This Week in West Virginia History


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.

Dec. 12, 1953: Chuck Yeager set a speed record by flying two-and-a-half times the speed of sound in a Bell X-1A. Yeager, who grew up in Hamlin, had broken the sound barrier six years earlier on Oct. 14, 1947.

Dec. 12, 1942: Internationally known jazz pianist and recording artist Bob Thompson was born in Jamaica, Queens, New York. He studied music at West Virginia State College (now University) and is the house pianist on the Mountain Stage radio program.

Dec. 13, 1861: The Battle of Allegheny Mountain, one of the bloodiest conflicts of the Civil War’s first year, took place in Pocahontas County.

Dec. 13, 1926: Wheeling radio station WWVA-AM began broadcasting. The 50-watt station operated from the basement of John Stroebel’s house for most of its first year. Stroebel was a physics teacher and wireless pioneer.

Dec. 14, 1910: The accidental death of a Chesapeake & Ohio engineer near St. Albans led to the popular train song, “Billy Richardson’s Last Ride.”

Dec. 14, 1857: Coal operator Justus Collins was born. He owned coal mines at Glen Jean and Whipple, and the octagonal Whipple company store survives today as a local landmark.

Dec. 15, 1879: Roman Catholic Bishop John Joseph Swint was born in Pickens. He was responsible for the building of many religious institutions in the Diocese of Wheeling (now the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston).

Dec. 15, 1967: The Silver Bridge at Point Pleasant collapsed, killing 46 people. The Silver Bridge was built by the American Bridge Company of Pittsburgh and opened to traffic on May 19, 1928. The accident led to the passage of legislation for a national bridge inspection and safety program.

Dec. 15, 1972: An explosion at a Weirton Steel coke plant on Browns Island killed 19 men and injured 10 others. It was the worst industrial accident in Weirton’s history.

Dec. 16, 1893: Alexander Martin died at the age of 71 in Greencastle, Indiana. Martin was the first president of the Agricultural College of West Virginia, which was renamed West Virginia University at his recommendation in 1868.

Dec. 17, 1957: The J. L. Stifel & Sons calico plant at Wheeling closed. For most of its history Stifel & Sons produced indigo-dyed prints and drills for clothing manufacturers. At its peak, the plant produced 3.5 million yards of cloth per month.

Dec. 18, 1842: U. S. Senator Nathan B. Scott was born. Scott rose to become one of West Virginia’s four richest and most powerful men by 1900.

Dec. 18, 1864: General Harry Hill Bandholtz was born in Michigan. Bandholtz was commander of the federal troops that intervened to end the West Virginia Mine Wars in 1921.

Dec. 18, 1816: Lewis County was formed. It was named for Colonel Charles Lewis, killed at the Battle of Point Pleasant.

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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