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"Time Trail,
West Virginia"
October 1997 Programs


October 1, 1896: Rural Free Delivery introduced in Jefferson County

The first rural Americans to receive mail at home were West Virginians. The idea of a Rural Free Delivery system for farmers and others who lived far from cities and towns had been kicked around for several years during the administrations of both presidents Harrison and Cleveland.

It was the nation's Postmaster General William Wilson who finally delivered on it. Wilson was serving as Postmaster in Cleveland's administration when he picked Jefferson County to be the first in the nation to experiment with the system. It didn't hurt that Wilson was a native son of the Jefferson County town of Charles Town.

On October 1, 1896, five carriers began delivering mail in the region. Three operated out of Charles Town and one each from Halltown and Uvilla. The carriers were Harry Gibson, Frank Young, John Lucas, Keyes Strider, and Melvin Strider.

There is no official record of which one of these men is entitled to the honor of being the first Rural Free Delivery carrier in the United States. The Postal Service merely lists all of them as having carried the mail on October 1. Harry Gibson, though, always maintained that he carried mail unofficially for several days in August and September of that year to get acquainted with the work and to find out how long it took to make the rounds.

Gibson retired from the service in 1919 and was succeeded by Vesta Watters Jones, the first woman mail carrier in West Virginia and one of the first in the entire United States. While Gibson delivered the mail by horseback, Jones began working the route in a Model T Ford. She remained on the job until she officially retired in 1961. There have only been four rural mail carriers to work the route of Gibson and Jones.

Jefferson County was the first but not the only region to try Rural Free Delivery. A short while after its beginnings in the county, similar routes were established in other states. In all, 15 routes were put into operation in various parts of the country in the month of October 1896.

For Discussion

Rural Free Delivery improved communication between isolated areas. In addition, access to consumer goods through mail-order catalogues modernized many rural homes.


October 2, 1978: Willow Island's American Cyanamid plant enforces fetal protection policy

American Cyanamid's decision to prohibit women of child-bearing age from working in production jobs at the company's plant at Willow Island in Pleasants County stemmed from the fear that certain chemicals might cause birth defects. In the late 1970s, the company began enforcing a fetal protection policy and, on October 2, 1978, American Cyanamid decided that women could only be exposed to lead. Since workers at the Willow Island plant were required to handle many different chemicals, this fetal protection policy had drastic consequences for women employees. Five women who worked in the plant's pigment department believed they had to be sterilized to keep their jobs.

In early 1979, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) inspected the Willow Island plant and fined American Cyanamid $10,000. OSHA contended the company's fetal protection policy constituted a hazard of employment because it had, in effect, coerced women into sterilization. It also noted that exposure to lead at the plant was equally dangerous to men and should be cleaned up. American Cyanamid ended up shutting down the pigment department.

The company successfully challenged OSHA's decision the following year. A review committee agreed to set aside the citation, concluding the fetal protection policy was not a hazard to workers.

Meanwhile, the women who were sterilized to keep their jobs sought legal relief and the Oil, Chemical, and Atomic Workers union agreed to help them appeal the case. Separately, 13 women from the plant filed a suit against American Cyanamid, alleging violations of the federal Civil Rights Act.

The union's case ended up before federal judge Robert Bork, who, in 1984, found in favor of the company. Bork ruled the fetal protection policy wasn't hazardous because the women had the option of surgical sterilization. The civil rights case was dropped after 3 1/2 years of pre-trial proceedings. In 1983, the women accepted a settlement from the company.

For more information

Faludi, Susan. Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women, 440-452.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) played a significant role in challenging discrimination against women in the workplace, including the American Cyanamid case. The ACLU has traced a History of Women's Rights in the 20th century.


October 3, 1864: Death of John Hanson McNeill

McNeill's Rangers, a group of Confederate guerilla soldiers, were a thorn in the side of Union attempts to control northeastern West Virginia. The Rangers took their name from their commander, Captain John Hanson McNeill, a native of Hardy County.

In 1862, McNeill returned to Hardy County from Missouri and soon received permission to organize a cavalry company. McNeill was elected captain and he, his son Lieutenant Jesse McNeill, and some 200 partisans became the scourge of Union authorities but heroes to southerners.

In 1864, the Partisan Ranger Act, which allowed groups like McNeill's Rangers to exist, was suspended by the Confederate government. The government intended for the soldiers serving in ranger groups to rejoin the regular Confederate army but there were two exceptions. One of them was McNeill's Rangers.

Dennis Frye, the president of the Association for the Preservation of Civil War sites, says the southern government allowed McNeill and his men to continue to serve as rangers because they were so successful.

Frye: He knew how to fight. He knew how to plan. He knew how to extricate himself out of difficult situations. He knew how to produce good results.

On October 3, 1864, McNeill was wounded during a raid in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley near Mt. Jackson. He had intended to destroy a bridge that allowed the Valley Pike, today's Route 11, to continue across the North Branch of the Shenandoah River. The raid was unsuccessful and McNeill was badly hurt.

