This Week in West Virginia History


By Michael Keller

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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.

April 2, 1900: Marlinton was incorporated. The town is generally considered to be the location of the first white settlement in the Greenbrier Valley.

April 3, 1755: Frontier scout and ‘‘long hunter’’ Simon Kenton was born in Fauquier County, Virginia. Upon leaving home, Kenton first traveled north through present West Virginia to Pittsburgh and then explored, hunted, and trapped through much of the Ohio Valley.

April 3, 1908: Samuel Starks died in Charleston. Starks became the first African-American in the United States to serve as a state librarian when he was appointed to the position in 1901 by Governor Albert Blakeslee White.

April 4, 1980: Musician Red Sovine died in Nashville. Sovine, born Woodrow Wilson Sovine in Charleston, gained country music fame for his recitations, especially those incorporating sentimental truck driver themes.

April 5, 1856: Booker T. Washington was born a slave in Virginia. In 1865, he moved with his family to Malden to join his stepfather, who had escaped from slavery during the war.

April 5, 2010: An explosion at the Big Branch Mine in Raleigh County killed 29 workers. Only two men escaped from the mine alive. It was the country’s worst coal mining disaster since November 20, 1968, when the Consol No. 9 Mine at Farmington, West Virginia, exploded, killing 78 workers.

April 6, 1938: The Civilian Conservation Corps established Camp Kanawha in the Kanawha State Forest. The CCC removed all of the abandoned houses, coal tipples, and other structures no longer in use, and constructed roads, the forest superintendent’s residence, office, maintenance building, and picnic shelters.

April 7, 1927: A. James Manchin was born in Farmington. In 1984, Manchin ran for state treasurer, but he fell into trouble once elected. With a stock market downturn in 1987, Manchin bore much of the blame when the state lost nearly $300 million in investments.

April 7, 1947: Medal of Honor recipient Thomas W. Bennett was born in Morgantown. Believing it was wrong to evade the draft while others had to serve in Vietnam, he volunteered as a noncombatant medic. He was killed by gunfire while trying to drag a wounded soldier to safety.

April 7, 2004: Bob Wise signed legislation that transformed four colleges into universities. They were West Virginia State University, Shepherd University, Fairmont State University and Concord University.

April 8, 1891: The town of Paw Paw was incorporated. Strategically located on the Potomac River, the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad and the C&O Canal, Paw Paw was named for the banana-like pawpaw fruit that grows in the area.

April 8, 1951: An Air National Guard transport plane crashed near Kanawha (now Yeager) Airport, killing 21.

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.

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