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November 1997 Programs


November 3, 1968: Gubernatorial candidate Arch Moore injured in helicopter crash

The Republican vice presidential candidate in 1968, Maryland Governor Spiro Agnew, paid a last minute campaign visit to West Virginia. The day before the November 5 election, Agnew's chartered plane touched down at Charleston's airport at about noon. He led a motorcade to the city's Civic Center, where he delivered a speech to about 1,000 West Virginia Republicans.

Agnew: President Dwight Eisenhower recently said, speaking about the White House and its terrifying responsibilities, I believe that every occupant of the White House, whether he be conservative, liberal, or middle of the road, has one profound duty to the nation--to exert moral leadership. The president of the United States should stand visible and uncompromising for what is right and decent in government, in the business community, and in the private lives of the citizens.

Before he made his remarks, Agnew was introduced to the crowd by then Congressman Arch Moore, which came as something of a surprise. On November 3, Moore and Kanawha County Common Pleas Court Judge Dennis Knapp had been injured in a helicopter crash. Moore was a candidate for governor in 1968 and Knapp was running for the West Virginia Supreme Court. The two were making a campaign visit to the Lincoln County town of Hamlin when the helicopter they were riding in went down at Hamlin High's football field. The pilot was apparently attempting to avoid power lines when the helicopter hit a flag pole and spiraled tail first, 30 feet to the ground, landing atop a car. Moore arrived at the Civic Center in a wheelchair to introduce Agnew. He spoke to reporters about the incident.

Reporter: What did you think of when you were coming down? What thoughts went through your mind?

Moore: Well, the only thing, Charlie, that I can say that went through my mind was this, and it seems rather foolish, but I was bound and determined to live. I was fighting all the way down that flagpole. I wasn't giving up anywhere along the line. I began to take inventory as we were laying there--first, moving legs and to see if I could breathe. I had some problem breathing.

Moore suffered two broken ribs and a ruptured leg muscle in the crash. Judge Knapp came away with a broken collarbone. On election day, Moore defeated James Sprouse to become West Virginia's 28th governor.

For More Information:

WV State Archives' Biography of Arch Moore.

John G. Morgan, West Virginia Governors 1863-1980 (Charleston: Charleston Newspapers, 1980).


November 4, 1985: Floods devastate West Virginia

The floods of 1985 devastated much of West Virginia. Authorities called the record-breaking floods that began November 4 the worst this century. More than 3,500 homes and 180 businesses were wiped out. 123 bridges were destroyed or damaged and hundreds of thousands of farm animals were killed. 47 West Virginians lost their lives, 28 of whom resided in Pendleton and Grant counties. 33 of West Virginia's 55 counties were declared disaster areas. Damage was estimated at $570 million.

Some blame the floods throughout central and eastern West Virginia on Hurricane Juan, which hit the Gulf Coast on Halloween and moved north. But on the 10th anniversary of the floods, Ken Batty, a National Weather Service meteorologist who was working the midnight shift in Charleston when the floods began, told West Virginia Public Radio that Juan never directly hit the state.

Batty: The remnants of Hurricane Juan lifted north over the weekend and, by Saturday, that would have been November 2nd, the remnants of what was once a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico was up in the Great Lakes and already being absorbed by a frontal system.

Batty said a whole new storm system developed after what was left of Juan passed through the southeastern United States. But regardless of the cause, floods ravaged communities in the Potomac Highlands.

Margaret Schollar was the mayor of the Preston County town of Rowlesburg in 1985. Ten years after the floods, she recalled the destruction the flooding Cheat River left behind.

Schollar: What can I say, it was beyond reality. It was a nightmare. You look out . . . the town's--what you knew--it's gone. We lost both bridges and about a third of the town.

Towns shattered by the flood rebuilt slowly. Unfortunately, severe flooding in 1996 devastated many of these same areas just as they were beginning to fully recover.

For more information:

Teets, Bob & Shelby Young. Killing Waters: The Great West Virginia Flood of 1985. Parsons, WV: McClain Printing, 1985.

Teets, Bob & Shelby Young. Killing Waters II: West Virginia's Struggle to Recover. Terra Alta, WV: C. R. Publications, 1987.


