of a local church. The fire of 1924 wrought much destruction in Franklin, but within six years, the town's business section had been completely rebuilt.

For more information:
Boggs, Elsie Byrd. A History of Franklin: The County Seat of Pendleton County West Virginia. Staunton, VA: McClure Printing Company, 1960.
For Discussion:
In the early 1900s, many towns in West Virginia suffered devastating fires.

April 20, 1885: Incorporation of the Women's Christian Temperance Union

Dramatic changes brought by the Industrial Revolution and the tremendous growth of cities in the late 19th century spurred many Americans to champion social reforms. One group of reformers is still active today -- the Women's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), which was formed in 1874 to oppose the manufacture, sale, and consumption of alcohol.

The WCTU believed women had a moral duty to protect their families and communities from the evils of alcohol. In the late 1800s, Americans drank an estimated 7 gallons of alcohol per person each year. The WCTU blamed drinking for many societal ills and feared for the sanctity of the American family.

The height of the temperance movement in the late 1800s and early 1900s coincided with the greatest influx ever of European immigrants to the United States. Many Americans were deeply suspicious of the new arrivals and their more relaxed attitudes toward alcohol. The WCTU and other temperance supporters sometimes incorporated anti-immigrant rhetoric into their campaigns.

West Virginia women joined the temperance crusade early. A WCTU chapter was organized in Wheeling in 1877. Seven years later there were also chapters in Charleston, Clarksburg, Huntington, Keyser, Parkersburg, and Weston. On April 20, 1885, the WCTU was incorporated in West Virginia with its state headquarters in Wheeling.

The WCTU was also an important outlet for women's political aspirations. In the early 1900s, WCTU members worked for women's right to vote in the hope that women would elect upstanding public officials who would support a ban on alcohol. Eight years before the Nineteenth Amendment guaranteed women's suffrage, West Virginia temperance activists waged a highly effective campaign to pass a prohibition amendment to the state constitution in 1912. By the time prohibition went into effect in 1914, many West Virginia towns and counties were already dry. A prohibition amendment to the U.S. Constitution was passed in 1919.

Despite the temperance movement's legal successes, the manufacture and sale of alcohol continued underground and bootlegging flourished in West Virginia. The violence and corruption of the illegal liquor trade led to the national repeal of Prohibition in 1933, although some West Virginia towns and counties elected to remain dry for many years. Today, the WCTU takes on a number of other public health issues, including smoking and drug abuse. Over the years, the organization has also supported shelters for victims of domestic abuse, uniform marriage and divorce laws, and equal pay for equal work.

For more information:
Howe, Barbara. West Virginia Women's Organizations, 1880s-1930 or 'Unsexed Termagants. . . . Help the World Along.'" West Virginia History 49(1990): 81-102.

West Virginia State Archives' Biography of Lenna Lowe Yost, state WCTU president and suffrage leader


April 21, 1890: Creation of UMW District 17

When coal miners created the United Mine Workers of America in 1890, it was the latest in a series of attempts to form a national industrial union. The UMW had been preceded by groups such as the Miners National Association, the Workingmen's Benevolent Association, and the American Miners' Association.

The United Mine Workers was formed by the merger of two mining unions, the National Progressive Union and the National Trade Assembly, a branch of the Knights of Labor. 198 delegates founded the UMW at a convention in Columbus, Ohio. In his book, United We Stand, Maier Fox characterizes the Columbus convention as "the most comprehensive gathering of miners in history."

The delegations from Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, and Illinois comprised the bulk of the convention's members. Despite sending only two representatives, West Virginia coal miners organized a state union just four months after the Columbus meeting, at the urging of American Federation of Labor president Samuel Gompers. District 17, which originally encompassed all of West Virginia, was created at Wheeling on April 21, 1890.

A large measure of credit for the creation of District 17 can be given to black miners who actively promoted the union in the state's Kanawha, New River, and Pocahontas coalfields. Unlike earlier attempts at national unionism, the UMW was relatively integrated. In West Virginia, District 17's first three vice presidents were African Americans, including Horace Smith and J. J. Wren, who later served as the district's president. Within the first ten years, the UMW succeeded in organizing some miners in northern West Virginia; however, coal operators resisted union efforts in the southern part of the state. District 17 was left in shambles following the West Virginia mine wars and the Battle of Blair Mountain in 1921. Southern West Virginia was finally organized after the National Industrial Recovery Act was passed in 1933.