Frye: He was taken to a home nearby, about a mile away--the Weller residence--and the Federals came looking for him. They came there, saw a wounded Confederate officer, and he was not immediately identified as McNeill. The Weller family realized that he was on short time and certainly he was a hunted man--they wanted him badly--and, if they didn't something to disguise McNeill, he would be quickly recognized. So they cut his beard-- he had a very long beard--they cut his long flowing hair as well, pretty much made him look like a whole new man. When the Federals would return, they did not recognize him. They would return several times and not recognize him. In fact, they even came with one of McNeill's former rangers who had decided he had had enough of the war. The Union troops brought him there and, although he recognized McNeill, he did not tell the Yankees that it was McNeill.

McNeill didn't reveal himself until Major General Philip Sheridan, the commander of Union forces operating in the Shenandoah Valley at the time, came to see him.

Frye: And Sheridan had respect for him. Sheridan did not force him to be moved and, as a result, he would die there quietly about five weeks after his mortal wound. He would be buried in Harrisonburg, Virginia, and, in 1865, the McNeill Rangers would come and remove him from Harrisonburg and take him to Moorefield, where he is buried today.
For more information

Bright, Simeon Miller. "McNeill's Rangers: A Study in Confederate Guerilla Warfare. West Virginia History 12(July 1951): 338- .

For Discussion

Guerilla warfare was an effective tool for Confederates. Often, independent military organizations like McNeill's Rangers proved more loyal to the Confederacy than regular troops. Many of McNeill's Rangers continued to elude federal forces for nearly a month after Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox, Virginia.


October 6, 1981: Former Gov. Moore testifies about the Buffalo Creek lawsuit

The state's $1 million settlement of a lawsuit against the Pittston Coal Company over the Buffalo Creek disaster raised eyebrows among those who saw it as less than sufficient. The state had sued Pittston for $100 million after a company-owned dam on Buffalo Creek in Logan County gave way in 1972. The break sent more than 130 million gallons of water down the Buffalo Creek hollow. The violent flood killed 125, injured another 1,100, and left over 4,000 homeless. Authorities estimated property damage at $50 million.

The state wanted to use half of the $100 million to pay for flood relief efforts, but just before he concluded his second term as governor, Arch Moore announced the $1 million settlement.

On October 6, 1981, West Virginia lawmakers called on Governor Moore to testify at a hearing to explain why such a small settlement had been negotiated. Moore said he had no choice but to agree to it.

Moore: I simply could not have said no if I wanted to. I was incidental, simply sitting in the chair. I am not the law enforcement officer in terms of instituting legal suits in the state of West Virginia and the matters in that particular regard are defined and well drawn.

Pittston's legal troubles over the Buffalo Creek disaster weren't limited to its settlement with the state. Other lawsuits were filed. In 1974, the company agreed to split $13.5 million among about 600 flood survivors and family members of victims.

In 1988, the state finally agreed to repay the federal government $9.5 million to cover clean-up costs plus interest.

For more information:

West Virginia State Archives' Buffalo Creek exhibit.


October 7, 1763: Proclamation of 1763

When the French & Indian War finally came to an end with victory for England, pioneers were chomping at the bit to cross the mountains of what is now West Virginia and make their way into the Ohio Valley. But the English government feared another Indian war and didn't want the fur trade disrupted. So, on October 7, the king of England announced what is called the Proclamation of 1763, which prohibited settlement west of the Allegheny Mountains.

The proclamation became a sore point with the pioneers. Land speculators who wanted to exploit the Ohio Valley weren't happy about it either. So, two Indian superintendents were enlisted by the British to enforce the proclamation. Sir William Johnson was given charge of the territory north of the Ohio River. Colonel John Stuart was responsible for territory further south.

Although the proclamation forbade settlements west of the mountains, it didn't permanently shut the door on westward migration. One of it provisions allowed for the boundary to be moved farther west and eventually it was.

In 1768, Johnson and Stuart worked out two treaties with the Indians. Stuart signed the Treaty of Hard Labour with the Cherokees and Johnson signed the Treaty of Fort Stanwix with the Iroquois. Except for extreme southern West Virginia, the treaties opened the Ohio Valley to settlement. And in the spring of 1769, settlers began streaming over the mountains by the hundreds.

For more information

WV State Archives' History of the Proclamation of 1763.

For Discussion

The Proclamation of 1763 temporarily ended much of the violence on the western Virginia frontier. Although the proclamation stopped most settlers from moving westward, land speculators such as George Washington violated the king's order and claimed large portions of western Virginia for themselves.


October 8, 1764: Birth of Harman Blennerhassett

Like most immigrants to American shores, Harman Blennerhassett was in search of a new life. But he was eventually forced to flee his stately home in the Ohio Valley with his reputation shattered.

Blennerhassett was born into a wealthy Irish family on October 8, 1764. He and his wife Margaret immigrated to America and chose an Ohio River island near present-day Parkersburg to build their elegant mansion. The island drew a steady stream of notable guests, including former Vice President Aaron Burr. Burr was known for his fiery temper and had even killed political rival Alexander Hamilton in a duel.

In 1806, Burr persuaded the Blennerhassetts to join him in a scheme to carve an empire out of the western territories of the United States and part of Mexico. But the plot was doomed.

