Actress Dagmar on the cover of Life.
Actress Dagmar on the cover of Life.

This Week in West Virginia History: Nov. 28 – Dec. 4

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

Nov. 28, 1864: In a local skirmish north of Moorefield, Rosser’s Confederate cavalry and McNeill’s Rangers rebuffed a raid by Union Col. R. E. Fleming and spared the South Branch Valley from destruction. The battlefields are part of the Middle South Branch Valley rural historic district.

Nov. 29, 1921: The actress Dagmar was born Virginia Ruth Egnor in Lincoln County. Her acting career took off in 1950 when she was hired to be on NBC’s “Broadway Open House,” the network’s first late-night television show.

Nov. 29, 2001: Writer John Knowles died in Florida. Knowles, born in Fairmont, attained literary fame in 1959 with his first novel, A Separate Peace.

Nov. 30, 1796: Brooke County was established under an act of the General Assembly of Virginia. The county was formed from part of Ohio County and named in honor of Robert Brooke, governor of Virginia.

Dec. 1, 1797: Journalist and politician John S. Gallaher was born in Martinsburg. He owned or managed several Whig newspapers and was instrumental in establishing the free school system in Virginia. He played a prominent role in having early railroads routed through the Eastern Panhandle.

Dec. 2, 1859: John Brown was hanged at Charles Town in Jefferson County. Maj. Thomas J. Jackson, later nicknamed ‘‘Stonewall,’’ was among those commanding the Virginia forces standing guard at the execution of the abolitionist who led the raid at Harpers Ferry.

Dec. 2, 1933: The Charles Town Race Track opened shortly after West Virginia legalized racing and parimutuel betting. The Jefferson County complex contained 22 buildings and included 12 stables.

Dec. 3, 1787: James Rumsey demonstrated the steam engine he invented on the Potomac River near Shepherdstown. This was 20 years before Robert Fulton’s boat, though the Fulton design was more practical, and it is Fulton who is honored today as the inventor of the steamboat.

Dec. 3, 1871: Statesman Newton Diehl Baker was born in Martinsburg. Appointed by President Woodrow Wilson, Baker served as secretary of war from 1916 to 1921. Baker oversaw U.S. involvement in World War I.

Dec. 3, 1921: Operatic soprano Phyllis (Smith) Curtin was born in Clarksburg. She made her debut with the New York City Opera in 1953, where she sang both classical and modern repertoire.

Dec. 3, 1949: WSAZ-TV provided the first telecast of a Marshall College (now University) basketball game. The television station, the 72nd in the nation and the first in West Virginia, was an affiliate of WSAZ radio station.

Dec. 4, 1901: Construction of the present Cabell County courthouse was completed. An extensive remodeling was completed in 1940.

Dec.  4, 1883: Social reformer Stella Fuller was born Stella Lawrence Cremeans in Point Pleasant. In the 1940s, Fuller opened a relief operation on Huntington’s Washington Avenue. Eventually, the Stella Fuller Settlement expanded into the area’s largest haven for the disadvantaged and homeless.

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

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