For more information:
Fox, Maier. United We Stand: The United Mine Workers of America, 1890-1990. Washington, DC: United Mine Workers of America, 1990.

April 22, 1904: Formation of the WV Federation of Women's Clubs

In the 1890s, women's clubs were formed across the nation to promote literature, art, libraries, charities, and the beautification of communities. The oldest known clubs in West Virginia were the Four O'Clock Club of Point Pleasant and the Women's Club of Morgantown, both formed in 1892. On April 22, 1904, representatives of 15 women's clubs gathered in Wheeling to form the West Virginia Federation of Women's Clubs. West Virginia was the last of the existing 45 states to be accepted by the General Federation of Woman's Clubs.

Barbara Howe, the chair of the West Virginia University History Department, says such clubs empowered women.

Howe: When groups like fraternal organizations and service clubs and manufacturers' associations were closed to men only, women formed this separate parallel set of organizations and speak out and accomplish their work within the community.

Excluded from almost all men's organizations, these clubs added important dimensions to women's lives. And, while their husbands and sons served overseas during World War I, women sold war bonds and volunteered for the Red Cross. They continued to pursue goals of community improvement. An early mission of the West Virginia federation was to promote libraries in rural areas and clubs lobbied for the creation of the State Library Commission, which was established in 1929.

Most importantly, clubs provided women with acceptable social outlets. Women today aren't faced with the same constraints.

Howe: Women now have so many other choices as to how they can spend their time. They can be part of the Kiwanis. They can be part of the Rotary. In 1904, of course, those weren't options. If they want to work for their community they can run for political office and they couldn't do that in 1904. So they still get together, they still meet, they still have community service project that they do, but it's no longer . . . there are a lot more opportunities open for women to express those kinds of interest in the community than there were in 1904.

The State Federation of Women's Clubs remains an active force, over ninety years after its inception, leading beautification projects and spearheading campaigns to pass drunk driving and seat belt legislation.

For more information:
Howe, Barbara. "West Virginia Women's Organizations, 1880s-1930 or 'Unsexed Termagants. . . . Help the World Along.'" West Virginia History 49(1990): 81-102.

Strasser, Susan. Never Done: A History of American Housework. New York: Pantheon Books, 1982.

For Discussion:
Women's clubs were significant outlets for community service in a time when women could not vote or hold office.

April 23, 1857: Andrew Rowan & the Message to Garcia

Monroe County native Andrew Rowan is considered one of the great heroes of the Spanish- American War. However, his daring feat occurred before the ever began. The United States intervened in a civil war which had been brewing between Cuba and Spain for more than two years. The U.S. wanted to expand its power around the world by ousting the Spanish from their colonies. President William McKinley needed to inform Cuban insurgents, led by General Calixto Garcia, of his decision to enter the war on the side of the rebels. The Army selected West Point graduate Lt. Andrew Rowan to carry out the treacherous assignment.

Rowan's expedition took him first to Jamaica. After some delay, he booked passage to Cuba, where he was met by rebel soldiers. Rowan couldn't speak Spanish very well nor the soldiers English. But he was able to tell them that he wanted to see Garcia.

The soldiers led Rowan through Cuba's rough interior before catching up with Garcia at the city of Bayamo. Rowan delivered his message, requesting the Cuban army's cooperation with the U.S. Believing Americans would help them gain independence from Spain, the Cuban rebels supported the U.S. The short-lived Spanish-American War is considered one of the United States' most overwhelming military triumphs. However, the Cubans, who believed they were fighting for freedom, merely exchanged one colonial ruler for another as the U.S. took over control of the island. Cuba finally gained independence in 1934.

An 1899 essay by Elbert Hubbard immortalized Rowan's dangerous mission. At one time, the essay held the record for circulation and translation into foreign languages. The "Message to Garcia" was also the subject of a 1936 film.

Rowan, who was born at Gap Mills on April 23, 1857, was the first Army officer to enter Cuba after the war began. He also saw action in the Philippines and retired from the Army in 1909. The details of his mission in Cuba have passed into legend, interpreted by Hubbard and others as a lone American overcoming insurmountable odds. The help Rowan received along the way is often left out. Rowan's own account barely mentions the Cubans who helped make his mission a success.