November 5, 1874: The Taylor Strauder case

When Taylor Strauder murdered his wife with a hatchet, he set in motion events that would change how this nation's juries are selected. Strauder and his wife, Annie Sly, lived in Wheeling. Both were born into slavery and later found freedom as a result of the Civil War.

Taylor Strauder and Annie Sly were married in 1871 but their honeymoon didn't last long, because Strauder's friends began teasing him about Annie's infidelity. After the two began fighting, sometimes in public, Annie asked for police protection. They reconciled for a while but, after more harrassment from his friends, Strauder finally killed Annie Sly with a hatchet.

Strauder's first trial resulted in his conviction on November 5, 1874. He was sentenced to be hanged. The case was eventually tried in the United States Supreme Court which rejected the West Virginia Supreme Court's decision that Taylor Strauder did not have the right to a jury pool in which blacks were included. State law at the time only allowed white men between the ages of 21 and 60 to serve on juries.

Bob O'Brien, the former president of the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), says the U.S. Supreme Court cited the Strauder case in subsequent rulings.

O'Brien: And then, in an extraordinarly important case in 1975, in the case of Taylor v. Louisiana, the Supreme Court relied upon the Strauder decision to strike down a law which kept women off of juries.

Taylor Strauder was represented by Blackburn Dovener, a former Union officer and a leading criminal lawyer who served West Virginia in Congress after the Strauder case.

O'Brien: He seems to have been committed very deeply to the ideals which generated the Civil War. He seems to have been committed very deeply to the union and to the notion that all people must be treated equally.

The Strauder case was one of the first decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court to expand black rights beyond the voting rights African-American men obtained with the Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution.

For More Information:

Stephen Cresswell, "The Case of Taylor Strauder," West Virginia History 44(Spring 1983): 193-211.

National Civil Rights Museum

For Discussion

After African-American men received the right to vote with the 15th Amendment, the Strauder case was one of the first decision by the U.S. Supreme Court which expanded black rights.


November 6, 1863: Battle of Droop Mountain

One of the most significant Civil War battles to take place in West Virginia was fought November 6, 1863, on Droop Mountain in Pocahontas County. The stage was set for the battle in September after Union forces suffered a defeat at the Battle of Chickamauga. Federal commanders feared Union troops would be pushed from Tennessee entirely so they sent cavalry units from West Virginia to attack the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad in southwestern Virginia. They hoped an attack on the railroad would get the attention of federal commanders and force them to withdraw from east Tennessee to protect it.

Union General William Averell left the Randolph County town of Beverly in early November with about 5,000 men. They traveled south towards Lewisburg. Meanwhile, Union General Alfred Duffy left Charleston with about 1,200 men. They met about 2,500 Confederate troops already north of Lewisburg on Droop Mountain.

Mike Smith, the superintendent of the Droop Mountain Battlefield State Park, says the Union Army drove the Confederates off the mountain.

Smith: It was really there last attempt to occupy territory in the new state of West Virginia. Within 10 days, there were just a few Confederates moved back into Lewisburg. But their winter quarters and such had been destroyed while General Averell was in the town.

Although the battle is considered a Union victory, the rebel forces rendered Averell's command unable to immediately execute its original mission. But the Confederates couldn't stop Averell's drive the following month when he succeeded in disrupting the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad.

Official casualties at Droop Mountain included 119 Union and an estimated 275 Confederates killed, wounded, or missing.

For More Information:

Terry Lowry, Last Sleep: The Battle of Droop Mountain, November 6, 1863 (Charleston, WV: Pictorial Histories Publishing Co., Inc., 1996).

For Discussion

Averell's victory at Droop Mountain virtually ensured Union control of southern West Virginia for the remainder of the Civil War.


November 7, 1980: Ferrell Mine Disaster in Boone County

After an explosion at a coal mine owned by the Westmoreland Coal Company on November 7, 1980, the company appeared to take responsibility for what happened.

Company Official: Well, I guess whenever there's an accident somebody has to take the blame for not having done something right and, in this case, Westmoreland is taking the blame for that.

Reporter: Westmoreland is taking the blame for the accident?

Company Official: Pardon?

Reporter: What do you think you haven't done right?

Company Official: Well, whatever MSHA (Miners' Safety and Health Administration) is saying is that we were negligent, I guess, for not having our ventilation properly.

