HISTORY OF BECKLEY AND RALEIGH COUNTY
Page 1 - The Timeline
Wood refers to information taken from Raleigh County West Virginia (1994) by Jim Wood, sponsored by the Raleigh County Historical Society and printed by BJW Printing and Office Supplies, Beckley. W. Va. Riffe refers to information taken from an article by Judge W. A. Riffe published in the Beckley Post-Herald in its 1950 Centennial Edition. Contributions to this page are welcome. This page was last revised on Dec. 24, 2015.
A note on the various names of the town. The original 1838 charter calls the place Beckley. An article in the April 13, 1838, Richmond Enquirer refers to “An act to establish the town of Beckley in the county of Fayette.” According to History of West Virginia in Two Parts by Virgil Anson Lewis, the act creating Raleigh County in 1850 made Beckleyville the county seat. County land books from 1850-1861 list the town lots as being in Beckley. An 1854 publication mentions Beckleyville. In 1862, Rutherford B. Hayes called it Raleigh, Beckley’s Court-House, and Raleigh Court House. In 1862 the New York Times reported the county seat of Raleigh County is called Raleigh on the maps, but its name has since been changed to Beckley C. H. A newspaper article of May 22, 1862, called it Raleigh Court House. The land books of 1866 and 1867 refer to the Town of Beckley; those from 1872 through 1874 say Town of Beckley and that its lot owners lived at Raleigh Court House. The 1875 land book has Beckleyville, with lot owners living at Raleigh Court House. The proceedings of the Democratic National Convention held on June 27-29, 1876, show that delegate Alfred Beckley was from Raleigh C. H. In 1876-1880, the land books revert to Beckley, with lot owners living at Raleigh Court House. In 1877, the West Virginia State Gazetteer has “Raleigh C. H. — Formerly known as Beckley.” An Oct. 19, 1878, article in a Wheeling newspaper refers to Beckleyville. The Compendium of the Tenth Census (June 1, 1880), has “Raleigh Court-House or Beckleyville village.” The first issue of the Raleigh County Index, dated June 22, 1880, refers to the town as Raleigh Court-House. From 1881 to 1897 land books call the village Beckleyville. An 1885 issue of the Raleigh County Index refers to the town as Raleigh Court-House. An 1890 Wheeling newspaper article gives the dateline as Raleigh, C. H., W. Va., October 3.
1742. John Peter Salley explores the area, apparently the first Englishman to set foot in present Raleigh County.
1750. Dr. Thomas Walker (1715-1794) becomes the first white man to set foot in what is now Raleigh County [Beckley USA]. His journal shows he crossed the Guyan at the mouth of Island Creek where Logan now stands and after fording the head forks of Little Coal River reached Marsh Fork of Big Coal River at the mouth of Hazy, the present site of Edwight. He followed Marsh Fork to the area where Eccles now stands, passed through the present site of Beckley, crossed Piney River and south of Pinecrest Sanitarium (Gray Flats) over Glade Creek and east of Crow, then over White Oak Mountain to Hinton.
1750 and 1751. Christopher Gist explores the lands south of the Ohio River on behalf of a land investment company (the Ohio Company) and it is likely that he passed through present-day Raleigh County on his return to Virginia.
1752-1755. The first known map of Raleigh County is printed in London, and is based on the explorations of John Peter Salley, Christopher Gist, and Dr. Thomas Walker. On the map, Piney Creek is called Clifty Creek, and Laurel Creek in Fayette County is called Green Briar River [Wood].
Between 1807 and 1810. William Richmond, the first English settler in present day Raleigh County, arrives.
1810. John Harper arrives in present-day Raleigh County.
1811. Joseph Harper arrives in present-day Raleigh County.
According to Riffe:
A native of Monroe County, Harper first settled on Clear Fork of Coal River near the Clear Creek post office. He was sheriff of Fayette County during the 1840’s, being the only man in the territory later embraced in Raleigh County who served in that capacity. His son Jacob, who lived at Harper, was a prominent citizen and an early school teacher in that section. He married Elvira, a daughter of George Snuffer. In April 1864 he was taken from his home in the night and murdered by four outlaws who were regularly enrolled soldiers in the Confederate Army. Jacob Harper was noted for his kindness during the Civil War and made no distinction between Union and Confederate families. His sons, A. J. and George W., served as sheriffs of Raleigh County. Jacob was a large landholder and left a large estate to his family.
Spring, 1815. By this time there are 63 families living in the present Raleigh County.
1827. Coal Marsh Missionary Baptist Church is established, as Elder James Ellison and Daniel Shumate II moved to the Coal Marsh area. [This information is provided by Catherine Chilewski, who also writes that in 1829 a building of logs was erected and named the New Hope Meeting House. Eighty-two signatures appeared on the first membership roll of October 29, 1836. Among these were Daniel Shumate, John Shumate, Amos Shumate, Newton Shumate, Elizabeth Shumate, Mary Shumate, Tollison Shumate and Narcissa Shumate (her GGGrandmother) In 1852, the Raleigh County Baptist Church had members including Narcissus Shumate, Daniel Shumate III.]