Historian Ray Swick says that Burr's old rival President Thomas Jefferson learned of the plot and ordered the arrests of Burr and Blennerhassett.

Swick: He had heard of all the secret military activity that was centered around Blennerhassett Island and extended down the Mississippi and up the Ohio. Hating Burr with a passion, he decided that this must be treasonous even though we now have evidence that even before Burr was brought to heel that Jefferson knew that it was--the Burr expedition--was merely a filibustering expedition which is when a private citizen of one country raises a private army and invades another.

Harman Blennerhassett initially escaped authorities but was eventually captured in Lexington, Kentucky, and sent to Richmond, Virginia. He was let go after the Supreme Court acquitted Burr of treason. Although he was cleared of all charges, Blennerhassett lost his vast fortune and lived most of the remainder of his life destitute. He died on an island off the coast of England in 1831.


October 9, 1856: Archibald Campbell acquired the Wheeling Intelligencer.

The Wheeling Intelligencer newspaper took an early stance for statehood during the Civil War, largely through the efforts of its editor Archibald Campbell. Campbell became editor on October 9, 1856 and transformed the paper into a powerful advocate for Republican politics, despite the relative unpopularity of the party in northwestern Virginia.

The paper struggled to survive in the early days of Campbell's control, but when the Civil War broke out, it took the lead in calling for a new state. As editor, Campbell was in a position to help unite western Virginians against the government at Richmond. Early in the war, western Virginians created a restored Virginia state government, loyal to the Union. It was based in Wheeling.

Retired Bethany College administrator Bob Sandercox says Francis Pierpont, the governor of the Restored Government, once attributed West Virginia's statehood to Campbell.

Sandercox: President Lincoln had told Governor Pierpont that it was Archibald Campbell's dispatch that caused him to sign the bill, even against the recommendation of his own cabinet. So, he has, from time to time, been called the "father of the state." I think that is not generally recognized today, but there must be a sense of truth about--the fact the first governor would be quoted as having said that.

Campbell is considered one of West Virginia's founders despite never having held public office in the state.

Sandercox: When it came time to get involved himself in politics, he always seemed to shy away. In fact, some of the articles of the time suggested that this may have been a weakness of his-- that he was unduly timid. While he was in the newspaper business, he hated to have anything about him reported in the paper and he never utilized any of his friendships to secure government positions for himself.

Campbell achieved national prominence in the Republican party during the party's convention of 1880, when he helped prevent Ulysses Grant from receiving the Republican nomination to run for a third term as president. In 1882, Campbell sold the Wheeling Intelligencer and retired. He died in Missouri in 1899.

For Discussion

Newspapers and magazines often represent a particular political view. The Intelligencer helped sway public opinion to support statehood.


October 10, 1774: The Battle of Point Pleasant

The Battle of Point Pleasant is sometimes called the first battle of the Revolutionary War even though it was fought during Lord Dunmore's War, one of a series of colonial wars. The battle at Point Pleasant was the only important engagement of Dunmore's War.

The battle began when Shawnee chief Cornstalk secretly led about 1,200 Indians to attack about 800 Virginians under Andrew Lewis. Lewis' army was part of a larger force planning to attack Indian settlements in Ohio. It reached Point Pleasant in early October 1774, where it encamped on the point between the Ohio and Kanawha rivers.

The Indians' surprise attack was foiled when they were detected by two soldiers who were hunting the morning of October 10. Even with the element of surprise lost, the Virginians had little time to prepare. The fighting was largely hand to hand over a line of about a mile in length. Both armies used logs, brushwood, and anything they could find for shelter from enemy fire.

The fighting went on throughout the morning and into the afternoon. Late in the day, Lewis was able to flank the Indians. They gave ground and retreated across the Ohio River to protect their villages.

Thirty-three Shawnee were killed while the Virginians lost 60 killed and 96 wounded. The battle was considered a victory for the Virginians and resulted in the Treaty of Camp Charlotte in which members of the Delaware, Shawnee, and Mingo tribes relinquished claims on land south of the Ohio River. The terms of the treaty were dictated by Virginia Governor John Murray, the Earl of Dunmore. The treaty effectively eliminated the Indians as a major threat to western Virginia settlements for the first two years of the Revolutionary War and helped clear the way for peaceful settlement of the region.

For more information

WV State Archives' History of the Battle of Point Pleasant.

Shawnee History

For Discussion

Because of Point Pleasant, the American Continental Army faced little opposition from Native Americans for the first 2 years of the Revolutionary War. Point Pleasant also unified colonists. Andrew Lewis' army was one of the first American armies. Although they served a British governor, the soldiers were fighting for Virginia.


October 13, 1863: The Battle of Bulltown

Perhaps no other Civil War battle fought in West Virginia came as close to being "brother against brother" than the battle at Bulltown in Braxton County. Soldiers on both sides of the battle were born within the borders of West Virginia. In fact, two of the units that took part in the battle, one Union and one Confederate, were recruited out of nearby Calhoun County and both units contained men who had seen service before the war in that county's militia.