Crews had worked feverishly to rescue 5 coal miners who were trapped about 2 miles below ground after an explosion at Westmoreland's Ferrell No. 17 mine near the mouth of Robinson's Creek in Boone County. While rescue efforts progressed, Governor Jay Rockefeller spent part of the afternoon with relatives of the trapped miners at the mouth of the mine.

Rockefeller: I don't think anybody at this point is trying to say who did what or fix blame. I think the entire concentration is to get to those 5 people and to make sure that they are . . . in the process of getting to them, that the 31 men on the rescue teams are also safe. Then comes . . . will come . . . a complete, total, thorough investigation.

United Mine Workers president Sam Church told a reporter that 1980 was one of the worst years in recent memory for mine accidents. He said the accident at the Ferrell mine pointed up the need for more stringent safety regulations.

Church: When the coal companies are screaming for . . . to loosen regulations, here's another tragedy or possible tragedy.

Union officials were upset that it took nearly 5 hours for a rescue crew to be brought in. The explosion occurred at 3:30 the morning of November 7. The 5 trapped men were located at 2:30 the next morning. They didn't survive. Officials blamed the explosion on a build up of methane gas.


November 10, 1817: The Kanawha Salt Company

Kanawha Valley salt manufacturers of the early 19th century banded together to form what has been called this nation's first trust. They formed the Kanawha Salt Company on November 10, 1817. John Stealey, a history professor at Shepherd College, has studied West Virginia's salt industry. He says it was an innovative move.

Stealey: If you read standard legal history accounts, output pools are supposed to have been created in 1860--the first ones. And yet, we have examples here in the Kanawha Valley of output pools in 1817, considerably before any legal historian thought.

Early 19th century salt factories in the Kanawha Valley made up the nation's largest salt producing area. The industry boomed during the War of 1812 because of a blockade by the British navy. Salt from other sources couldn't be safely transported over land during the war so American armies fighting the British and their Indian allies in the West came to depend on salt from Kanawha Valley producers.

But since the salt makers produced more salt than could be consumed, they sought to control its production.

Stealey: So, beginning in 1816, we have a combination of manufacturers in the Kanawha Valley who banned together in an output pool. Now, this agreement has never been found so we don't know legally what is in it. But, in the next year, 1817, in November, they developed what is called the Kanawha Salt Company, which is an output pool. Technically speaking, it is not a trust but again it depends on one's definition of a trust. This output pool is a combination of most manufacturers, not every manufacturer, into a legal agreement whereby they combine their production and also agree to reduce their production, basically to raise prices in the American West.

The first attempt by a majority of Kanawha Valley salt producers to combine their efforts didn't last long. The Kanawha Salt Company had only been in operation for a year when the economy took a downturn, forcing the company out of business. But Stealey says the effort did set a precedent for other companies created by Kanawha Valley salt manufacturers in the years to come.

For More Information:

John E. Stealey III, The Antebellum Kanawha Salt Business and Western Markets (Lexington: Univ. Press of Kentucky, 1993).

For Discussion

The salt industry made the Kanawha Valley one of the fastest growing business areas in the country in the early 1800s. When the salt market moved west, Kanawha Valley's economy collapsed.


November 11, 1861: The burning of Guyandotte

The Civil War hit home in the Cabell County town of Guyandotte on November 11, 1861. Union troops burned the town in retaliation over a raid pulled off the day before by Confederate cavalry. Joe Geiger, who has written a book about the Civil War in Cabell County, says Guyandotte's fate was the result of suspected collaboration with the Confederate raiders and the town's secessionist reputation.

Geiger: It's not really clear exactly how many buildings were burnt. But practically the entire business section was burned and a number of houses as well. It's interesting to note Confederate sympathizers' houses were not the only ones targeted. Many houses belonging to people of Union sympathies were burned as well.

In the fall of 1861, Guyandotte served as a hostile host to a Union recruit camp. The recruits weren't able to put up much of a fight against the raiders. They were taken prisoner and forced to march to New Bern, Virginia.

Geiger: I think some of the animosity came about because of the march of the prisoners. It began at a full run. They were tied two-by-two with rope and were herded out of town. Apparently, quite a few of the Guyandotte secessionist women were dressed up with their aprons and were yelling at the prisoners and such. The march was very torturous from what I gather.

