West Virginia History – MH3WV
West Virginia History
<< West Virginia History information is also on the “WV150” and “Statehood /Civil War” pages >>
<< “Research Resources”; “African-Americans in WV”; and “Museums in WV” are on separate pages >>
<< “The Role of the River in the Development of WV Commerce”; “State and National Highway-Related Milestones”; “WV Rail Heritage” and “WV Rail History” are on the “Transportation” page >>
<< Here are the topics on this page; Click to jump/scroll down >>
“West Virginia: A Brief History” – West Virginia State Museum
“West Virginia: A Brief History” video from the WV State Museum at the Culture Center in Charleston. Produced in the 1970s. (13:23/2016/WV Museum Ed)
“Search through our programs for grade-specific content and other helpful resources to enhance your West Virginia studies.”
<< More information about the West Virginia State Museum at the Culture Center is on the “Capitol Complex” page >>
“History Center” – WV State Archives & History
- African Americans
- Antebellum (1800 to 1860)
- Arts and Entertainment
- Brown, John
- Business and Industry
- Civil War
- Crime and Punishment
- Exploration, Settlement and Conflict (1600-1799)
- Government and Politics
- Great Depression
- Hatfield McCoy Feud
- Health and Medicine
- Military and Wartime
- Miscellaneous Documents and Articles
- Monuments and Memorials
- Native Americans
- Parks and Recreation
- Science and Technology
- State Symbols
Features, Guides, Programs, and Publications:
- Exhibits, Online
- Highway Historical Marker Program
- History Heroes
- Notable Events in West Virginia History
- Notable Individuals in West Virginia History
- On This Day in West Virginia History
- “Time Trail, West Virginia”
- Veterans Memorial Database
- Wayne County News Articles
- West Virginia Historical Bibliography
- West Virginia Historical Society Journal
- West Virginia History Journal
“History of West Virginia” – e-WV – The West Virginia Encyclopedia
“Written records of West Virginia’s history reach back only slightly more than 300 years, about half of which encompass the time when West Virginia was part of Virginia. Recorded history, however, is only a fragment of the West Virginia story and must be coupled with artifacts of preliterate people and other evidence which falls within the realms of geology, geography, and archeology. . “
“Important Dates in West Virginia History — 3000 BC – 1999”
3000 BC – Adena “Mound Builder” settlements appeared throughout the area.
1607 – First permanent English Colony was established at Jamestown, Virginia.
1669 – John Lederer and companions were first Europeans to see what is now West Virginia.
1673 – Gabriel Arthur accompanied a party of Cherokee or Yuchi Indians to Shawnee country in Ohio by way of a trail through the Kanawha Valley.
1716 – Governor Alexander Spotswood led an expedition of 50 gentlemen to the banks of the Shenandoah River.
1726 – Morgan Morgan was the first white settler at Bunker Hill in Berkeley County.
1727 – German settlers from Pennsylvania established the first permanent settlement at New Mecklensburg (Shepherdstown) in Jefferson County.
1730 – Virginia began to encourage settlement in the western valley of Virginia.
1742 – John P. Salley discovered coal on the Coal River in Kanawha County.
1746 – Thomas, “sixth lord” Fairfax, marked the western boundary of his land grant from the King of England at the corner of Tucker and Grant Counties. This was the first monument erected to mark ownership in the state.
1754-1755 – The French and Indians defeated troops led by Washington and Braddock in the state.
1774 – Battle of Point Pleasant, between forces of Colonel Andrew Lewis and Chief Cornstalk of the Shawnees, resulted in the Treaty of Camp Charlotte formally ending Dunmore’s War. This is considered by some to be the first Battle of the Revolution.
1782 – Last battle of the Revolution was fought at Fort Henry, Wheeling, Ohio County.
1815 – Gas discovered near Charleston, Kanawha County.
1832 – Charles Faulkner of Berkeley County delivers a speech before the Virginia General Assembly denouncing slavery on economic grounds.
1835 – On October 14, three men and one woman were charged with illegally teaching African-Americans to read in Wheeling. This incident was among twelve such cases in Wheeling.
1847 – The Reverend Dr. Henry Ruffner, from Kanawha County, and president of Washington College in Lexington, Virginia, delivered his “Address to the People” on the abolition of slavery for western Virginia for economic reasons.
1859 – John Brown raided the arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Jefferson County, in an effort to abolish slavery.
1861 – Counties of western Virginia refused to secede with Virginia and created the Restored Government of Virginia in Wheeling.
1861 – Battle of Philippi – first land battle of the Civil War.
1863 – On January 1, President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation freed all slaves in areas of rebellion, but did not apply to states loyal to the Union, including the future state of West Virginia.
1863 – West Virginia became the 35th state (June 20).
1863 – On July 15, the governor of West Virginia approved an act giving African-Americans the same rights to criminal trial as whites. However, Blacks were denied the right to serve on a jury.
1863 – On December 9, the governor approved an act forbidding residency of any slave who entered the state after June 20, 1863.
1865 – On February 3, the governor approved an act abolishing slavery, providing the immediate emancipation of all slaves.