For more information:
Hubbard, Elbert. "A Message to Garcia"

Peake, Louis A. "Andrew Summers Rowan and the Message from Garcia." West Virginia History 44(Spring 1983): 226-240.


April 24, 1964: President Lyndon Johnson launches his War on Poverty

Five months after taking office, President Lyndon Johnson traveled to West Virginia to discuss his War on Poverty initiative with governors of the Appalachian states. Johnson's predecessor, John F. Kennedy, had focused a great deal of attention on poverty in Appalachia, opening new avenues for federal assistance. Johnson wanted to expand Kennedy's programs and be remembered as the president who eliminated poverty. His trip to West Virginia kicked off the Appalachian Recovery Plan.

Johnson, his wife Lady Bird, and their entourage arrived at Tri-State Airport near Huntington about 3:50 on the afternoon of April 24, 1964. They were accompanied by three cabinet members and Undersecretary of Commerce Franklin D. Roosevelt, Jr. The Johnsons were greeted by a crowd of about 3,500, including Congressman Ken Hechler, state Attorney General C. Donald Robertson, and Governor Wally Barron, who chaired the governors' conference.

Johnson toured depressed coal mining areas of eastern Kentucky aboard a Marine helicopter. He ventured about 65 miles south of Huntington to the Kentucky towns of Inez and Paintsville. Upon returning to Tri-State Airport that evening, Johnson met with Governor Barron and the governors of Indiana and Kentucky. After meeting for an hour and a half, Johnson emerged with a plan for the region.

The next day in Washington, the president announced he would ask Congress to invest nearly a billion dollars to improve Appalachian highways; build new airports; and develop water, timber, agriculture, mineral, and power resources. Although many of the projects did not materialize, the plan did produce the Appalachian Corridor system, funding construction of highways into isolated regions of West Virginia.

For Discussion:
The War on Poverty resulted in many projects which helped modernize West Virginia.

April 27, 1978: Willow Island Disaster

From its earliest stages, the development of industry in West Virginia has been accompanied by disaster. Incidents at Monongah, Farmington, and Buffalo Creek are testaments to catastrophe in the coal industry. Likewise, the electric industry was not immune to West Virginia's legacy of industrial disaster.

By the 1920s, electric power had begun to compete with coal, natural gas, and oil as a source of energy in West Virginia. By the 1950s, West Virginia produced 8 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity. After World War II electric production increased exponentially, reaching 68.4 billion kilowatt-hours in 1977. But the electric industry would soon face a tragedy of its own.

On the morning on April 27, 1978, scaffolding collapsed at a Monongahela Power Company station at Willow Island, northeast of Parkersburg. The scaffolding was being used to pour concrete for a cooling tower that was under construction. Forty-five workers fell more than 150 feet to their deaths and six more were crushed to death on the ground, ranking Willow Island among West Virginia's worst construction disasters.

The disaster became a national story. But the rush to report it alienated members of the grieving community, and an investigation begun almost immediately by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) didn't please them either.

"The families have been held at arm's length and have been ignored. Being the biggest losers, we feel it should have been the other way around."

An investigation of the New Jersey construction company which built the cooling tower revealed that the poured cement had not set properly, enabling the scaffolding to tear loose. At the time of the accident there were only 20 federal OSHA inspectors in West Virginia. The AFL-CIO and other agencies in the state responded by pushing to increase the number of inspectors in the state to avert future disasters.


April 28, 1914/1924: Eccles/Benwood coal mine disasters

West Virginia's coal mining industry has suffered 115 disasters. Some of the worst occurred in the early 1900s. Many have been lost to history but a memorial in the Raleigh County town of Eccles recalls the tragic day of April 28, 1914.

Rick Jarrett, who has been working on a pictorial history of West Virginia mine disasters, says the explosion at Eccles was one of the most forceful blasts in coal mining history.

Jarrett: From some reports, it actually shook windows in Beckley, four miles away. So you can understand, it was a pretty violent explosion.
The explosion at the New River Collieries mine was blamed on an impatient contractor who had cut through a coal barrier that kept fresh air flowing. Since the mine's ventilation was disrupted, methane gas built up and finally ignited. 183 bodies were recovered, making the Eccles disaster West Virginia's second deadliest.