When news of the raid reached the northern press, it was exaggerated as a massacre. In the northern panhandle town of Moundsville, 4 secessionists were assaulted and 3 were jailed. Union men also went to the homes of other secessionists and ordered them to leave town.

The Wheeling Intelligencer newspaper called Guyandotte the "ornaryest place on the Ohio River" and said it ought to have been burned earlier.

By 1872, Guyandotte had rebuilt but the emergence of the neighboring city of Huntington as the western terminus of the Chesapeake and Ohio (C&O) Railway eclipsed it. Legend has it that the C&O's president Collis Huntington established the new city after he was arrested in Guyandotte for riding his horse on the sidewalk.

For More Information:

Joe Geiger, Jr. "The Tragic Fate of Guyandotte," West Virginia History 54(1995): 28-41.

Joe Geiger, Jr. Civil War in Cabell County, West Virginia, 1861-1865 (Charleston, WV: Pictorial Histories Publishing Co., Inc., 1991).

For Discussion

Guyandotte, a thriving community before the war, never fully recovered from the destructive fire.


November 12, 1971: Governor Moore negotiates the end of a national coal strike

When Governor Arch Moore stepped in to mediate contract negotiations between the United Mine Workers union and the Bituminous Coal Operators Association, miners nationwide had been off the job for more than a month. The 44-day strike in 1971 idled 100,000 miners in 20 states, including nearly 40,000 in West Virginia, the hardest hit among coal-producing states. It also caused related layoffs in the railroad industry and threatened coal supplies of utilities and other companies.

Moore took over the negotiations on November 12, 1971, after talks in New York showed signs of bogging down. After a marathon bargaining session, the two sides came to an agreement and credited Governor Moore with resolving the strike.

The union achieved its two main objectives: an increase in wages and a doubling of industry contributions to the miners' welfare fund. The president of the union's District 17 in Charleston, Joe Ellis, said most miners were pleased with the agreement although some threatened to continue to strike to gain improved benefits for disabled and retired miners.

Governor Moore said the new contract gave the coal industry increased stability and productive capacity. He also implied the contract would reduce the possibility of wildcat strikes. However, the contract contributed to the growing disenchantment many rank-and-file miners felt for their union's leaders. A year later, the miners elected one of their own, Cabin Creek native Arnold Miller, as president of the UMW.

For More Information:

WV State Archives' Biography of Arch Moore.

John G. Morgan, West Virginia Governors 1863-1980 (Charleston, WV: Charleston Newspapers, 1980).


November 13, 1944: Junior Spurrier earns the Medal of Honor

West Virginia's Junior Spurrier was one of the most decorated veterans of World War II. He was surpassed only by Audie Murphy, who earned one more commendation than Spurrier. And while Murphy used his wartime fame as a springboard to Hollywood, Spurrier had trouble readjusting to life back home.

Junior Spurrier was born in Coburn, Virginia, in 1922, but he lived most of his life across the state line in Bluefield, West Virginia. When the United States entered World War II, Spurrier was among the thousands of West Virginians who volunteered for service.

After D-Day, Spurrier came to be known as "the one-man army" and the "lone ranger of the 134th Infantry" when he single-handedly liberated a small French farming community from the Germans on November 13, 1944. Stuart McGehee, the chair of the History Department at West Virginia State College and an archivist at the Craft Memorial Library in Bluefield, says Spurrier killed 25 German troops by himself and captured many more.

McGehee: The low number varies between . . . the low number is 18 and the high is 40. But there were two Wehrmacht officers also who surrendered. And the Germans could not believe that one man had come in and single-handedly liberated the entire town and destroyed basically a German detachment of the Wehrmacht.

Spurrier won both the congressional and French medals of honor for his efforts that day. And after he got back home to Bluefield, he was welcomed as a hero. But Stuart McGehee says Spurrier then led a troubled life.

McGehee: The sad thing about Junior Spurrier is . . . probably the only thing he was really well suited for was combat in his life. He adjusted very poorly to civilian life and was constantly in trouble for drinking and fighting.

Spurrier died in 1984 and is buried in the United States Veterans Cemetery in Johnson City, Tennessee.


November 14, 1970: Marshall University football team plane crash

When a chartered plane carrying 30 members of Marshall University's football team, coaches, boosters, and others crashed November 14, 1970, Damon Sloane was one of the first rescue workers on the scene.

Reporter: What were your thoughts as you came upon the plane?

