This Week in West Virginia History: May 11-17


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.

May 11, 1909: Filmmaker Ellis Dungan was born. After years of working in the feature film industry in India, he settled in Wheeling, where he shot documentaries and produced films for the state and the region.

May 11, 1930: Physician John C. Norman, Jr. was born in Charleston. A noted thoracic and cardiovascular surgeon and researcher, he was best known for his work toward creating an artificial heart.

May 12–14, 1921: Bullets peppered down on about a dozen mining towns in the Matewan-Williamson area, and nonunion miners fired back, in what became known as the Battle of the Tug. Three people were shot and killed.

May 13, 1962: Editorial cartoonist Henry Payne was born in Charleston. In 1989, Payne was the first editorial cartoonist in the country to make his work available via computer.

May 14, 1878: Photographer Rufus “Red” Ribble was born in Blacksburg, Virginia. For nearly 40 years he traveled the coalfields making panoramic photographs of miners, towns, family reunions, church congregations and school groups. 

May 14, 1906: Social reformer Mary Behner was born in Xenia, Ohio. From 1928 until 1937, Behner worked in the coal camps along Scotts Run near Morgantown, fighting poverty and creating social and educational outlets for families.

May 15, 1880: The state’s first telephone exchange was placed in service in Wheeling with about 25 subscribers.

May 15, 1886: Minnie Buckingham Harper was born in Winfield. She was the first African-American woman to serve as a member of a state legislative body in the United States. She was appointed by Governor Howard Gore on January 10, 1928, to fill the unexpired term of her husband, E. Howard Harper.

May 16, 1778: About 300 Wyandot and Mingo Indians attacked Fort Randolph at Point Pleasant. Unable to take the fort, the Indians proceeded up the Kanawha River toward other settlements. 

May 16, 1928: Minister Robert Graetz Jr. was born in Clarksburg. He helped organize the Montgomery bus boycott, and was the only White minister in the highly segregated Alabama city to support the boycott publicly.

May 17, 1854: A violent windstorm swept up the Ohio River and severely damaged the Wheeling Suspension Bridge.

May 17, 1862: The Battle of Pigeon Roost took place in Princeton during the Civil War. Union soldiers were noisily approaching Princeton from the southeast, unaware that the Confederates were lying in ambush. The attack left an estimated 18 federal troops killed and 38 wounded.

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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