The state's third worst mine disaster occurred exactly ten years later, on April 28, 1924, at a Wheeling Steel Corporation mine in Benwood. The blast occurred about one-half hour after workers entered the mine, killing 119.

Jarrett: It took quite some time for the bodies to be recovered from this mine because it had some extremely bad top or roof. And when it exploded it just fell in unbelievably and it was really, really difficult to dig back in and get the bodies out.

The town of Eccles was devastated by another coal disaster in 1926, which killed 19. In 1976, the Westmoreland Coal Company dedicated a plaque at Eccles which honored the contribution the victims of the disasters had made to the "economic growth of this country."

For more information:
Dillon, Lacy. They Died in the Darkness. Parsons: McClain Printing, 1976.

Nyden, Paul. "'I Might As Well Go Back In': Remembering the Eccles and Layland Explosions." Goldenseal 8(Spring 1982): 54-59.


April 29, 1863: Jones-Imboden Raid

With West Virginia statehood within reach in the spring of 1863, Confederate leaders made one last effort to block it. That was one of the goals of a raid through western Virginia by generals John Imboden and William Jones. Jones and Imboden also wanted to destroy as much of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad as they could, gather supplies, and recruit for the Confederate army.

The two generals began the raid independently of each other. Imboden left Shenandoah Mountain, near Staunton, Virginia, with about 3,400 men. Nine days later, on April 29, he captured Buckhannon and waited for Jones to arrive.

Meanwhile, Jones set out from Lacey Springs, Virginia. Before reaching Buckhannon he kept his small army of 1,300 busy. Jones fought a battle at Greenland Gap in present-day Grant County and attacked Rowlesburg in Preston County. On April 29, Jones captured Fairmont and took 260 prisoners. He also destroyed the private library of Francis Pierpont, the governor of the restored government of Virginia.

Jones met up with Imboden at Buckhannon where they decided the raid's two main objectives, Clarksburg and Grafton, were too strongly defended by Union troops. The two divided forces, with Jones attacking the Northwestern Virginia Railroad between Grafton and Parkersburg. He ordered the destruction of the valuable oil works at Burning Springs in Wirt County and his men torched 150,000 barrels of oil.

Jones and Imboden joined forces again at Summersville before making their way back to Confederate Virginia. Robert E. Lee used the horses, cattle, and supplies captured during the Jones-Imboden raid in his Pennsylvania campaign, which culminated in the battle of Gettysburg. But the raid didn't stop the statehood movement. A little more than a month after Jones and Imboden withdrew, West Virginia became a state.

For more information:
West Virginia in the Civil War

West Virginia State Archives' The Civil War in West Virginia

For Discussion:

April 30, 1774: Massacre of Logan's family

During colonial days, tensions ran high between white settlers and Native Americans in the Ohio Valley. But, when the family of Logan, a well-known Mingo chief, was murdered April 30, 1774, matters exploded into open warfare.

Members of Logan's family and others were slaughtered along the Ohio River in present-day Hancock County. While Logan was away on a hunting trip, his family members crossed to the western Virginia side of the river at Baker's Tavern and met up with a group of settlers, led by Daniel Greathouse. After an evening of heavy drinking, Greathouse and his companions killed 9 of the Indians. Logan, who had previously been considered a friend of the frontier pioneers, vowed to kill 10 white settlers for every murdered member of his family. That summer, Logan killed between 13 and 30 western Virginians and took others prisoner.

The massacre of Logan's family and his summer of revenge prompted Virginia Governor Lord Dunmore to attack the Indians on the frontier. Lord Dunmore's War culminated in the defeat of Shawnee forces at the Battle of Point Pleasant, five months following the tragedy at Baker's Tavern. Logan didn't fight at Point Pleasant but was summoned to peace negotiations near present-day Circleville, Ohio. Logan refused to attend, sending an interpreter with an emotional statement lamenting the loss of his family. The speech eloquently described the kindness he had shown to white settlers and expressed his feelings of betrayal.

Like his family, Logan met a tragic fate, dying at the hands of his nephew. Today, Logan County, the city of Logan, and Chief Logan State Park are all named in his honor.

For more information:
Eckert, Allan W. The Frontiersmen: A Narrative. Boston: Little, Brown, 1967.

Time Trail: Battle of Pt. Pleasant

For Discussion:

"Time Trail, West Virginia" April 1998 Schedule

West Virginia History Center West Virginia History Center