Sloane: Well, I guess I was about the first man from our unit here. And I pulled my car up and I got out and I looked over there and I said, "Oh, my God." Then I got the word that nobody made it. So then, all feelings had to drop. We had to start to work. So then we started with our roadblocks. We started with the traffic control and we started with the rescue mission and that's just about all you can do after you get to the scene. Emotions hit you first and then you have to forget about them 'cause you have a job to do. You're not hard hearted. You just have to get your job done and go home and worry about it later.

The plane crashed on a hillside as it was making an approach to Huntington's Tri-State Airport. It crashed and burned in rain and fog, killing all 75 aboard. The general manager of Southern Airways was visibly shaken when he arrived in Huntington after the crash.

General manager: Well, sir, we're obviously very much grieved and disappointed that such a terrible thing would happen to your people in Huntington and to our crew members and to any of us--a terrible tragedy.

The crash was the country's worst aviation disaster of the year and the worst athletic aviation disaster in history. The plane was returning from Greenville, North Carolina, where the Marshall team had lost 17-14 to East Carolina.

For More Information:

Newspaper accounts from Huntington newspapers.

Marshall University

For Discussion

The plane crash devastated the university and the city of Huntington. Many families in the community knew at least one person killed in the crash.


November 17, 1928: Mary Behner's Presbyterian missionary work along Scotts Run

The boom West Virginia's coal industry experienced during World War I wasn't enough to sustain coalfield communities for long. Areas like Scotts Run in Monongalia County were bust even before the Great Depression caused widespread poverty across the nation.

First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt visited Scotts Run several times during the Depression years and helped make it a national symbol of the misery that could be found in many coal camps.

But before the rest of America became acquainted with Scotts Run's problems, Mary Behner was working to ease life there. Behner began her work in the Pursglove area of the Run in 1928. She was a missionary sent by Morgantown's First Presbyterian Church to establish a Sunday school. Her daughter, Bettijane Burger, of Charleston, says Behner kept a diary of her experiences. Its first entry is dated November 17.

Burger: She was kind of scared and she didn't wear a deaconess outfit, which the Methodist women wore in the Settlement House that was a few miles away. I remember she wrote in her diary about walking up a dirt road to the elementary school and she played games with the kids. The kids hadn't had any training in recreational games so she took them outside and played games with them and invited them to her Sunday school program. And, shortly after that, I think her first project was to start a library, and then, of course, it quickly expanded into so many other things.

Behner's humanitarian efforts went well beyond her original instructions to start a Sunday school. And her diaries of the nine years she spent on Scotts Run offer a revealing account of Depression-era West Virginia.

For more information:
West Virginia History Volume 53.

Kreiser, Christine M., ed., "`I wonder whom God will hold responsible': Mary Behner and the Presbyterian Mission on Scotts Run," West Virginia History Volume 53(1994): 61-94.


November 18, 1968: Leon Miller becomes first African-American judge in state

McDowell County Criminal Court Judge Leon Miller ordered a psychiatric examination of a 17-year-old Welch teenager on November 18, 1968. Results of the exam were to be used as part of the boy's bond hearing. He had been arrested on felonious assault charges.

The case may not have been particularly significant but Judge Miller was. In 1968, Miller won a write-in campaign in the general election to become West Virginia's first black judge. He was also the first Republican elected to a major office in McDowell County since the early 1930s. Judge Miller saw his election as a tribute to McDowell County and a step forward for black West Virginians.

Miller: I think it's helpful to the younger people of the state to know that they have an opportunity, if they strive hard enough, to achieve things that a few years ago that were unthinkable. I've been here in the county about 44 years now, and it's a very gratifying thing for me to know that my neighbors, friends, and people of this community have sufficient confidence in me to elect me to this very important position.

Judge Miller was born in Tennessee. He received his law degree from the University of Pennsylvania Law School in 1922 and practiced law in Williamson for a couple of years before moving to Welch. In 1954, President Dwight Eisenhower appointed Miller as the U.S. Attorney for the Virgin Islands. He returned to Welch in 1962 to resume his law practice.


November 19, 1966: Ted Belcher earns the Medal of Honor

When Army Sergeant Ted Belcher, a native of Logan County, smothered the blast of a grenade with his body November 19, 1966, he saved the lives of many of his men. Belcher posthumously received the Medal of Honor for his action, one of many West Virginians who have been awarded the medal.

