The following events happened on these dates in West Virginia history. To read more, go toe-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia at www.wvencyclopedia.org.
May 3, 1843: U.S. Postmaster General William Lyne Wilson was born in Smithfield, Jefferson County. Wilson joined President Cleveland’s cabinet as postmaster general in 1895. The following year, he introduced Rural Free Delivery in Jefferson County, an experiment which was quickly instituted nationwide.
May 3, 1917: Fire destroyed the West Virginia Preparatory School in Keyser. The school was rebuilt, and it evolved into the institution now known as WVU Potomac State College.
May 3, 1948: The plane of test pilot Howard “Tick” Lilly, a Raleigh County native, crashed on takeoff in California. Lilly was the first of many government test pilots to die in the line of duty. Six weeks earlier, he had become only the fourth person to break the sound barrier.
May 4, 1896: The Children’s Home Society of West Virginia was formed by a group of Charleston ministers. Their goal was to place orphaned and neglected children with caring families rather than crowd them into county poorhouses.
May 5, 1923: A fire started by welders working on a new swimming pool destroyed most of Luna Park, an amusement park in Charleston. Although Luna’s owners announced they would rebuild, the park never reopened.
May 5, 1923: Golfer Bill Campbell was born in Huntington. He won more than 30 championships over a seven-decade career and is considered one of the best amateur players in history.
May 6, 1812: Activist and physician Martin Robison Delany was born in Charles Town. In February 1865, he was commissioned as a major in the U.S. Colored Troops. He was the only Black Civil War officer to be given a field command.
May 6, 1968: A continuous miner machine at the Gauley Coal & Coke Saxsewell No. 8 mine at Hominy Falls, Nicholas County, cut into an adjacent mine, which was filled with water. The resulting flood drowned four miners and trapped 21 others.
May 6, 1968: Newspaper publisher and Bluefield native John S. Knight received the Pulitzer Prize for his long record of service and his series of columns opposing the Vietnam War.
May 7, 1824: Logan County was created by the Virginia General Assembly from parts of Giles, Tazewell, Cabell and Kanawha counties. The county seat was first known as Lawnsville, then Aracoma, and finally Logan.
May 7, 1857: William A. MacCorkle was born in Rockbridge County, Virginia, on his father’s plantation. He served as West Virginia’s ninth governor.
May 7, 1928: The Keith-Albee Theater opened in Huntington. The opening program featured a comedy called “Good Morning, Judge,” a newsreel, and five stage acts. But the theater itself, with its elaborate interior, clearly was the star of the evening.
May 7, 1983: The New River Gorge National Park and Preserve began operations when the first visitor center opened near Fayetteville.
May 8, 1864: Clarence Wayland Watson was born in Fairmont. Watson was a prominent coal baron and served in the U.S. Senate from 1911 to 1913.
May 8, 1998: Former U.S. Senator Jennings Randolph died at the age of 96. He was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1932 and served a total of 40 years in Congress.
May 9, 1800: Abolitionist John Brown was born in Torrington, Connecticut. His 1859 raid on Harpers Ferry galvanized the nation, further alienating North and South in the lead-up to the Civil War.
May 9, 1843: Confederate spy “Belle” Boyd was born in Martinsburg. On July 4, 1861, Boyd shot a Yankee soldier and started her spy career.
May 9, 1863: Confederate raiders arrived at Burning Springs, Wirt County. There they set fire to 150,000 barrels of oil, oil tanks, engines for pumping, engine houses, wagons, and oil-laden boats.
Leave a Reply