The battle was fought October 13, 1863, when about 700 Confederates under the command of Colonel William L. Jackson attacked a strongly fortifies Union outpost in a hilltop at Bulltown. By this time, Jackson had acquired the nickname "Mudwall," a reference to his more famous cousin "Stonewall" Jackson.

"Mudwall" Jackson, who would soon be promoted to brigadier general, intended to take Bulltown and then stage a raid toward the Ohio River similar to the Jones-Imboden raid earlier that year and Albert Gallatin Jenkins's raid in the fall of 1862. But it didn't work out that way. The Confederates bungled an early morning surprise attack on Bulltown and Union commander William Mattingly was too stubborn to concede. Even in the face of superior numbers, he refused to surrender his command of only seven officers and 117 soldiers. Mattingly was wounded early in the battle, so when Colonel Jackson again demanded the Union troops' surrender, it fell to Captain James Simpson of the 11th West Virginia Infantry to answer. He sent word to Colonel Jackson that hell would freeze over before he surrendered and if he had to retreat he would do so on the ice.

When Colonel Jackson finally retreated after 12 hours of fighting, not one Union soldier was killed, although two were wounded, including Captain Mattingly. Seven Confederates were killed and Jackson had to leave behind six of his men who were too badly wounded to be moved. One of them died later. The stand the Union soldiers made at Bulltown may not have had much impact on the Civil War, but it kept Jackson from reaching the Ohio and, at the same time, helped maintain the Union's hold on West Virginia territory.

For more information

Howe, Barbara J. "The Civil War at Bulltown." West Virginia History 44(1982): 1-40.


October 14, 1947: Chuck Yeager Breaks the Sound Barrier

When West Virginia native Chuck Yeager climbed into the X-1 research plane October 14, 1947, he had no idea the sound barrier would be broken that day. But when the day was over, Yeager had launched the era of supersonic flight.

When Yeager retired in 1975, the Air Force made a short film about his career. He was interviewed on the day of his last flight as an active Air Force officer.

Interviewer: You've flown everything in the Air Force inventory. Today was your last flight. What kind of thoughts did you have today coming up here?

Yeager: It's fun but it's also a job. It's something that gets in your blood because of the different kinds of airplanes I've flown all over the world. But you still get a thrill out of flying any kind of an airplane, really.

Interviewer: Did you have a thrill when you were up there today?

Yeager: Oh yea.

Chuck Yeager was born in the Lincoln County town of Myra in 1923 and grew up in nearby Hamlin. During World War II, he was shot down over Nazi-occupied France but managed to escape with the help of the French Resistance. After the war, those who had been shot down in combat were allowed to choose their next assignment.

Yeager: I selected . . . I really got a map and looked at Hamlin, West Virginia--where I was born, where my mother and father lived--and that was Wright Field in Dayton, Ohio.

Yeager was then chosen as the primary pilot for the X-1 project over more senior Army Air Corps officers. And on the day he broke the sound barrier, he flew with two cracked ribs. The ribs were broken two days earlier during a horse riding accident.

For more information

Biography of Chuck Yeager

For Discussion

Chuck Yeager's flight 50 years ago began the era of supersonic flight, opening the door to space navigation.


October 15, 1954: Integration of West Virginia's teachers' associations

Black students weren't the only ones who had to deal with being integrated into the sometimes hostile white schools of the 1950s. Their teachers were ontegrated, too. Many of those teachers were members of the West Virginia State Teachers Association which was created on Thanksgiving Day, 1891, at Simpson United Methodist Church in Charleston. It came to an end as an organization for black teachers when it merged with the West Virginia Education Association (WVEA) on October 15, 1954. Louise Anderson, a former member of the State Teachers Association, remembers it fondly.

Anderson: But then, as the time went on, they saw the need to merge and I think that took something out of that. It took some of that getting together in that respect. It wasn't the same, I don't think. However, it was . . . the merger was needed, but I think also the other was needed too.

After the merger, there was little black involvement in the WVEA. By 1972, only one black person, Dr. Harrison Ferrell, the dean of West Virginia State College, had served on the executive committee. But that year, at the National Education Association delegate assembly in Atlantic City, New Jersey, West Virginia's black teachers decided to form a black caucus.

Anderson: We got together because we could not get those offices in there unless we pulled together. And so we got together and formed this caucus and we earned . . . I think we earned respect through that caucus because we didn't have any problem once we got in.

In 1973, Anderson appeared before the WVEA's executive committee as the chair of the black caucus and made recommendations to foster more minority involvement in the organization. The next year, Roberta Boggs became the second black person to serve on the executive committee and, in 1977, Harold Smith, a teacher from McDowell County, became the first black president of the WVEA.

For more information

Scripts of other Time Trail shows: integration of schools and lunch counters.


October 16, 1859: John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry

Harpers Ferry was a sleepy town in the Shenandoah Valley in 1859. But John Brown made it the focal point of the nation. Brown's dramatic raid on the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry began on October 16. It was designed to spark a rebellion among black slaves but it ended in tragedy. Bruce Noble, the historian at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, says Brown had a deep commitment to the liberation of this country's slaves.