1867 – Storer College, one of the country’s first Black colleges, opened at Harpers Ferry, Jefferson County.
1867 – The West Virginia Legislature ratified the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, granting full citizenship to African-Americans.
1868 – Only national cemetery in the state was established at Grafton, Taylor County.
1869 – The West Virginia Legislature ratified the Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution granting African-Americans the right to vote.
1873 – Charleston Mayor Snyder and city council appointed Ernest Porterfield as a police officer, the first African-American to receive a public job in Kanawha County and possibly West Virginia. Within one hour, the remainder of the white police force, including the chief, resigned. Rather than ask for Porterfield’s resignation, the mayor hired a new police force.
1881 – The governor approved a bill, allowing all eligible voting citizens, including African-Americans, to be jurors.
1891 – The West Virginia Legislature passed an act establishing the West Virginia Colored Institute at Institute in Kanawha County. Later renamed West Virginia State College, it has become one of the leading Black institutions of public learning in the nation.
1895 – The West Virginia Legislature passed an act establishing the Bluefield Colored Institute, which later became Bluefield State College, Mercer County.
1896 – Voters elected the first African-American to the legislature, Christopher Payne of Fayette County.
1906 – From August 15 – 19, the second meeting of the Niagara Movement convened at Storer College in Harpers Ferry, Jefferson County. Led by W. E. B. DuBois, this movement was the forerunner to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
1920-1921 – Coal wars in an effort to unionize West Virginia coal miners.
1928 – Minnie Buckingham Harper was appointed to the House of Delegates, becoming the first African-American woman to serve in a legislative body in the United States.
1939 – West Virginia State College became the first African-American college in the country to establish a Civilian Pilot Training Program, approved by the Civilian Aeronautics Authority in Washington, DC.
1961 – The West Virginia Human Rights Commission was created by the legislature to fight racism.
1972 – Arnold Miller became the first native West Virginian to head the United Mine Workers (UMW) union. He appointed Levi Daniel president of District 29 in southern West Virginia, the first African-American district president in the history of the UMW.
1984 – Captain Jon A. McBride of Beckley in Raleigh County piloted the Challenger Space Shuttle on its first mission October 5, 1984.
1984 – Fairmont native Mary Lou Retton became the first woman to win a gold medal in gymnastics at the Los Angeles Olympics. She also took home two silver medals, two bronze medals and went on to become an official spokesperson for Wheaties, appearing on several breakfast cereal packages.
1996 – Cecil H. Underwood became the state’s oldest governor, having served in the same post in 1957 as the state’s youngest governor.
1999 – Homer Hickam, who grew up in the mining town of Coalwood in McDowell County and retired from NASA as a Payload Training Manager for the International Space Station, became a best-selling author with his book “Rocket Boys,” upon which the award-winning 1999 motion picture “October Sky” was based.
“This Week in West Virginia History” – WV Public Broadcasting & e-WV
“The West Virginia Humanities Council, publishers of e-WV, and West Virginia Public Broadcasting have created two-minute radio segments for “This Week in West Virginia History” to introduce listeners to important people, places, and events in Mountain State history. Each daily segment is keyed to the actual date in history on which it occurred. The radio scripts, drawn from the content of e-WV, were written by historian Stan Bumgardner and produced by West Virginia Public Broadcasting’s Operations Director, Bob Powell. Our composer, Matt Jackfert, composed the original theme music for the program. Author and storyteller Colleen Anderson serves as the on-air voice. “This Week” airs Monday through Friday, both morning and afternoon during the news.”
Monthly Collections currently available:
“Native Americans”– West Virginia Archives and History
- Sources on Native Americans in West Virginia
- History of Native Americans in West Virginia
- Early Native American Cultures (through 1000 BCE)
- Early Native American Cultures (1000 BCE-1600 CE)
- Mounds and Mound Builders
- Native American Clashes with European Settlers
- “American Antiquities at Grave Creek”
- Grave Creek Mound: Description by Meriwether Lewis, 1803
- Grave Creek Mound: Description by Thaddeus Mason Harris, 1803
- Grave Creek Mound: Description by Reuben Gold Thwaites, 1894
- “Shell Deposits at the Mouth of Short Creek, West Virginia”
- “Stone Mounds of Hampshire County, West Virginia”
- “Smaller Parts of Mystery Walls Reported Unharmed”
- “The Mystery of Armstrong Mountain: Has Prehistoric Site Been Stripped?”
- “Walls Tumbled Before Strippers, City Man Vows”
- “Was There Actually An Ancient Wall In Fayette?”
- “The Old Stone Wall”
- “Prehistoric Remains at Mount Carbon”
- “Two Prehistoric Indian Mounds Found Near Morgansville”
- “Dunbar High School Turns to Archeology”
- “Shrouded in Mystery are the Great Pre-Historic Ruins at Bens Run, W. Va.”