1832. A school is operating near the mouth of Sycamore Creek in Clear Fork district [Wood].
1834. Alfred Beckley wins title to contested land his father had owned in western Virginia.
1836. Alfred Beckley moves to the area which was soon to become Beckley, in Fayette county, Virginia. According to his history: "Having resigned my commission in the United States Army in October, 1836, during the latter portion of that year, I removed to Fayette county with a view to improving my interest in the Moore and Beckley Patent. I took possession of a double log cabin built for me in the fall of 1835, by Mr. John Lilly, Sr., of Blue Stone, and I changed the name of my residence from 'Park Place,' a name given it by my kinsman, Clarkson Prince -- to that of 'Wildwood.'"
1837 and 1839. Largely through Alfred Beckley’s influence, the Virginia Assembly authorizes the construction of the Giles, Fayette and Kanawha Turnpike opening the region along its route from Giles Court House, Red Sulphur, Indian Creek, Flat Top, Beckley, Fayetteville to the Kanawha.
Apr. 4, 1838. The Virginia Assembly creates the town of Beckley, with boundaries not to exceed 30 acres. The trustees are Alfred Beckley, Clarkson Prince, William Prince (1816-1885), John Bailey, and Richard McVey. Beckley was named for Alfred Beckley’s father, John Beckley. [Bailey had come to Paint Creek from Franklin County in 1827. Richard McVey, according to his great, great grandson of the same name, was one of the original settlers in Raleigh County, and was a surveyor who helped to do much of the early land layout with Alfred Beckley. McVey says his family remains on the original property between Coal City and Pemberton.]
Jan.-Feb. 1839. According to his diary, William O. Hollandsworth teaches school to 20 students at 50 cents per student in a house he built in the spring of 1838 "on the bank of Cranberry Branch." He writes that in the following winter James Rollins taught the school and in the next year Man Keaton taught there. In an article by C. J. Hollandsworth in the Beckley Post-Herald of March 17, 1927, it is claimed that this site, Pinecrest Cramp, near Prosperity, is the site of the first school and church in what is now Raleigh County.
July 25, 1839. The Beckley post office is established; Alfred Beckley is appointed the first postmaster.
1841. Alfred Beckley builds a small log school house on Neville St. and Walnut Lane, the second building erected in Beckley, according to his son John Beckley.
1842. James Cole becomes the first settler in the original limits of the Town of Beckley. He lived at the intersection of the Kanawha and Guyandotte roads, approximately where the Memorial Building now stands. He was a blacksmith and his shop was located on the site of the City Hall. After the war he moved to Crab Orchard. [Riffe]
1842. Phyrrus McGinnis (1791?-1874 or 1873) arrives in Raleigh County from Logan County, according to a genealogy web page, which states that he built a log house just above the present location of Sophia. Another source says that in about 1850 McGinnis brought his family to Raleigh County and settled on Marsh Fork, where he established a mercantile business, as he did in several other parts of the county. He was a successful merchant and accumulated several thousand acres of land, some of which was located near Beckley.
About 1844. Edwin Prince (1822-1891) arrives from Philadelphia. He was Beckley’s first merchant. His store stood at the northwest corner of Main and Kanawha streets [Riffe].
1846. A list of post offices shows Alfred Beckley the postmaster of Beckley, Fayette County, Virginia.
1850. First business in Beckley, a blacksmith shop.
1850. Henry L. Gillaspie, a native of Allegheny County, Va., comes to Beckley. He was the first lawyer to locate there. He was a member of the secession convention and voted for secession. [Riffe]
1850. The first Methodist church in Beckley is established. [It was not the first Methodist church in Raleigh County. It was Methodist Episcopal, North, of which Alfred Beckley was a member and a lay preacher. In 1858, the church became Methodist Episcopal, South. There were no churches here during the Civil War. After the war, it was the northern Methodists who established their church first. Information from A Part of the Community: The History of the First United Methodist Church and the Raleigh Circuit by Carl Wolfe.]
Jan. 23, 1850. The General Assembly of Virginia enacts the legislation forming Raleigh county. The act, written by Alfred Beckley, reads:
Be it enacted by the general assembly, That all that part of the southern end of the county of Fayette contained within the following boundary lines, to wit: Beginning where the county line between the counties of Mercer and Fayette strike New River, thence down and along said river, with its meanders to the mouth of Salt Lick Run, near Isaac Sonners'; thence a straight line to the top of the dividing ridge between the waters of Paint Creek and Cole River, crossing Paint Creek at the upper end of Jackson Jarrell’s plantation; thence with and along the top of said dividing ridge between Cole River and Cabin Creek, and with and along the top of same to the Boone County line to the end of the Great Cherry Pond Mountain; thence with and along the top of the dividing ground between the waters that flow to the Marsh Fork of Cole River and New River on the one side, and those that flow into Little Cole and Guyandotte rivers on the other side, to the present line to New River at the beginning, shall form one district and new county, in memory of Sir Walter Raleigh, who made the earliest effort to colonize Virginia.