Noble: The story of John Brown in Harpers Ferry began on October 16, 1859, but the real story of John Brown began much earlier than that. He had been an abolitionist who was opposed to slavery primarily on religious grounds and had done a lot to try to prevent the spread of slavery throughout his life and the culmination of all his activities was his attempt to capture the armory here in Harpers Ferry.

Brown's objective was to take all the armory's weapons, turn them over to the region's slaves and start the rebellion.

Noble: I think John Brown really had a conviction that the slaves were just ready to rebel against their masters if given the slightest opportunity to do so. And he came to find out the situation was not exactly the way he had envisioned it. I think the other thing he may not have anticipated was the people of the town of Harpers Ferry actually rose up against him. They were not happy to see him taking over the armory, which, after all, was where they worked and where they made their livelihood. So, a lot of people from the community came out with their own personal weapons and participated in the fight against John Brown and had a good deal to do with stopping him from being successful.

Brown and the approximately 20 men he led were forced to take refuge in the armory's firehouse where federal troops under the command of Robert E. Lee captured him. Several of Brown's men were killed in the raid while some escaped. Seven, including Brown, were later hanged.

For more information

WV State Archives' online exhibit His Soul Goes Marching On: The Life and Legacy of John Brown

WV State Archives' History of John Brown's Raid.

John Brown Home Page

Script of the Time Trail show: John Brown's Trial

For Discussion

Based on religious convictions that slavery was wrong, John Brown captured a United States weapons factory and killed innocent people. Many northerners saw Brown as a hero while most southerners considered him a murderer.


October 17, 1911: Hatfield brothers killed in shootout

The violence of the Hatfield-McCoy feud was responsible for the deaths of five of Randolph McCoy's children. But "Devil Anse," the patriarch of the Hatfield clan, never had to grieve over the loss of a child as a direct result of the feud, although two of his sons were killed later in a gunfight with an Italian immigrant.

Before the gunfight with Octavo Gerome, the Hatfield brothers, Troy and Elias, recognized the enormous money making potential of the saloon business in the Fayette County coalfields. So they invested in one of the only bars in the area. In a 1950s article in the Charleston Daily Mail, a former bartender for the Hatfields said the Hatfield saloon often took in $3,000 on paydays and never less than $300 a night.

The Hatfields guarded their investment fiercely, so when Carl Hanson opened a bar at nearby Cannelton they took steps to protect it. They cut a deal with with Hanson to stay out of each other's territory. But despite warnings from the Hatfields, an employee of Hanson's, Octavo Gerome, continued to sell beer and liquor in the Boomer area.

On October 17, 1911, Gerome expected trouble when he saw the Hatfields approaching his home at Harewood, near the town of Smithers. Before the Hatfields had time to act, Gerome killed Elias and fatally wounded Troy. Before he died, though, Troy managed to shoot and kill Gerome.

Violent incidents like this fueled the debate over the immorality of drinking. West Virginians voted in 1912 to outlaw the sale and consumption of alcohol.

For more information

About this incident: Rice, Otis K. The Hatfield and The McCoys, 121-122; Charleston Gazette, October 10, 1975.


October 20, 1926: Scandal of State Auditor John C. Bond

When Pendleton County native John Bond entered public office in 1914, he was considered one of West Virginia's most promising young politicians but his career ended in disgrace. Bond was a veteran of the Spanish-American War who rose to the rank of major during World War I. After being elected State Auditor in 1920 and again in 1924, Bond was forced from office. Governor Howard Gore suspended him October 20, 1926, amid allegations he laundered state funds.

Governor Gore had begun investigating Bond's activities the previous spring. State Treasurer W. S. Johnson had discovered Bond was issuing checks to his relatives and others who did not work for the state. Bond was also charged with issuing checks to fictitious people. Statehouse employees then cashed the checks and returned the money to the auditor. Bond refused to explain any checks issued before Gore took office in March 1925.

In January 1927, the House of Delegates voted to impeach Bond but he resigned in March before the Senate was able to oust him. Gore appointed an assistant, Sam Mallison, as the new auditor. Bond suffered a breakdown at the end of the long ordeal. After a brief stay at Huntington State Hospital, he was convicted of embezzlement and larceny of state funds and sentenced to six years in the State Penitentiary.


October 21, 1918: Birth of Governor Hulett C. Smith

When Hulett Smith left the Governor's Mansion in 1969, state law wouldn't allow him to run for another consecutive term.

Smith: I probably would have liked to have been able to succeed myself but, of course, at that time, you were limited to a single term. Since that time, I've kept my interest in politics but I've never wanted to seek another office.

Hulett Smith was born in Beckley on October 21, 1918. After World War II, he developed an interest in politics which led him to the chairmanship of the state Democratic party. In 1960, Smith ran for governor for the first time. He lost the primary election but stayed on as party chairman and then became West Virginia's first commerce commissioner in the administration of the election's eventual winner Governor Wally Barron. In 1964, Smith won the Governor's Mansion by a majority of more than 77,000 votes

One of the first proposals to come out of the Smith administration was the abolition of the death penalty.

Smith: I was very much in favor of that and still am. There's no way that I personally could justify the idea that the death penalty was appropriate in the way our system of justice worked.

