This Week in W.Va. history
CHARLESTON – The following events happened on these dates in West Virginia history. To read more, go to e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia at www.wvencyclopedia.org.
Feb. 28, 1831: Fayette County was formed by the General Assembly of Virginia from parts of Kanawha, Nicholas, Greenbrier, and Logan counties. The county was named for the Marquis de Lafayette, the French military officer who served under George Washington during the Revolutionary War.
Feb. 28, 1858: McDowell County, the southernmost county in West Virginia, was created from part of Tazewell County, Virginia. The new county was named after James McDowell, a governor of Virginia.
Feb. 28, 1875: Musician Edwin “Edden” Hammons was born in Pocahontas County. A subsistence farmer and hunter, he is remembered as one of the finest traditional fiddle players to come from West Virginia.
Feb. 28, 1909: Athlete John Zontini was born. Nicknamed the “Sheik of Seth” for his outstanding football career at Sherman High School, he still holds a state high school rushing record and a Marshall University rushing record.
March 1, 1831: Jackson County was created from parts of Wood, Mason and Kanawha counties and named in honor of Andrew Jackson, the seventh president of the United States.
March 1, 1870: The legislature passed an act to create a branch normal school at West Liberty. For the next 61 years, the school was a teacher preparatory institution.
March 1, 1898: Homer Adams Holt was born in Lewisburg. He became West Virginia’s 20th governor.
March 2, 1840: The Virginia General Assembly granted a charter for Bethany College. From the beginning, it has been a four-year, baccalaureate-degree college, the oldest such institution in West Virginia.
March 2, 1896: Clair Bee was born in Pennsboro. Bee was a successful, innovative college basketball coach and widely published author of both technical basketball books and young adult fiction centered on sports.
March 2, 1915: A blast swept through Layland No. 3 Mine in Fayette County, killing 114 men.
March 2, 1927: The West Virginia capitol building known as the “pasteboard capitol” was destroyed by fire. This wood-frame building in downtown Charleston had been built in just 42 days after the previous capitol building (the Victorian capitol) burned in 1921.
March 2, 1961: Governor Wally Barron signed legislation that granted Marshall College university status.
March 3, 1843: Barbour County was created from parts of Lewis, Harrison, and Randolph counties and named for the distinguished Virginia jurist Philip Pendleton Barbour.
March 3, 1890: Teacher and civic activist Memphis Tennessee Garrison was born in Virginia. She helped develop NAACP chapters in southern West Virginia and created the Christmas Seal Project.
March 4, 1849: Earl Williams Oglebay was born in Bridgeport, Ohio. He became one of West Virginia’s most successful industrialists and a generous benefactor.
March 4, 1893: Governor William A. MacCorkle gave his inaugural address in which he warned that West Virginia was “passing under the control of foreign and non-resident landowners.”
March 4, 1924: Blues musician Nathaniel H. “Nat” Reese was born in Salem, Virginia. Growing up in Princeton, Reese learned and played blues, jazz, country and dance music throughout the southern coalfields.
March 5, 1856: Calhoun County was created from neighboring Gilmer County and named for John C. Calhoun, who served as vice president under John Adams and Andrew Jackson.
March 5, 1963: Country musician Hawkshaw Hawkins was killed in a plane crash, along with Patsy Cline, Cowboy Copas, and Randy Hughes. Hawkins was born in Huntington.
March 6, 1820: Joseph H. Diss Debar was born in France. Diss Debar was the designer of the Great Seal of West Virginia and the state’s first commissioner of immigration.
March 6, 1828: Johnson Newlon Camden was born in Lewis County. He opened one of the first oil wells in West Virginia in January 1861. He was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1881.
March 6, 1900: Forty-six men were killed in a mine explosion at the Red Ash Mine in Fayette County. It was the state’s first major mine explosion of the 20th century. Five years later, another 24 men were killed in a disaster at the same mine.
e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia is a project of the West Virginia Humanities Council. For more information, contact the West Virginia Humanities Council, 1310 Kanawha Blvd. E., Charleston, WV 25301; (304) 346-8500; or visit e-WV at www.wvencyclopedia.org.