- “Cabell County Once Rich in Relics of Early Race of Moundbuilders”
- List of Prehistoric Works
- Massacre of Logan’s Family (Time Trail)
- Sources on Logan
- “Logan: A Friend of the White Man”
- Sources on Cornstalk
- Fighting Chief Cornstalk’s Remains Laid To Rest Again”
- Sources on Tecumseh
- “Famed Tecumseh Was a West Virginian”
Explore West Virginia Archives and History ‘s “Native Americans” Website – includes links to more information on each of the above topics.
“West Virginia History of Native Americans in West Virginia”
- Paleo-Indian (before 11000 BCE)
- Archaic (7000-1000 BCE)
- Adena (1000 BCE-500 CE)
- Hopewell (500 BCE-1000 CE)
- Late Prehistoric (1000-1600 CE)
Mounds & Mound Builders
- Grave Creek Mound
- Criel Mound (South Charleston)
- Other Mounds
Clashes with European Settlers
- Emergence of Tribes
- European Exploration & Settlement
- Native American Concept of Land
- French & Indian War
- Proclamation of 1763 & Pontiac’s War
- Battle of Point Pleasant
- Revolutionary War & the Aftermath
Explore West Virginia Archives and History ‘s “History of Native Americans in West Virginia” Website – includes links to more information on each of the above topics.
“Mounds & Mound Builders”
“The Adena people were the first Native Americans to build ceremonial mounds. In other parts of the world, ceremonial burials had occurred much earlier. The Egyptian pyramids date to 2700 BCE; in England, stone chambers called barrows were used as early as 2000 BCE; between 1700 and 1400 BCE, keirgans were used in central Siberia; and the burial mounds of the Choo Dynasty in northern China date to 1000 BCE.
“We know little about how or why the mounds were built. Historian Otis Rice suggests these early Americans “built mounds over the remains of chiefs, shamans, priests, and other honored dead.” For their “common folk,” the Adenas cremated the dead bodies, placing the remains in small log tombs on the surface of the ground. Virtually all of these graves have been destroyed by nature and later settlement. Therefore, the more substantial mounds are our only physical records of Adena burials.”
“Logging the Forests of West Virginia” – Potomac Appalachian Trail Club
“If you’ve ever backpacked in the West Virginia mountains, there’s one fact that becomes quickly evident. Virtually every hollow, every stream, and every mountain has a railroad grade. In some places, the railroad ties are still on the ground. In others, visitors might run across a rusting washtub in the middle of the woods, or even an occasional railroad spike or rail. Regardless of how far back you go or how deep into the wilderness, the grades are there – mute testament to the energy of man, power of the dollar, and the complete destruction of the West Virginia forest ecosystem.
“. . .The destruction of these once magnificent forests in the 1880’s and stretching over a forty year period was “complete”. Virtually every tree on every mountain was cut down and hauled out by horse, steam rigger, or train. The logging companies that swarmed over the West Virginia mountains removed these trees “with pride”. This was the age of the Industrial Revolution – man’s superiority over nature. The days of the railroad, cattle and timber barons, and industrial giants like J.P. Morgan. ‘Progress was good.’ ‘Nature existed to serve man’s superior intellect and needs. . . “
Explore information from PATC’s “Logging the Forests of West Virginia” Website to continue reading – Includes Multiple Photographs
“Monongah” – 1907
“Monongah 1907 Mine Disaster”
“This short clip is from Davitt McAteer’s 1985 25-minute video – ‘Monongah 1907.’ The entire video, rich with detail about this disaster, also traces the development of mine safety laws in the US.” (4:19/2008/markdcatlin)
“Monongah- An American Tragedy”
“This video was filmed by the US History Club at my High School about the 1907 Monongah Mine Disaster. Yes, I know that the boots and such are anachronistic. Problem? Make your own Monongah Video :)” (5:17/2012/Travis Brooks)
“The Monongah Heroine”
Dec 5, 2007 Updated Jul 27, 2014
“When explosions ripped through Fairmont Coal Co.’s No. 6 and No. 8 mines 100 years ago Thursday, it was the men of Monongah who were lost — at least 362 of them, some just boys.
“But it was the 250 widows, 100 of them pregnant, who suffered and struggled long after the nation’s deadliest mining disaster, quietly finding creative ways to feed their 1,000 children and keep their community alive. . .”
“The Monongah Heroine” Documentary
“WVU Teaching Assistant Professor Gina Martino Dahlia’s award-winning historical documentary, ‘The Monongah Heroine,’ tells the story of those left behind after the Dec. 6, 1907 mine explosion in Monongah, W.Va., that killed 362 men.”
This is the trailer for the film. (0:49/2010/West Virginia U)
“Battle of the Coalfields” – WV Tourism
“During the decade following its organization in 1890, the United Mine Workers of America had endeavored to unionize the West Virginia coalfields. The organization’s greatest success was in the Kanawha field, where, with the assistance of “Mother” Mary Jones, an elderly union organizer with almost uncanny influence over the miners, most mines were organized by 1902. Unionization proved exceedingly difficult, partly because the law generally favored the operators, who made use of court injunctions to restrain miners from picketing, striking, or molesting company property.