History of West Virginia in Two Parts (1889) by Virgil Anson Lewis has:
Raleigh county was formed from Fayette by act of January 23, 1850, and named in commemoration of Sir Walter Raleigh. The act creating the county made the town of Beckleyville the county seat. It was incorporated in 1850. Here, in the village school house, in March, 1850, the first court convened. It was composed of the following named justices: James Goodall, Robert Scott, Samuel L. Richmond, Robert Warden, Cyrus Snuffer, Lucien B. Davis, John T. Sarrett, Benjamin Linkous, and John Stover. The first county officers were: Sheriff, John T. Clay; Prosecuting Attorney, Edward W. Bailey; County Clerk, Daniel Shumate; Circuit Clerk, Alfred Beckley; Assessor, John H. Anderson.
Mar. 25, 1850. County government is first organized at a meeting in the village schoolhouse at Beckley. The first court is made up of
James Goodall, listed as a 46-year-old farmer in 1850C1850 census information was taken from the West Virginia Census Database, which allows searches of the 1850 census for several counties.
Alfred Beckley was the first Clerk of the Circuit Court of Raleigh County, according to his writings. [According to Catherine Chilewski, Daniel Shumate Jr. was the first Court Clerk, serving from 1850 to 1862, when he was taken prisoner by union troops and sent to Camp Chase in Columbus, Ohio. However, this information appears to be incorrect, as the 1850 census shows the occupation of Daniel Shumate Jr. as "farmer" and the census shows the occupation of Alfred Beckley as "Clerk-C."] According to Riffe, John T. Clay was the first sheriff of Raleigh County and Wilson Abbott was the first assessor of Raleigh County and also one of the first sheriffs. Abbott settled on Dry Creek around 1838. According to a genealogical web page, Phyrrus McGinnis was the first Justice of Raleigh County when it was formed.
Apr. 22, 1850. At the second meeting of the county court, ten county commissioners meeting at the Beckley School house, appoint a committee to receive proposals for the erection of a court house.
Apr. 1850. The 1850 census shows a population of 1765 in Raleigh County. Of these, 1742 are free and 23 are slaves. The list of residents with occupations other than farmer and laborer is as follows:
Alfred Beckley, 48, Clerk-C.
Nov. 1850. M. T. Bibb, Matthew Ellison, M. Bibb, and William P. Walker meet in Raleigh Court House to organize the Raleigh Baptist Church of Christ (now the First Baptist Church), according to the website of the First Baptist Church. Rev. Matthew Ellison, who had been pastor of the Coal Marsh Church in Trap Hill district, was chosen the first pastor; Daniel Shumate was named the first clerk, and Jacob Smith and Sparriel Bailey were elected as the original deacons. The fifteen charter members were: Sparriel Bailey, Mrs. Mary Jane Bailey, Edward Tyree, Mrs. Susan Williams, Sr., Mrs. Sally Bailey, Jr., Charles Hutchinson, Mrs. Elizabeth Hutchinson, Miss Eleanor Hutchinson, Thomas Burgess, Mrs. Nancy Burgess, Mrs. Mary Ann Dunn, Narcissus Shumate, Daniel Shumate, Mrs. Emily Tyree, and Mrs. Sally Bailey, Sr. [They built a church which burned down in 1863, according to a 1911 article in the Raleigh Register.]
About 1851. A hotel, known as Gen. Beckley’s Tavern house, is erected. By 1855 it became known as the Raleigh House, and later, McCreery House [Wood].
Nov. 11, 1851. The name of the post office is changed from Beckley to Raleigh Court House. [The New York Times reported this fact on Nov. 21.]
1852. The first Raleigh County Court House, built of brick, is completed, at a cost of $2,722, according to Wood. [According to Wood, the court house was rebuilt in the mid- to late-1850s because of faulty construction.]
About 1853. The Raleigh Baptist Church, the first church in the town of Beckley, is erected on South Heber Street [Wood].
1853. A New and Complete Statistical Gazetteer of the United States of America by Fisher has:
RALEIGH county, Virg. Erected in 1850, out of Fayette. Situate W. centrally, and contains 531 sq m. Drained by tributaries of New r., or Upper Kanawha. Surface rough and mountainous; soil in some parts fertile. Chief products, wheat, Indian corn, pork, etc. Farms 216; manuf. --; dwell. 296, and pop. -- wh. 1,735, fr. col. 7, sl. 23 -- total 1,765. Capital: Beckley.
1854. A list of post offices in Raleigh County has: Beckley, Coal River Marshes, Shady Spring.
1854. Statistical Gazetteer of the State of Virginia by Edwards has:
BECKLEY, a post-village, capital of Raleigh County, Virgina, 21 miles in a direct line W. from Richmond. The county has a mountainous surface, and is very thinly inhabited.
Apr. 15, 1856. Patent number 14,678, for a wheel hub, is issued to J. Summers of Raleigh Court-House.
Nov. 4, 1856. The vote for electors for President at Raleigh Court House, the only precinct in the county: Buchanan 74, Fillmore 59. Wilson Abbott was conductor of the election; William A. Heslip and L. W. McClure were commissioners; Kennerly Cassady served as clerk. The oath of the election officers was administered by Archibald D. Walker, Justice of the Peace.
1858. Beckley is incorporated [Funk and Wagnalls Encyclopedia].
1859. A list of post offices shows Edwin Prince as the postmaster of Beckley, Va.
Mar. 26, 1859. The Manitowoc Daily Tribune reports, “A large and enthusiastic meeting of the Democracy was held at Raleigh Court House, Va., on the 7th inst. Resolutions were adopted announcing the Hon. H. A. Edmonston as their candidate for Congress, and deploring the system of ‘free fights now going on in many of the Congressional districts.’”
