The following events happened on these dates in West Virginia history.
March 17, 1837: Mercer County was created from parts of Giles and Tazewell counties and named for Hugh Mercer, a general during the Revolutionary War.
March 17, 1858: William Edwin Chilton was born in Coalsmouth, now St. Albans. A lawyer, U.S. Senator and businessman, Chilton expanded Charleston’s electric streetcar system and became publisher and editor of the Charleston Gazette.
March 17, 1891: West Virginia State University was founded as the West Virginia Colored Institute by the West Virginia Legislature. It was one of 17 black land-grant colleges established under the Second Morrill Act of 1890.
March 17, 1912: Athlete Joe Stydahar was born in Pennsylvania. A star in football and basketball at WVU, he was the first round selection of the Chicago Bears in the first pro draft of college players in 1936.
March 18, 1820: William Stevenson was born in Warren, Pennsylvania, but he later moved to Wood County in western Virginia. In 1868, he was elected the third governor of West Virginia.
March 18, 1922: Athlete Frank ‘‘Gunner’’ Gatski was born in Farmington. Gatski played 11 years for the Browns (1946–56) and one for Detroit (1957). He played in 10 championship games, eight on the winning side.
March 18, 1950: Actor Brad Dourif was born in Huntington. He is best known for his portrayal of offbeat characters, including Billy Bibbitt in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Grima Wormtongue in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy.
March 19, 1925: Basketball teams from 11 of West Virginia’s 24 African-American high schools took the court at West Virginia State College (now University) in
Institute for the first West Virginia Athletic Union (WVAU) state basketball tournament. Lincoln High School of Wheeling defeated Kimball, 25-24, in the final game to win the championship.
March 19, 1992: Four miners were killed at the Blacksville No. 1 Mine in Monongalia County while the mine was being sealed. Drainage pipes were being welded together, and a spark fell into the shaft, igniting methane gas.
March 20, 1849: Businessman James Kay was born in Scotland. He constructed the coke ovens at Hawks Nest, installed a cable car to carry coal across the New River, and installed a tramway to move miners and coal up and down the gorge face at Kaymoor.
March 20, 1897: Musician Frank Hutchison was born in Raleigh County. With a slide guitar sound akin to the bottleneck style, he helped to instill a blues strain in modern country music, and was influential among coalfield musicians.
March 20, 1936: Recurring storms led to major flooding on the Ohio River. At Parkersburg, the river reached 48 feet, 10 feet above flood stage.
March 21, 1914: The West Virginia boys’ high school basketball tournament began in Buckhannon. The event was first sponsored by West Virginia Wesleyan College, which at the time had West Virginia’s largest and finest gymnasium.
March 22, 1922: Physician Mildred Mitchell-Bateman was born in Georgia. She became the first black woman in West Virginia to hold a high-level state administrative position when, in 1962, Governor William Wallace Barron appointed her as the director of the Department of Mental Health.
March 23, 2003: Private Jessica Lynch of Palestine, Wirt County, was serving as a supply clerk with the Army’s 507th Maintenance Company when she was captured by Iraqi forces after her group was ambushed.
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.