“In 1912 – 1913 one of the most serious labor disturbances in West Virginia history occurred on Paint Creek in the Kanawha field. The trouble, which spread to nearby Cabin Creek, arose when coal companies refused to renew contracts under which the miners had worked for several years. The miners countered by striking, whereupon the companies evicted them from their company-owned homes and attempted to operate their mines with imported labor and other strikebreakers. The strike continued for weeks, with tension steadily mounting. Hundreds of coal mining families took up residence in tents and improvised shelters along the public highways and occasionally clashed with the Baldwin-Felts detectives and their armed guards employed by the companies. At Mucklow a pitched battle occurred in which 12 miners and four company guards lost their lives. A few miles below that town, mine officials and others aboard a moving train shot into a tent colony in the middle of the night.
“In an effort to combat the disorders, Governor Glasscock proclaimed martial law over the area, and about a hundred persons, including “Mother” Jones, were arrested. When Governor Hatfield took office, he forced the operators to bargain with the United Mine Workers, and the bloody strike came to an end. By then it had gained national attention, and a U. S. Senate committee conducted an investigation into conditions on Paint Creek.
“During 1920 – 1921, serious trouble broke out in Logan and Mingo counties. At Matewan a clash between miners and Baldwin-Felts agents resulted in nine deaths, and other confrontations proved almost as bloody. In August, 1921, about three thousand miners from the Kanawha Valley assembled at Marmet for a march upon Mingo County. Although “Mother” Jones tried to dissuade them from their course, they set out for the southern counties. At Blair Mountain they were met by about 1,200 state police, deputy sheriffs, mine guards, and others, who sought to prevent them from reaching their destination. In the ensuing battle of Blair Mountain, with its First World War atmosphere, three men lost their lives and about 40 others were wounded. The miners were defeated, and 543 of them were tried on various charges including treason.”
An article from the National Historic Landmarks website about the “Mother Jones Prison” includes a great synopsis of the 1912-1913 mine wars. <Mother Jones Prison is no longer a National Historic Landmark because the owner had it demolished>
[Photo: The Mother Jones Prison and a portrait of Mother Mary Harris Jones.]
“The Mine Wars” – American Experience – PBS
“At the dawn of the 20th century, coal was the fuel that powered the nation. Yet few Americans thought much about the men who blasted the black rock from underground and hauled it to the surface. The Mine Wars tells the overlooked story of the miners in the mountains of southern West Virginia — native mountaineers, African American migrants, and European immigrants — who came together in a protracted struggle for their rights. Decades of violence, strikes, assassinations and marches accompanied their attempts to form a union, culminating in the Battle of Blair Mountain in 1921, the largest armed insurrection since the Civil War. The West Virginia mine wars raised profound questions about what freedom and democracy meant to working people in an industrial society.”
“In the first two decades of the 20th century, coal miners and coal companies in West Virginia clashed in a series of brutal conflicts over labor conditions and unionization. Known collectively as the “Mine Wars,” the struggle included strikes, assassinations, marches, and the largest civil insurrection in the United States since the Civil War. Coal was the engine of American industrial progress at the beginning of the 20th century. It powered . . . “
View “The Mine Wars” – WV Public Broadcasting
“Go inside the coal miners’ bitter battle for dignity at the dawn of the 20th century with The Mine Wars. The struggle over the material that fueled America led to the largest armed insurrection since the Civil War and turned parts of West Virginia into a bloody war zone.”
<<WV Public Broadcasting’s and PBS’ license to stream “The Mine Wars” is renewed periodically, typically for a few months after a broadcast. When available, it will be on the website below. (It is often offered on YouTube, iTunes and other media sites for a fee. Many libraries may also have a copy.) The supplemental materials, such as clips, interviews, timelines, transcripts, etc., are still available on the website below.>>
“Matewan” – Movie Trailer
“Matewan (1987) is a drama film written and directed by John Sayles, and starring Chris Cooper, James Earl Jones, Mary McDonnell, and Will Oldham, with David Strathairn, Kevin Tighe, and Gordon Clapp in supporting roles. The film dramatizes the events of the Battle of Matewan, during a coal miners’ strike in 1920. The movie was actually filmed in Thurmond, located on the New River about 100 miles from Matewan.” (1:39/2013/Spotlight West Virginia)
“Hawk’s Nest Tunnel” – 1930
<<For information on the Hawk’s Nest dam, tunnel and power plant, see MH3WV’s “Energy/Natural Resources” page.>>
“The Hawk’s Nest Tunnel ‘Incident’ ” – New River Gorge National River
“The Hawks Nest “Incident” was not a coal mining disaster but it has been called the worst industrial disaster in the history of the United States. The Hawks Nest Tunnel is still in operation. Water diverted for the tunnel comes from the impoundment on the New River at Hawks Nest Dam which is visible from the overlooks at Hawks Nest State Park.”
“The Hawk’s Nest Tunnel and Dam – A History Lesson” – Official Bridge Day
“Hawks Nest State Park is a great place to visit while you explore the New River Gorge. From the Park’s lofty perch on the rim of the Gorge, you can catch a view of the Hawks Nest Dam down below. What you cannot see is the tunnel that was built beside the dam to divert the river’s waters to a power plant.”