1859-63. The new American cyclopaedia: a popular dictionary of general knowledge has:
RALEIGH, a W. co. of Va., bordered E. by New river and drained by its tributaries; area, about 500 sq. m.; pop. in 1860, 3,367, of whom 57 were slaves. It has a mountainous surface, and in the valleys a fertile soil. The productions in 1850 were 49,511 bushels of Indian corn, 19,253 of oats, 2,893 of wheat, 4,929 lbs. of wool, and 31,289 lbs. of butter. Value of real estate in 1856, $510,266, showing an increase since 1850 of 112 per cent. Capital, Beckley.1860. The town’s population is 160, with another 160 living in the vicinity.
1861. There are 15 buildings in the Town of Beckley [Wood].
Dec. 29, 1861. Raleigh Court-House is occupied by Union forces.
1862. The 37th Ohio Infantry is stationed at Raleigh Court House, with two companies of infantry as a guard for trains at Fayette Court House. According to Beckley USA, during the winter of 1862 Rutherford B. Hayes and William McKinley (both later Presidents of the U. S.) were stationed in Beckley. Alfred Beckley wrote in his autobiography, "In 1861 Col. Hays garrisoned Raleigh Court House with part of the 23rd Regiment of Ohio Volunteers, and I came home and surrendered myself to Col. Hays."
May 8, 1862. An article about Gen. Alfred Beckley in the New York Times reports, “His residence is at the county seat of Raleigh County, southeast of Kanawha, called Raleigh on the maps, but its name has since been changed to Beckley C. H.”
May 19, 1863. The Forty-Fifth Virginia Infantry participated in a skirmish at Raleigh Court House, according to an Internet website. According to Wood, on May 21, 1863, federal artillery bombarded Beckley as Confederate Colonel John R. McCausland’s troops were withdrawing through the town after attacking Fayetteville.
1868. The Raleigh County vote for Governor: Arthur I. Boreman (Republican), 186; Smith (Democrat), 55.
1868. Clarkson Prince becomes the first Superintendent of Schools of Raleigh County, according to a genealogy web page which has the following:
Clarkson Prince was born March 3, 1811 on a ship in the East Indies. In May 1835, Clarkson Prince, at the age of 24, accompanied by a younger brother, William Prince (age 19), stayed at the Inn of Henry Hull, what is now known as Shady Springs, WV. Clarkson’s wife, Susan Hull was born Jan. 13, 1817. Two years later, William Prince Married Margret Hull on May 9, 1837. Clarkson and William Prince were first cousins of General Alfred Beckley (from whom Beckley, WV was named). Clarkson Prince was the first Superintendent of Schools of Raleigh County, 1868. He also served as recorder and Clerk of the Circuit Court 1869. (The above story was taken from the scrapbook of Lawrence Clarkson Deck, Sr. born Oct 22, 1893.)
About 1869. A public school of log construction on Prince Street is in operation in Beckley. [John Beckley recalled that he taught in the Beckley free school in the winter of 1869.] The building was replaced with a frame building, probably by 1890 [Wood].
Feb. 22, 1869. The state legislature passes an act incorporating the trustees of Raleigh High School, who were Henry L. Gillaspie, Edwin Prince, John S. Ewart, John Beckley, James Scott, Rev. Matthew Ellison, Rev. Neville C. Beckley, garner Calloway, Jackson Carper, William Ferguson, and Alfred Beckley Sr. Students ranged in age from 5-14 and was not a high school in the modern sense. The school held graduation exercises in June 1882 and was operating as late as 1884 [Wood].
Oct. 29, 1869. A newspaper reports, “In Raleigh county, W. Va., a deputy United States marshal, named Hagar, was fatally shot while eating supper.”
1870. The population of Raleigh County is 3673, of whom 16 are black.
1870. A post office directory lists these post offices in Raleigh County: Clear Creek, Coal River Marshes, Jarrold’s Valley, Matville, Raleigh Court House, Richman Falls, Shady Spring, Table Rock.
Feb. 16, 1871. The West Virginia Legislature passes an act altering the borders of Raleigh and Wyoming County, permitting Raleigh County to annex 168 square mile (107,520 acres) from Wyoming County. This section of land is now called Slab Fork District. William A. Fink had asked for a boundary adjustment because he owned land in both counties, but lived only twenty miles from Raleigh County Court House. He only owned 345 1/2 acres on Tommie Creek, but Raleigh County also gained the large and rich coal fields of Winding Gulf. According to historian G. P. Goode, it was a political deal which strengthened the Democratic majority in Raleigh county and the Republican majority in Wyoming county. According to historian Aubrey O. Smith, this was the only instance in West Virginia history in which the territory of a county was enlarged after its formation. [Wood and Making a State, by Edgar B. Sims]
1872. Twelve families form the Presbyterian Church in Raleigh. [The name was changed to the Beckley Presbyterian Church on April 27, 1913. This information was taken from the website of the church].
1872. Alfred Beckley is the County Superintendent of Schools, according to his writings.
Feb. 20, 1872. An act of the West Virginia Legislature incorporates the town of Beckley.