Belcher entered the Army in Huntington and was leading a squad of men as part of a search and destroy mission in the jungles of Vietnam when they encountered an enemy bunker complex. Another group of soldiers found themselves pinned down by snipers so Belcher and his men moved to assist them. Belcher's squad was momentarily stopped by deadly enemy fire but he gave the order to return fire and continue the advance. As he moved up with his men, a hand grenade landed in their midst. Recognizing the danger and showing complete disregard for his safety, Belcher lunged forward, covered the grenade with his body, and absorbed the blast. Belcher saved his comrades from becoming casualties by becoming one himself.

The Medal of Honor was first presented in 1863 during the Civil War. It is the highest military award for bravery that can be given to any individual in the United States. It is sometimes called the Congressional Medal of Honor because it is presented in the name of the Congress of the United States.

For More Information:

PBS' American Experience -- Vietnam

Vietnam Veterans' Memorial

For Discussion

Based on percentage of population, West Virginia has produced more military personnel in times of war than any other state.


November 20, 1968: The Farmington mine disaster

After an explosion tore through Consolidation Coal Company's Number 9 mine in Farmington, there was still hope that miners trapped below ground found a way to survive. The explosion occurred early on the morning of November 20, 1968. Flames and smoke shot out through the mine's Lewellyn and Mod's Run portals. Twenty-one miners were rescued but many others were trapped. The evening of the explosion, William Poundstone, a Consol vice president, said rescue efforts couldn't be mounted right away because of the fire.

Poundstone: We expect no major developments during the night simply because we must wait until the flames die down. Our best estimate is that at least 70 miners are still trapped inside the mine. We do have on hand the best and most skilled mine rescue teams that are available in the country. They are standing by. But we feel that at this time we cannot send them in to commence rescue operations because of the fire.

Seventy-eight miners were trapped in the mine after the initial explosion. After several more explosions and increasing smoke and flames, it became more evident that rescue crews would have to wait.

Poundstone: My own personal concern has been to try to work with the federal bureau and the state people to make the proper moves to get this fire under control and get ourselves in a position so we can send rescue men in to rescue these miners. I know that the mine workers' organization is at work in this regard.

After a few days, two rescue teams entered the mine. But, after about four hours of searching, they encountered enough methane to blow the mine again so they were ordered out. Officials finally came to the difficult conclusion that the 78 trapped miners were dead and decided the mine should be sealed so the fire could be put out. The existence of today's Federal Mine Safety and Health Administration is due, in large part, to the Farmington mine disaster.

For More Information:

Newspaper accounts. Brit Hume, Death and the Mines: Rebellion and Murder in the United Mine Workers (New York: Grossman, 1971).

For Discussion

The Farmington disaster brought to public attention the lack of proper safety conditions in coal mines. It resulted in many coal mine safety reforms.


November 21, 1968: Explosion at Bluefield State College

Dozens of people narrowly escaped death or serious injury after a bomb exploded on the campus of Bluefield State College the evening of November 21, 1968. The blast blew a hole in the side of Bluefield State's new physical education building and extensively damaged the building's third and fourth floors. The explosion shook homes and alarmed residents all over Bluefield.

The blast was the latest in a series of incidents that had troubled the college since the previous fall. Just a few days before, the school had expelled one student and suspended 4 others over a demonstration in a dining hall. The weekend before the explosion, city and state police were called in to patrol the campus after bricks were thrown through windows in the student union building.

Bluefield State, a historically black college, was struggling with racial problems. A group of black students wanted the removal of Dr. Wendell Hardway, the college's first white president, and most top administrators. A month before, a list of 35 grievances was presented to Hardway by a student who claimed to represent most of the 450 black students in the 1,400-member student body.

After the explosion, Dr. Hardway, who said his life had been threatened, closed campus dormitories.

Hardway: The idea of this is not to solve the problem so much as it is to protect the students and help secure the campus. And with the violence we had down there last week and the destruction that resulted and the deaths that could have resulted, we're very much concerned about students living on the campus. And this will definitely help to protect them and will help us to keep the campus more secure.

The explosion at Bluefield State College caused $80,000 in damage. The school was forced to close for more than a week.

For More Information:

Newspaper accounts.