“The Hawk’s Nest Tunnel Tragedy” – US Occupational Safety and Health Administration
“During the 1930s, hundreds of workers, from a tunnel construction project near the town of Gauley Bridge, West Virginia, died from silicosis, a lung disease caused by exposure to silica dust. The employer did not use methods known at the time to control the deadly dust. For the full story, read Martin Cherniack’s book, ‘The Hawk’s Nest Incident: America’s Worst Industrial Disaster.’ New Haven: Yale University Press, 1986. This clip was taken from the 1979 film, ‘Can’t Take No More,’ from Federal OSHA.” (1:39/2007/markdcatlin)
“U.S.S. West Virginia (BB48)” (Online Exhibit)
“Contributions of USS West Virginia Remembered on Memorial Day”
“The USS West Virginia was a Colorado Class battleship that was commissioned in 1923. Through the 1930s, the battleship participated in routine training missions called Fleet Problems. The warship was 624-feet long, had eight 16-inch naval guns, torpedo tubes, anti-aircraft guns, 16 5-inch guns and was built by the Newport News Shipbuilding Company.”
“A Medal of Honor recipient’s continued service”
“During the Battle of Iwo Jima, in the face of powerful enemy resistance, Marine Cpl. Hershel “Woody” Williams succeeded in destroying several heavily-defended machine-gun pillboxes, and was awarded the Medal of Honor. But his service to his country, and his gallantry, did not end there. CBS News national security correspondent David Martin talked with the 97-year-old Williams, the last surviving Medal of Honor recipient from World War II, about his continuing efforts for Gold Star families.”
(7:49 /2021/CBS Sunday Morning)
“The Point Pleasant Bridge Disaster” – 1967
“The Point Pleasant Bridge (Silver Bridge) was an eyebar-chain suspension bridge built in 1928 and named for the color of its aluminum paint. The bridge connected Point Pleasant, WV and Gallipolis, OH, over the Ohio River.
“On December 15, 1967, the Silver Bridge collapsed while it was full of rush-hour traffic, resulting in the deaths of 46 people. Two of the victims were never found. Investigation of the wreckage pointed to the cause of the collapse being the failure of a single eyebar in a suspension chain, due to a small defect 0.1 inch (2.5 mm) deep. Analysis showed that the bridge was carrying much heavier loads than it had originally been designed for and had been poorly maintained. The collapsed bridge was replaced by the Silver Memorial Bridge, which was completed in 1969.” (4:27/2014)
“The Silver Bridge Disaster” – The Open University – UK
“How the Silver Bridge and the Hi-Carpenter Bridge differed from other suspension bridges in one crucial aspect.” (2009/5:53/Open University)
“Point Pleasant Silver Bridge” (3 Parts)
A more in depth discussion of the disaster. Produced in 2007 by Peet Media Associates for The Open University
1 – “Eyebars in Suspension”
2 – “Stresses and Strains”
3 – “The Collapse”
“Farmington” – 1968
“Farmington Coal Mine Explosion 1968” – Mine Safety & Health Administration
“At approximately 5:30 a.m. on Wednesday, November 20, 1968, an explosion occurred in the Consol No.9 Mine, Mountaineer Coal Company, Division of Consolidation Coal Company, Farmington, Marion County, West Virginia. There were 99 miners in the mine when the explosion occurred, 78 of whom died as a result of the explosion. The other 21 miners survived the explosion and escaped to the surface. The mine was sealed at its surface openings on November 30, 1968. Damage to the mine in the explosion area was extensive, requiring loading of rock falls, replacement of ventilation and transportation facilities, and in some cases new mine entries to bypass extensively caved areas. Investigative activities were continued, in cooperation with the Company, State, and United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) organizations, as mine areas were recovered. Between 1969 and 1978, the bodies of 59 victims were recovered and brought to the surface. Recovery operations ceased and all entrances to the mine were permanently sealed in November 1978, leaving 19 victims buried in the mine and leaving some areas of the mine unexplored.
This was clipped from the 2004 video, ‘We Are … MSHA,’ by the Mine Safety and Health Administration.” (0.42/2011/markdcatlin)
“Farmington WV Coal Mine No. 9 Disaster 1968” – NBC News
“A news report on the Farmington WV No. 9 Mine explosion of 1968 by Jack Perkins.” (4:54)
“Buffalo Creek” – 1972
“The Buffalo Creek Disaster” – West Virginia Archives and History
“More than thirty years ago, one of the deadliest floods in U.S. history occurred in southern West Virginia’s Buffalo Creek hollow. Negligent strip mining and heavy rain produced a raging flood. In a matter of minutes, 118 were dead and over 4,000 people were left homeless. Seven were never found.”