July 1872. John Beckley (b. Mar. 26, 1833, d. June 8, 1910), Alfred’s oldest son, is elected Beckley’s first Mayor. Others elected: J. W. McCreery, recorder; Edwin Prince, Joseph Hanna, J. T. McCreery, Dr. William M. Overton, M. A. Ellison, councilmen. E. D. George was appointed town sergeant. Martin Ellison, assessor; George Stovall, superintendent of roads, streets, and alleys [Wood].
1873. The Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad completes its line from the Eastern seaboard to the Ohio River, getting to within 11 miles of Beckley at Prince.
1873. The first school for blacks in Raleigh County opens on Mills Branch in Trap Hill District.
Jan. 22, 1873. The Hinton Mountain Herald reports that Beckley has two hotels.
1875. The land book refers to the town as Beckleyville.
1876. Alfred Beckley is a delegate to the Democratic National Convention.
1877. The first Catholic church in Raleigh County is built in Richmond district.
1877. The West Virginia State Gazetteer published in Charleston has:
Raleigh C. H. — Formerly known as Beckley. The County Seat of Raleigh County. 340 miles from Wheeling. Qunnimont, on the C&O RR, 11 miles distant, is the shipping point. Contains 1 church used by various denominations, one free school, two grist mills, two carding machines and a saw mill. Is incorporated and has a population of 130. Daily mail. E. Prince, postmaster.
According to Carl Wolfe, the church referred to above was the church established after the Civil War in the 1850 entry.
1880. A Methodist church is built at the corner of Prince and North Kanawha Streets [Beckley Methodist Temple web site].
June 22, 1880. Raleigh County Index, later the Raleigh Register, is founded. (The first issue is dated June 15, but was likely published a week later.) Edwin Prince (1822-1891) was the first publisher. A history of Beckley newspapers is here.
Aug. 5, 1881. The Associated Press reports, “The dwelling of a German named Calloway, at Raleigh Court House, was destroyed by fire last night. A large number of bonds and about $2,000 in cash were burned. Loss on the building and money about $5,000.”
July 28, 1884. Aden Thompson, a lifelong farmer, is nominated at the Democratic convention in Raleigh Court House to be a member of the House of Delegates from Raleigh County. [An extant political broadside for his candidacy in the general election shows this.]
Feb. 21, 1882. A Beckley newspaper refers to a Raleigh High School, operated by the Odd Fellows, with F. W. Evereth the principal.
Apr. 23, 1885. The Raleigh County Index lists Ash. M. Prince (son of Edwin Prince, the founder of the paper) as editor, and has the following professional cards on page 1: James H. McGinnis (1828-1907), attorney; William H. McGinnis, attorney; George W. Cook, attorney; John W. McCreery, attorney; Stovall & Black, physicians and surgeons; Dr. S. Matlack; Dr. M(atthew) A(llen) Ellison, surgeon dentist (1841-1905). The addresses for all of these advertisers is Raleigh C. H., W. Va. There is also an advertisement for Raleigh House, J(ohn) S. Hull (1853-1899), proprietor, in Raleigh C. H.
Sept. 27, 1886. The Wheeling Register reports, “Wm. McCreery, Deputy Collector of Raleigh Court House, took a posse with him last Wednesday into a deep gorge in Slab Fork District, Wyoming county, and there found a still in operation, and in violation of the Revenue laws. It being impractical to move the still and apparatus, he ordered its destruction, which was successfully accomplished with axes taken along for the purpose.”
1887. John Williams becomes the first police officer.
July 9, 1888. The Wheeling Register reports, “During a heavy rain storm on Thursday of last week, Jeff Cottle, who resided about twelve miles west of Raleigh Court House, was struck and killed by lightning.”
May 26, 1888. Alfred Beckley dies.
1888. James Hereford McGinnis (1828-1907), a Beckley attorney, is nominated as the Republican candidate for Congress in the third district. He lost to John Duffy of Alderson.
1890. According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica article on Beckley: "the city’s growth dates from 1890, when the first commercial smokeless coal shipment was made from local mines."
1890. Royal Coal and Coke is incorporated. The company opened a drift mine in Raleigh County in 1891 [Wood].
Oct. 3, 1890. William I. Martin (or W. J. Martin) is hanged for murdering his wife; it is Raleigh County’s only hanging. About 3,000 persons watched the execution, which was done by Sheriff W. T. Shumate (the son of Daniel Shumate, see above). According to Catherine Chilewski, Otis A. Tench was a deputy sheriff under Shumate who built the scaffold on which Martin was hanged.
1890. The 1890 census shows these populations for Raleigh County towns: Clear Creek, 11; Coal River Marshes, 122; Daniels, 26; Dry Creek, 22; Egeria, 9; Glomera, 31; Jarrold’s Valley, 7; Lawson, 26; Lester, 11; Matville, 9; Miller’s Camp Branch, 8; Odd, 11; Pemberton, 13; Prosperity, 56; Raleigh Court House, 158; Roxie, 6; Shady Spring, 13; Sunflower, 67; Table Rock, 18.
