This Week in West Virginia History: June 20-26

The West Virginia state capitol under construction.
The West Virginia state capitol under construction.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – 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.

June 20, 1861: Francis Pierpont was unanimously elected as governor of the unionist Reorganized State of Virginia, which sat at Wheeling until West Virginia entered the Union two years later.

June 20, 1863: West Virginia became the 35th state. Arthur Boreman was the state’s first governor.

June 20, 1932: The West Virginia capitol was officially dedicated. Construction had begun in 1924.

June 20, 1963: On the 100th birthday of West Virginia, President John F. Kennedy made his last appearance in West Virginia. Speaking in Charleston in a pouring rain, he said “The sun does not always shine in West Virginia, but the people always do.”

June 20, 1970: The play Hatfields and McCoys opened at Grandview State Park amphitheater. Written by Billy Edd Wheeler with music by Ewel Cornett, the show joined Honey in the Rock as a regular summer offering.

June 21, 1920: Wheeling Steel Corporation was organized when La Belle Iron Works, Whitaker-Glessner Company, and Wheeling Steel & Iron Works combined. In the 1920s, Wheeling Steel employed more than 17,000 workers and ranked as the nation’s third-largest steelmaker.

June 21, 1959: Musician Kathy Mattea was born in South Charleston but grew up in nearby Cross Lanes. In junior high school she learned to play the guitar, and in high school she practiced her vocal skills singing classical music in choir class.

June 22, 1926: Earl Olgebay died in Cleveland. He was one of West Virginia’s most successful industrialists and a generous benefactor.

June 23, 1944: A tornado struck Shinnston and the surrounding area, killing 103 people and injuring hundreds more.

June 23, 2016: Eight inches of rain fell in a 12-hour period. The Meadow, Cherry and Elk rivers, as well as Howard Creek, flooded downtowns and The Greenbrier resort and killed 23 people.

June 24, 1842: Author Ambrose Bierce was born. Bierce found the setting for some of his famous short stories in the mountains of Civil War-era West Virginia.

June 25, 1811: Bridge builder Lemuel Chenoweth was born near Beverly, Randolph County. His many bridges also included the earliest covered bridge at Beverly and the famous Philippi covered bridge.

June 26, 1887: Sheriff Don Chafin was born in Logan County. Chafin was a bitter foe of union organizers and, with financial support from coal companies, used his many deputies to keep labor organizers out of Logan County.

June 26, 1892: Pearl Buck was born in Hillsboro in the home of her maternal grandparents. She received the Nobel Prize for Literature for The Good Earth.

June 26, 1936: Basketball star Harold Everett ‘‘Hal’’ Greer was born in Huntington. Greer was the first African-American athlete to play at Marshall College (now University). During his three-year college career, Greer scored 1,377 points and averaged 19.4 points per game.

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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