“1972 Buffalo Creek, Dam Collapse”
“This video aired on the History Channel in 2010.” (9:54/2010)
“The Buffalo Creek Flood”
“A sample from the award-winning 1975 Appalshop film “The Buffalo Creek Flood: An Act of Man.” On Feb. 26, 1972, a coal waste dam owned by the Pittston Company collapsed at the head of a crowded hollow in southern West Virginia. A wall of sludge, debris, and water tore through the valley below, leaving in its wake 125 dead and 4000 homeless. The Pittston Company, owners of the dam, denied any wrongdoing, maintaining that the disaster was ‘an act of God’. Interviews with survivors, representatives of union and citizen’s groups, and company officials are juxtaposed with actual footage of the flood and scenes of the ensuing devastation. A film by Mimi Pickering.” (8:22/2012/Appalshop)
“Willow Island” – 1978
“Willow Island Disaster”
“The Willow Island disaster was the collapse of a cooling tower under construction at a power station at Willow Island, West Virginia, on Thursday, April 27, 1978. The falling concrete caused the scaffolding to collapse, killing 51 construction workers. It is thought to be the largest construction accident in American history.” (8:54)
“The Flood of 1985”
“A Slideshow of the 1985 Flood in West Virginia”– “A silideshow of photos of the 1985 Flood in West Virginia from the staffs of the Charleston Gazette and Charleston Daily Mail, with recollections by photographers and staffers who shot photos and wrote stories from the front lines of the flood-damaged counties. A total of 47 people were killed in the floods. Pendleton and Grant counties had the most fatalities. Towns such as Parsons, Rowlesburg, Philippi, Marlinton, Glenville, Petersburg, and Moorefield were severely damaged, according to the wvencyclopedia.org.”
“A companion video to a story in the Thursday, Nov. 4, 2015 Charleston Gazette-Mail” (6:47/2015/Charleston Gazette-Mail)
“Sago” – 2006
“Sago Mine Disaster – What Would You Say?”
“sago mine disaster”
“On January 2, 2006 13 men were trapped in the Sago mines in West Virginia, only one made it out alive.
A vid I did for my West Virginia history class.” (3:47/2009/xxchristylewisxx)
“Upper Big Branch – UBB” – 2010
“Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster”
“I made this video for a class project. Its also in memory of all the brave miners=(
“The explosion occurred at 3:27 PM local time on Monday, April 5, 2010, at the Upper Big Branch South Mine near the community Montcoal, about 30 miles south of Charleston. The mine is operated by the Performance Coal Company, a subsidiary of Massey Energy High methane levels were detected and subsequently an explosion from an unknown source occurred. Twenty-five men were initially identified as killed. Four missing men were later found dead four days later for a total of 29 deaths. Officials have speculated that it may have been caused by a spark from a mantrip.”
“Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster Simulation”
“Video released by the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration, Dec. 6, 2011. ” (13.27/2011/kenwardjr)
“The 1000 Year Flood” – 2016
“Inside Appalachia: WV’s 1000 Year Flood” – WV Public Broadcasting
“The National Weather Service called the June 2016 flooding in southern West Virginia an exceptional meteorological event, a vicious line-up of storms that came in simultaneously from the northeast and the southeast. Almost 8 inches of rain fell in some spots in just 12 to 18 hours. That amount of rain in such a short time period is something expected once in 1,000 years, according to the NWS.
“The area damaged in southern West Virginia is unprecedented.
“West Virginia Public Broadcasting reporters fan out throughout southern West Virginia to assess the damage and examine recovery efforts. How can and should these already struggling communities rebuild? Was the state as prepared as it should have been? How do we help our children through the trauma? WVPB brings you the stories of heroism and survival in towns like Richwood, Rainelle, White Sulphur Springs, and Clendenin. Residents and community leaders share their stories of loss and resilience.
“The program also examines the state’s plan forward with conversations with Adjutant General, Major General James Hoyer of the WV National Guard, now Chief Recovery Coordinator, appointed by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin.”
“Fighting the Long Fight: West Virginia Women and the Right to Vote” -Online Exhibit
“The right to vote existed in some places in the ancient world, but for much of human history, the majority of people have been excluded from participation in the political process. Male suffrage was gradually extended in some countries beginning in the late Middle Ages; however, there still are places where citizens do not have the right to vote. For women, the road to suffrage generally has taken longer than for men. . .”
Explore WV Archives and History’s “Fighting the Long Fight. . .” Website — Table of Contents is at the bottom of the page
“Robert C. Byrd – The Soul of the Senate”
“Robert C. Byrd had a long and sometimes controversial history as a politician from West Virginia. He may be best noted for his efforts to direct federal funding to WV projects during his 57 years in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate. After viewing this documentary, make your own decision….should Byrd be called “the Soul of the Senate”? Why or why not?”
“Jay: A Rockefeller’s Journey” – WV Public Broadcasting
“Why would the heir to one of the nation’s largest family fortunes come to one of the poorest states in the nation – and stay? This documentary traces the 50-year public service career of John D. Rockefeller IV, while capturing much of the political history of West Virginia, his adopted home.”