1891. The first coal mine in the county opens, at Royal.
1891. Robert A. Spencer becomes publisher of the Raleigh Register.
May 1, 1891. A newspaper reports, “A thief named Thomas attempted to rob the residence of a man named Brammer, near Raleigh Court House, W. Va., a few nights since, during the absence of the family except Brammer’s daughter, aged 17. As he broke through the window the girl knocked his brains out with an ax.”
1892. William Hereford McGinnis (1855-1930) is elected prosecuting attorney. [He held that office for four years. In 1902 he was elected to the state senate.]
1893. Raleigh County Index becomes the Raleigh Register.
1893. A red brick Raleigh County Court House is completed, at a cost of $34,354. It was used until 1935. (The next court house, still extant, was completed in 1937.)
1893. The Hull Hotel is built at Main and South Kanawha Streets.
Mar. 30, 1893. The name of the post office is changed to Raleigh.
1894. A new charter is granted to Beckley to allow for the office of treasurer and expand the boundaries of the town.
1894. Mullens is settled when Andrew J. Mullins came from McDowell county and purchased 60 acres of bottom land from W. H. Lambert for $350.
1895. The 1895 Rand McNally Atlas of the World lists Raleigh Court House, population 158. A diary entry that year described the town as having "only two little stores, a 13-room hotel and about 16 houses."
May 12, 1895. The large sawmill at Crow is destroyed by fire. The loss is estimated at $25,000.
June 29, 1895. A newspaper reports, “A special from Raleigh Court House ... says that John Smith, living near there, went to the house of John Cadle while the latter was absent and shot Mrs. Smith so badly that she died the next day. The pair had been illicitly intimate while Smith was confined in the State prison, but upon his return a few days ago, his wife refused to give up her relations with Cadle and was shutting the door in Smith’s face when he fired, killing her.”
1896. Charles C. Tucker (1879-1967) arrives in Beckley to become an apprentice printer for the Raleigh Register. He later owned Tucker Printing Company, which he later sold to Biggs Withrow Company.
Feb. 28, 1896. The name of the post office is changed from Raleigh to Beckley. William T. Shumate is the postmaster.
Apr. 25, 1896. An Ohio newspaper reports, “Charleston, W. Va., April 22.—W. F. Workman and Layman Williams, prominent citizens of Raleigh county, returning from court here Tuesday, drank a quart of carbolic acid, mistaking it for whisky, and died from the effects. Both were union veterans and leave families.”
Feb. 21, 1897. A tornado passes through Beckley. [This is the date in Wood; Beckley USA gives Feb. 22].
Dec. 8, 1898. The Raleigh Register county directory shows J. M. Sanders, Judge of Circuit Court; William Davis, President of County Court; A. P. Farley, Prosecuting Attorney; John F. Davis, Clerk of County Court; Isadore Meadows, Clerk of Circuit Court; C. J. Hollandsworth, Assessor; Henry Bryson, Surveyor; A. B. Ballard, Sheriff.
May 26, 1899. The Bank of Raleigh is chartered. [According to an advertisement, it opened for business on Sept. 4, 1899. It was Beckley’s first bank, founded by the McCreery family. The first loan was granted for the amount of $20 on August 26, 1899. Before now, banking was done in Hinton and Winding Gulf and other areas.]
Aug. 1900. The Beckley Seminary (later the Beckley Institute) opens, a private school under the direction of Bernard Hendrick White located on Park Avenue where Institute Elementary School later stood. White came to Beckley from St. Albans, where had a school called the Fairview Academy. He was originally from Summersville. The Beckley Institute included a grade school and high school, and was the only high school in Raleigh County for 12 years.
1900. Raleigh County population is 12,436.
June 8, 1900. The Raleigh Herald begins publication.
Aug. 20, 1900. J. P. Beckley, a prominent merchant of Beckley, and his clerk, Fred George, are struck and killed by lightning. The building and stock of goods were badly damaged.
1901. The Piney River Branch of the C & O Railroad, built from Prince, reaches Raleigh County.
1901 or 1902. Bernard H. White, principal of the Beckley Institute, shows the first film exhibited in Beckley, in the school’s auditorium. The film was The Great Train Robbery [Beckley USA].
1902. Joe L. Smith becomes publisher of the Raleigh Register.
Sept. 17, 1902. The Richmond Times reports:
Raleigh county will soon be one of the greatest coal producing counties in the State. The Piney branch of the C. & O. railroad is to be extended to the rich coal fields located near Prosperity in Raleigh county. The work of construction will be commenced within a few weeks. The greatest portion of the coal land that will be reached by the new extension belongs to the firm of Jones & Brothers, and preparations are under way for its immediate and extensive development. The new line will mean much for Raleigh county, as it is the intention of the Chesapeake and Ohio to extend the line to Coal river and down Coal river through the rich coal deposits along the Cabin Creek branch, which is now being extended into that territory. The road will pass through the town of Beckley, the county seat of Raleigh county, and will give that town the railroad communications which it has long sought.
Feb. 25, 1903. The "Battle of Stanaford City," one of the bloodiest episodes in the history of West Virginia labor unrest, occurs when a posse headed by U. S. Marshal Dan Cunningham and Raleigh County Sheriff Harvey Cook exchanged gunfire with striking miners. Accounts of the number of casualties vary; the Fayette Journal reported that three men were killed outright in the battle and that eight more men died from their wounds later. The New York Times reported that three miners were killed and two others mortally wounded.
