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.
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.
Dec. 19, 1794: A 40-acre tract of George Clendenin’s land was selected as the site of Charlestown, later renamed Charleston. Clendenin, born in Augusta County, Virginia, in 1746, was one of the first settlers in the Kanawha Valley. Through Clendenin’s influence the Virginia Assembly authorized the formation of Kanawha County from parts of Greenbrier and Montgomery counties in 1789.
Dec. 19, 1832: The town of Ripley received its charter. It was probably named for Harry Ripley, a popular, circuit-riding Methodist minister who drowned in Mill Creek in 1830.
Dec. 20, 1943: German fighter pilot Franz Stigler protected the heavily-damaged B-17 bomber flown by Charlie Brown as it made its way from enemy territory back to England. The two war veterans met in 1990 and remained friends until their deaths.
Dec. 20, 2002: Grote Reber died. In 1937, Reber built the world’s first parabolic radio telescope in his backyard. The Reber Telescope was moved to the National Radio Observatory at Green Bank in the 1960s and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1989.
Dec. 21, 1798: Wood County was established by the Virginia General Assembly. It was named for James Wood, governor of Virginia from 1796 to 1800.
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.