Proposals to improve West Virginia's public schools and to continue road building projects were advanced during Hulett Smith's administration. His tenure also brought passage of West Virginia's first minimum wage act, the nation's toughest strip mining law, and an enforceable human rights act.

Smith: I think that I'd be most proud of the fact that we got control of state government. Everybody had a fair shot at things- -the improvements that we've gotten in roads and schools, education, the balancing of many cross purposes I think. So when I left, I was sort of . . . thought we'd accomplished a great deal and the people of West Virginia gained a great deal.

Hulett Smith's term as governor came to a close January 13, 1969. Afterward, he returned to his insurance business in Beckley and still serves on many state boards.

For more information

WV State Archives' Biography of Governor Hulett C. Smith.

Brief history of Capital Punishment in West Virginia.

For Discussion

October 22, 1977: Opening of the New River Gorge Bridge

When the New River Gorge Bridge opened to traffic October 22, 1977, it was hailed by Senator Jennings Randolph and Governor Jay Rockefeller as a link to West Virginia's past and the state's future.

Randolph: It is a fitting monument to a modern, prosperous West Virginia.

Rockefeller: The opening of this bridge will bring our people of the South and our people of the North in our state closer together than ever before. It will give us not only new transportation but new lifeblood. But we must never forget the heritage and the history of which we all are merely trustees.

The opening of the New River Gorge Bridge was a much anticipated event. Three former governors--Okey Patteson, Hulett Smith, and Arch Moore--joined Senator Randolph, Governor Rockefeller, and other dignitaries for the bridge's dedication ceremony. Thousands showed up for a chance to be among the first to walk across it.

Boy: I've walked across it three times.

Reporter: What do you think of it?

Boy: It's nice. It's high.

Man: Well, the bridge means a lot to us. We live in Shady Spring and we have property in Summersville and we'll be able to commute a lot faster.

Reporter: So what do you think of the bridge? It's pretty impressive?

Man: Oh, it's real impressive. We're glad to see it open.

Woman: Oh my, I've lived here all my life. It means so much to me.

The New River Gorge Bridge took four years and about $37 million to build. One man lost his life during construction and seven others were injured. The bridge stands 875 feet above the New River, the second highest bridge above water in North America and, at 3,030 feet, it's the world's longest steel arch bridge. The bridge has revitalized the New River Gorge region, which now boasts a thriving tourist and whitewater rafting industry.


October 23, 1890: "Wreck on the C&O"

Among the many folk songs that memorialize railroad disasters, one of the most popular is "The Wreck on the C&O." The song recounts the death of George Alley, who saved passengers' lives after a train wreck near the Summers County town of Hinton.

In 1890, George Alley was a 30-year-old engineer from a railroading family. His father and five brothers all worked for the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway. Early on the morning of October 23, Alley took over as conductor for the train that included the "Fast Flying Virginian," the C&O's first luxury name train. It ran daily between New York, Washington, and Cincinnati. The train was running late when it left Hinton before daylight so Alley may have pushed the engine to go faster than normal. As it turned out, he never made it to the next stop. Just a few miles outside Hinton along the Greenbrier River, Alley's train slammed into a huge boulder that had fallen onto the tracks. Mail and baggage cars were derailed.

Alley, severely injured, was pinned inside the engine. For five hours, the engineer slipped in and out of consciousness, asking for his family, as rescue workers struggled to free him. Alley's wife and four children arrived from Clifton Forge, Virginia, just after he died.

The passengers and press hailed George Alley as a hero. If he hadn't stayed with the engine to slow it down, the passenger cars may have tumbled into the Greenbrier River. George Alley is buried at the Greenbrier Baptist Church at Alderson.


October 24, 1861: First Statehood Referendum

When Virginia decided to secede from the union at the beginning of the Civil War, John Carlile started agitating for the creation of a new state loyal to the union. Carlile is considered to be one of the founders of West Virginia even though he voted against statehood.

Carlile was a lawyer who began practicing law in the Randolph County town of Beverly. He served in the Virginia State Senate and U.S. Congress and was instrumental in securing a teaching appointment to the Virginia Military Institute for Thomas Jackson, of Stonewall Jackson fame.

When the Civil War began, Carlile disagreed with Jackson and became a vigorous leader of those who wished to create what is now West Virginia. During the First Wheeling Convention, Carlile presented a resolution to separate northwestern Virginia from the rest of the state. The resolution was opposed by more conservative delegates to the convention so a compromise was ultimately reached. During the second convention, Carlile offered what's called a "Declaration of the People of Virginia," which condemned Virginia's secession and proposed a reorganized Virginia state government loyal to the union.

The reorganized government elected Carlile as its first senator and he was appointed to a post on the Committee on Territories, which gave him great influence on the preparation of a bill for the admission of West Virginia into the union.

When Carlile's colleague, Senator Waitman Willey, presented the proposal for a new state to the Senate, it was referred to the Committee on Territories. Carlile was expected to act quickly to draft a statehood bill and submit it in time for Congress to act on it. But he delayed for nearly a month and, when it was finally reported out of the committee, the original proposal had been altered. A major revision was the inclusion of the secessionist counties of the Shenandoah Valley, a proposal which went against the wishes of the people of northwestern Virginia. It was the general opinion of many that Carlile was determined to defeat the proposal and it became the task of Senator Willey to secure West Virginia's admission into the union.