The Trailer. (2:20/2014/WV Public Broadcasting)
The Entire Program:
Explore WV Public Broadcasting’s “Jay: A Rockefeller’s Journey” to view video (1:56:53/2016/WV Public Broadcasting)
“Ken Hechler: In Pursuit of Justice”
“Viewed largely through the [eyes] of an individual public servant, Ken Hechler: In Pursuit of Justice is an examination of the role of political office in 20th Century America. It documents the development of his views on government and his commitment to helping individuals through public service and political office.”Broadcasting
Explore WV Public Broadcasting’s “Ken Hechler: In Pursuit of Justice” website to view videos:
“Mail Pouch Tobacco Barns”
“The Mail Pouch slogan appeared on thousands of roadside barns throughout the Ohio River Valley. Today, these nostalgic reminders of Sunday drives from the ‘50s have been disappearing . Mail Pouch discontinued this advertising medium when Harvey Warrick, the last Mail Pouch Barn painter died in 1992. Harley put his expert touch to over 20,000 barns throughout the mid-west. The Mail Pouch barn painting began in 1890 and the slogan could be read from Wisconsin to South Carolina and New Jersey to Iowa.”
“How West Virginia’s Mail Pouch Changed the Face of Advertising” – WV Public Broadcasting
“You’ve probably seen them. Barns with faded paint usually in black or red with yellow lettering delivering an old message from another time: ‘Chew Mail Pouch’ and ‘Treat Yourself to the Best.’ Once upon a time these hand-painted advertisements covered more than 20,000 barns all across America. . . “
“Mail Pouch Tobacco Barns: America’s Early Outdoor Advertising” – WV Executive Magazine
“The name Mail Pouch usually evokes a visual image of an idyllic barn in a pastoral setting and an automatic sense of familiarity with the product. Perhaps the country’s most well-known outdoor advertising tool, the surviving landmark Mail Pouch barns are important and treasured pieces of Americana. What many people don’t know is that Mail Pouch Chewing Tobacco was a product of West Virginia. . . “
Mail Pouch Tobacco Barns in West Virginia: – Explore Jack Powers’ “Mail Pouch Tobacco Barns in West Virginia” Website for some photos
Bloch Bros. 75th Anniversary 1879-1954: “An article that appeared in a Bloch Bros. company magazine in 1954 on the occasion of the firm’s 75th anniversary. Since that time there have been several further developments in the life of the company.”
“National Coal Heritage Area”
“The National Coal Heritage Area encompasses 13 counties and is situated in the heart of the formidable Appalachian Mountains, displaying coalfield history captured in time.”
“It is a rugged industrial landscape that showcases the stories of miners of many ethnicities who labored to extract and transport coal, and their wives, who struggled to maintain homes under primitive conditions. Coalfield history and culture contains key elements of a unique social and economic history including the stories of industrial might, the struggle for labor unions, and the growth of distinctive cultural communities among different ethnic groups who worked side-by-side and lived together in the ‘company towns’ of the region.”
Explore “National Coal Heritage Area” Website — Includes: “Birth of the Industry, Three Railroads, King Coal, Coal Miners, Company Towns, United Mine Workers, End of an Era, Coal Camp Baseball,” and more.
“New River Gorge National River – History & Culture – People, Places, Stories”
“The New River is like a ribbon tying together all the people, places, and events sharing its course through time.”
- John Henry and the Coming of the Railroad
- Coal Mine Disasters
- Arrowheads of the Past and Present
- Discovering Berry Holler and Big Branch Trail
- Batteaux on the New
- Mother Jones
- Joseph Beury
- Mary Draper Ingles
- Carter G Woodson
- John Nuttall
- Prince Depot
- Camp Brookside
- Trump-Lilly Farm
- McKendree Hospital
- Glade Creek / Hamlet
- Army Camp
- Mill Creek and the Harrah Farm
- Sandstone School
“Ghost Town: Kaymoor, WV” – WV Public Broadcasting
“Kaymoor is an abandoned coal town in the New River Gorge. Nature will reclaim anything if given a chance. Former resident Orvil King remembers the community into which he was born.” (10:52/2009/WV Public Broadcasting)
“Ghost Town: Royal, WV” – WV Public Broadcasting
“Royal was once a booming coal town. Now it’s just some metal artifacts, stone walls, and gravestones.” (7:58/2009/WV Public Broadcasting)
“Gauley River National Recreation Area – History & Culture”
“The Gauley River and its gorge have been a barrier as well as a corridor for human activity. The area was used for fishing and hunting by Native Americans for 10,000 years and was populated by Europeans in the late 1700s.
“The confluence of the Gauley and Meadow rivers was the site of an 1861 Civil War battle. Union troops forced Confederate forces from their position overlooking the Gauley. The site is part of Carnifex Ferry Battlefield State Park. In the late 1800s, railroads and lumber companies came to the gorge to harvest its vast supply of timber. Industrial pollution drained directly into the Gauley River, earning it the nickname “the River of Ink.” This pollution killed fish and prevented people from swimming and enjoying the river’s water. In 1922, the West Virginia State Wildlife League was successful in cleaning up the Gauley River, forcing the industrial plants along the Gauley’s tributaries to dispose of waste properly.”