For Discussion

The 1960s was a decade of social change and unrest. Protests over civil rights, women's rights, and the Vietnam War occurred nationally as well as in West Virginia.


November 24, 1750: George Washington acquires his first land in present-day WV

West Virginia's long history of absentee land ownership reaches back to the days when pioneers were struggling to make homes out of the wilderness. There were many speculators during colonial times who tried to profit from valuable western Virginia land claims, the most famous being George Washington, who purchased his first tract of land in what is now West Virginia on November 24, 1750. He bought the Bullskin Plantation in present-day Jefferson County from Robert Rutherford. Over the next 40 years, Washington acquired about 65,000 acres in western Virginia, occasionally evicting settlers who had been living on the property.

Barbara Rasmussen, a history professor at Fairmont State College, says Washington was just one of many speculators who controlled hundreds of thousands of acres.

Rasmussen: Many people in colonial American times wanted to build a world like England. People like Benjamin Franklin, who was quite an imperial thinker, wanted to be a grand proprietary landowner like English aristocrats.

By the end of the 19th century, the coal, oil, gas, and timber boom had made portions of West Virginia extremeley valuable which inevitably led to conflicts between out-of-state landowners and West Virginians who actually lived on the land.

Rasmussen: Now, in the 1880s and 1890s, these conflicts show up in court. And inevitably, the settlers come out on the short end of the stick there. They fight in court sometimes. Sometimes they win, most often they lose. That's the start of the grand industrial transformation of Appalachia. That's when we are interested in harvesting the timber and mining the coal and building the railroads into these places.
Absentee land ownership today is still a controversial issue because out- of-state corporations control much of West Virginia's privately owned land.

For more information:

Miller, Tom D. Who Owns West Virginia? Huntington: The Herald-Advertiser and Herald-Dispatch, 1974.

Rasmussen, Barbara. Absentee Landowning and Exploitation in West Virginia 1760-1920. Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky, 1994.


November 25, 1927: Death of State Geologist Israel C. White

A geologist might often find fame in scientific circles but rarely does one acquire the wealth Dr. Israel Charles White did. The director of the State Archives Fred Armstrong says White was a pragmatic man who was the first to use geology's Anticlinal Theory.

Armstrong: By this theory, one could study the anticlines and know where one would find oil and gas accumulations or where one would not find them because of the absence of correct anticlinal structure.

Dr. White's use of the Anticlinal Theory made him a much sought after man. His services were in demand by the great petroleum and gas companies who wanted him to examine and report on prospects in Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and elsewhere. He located some of the most productive oil wells of Mexico including one which realized 300,000 barrels daily and, at the time, was the largest ever drilled in the world. But White could not export all of his talents out of state.

Armstrong: He was one of the very important middle men who made those connections which helped West Virginia develop into a leading oil and gas and coal producer in which we were the top one, two, or three in those areas during his active career.

Dr. White was born in 1848, the youngest of five children of a Monongalia County farmer. He was among the first six students enrolled at West Virginia University. He helped launch the Geological Society of America and served as State Geologist for 30 years. White died November 25, 1927.


November 26, 1965: Death of Governor William Marland

West Virginia's 24th governor William Marland spent the first 7 years of his life and most of the last 7 in Illinois. At age 34, Marland was the governor in West Virginia history. But that distinction was taken away from him by his successor Cecil Underwood.

Marland became governor in 1953. Three days after his inauguration, he startled the West Virginia Legislature by proposing to tax natural resource industries, such as coal, oil, and natural gas. The tax was his answer to West Virginia's road and school problems. It proved to be divisive and was never approved.

During Marland's last State of the State speech in 1957, he reflected on his four years in office.

Marland: It has been both fascinating and educational and an experience that will be the highlight of my life. I shall constantly strive to repay this honor by aiding in whatever way I can toward the achievement of our common goals of a greater West Virginia for ourselves and our children. To members of the legislature of the past four years, I say thank you for your efforts on behalf of our people. While I well remember that we've had differences of opinion on solutions to our problems, I am also firmly convinced that it is in the discussions, debates, and arguments over these differences that the sinews of democracy are strengthened and the solutions to our problems eventually brought forth in a democratic manner. For you of the 53rd Legislature and for the incoming administration, may I wish every success for the common good of West Virginians. Good luck, God bless you.