Carlile never revealed his reasons for reversing his stand on the statehood issue. He died in Clarksburg, October 24, 1878, seventeen years to the day after western Virginia approved the formation of a new state.

For more information

WV State Archives' History of Statehood.

For Discussion

John Carlile was one of the most outspoken supporters of forming a pro-union government of Virginia. But he eventually voted against the creation of West Virginia.


October 27, 1937: Death of newspaper publisher Livia Simpson Poffenbarger

Long before women won the right to vote, Livia Nye Simpson made her presence felt in West Virginia politics. Simpson was a native of Pt. Pleasant who emerged on the political scene at the 1888 state Democratic Convention. Despite opposition from party leaders, Simpson demanded a platform and spoke in support of a Mason County Supreme Court nominee.

Shortly after the convention, Simpson acquired her hometown Republican newspaper, the State Gazette. The Gazette had been struggling financially but she purchased new printing equipment and successfully increased the paper's circulation. At the age of 26, Simpson was one of the youngest female newspaper publishers in the country.

In 1894, Simpson married Mason County lawyer George Poffenbarger, an influential figure in the Republican party. Although her husband had misgivings, Livia Simpson Poffenbarger stood her ground and continued publishing the State Gazette.

Poffenbarger's other consuming interest was the state's first chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). Under Poffenbarger's leadership, the Charles Lewis Chapter of the DAR focused its energy on commemorating the October 1774 Battle of Pt. Pleasant. In 1901, the chapter created Tu-Endie-Wei Park on the site of the battle.

Poffenbarger believed Pt. Pleasant should be recognized nationally as the first battle of the Revolutionary War although most historians give this distinction to the April 1775 skirmishes at Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts. Her perseverance paid off when Congress appropriated $10,000 in 1908 for a statue honoring Pt. Pleasant as the first battle.

Poffenbarger played an active role in civic and political affairs throughout her life, even after she sold the State Gazette in 1913. During World I, she organized a liberty loan campaign that was used throughout the nation. Poffenbarger also served as director of the West Virginia Suffrage campaign although she did not actively support a woman's right to vote.

Livia Simpson Poffenbarger died on October 27, 1937, at the age of 75.

For more information

On Poffenbarger: Whear, Nancy. "Livia Simpson Poffenbarger (1862- 1937)" in Missing Chapters II: West Virginia Women in History, ed. Frances S. Hensley.

On recognition of the Battle of Pt. Pleasant: Kerby, Robert L. "The Other War in 1774: Dunmore's War." West Virginia History 36(October 1974): 1-16; "`Manufactured History': Re- Fighting the Battle of Point Pleasant." West Virginia History 56(1997): 76-87.


October 28, 1935: Last 20 families move to the Arthurdale resettlement community

The Preston County community of Arthurdale can trace its roots back to 1790, but it's better known as a Depression-era project of the Roosevelt administration.

The Arthurdale Homestead Project began in 1933. It was the first of nearly 100 planned rural communities created nationwide to relieve the Great Depression. Congress appropriated $25 million for subsistence homesteads in the area and bought Richard Arthur's estate and other tracts of land totaling 2,400 acres.

The idea was to make Arthurdale a self-sustained community, where unemployed miners and their families could live, work, and raise their own food. The people selected to live on the Arthurdale homesteads were carefully screened for their ability to work, their need, and their health. Most of the original 50 homesteading families came from Preston and neighboring Monongalia counties. The last 20 moved to Arthurdale on October 28, 1935.

First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt showed a keen interest in Arthurdale and adopted it as one of her projects. Annabelle Mayer, who moved to Arthurdale with her family in 1934 and has lived there since, remembers Eleanor Roosevelt fondly.

Mayer: Knowing her as well as I do . . . did . . . I know she was a caring person and a great lady. I personally hesitate to think what my life would have been like had I not had the opportunity to come to Arthurdale to live.

Mayer was a freshman in high school when she moved to Arthurdale. When she graduated in 1938, President Franklin Roosevelt came to Arthurdale to speak. It was his only visit to the town.

Mayer: Mrs. Roosevelt had tried to get the president to come to Arthurdale because she was proud of Arthurdale. And so, I think every year, when we had a graduating class, she did come to be our speaker. And the year that--in '38--we had invited her and she had accepted. But she also wrote us a little note and said I think if you would invite the president, he would come.

The government finally withdrew its involvement in Arthurdale when World War II broke out and sold the houses it had built to the families renting them. About 1,000 men were employed during Arthurdale's construction. The cost of the project exceeded $2 million.

For more information

New Deal Network.

Depression-era Report on conditions near Clarksburg.

President Franklin Roosevelt's Speech on subsistence homesteads.

Presbyterian missionary Mary Behner worked in the Scotts Run region of Monongalia County. Many of the new residents of Arthurdale came from this coal mining region, which had been hit particularly hard by the Depression. Her diary details life on Scotts Run during the Depression.

Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site

For Discussion

October 29, 1975: Unveiling of statue of State AFL-CIO President Miles Stanley

When Miles Stanley, one of West Virginia's most important labor leaders, died suddenly of a heart attack in 1974, Joe Powell became the next president of the West Virginia Labor Federation, AFL-CIO.

Powell: I was fortunate to work with him for about 6 years before I took this job. He's my mentor, so to speak. He brought me into the organization and gave me the opportunities that brought me to this office.

Powell, who retired earlier this month, says Miles Stanley became the State Labor Federation's first president when it organized in 1957.

Powell: I think that at the time it was very difficult to bring the old AFL and the CIO into a merger agreement. And he did it and did it very smoothly and very effectively. Of course, that in essence brought the organization into being with much more membership and much more effective than the 2 organizations had been.

Stanley began his career as a machinist and served as recording secretary of a local union lodge in Dunbar in Kanawha County. In 1943, he joined the army and served in World War II in Europe. When Stanley left the army, he rejoined the labor movement as a member of the United Steelworkers union. And, by 1947, he was president of the union's local in Dunbar. In 1965, Stanley was selected to serve as an assistant to the national AFL-CIO president George Meany.

Powell: He went to Washington and worked with Meany--I think it was about 3 years-- and, at one time, he was one of the 3 possible successors to Meany. Then, Meany hung on for about another 15 years.

While he was in Washington, Stanley continued to serve as the West Virginia Labor Federation's president but, in 1967, he decided he'd had enough. He came back to West Virginia and continued as the state organization's president until his death in 1974.

Powell: Well, it was a real blow because it was unexpected and you know he had a heart attack and he was such a tremendous figure that he couldn't be replaced, really.

On October 29, 1975, the State Labor Federation honored Stanley by changing the name of its new office building in Charleston to the Miles C. Stanley Building. During the ceremonies, Stanley's daughter, Terri, unveiled a sculpture of her father.


October 30, 1849: Completion of the Wheeling Bridge

During the nineteenth century, a bitter fight brewed between the cities of Wheeling, Virginia, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, over a suspension bridge. Wheeling had become known as the Nail City because of its iron works and expressed the ambition to become the leading manufacturing center of the West. Its rival was Pittsburgh.

In 1836, a wooden bridge was built from Wheeling Island across the west channel of the Ohio River to the Ohio shore. But when a bill in Congress urged constructing a bridge from the city of Wheeling across the east channel of the river to Wheeling Island, it met opposition from Pittsburgh. Congress wanted to facilitate trade and travel on the historic National Road but Pittsburgh contended successfully before the U.S. Supreme Court that such a bridge would interfere with river navigation. Pittsburgh feared that chimneys on packet boats would not be able to pass under it. Despite a restraining order, the bridge was finished on October 30, 1849. Wheeling sought relief from Congress, which ordered the height of steamboat chimneys be governed by the clearance of bridges.

In 1854, the bridge was destroyed by a wind storm and the legal battle began again as soon as work on a replacement was started. Pittsburgh again appealed to the Supreme Court but, this time, Wheeling won. The new bridge was completed in 1856. At the time, it was the first suspension bridge of its kind in the world and, until the completion of the Brooklyn Bridge, was the longest in the country. Today, it is the oldest suspension bridge still in use and a National Landmark.

For more information

WV State Archives' History of Transportation in early western Virginia.

For Discussion
The completion of the National Road and its extension across the Ohio River enabled Wheeling to become the second largest city in Virginia prior to the Civil War.

October 31, 1859: John Brown's Trial

By the time John Brown's raid on the arsenal and arms factories at Harpers Ferry ended, 4 of his men had been killed, including 2 of his sons. Brown had planned to take the guns he found at Harpers Ferry and spark a slave rebellion. But instead, he and 6 others were quickly charged with treason or murder. Bruce Noble, the historian at the Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, says it was a very tense time for this nation.

Noble: There was a lot of sectional tension between North and South and a lot of feeling that maybe this was in fact the event that was ultimately going to lead to Civil War. The South was very interested in seeing Brown executed quickly and the North, of course, was interested in seeing him freed and not executed. So, in order to prevent any kind of guerilla raid from the North that was intended to free Brown from jail a number of soldiers were brought to Charles Town to be on duty there during the time of the trial and also during the days leading up to his execution to prevent any kind of rebellion breaking out that was intended to free Brown.

Brown's trial at the Jefferson County Courthouse in Charles Town attracted the eyes of the nation. He lay on a cot, covered with a blanket, during the proceedings because he had not yet recovered from the wounds he suffered during the Harpers Ferry raid.

On October 31, 1859, just 15 days after the raid began, Brown was found guilty on all counts. Two days later, at his sentencing, Brown gave an eloquent speech before the court, in which he reiterated his desire to free the slaves but rejected all the other charges that had been leveled against him. Brown said he was ready to give up his life for his cause. He was hanged in Charles Town on December 2nd.

For more information

WV State Archives' online exhibit His Soul Goes Marching On: The Life and Legacy of John Brown

WV State Archives' History of John Brown's Raid.

John Brown Home Page

Script of the Time Trail show: John Brown's Raid


"Time Trail, West Virginia" October 1997 Schedule

West Virginia History Center West Virginia History Center