1904. An electric power generating plant is installed for Beckley.
1904. The first black doctor in Raleigh County, Dr. J. M. Grandison, begins a practice in Adkinsville (East Beckley). He moved to Lester in 1910. [Beckley Post-Herald bicentennial edition]
Dec. 30, 1904. The Hinton Daily News reports that "lawyers of Beckley have formed themselves in an organization known as the Ral. County Bar Association" [Pauline Haga].
1905. Dr. W. W. Hume starts a small hospital in Mabscott, which he later moved to Beckley. Before this time, Raleigh County residents needing hospitalization were taken to New River or Hinton [Wood].
1906. Beckley’s first movie theater, a nickelodeon called Fairyland, opens [Beckley USA].
July 12, 1906. The Raleigh Herald reports, “An Italian was killed in the mines at Raleigh Monday morning.”
Aug. 1, 1906. Dr. J. A. Campbell opens the newly constructed Campbell Hospital on North Heber Street; the first operation is performed there seven days later [Wood].
Sept. 13, 1906. The Raleigh Herald reports, “The establishment of a postoffice at Skelton had been authorized by the Postoffice Department. A. D. Callahan was appointed postmaster. The new postoffice will open within the next ten days.”
Oct. 15, 1906. Mabscott is incorporated.
Oct. 18, 1906. The Raleigh Herald reports that Mabscott and Wickham were incorporated on Monday, and that Raleigh County now has four incorporated towns: Mabscott, Wickham, Beckley, and Sylvia.
1907. The Manual of West Virginia 1907 lists these post offices in Raleigh County [Wood]: Abney, Arnett, Artie, Atkinsville, Beckley, Bolt, Brooklyn, Bryson, Cirtsville, Citie, Clear Creek, Covey, Dameron, Daniels, Dry Creek, Dugout, Egeria, Embury, Fitzpatrick, Ghent, Grandview, Harper, Hecla, Honaker, Hotchkiss, Jarrold’s Valley, Lanark, Launa, Lawson, Lester, McCreery, Mabscott, Marshes (Glen Daniel), Mattville, Ned, Nesco, New, Noble, Odd, Oley, Peachtree, Pear, Pemberton, Pluto, Posey, Prosperity, Raleigh, Redbird, Rowan, Riley, Saxon, Shady Spring, Stanaford, Stonewall, Surveyor, Sutphin (Crab Orchard), Tablerock. Terry, Warden, Wickham, Wright, Zeta.
1907. Rhodell is laid out (but not incorporated until 1937).
1907. Beckley’s first black school opens near the border of Beckley and Mabscott. It served ten families.
1907. According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica article on Beckley, "After the rich Winding Gulf coalfield was opened in 1907, the population increased sharply."
Jan. 10, 1907. The Raleigh Herald reports that Hugh A. Dunn was elected Mayor of Beckley, defeating L. H. Davis, 109-89.
Mar. 12, 1907. George Williams is granted a state license to open a theater in Beckley, "Fairyland," on East Main Street. Shortly thereafter, Wonderland opened on Heber St. and the Carter Opera House on South Fayette St. [Wood].
Sept. 12, 1907. City Council takes the first steps towards forming a fire department, ordering a hose reel with hose to be used pending the completion of the city water system in November.
Nov. 1907. Beckley receives its first piped water.
Dec. 12, 1907. Raleigh Register reports, "Beckley’s water works is now a reality. Water is now to be had in all parts of the town, and the town only needs a first-class hose and reel for it to have an excellent protection against fire. Several of the business houses and residences are now enjoying the comforts of a water supply. The quality of the water is reported to be excellent."
Jan. 9, 1908. The Raleigh Herald reports that Joe L. Smith is elected mayor. [According to his biography in the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774-1989, Joe L. Smith was Mayor of Beckley from 1904, which is apparently incorrect, to 1929, a state senator from 1909 to 1913, and a Congressman from 1929 to 1945. Smith, who was owner and editor of the Raleigh Register until 1911, was born at Marshes (now Glen Daniel) on May 22, 1880, and died on Aug. 23, 1962.]
Feb. 14, 1908. The legislature passes a new charter for Beckley, changing it from a town to a city, expanding the boundaries, and making provisions for mayor, recorder, treasurer, police chief, assessor, health officer, street commissioner and five councilmen.
Apr. 16, 1908. City Council purchases construction materials for the city’s first fire station, which will be located on a vacant lot on Fayette Street.
1909. Bishop P. J. Donahue dedicates St. Francis DeSales Catholic Church. [The first permanent church was located on land donated by the Beaver Land Company and was served by its first pastor Father John Swint. Prior to the church construction, local Catholics held church services in homes all around Raleigh County. Father Swint traveled on horseback from Hinton where St. Patrick’s Church served an immigrant population building the railroads in the New River George. The old wooden church saw service until 1951 when the stone church was built and in 1957 St. Francis DeSales School opened its doors, built entirely from private donations raised in only one day! Eleven pastors have served St. Francis DeSales to date with many associate pastors to assist in pastoral and administrative duties along the way. Two permanent deacons were ordained in 1988 to further bless the parish and an active lay staff and ministers is fully evident today. Father Samuel Sacus, the pastor in Dec. 2003, has been here since 1996.]