After Marland left the Governor's Office, he was defeated twice for a seat in the U.S. Senate. In 1965, a reporter found Marland working as a cab driver in Chicago. At a news conference, Marland explained he had been a cab driver for two years while battling alcoholism.

Marland died of pancreatic cancer November 26, 1965, at his home in Barrington, Illinois.

For More Information:

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

WV State Archives' Biography of William Marland

For Discussion

At the time of his election, William Marland was the state's youngest governor. The pressures of the Governor's Office took their toll on Marland.


November 27, 1976: The National Track & Field Hall of Fame

Forty Olympic medal winners gathered in West Virginia November 27, 1976, for groundbreaking ceremonies for a National Track & Field Hall of Fame. The medalists represented U.S. Olympic teams from 1928 to 1976. Governor Arch Moore and track great Jesse Owens turned the first shovels full of earth for the hall which was to be located along Interstate 64 about a mile east of the Putnam County town of Hurricane. Owens expected construction to begin the following spring.

Owens: The land has been acquired and the money has been acquired to build the building and I'm quite sure the people here and Dr. Cohen, who is president of the board, they will decide on when they are going to start really putting the building together. And I hope it will not be any later than the spring of the year.

The hall of fame was the idea of Dr. Don Cohen, a Charleston optometrist. It was to include a building with exhibits, a library and auditorium, an indoor-outdoor track, a cross country course, a dormitory for visiting athletes, and a picnic area. Governor Moore had backed the project from the outset. During the groundbreaking ceremonies, he said track and field athletes had long been overlooked.

Moore: To have the shrine located in our state of West Virginia, we humbly say to you that we take the challenge to carry from this point forward the realization and completion of this great dream.

The 1976 Decathlon champion Bruce Jenner said the hall of fame would give his sport credibility.

Jenner: And sort of gives it that sense of immortality. And I think they say it's the Track and Field Hall of Fame but really it's almost the Olympics' hall of fame because track and field is such a major part of the Olympic games.

The Track and Field Hall of Fame was expected to be completed by the middle of 1978 but plans were not followed through and the hall of fame was eventually built in Indianapolis.

For Discussion

The hall of fame was never completed due to lack of financial support.


November 28, 1891: The Beginning of West Virginia University football

Mountaineer fans usually can't wait for football season to begin each fall but it wasn't always so. When West Virginia University (WVU) first fielded a football team, it didn't get much support.

Bob Ours, a professor of journalism at WVU, has written an encyclopedia about college football. He says the WVU faculty and much of the West Virginia press were indifferent or even hostile toward the idea.

Ours: Most of the faculty really paid no attention to it. But the ones who did said no good would come of it. And the papers around the state also, for the most part, were against it. The Wheeling Daily Intelligencer, in fact, deplored the introduction of football at our state university and suggested the next thing in order will be for the legislature to establish a hospital in Morgantown. Well, that's been done since and there is a nice hospital now, right beside the football field. So maybe the Wheeling Daily Intelligencer people would be very happy about that from the 1890s.

Football came to Morgantown by way of Melville Davisson Post, who became president of the WVU Athletic Association in 1890 and R. F. Bivins, who had played on the Georgetown college football team. They persuaded a professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, F. L. Emory, to act as coach because he had played at Worcester Polytechnic Institute and at Cornell University. The first intercollegiate game at WVU was played November 28, 1891, against Washington & Jefferson College. But before the game could be played, team members needed to raise money for uniforms. So they staged a play, Shakespeare's Richard III.

Ours: Well, they did probably a lot better at that than they did in the football game. The day arrived and the game was played on a field just south of Morgantown. And W&J, Washington & Jefferson, who had played football for several years and had a pretty strong team, came down on a nice snowy cold day. Final score before about 250 people, 72-0 Washington & Jefferson. Well, that started the football at WVU but there wasn't any season the next year. There was a team but they didn't have any games scheduled. But starting in 1893, they've played every year since.

Between 1893 and 1902, WVU played W&J 7 times and suffered shutout losses each time. But things turned around in 1903, when the Mountaineers finally scored against W&J. WVU won that game 6- 0. In their last meeting in 1935, WVU shutout W&J 52-0.

For More Information:

West Virginia University Sports Hall of Fame


"Time Trail, West Virginia" November 1997 Schedule

West Virginia Rock West Virginia History Center