“Bluestone National Scenic River – History & Culture – People, Places, Stories”
People: Thomas Ingles
“The Bluestone Gorge once provided a route of transportation and migration through a rugged, untamed wilderness. Throughout time, people have passed through the gorge and sometimes settled here. Their stories combine to form the rich cultural history preserved as a part of Bluestone National Scenic River.”
Places: The Lost Town of Lilly
“Walking along the Bluestone Turnpike today, it is hard to believe that this was once a major thoroughfare used by Native Americans and later by early settlers and subsistence farmers who settled along the Bluestone River. Small farms were found throughout the Bluestone Gorge.”
Stories: Moonshining on the Blue
“Walking through Bluestone National Scenic River today, one will find traces of the past; an old stone wall, a chimney or foundation protruding from the undergrowth, a headstone or cemetery seemingly lost in the forest. These tangible remains help to tell and preserve the stories of those who came before us.”
“Harpers Ferry National Historical Park WV, VA, MD – History & Culture – People, Places, Stories”
Step Back in Time
“A visit to this quaint, historic community, at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers, is like stepping into the past. Stroll the picturesque streets, visit exhibits and museums, or hike our trails and battlefields.
“History & Culture: THE HISTORY OF HARPERS FERRY HAS FEW PARALLELS IN THE AMERICAN DRAMA. It is more than one event, one date, or one individual. It is multi-layered – involving a diverse number of people and events that influenced the course of our nation’s history. Harpers Ferry witnessed the first successful application of interchangeable manufacture, the arrival of the first successful American railroad, John Brown’s attack on slavery, the largest surrender of Federal troops during the Civil War, and the education of former slaves in one of the earliest integrated schools in the United States.”
- Robert Harper
- Thomas Jefferson
- George Washington
- Meriwether Lewis
- John H. Hall
- James H. Burton
- John Brown
- Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson
- Frederick Douglass
- W. E. B. Du Bois
- Don Redman
- Maryland Heights
- Loudoun Heights
- John Brown’s Raid
- The Civil War
- African-American History
- Natural Heritage
- Library & Research Room
- Digital Resources
- Historic Newspapers
- Historic Newspaper Abstracts
- History Reports
- Lowertown/Harpers Ferry Cultural Landscape Report
- National Park Service History e-Library
- Historic Photographs
- Archeology Program
“WV Documentary Consortium”
The West Virginia Documentary Consortium, Inc. is a non-profit organization dedicated to the creation of documentary films about West Virginia history and culture.
“The Great Kanawha River – An American Story” – WV Documentary Consortium
“This is a West Virginia history of the Great Kanawha River. Scholars and experts provide insight into a river that played a significant role in the development of America with an emphasis on European settlement to the present. It is a presentation of the West Virginia Documentary Consortium, Inc., a nonprofit organization dedicated to the portrayal of West Virginia history and culture.”
In 3 Parts:
“The Great Kanawha: An American Story” – Part One (16:25/2012/WV Documentary Consortium)
“The Great Kanawha: An American Story” – Part Two (17:48/2012/WV Documentary Consortium)
“The Great Kanawha: An American Story” – Part Three (20:44/2012/WV Documentary Consortium)
“3 Rivers: The Bluestone, Gauley and New” – WV Public Broadcasting
“A 90-minute documentary from West Virginia Public Broadcasting explores the economic, environmental, cultural, historical and geographic impact of the largest federally protected system of rivers east of the Mississippi. Three Rivers: The Bluestone, Gauley and New examines the ongoing relationship between mankind and nature in this region. The film is a combination of travelogue, examination of efforts to improve the environment, and a mechanism for promoting economic development through tourism.”
Explore WV Public Broadcasting’s Website “3 Rivers: The Bluestone, Gauley and New” to view video (1:26:56/2013/WV Public Broadcasting)
“Glass Making, Glass Blowing, Glass Cutting: Seneca Glass” – 1974 – National Park Service
“Recaptures the production of early hand-blown glassware at Seneca Glass in Morgantown, WV.”
“Public domain film from the National Archives, slightly cropped to remove uneven edges, with the aspect ratio corrected, and mild video noise reduction applied. The soundtrack was also processed with volume normalization, noise reduction, clipping reduction, and equalization (the resulting sound, though not perfect, is far less noisy than the original).” (23:14/2014/Jeff Quitney)
“WV Recreation Resources” – 1935 – National Park Service/Civilian Conservation Corps
“See West Virginia and its state parks as they were in 1935. This film focuses on State Parks of West Virginia.
In part 1, views of cities, factories, steel furnaces, hydroelectric plants, rivers, canals, and locks depict the State’s industries and waterways. It shows the Greenbrier Hotel at White Sulphur Springs and the town of Berkeley. Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) men work in Lost River Park. Tourists ride horses, picnic at an outdoor table, and examine an old house. Children crippled by polio perform handicraft and sunbathe in Berkeley hospital.
In part 2, visitors to Cacapon State Park ride bicycles and horses. It shows the forest, the artificial lake, picnickers, wild turkey, and deer. Visitors to Watoga State Park picnic, swim, and fish.” (13:53/2013/Jeff Quitney)
WV History / West Virginia History