Fall 1909. Beckley Messenger is founded.
Apr. 9, 1909. Upon completion of the railroad, Mark Twain speaks in Mullens, from the platform of a special train carrying officials to inspect the station. He spoke in place of Virginian Railroad President H. H. Rogers, who was ill. [This information is taken from an article in the Beckley Post-Herald of Aug. 2, 1975.]
July 16, 1909. A charter is issued for the Raleigh County Bank.
July 25, 1909. The Presbyterian Church of Raleigh dedicates its first church building, on South Kanawha Street. [Construction took place in 1908-1909. The building later became Beckley Fire Station No. 1. Information taken from the website of the Beckley Presbyterian Church.]
Oct. 1, 1909. The Virginian Railway reaches the Winding Gulf mine, and on this date the first car of coal was loaded and shipped, according to recollections of W. P. Tams in the 1975 Beckley Post-Herald historical issue.
1910. Lester is incorporated.
1910. Charles Hodel comes to Beckley from Grafton to become editor and manager of the Raleigh Herald. [He left Beckley after 18 months but returned to become managing editor of the Raleigh Register, then a weekly, on Dec. 15, 1912. The newspaper was then owned by George W. Williams, M. J. Meadows, Dr. W. W. Hume, I. C. Prince, George W. Thompson, W. H. McGinnis, and C. C. Rose.]
Jan. 27, 1910. The Raleigh Herald reports, “The Raleigh County Bank has moved from its former location to its new location in the People’s National Bank which was recently purchased by the Raleigh County Bank.”
Feb. 3, 1910. The Raleigh Herald reports:
At a point in Raleigh county where the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway joins with the Deepwater, or Virginian Railroad, near Eccles and some twelve miles from Beckley, the thriving little town of Lester was threatened to be destroyed by fire last Friday. The fire was caused by the explosion of a lamp at about two o'clock in the morning in the Davis Hotel. The hotel, which was run by I. J. Cook who had only taken possession two day before, was completely destroyed. The Wade building occupied by Sacks and Siegel, clothing and shoes, was burned down. A store room occupied by some Syrians as a fruit store burned to the ground. The loss is estimated at about $15000 with very little insurance. The fire is the greatest setback to the town which is situated in the very centre of a number of new coal operations.
Mar. 24, 1910. A fire in Mount Hope destroys all but a few buildings, leaving a thousand people homeless.
April 1910. A school, open to students of all faiths, is established by St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church. The school apparently had a short history and was succeeded in 1957 by the St. Francis School [Wood].
Apr. 15, 1910. The Messenger reports, “Mayor Davis has announced that the law against permitting stock to run at large within the city limits is to be enforced to the letter....”
Sept. 29, 1910. Three men are killed and seven seriously injured when a car of steel rails which the men were unloading turned over at the No. 6 mine of the Raleigh Coal Company. A newspaper account said that two of the injured were not expected to live.
Nov. 7, 1910. The first paved street in Beckley is opened to traffic [Wood].
Dec. 24, 1910. A newspaper reports that four men died as a result of an accident of the New River Collieries Co. at Eccles. A bucket in which the men were riding overturned, throwing them 500 feet down the bottom of the shaft.
1911. The Golden Gate movie theater is built by W. P. Tams. It is the first theater in the county, according to Wood.
1912. Sophia is incorporated. [The town was named for Sophia Graveley McGinnis (1812-1916). She was a widow when she married Pyrrhus McGinnis in 1866.]
1912. Odd Elementary School is built. [In 1980 it was the oldest school building still in use in Raleigh County.]
Apr. 14, 1912. A fire, discovered at about 2 a.m. on Sunday, April 14, destroys over 20 buildings mainly on Neville, Prince, and Heber Streets. [A newspaper article about the fire is here. That night, the RMS Titanic struck an iceberg.]
Sept. 27, 1912. The Raleigh Herald reports:
Fire visited Beckley again on Sunday night and reduced to ashes Hotel Hull, Beckley’s foremost hostelry. The origin of the fire is unknown. It was first detected on the upper floor and had gained considerable headway when detected. The usual alarm was given and the volunteer department was soon on the scene. It was soon beyond control and while all of the available water supply was utilized it was inadequate to cope with the flames and it and a downpouring of rain aided materially in keeping the flames subdued which would have been hazardous to adjacent property had it been a dry and windy time. This hotel was built by the late John S. Hull, some twenty years ago and when built was classed among the best hotels of this section of the state. It contained some forty rooms and was an excellent frame structure when burned. Insurance in the amount of $15,000 was carried on the building which probably covered the loss.
About 1913. Stratton School is erected at Beaver Avenue and South Fayette Street. [The school originally included grades 1 to 12.]
Apr. 1913. Beckley Hospital opens on South Oakwood Ave, in the first building built in Beckley to be a hospital. It was founded by Dr. Robert Wriston and Dr. J. E. Coleman. [A new hospital was built on the same site in 1929.]
About May 1, 1913. The Lyric Theatre opens on Main St. [A second Lyric Theatre opened at Neville and Heber Streets in 1920; it showed its last movie in 1967; Wood].
Aug. 21, 1913. Eugene W. Chafin, the Prohibition candidate for President, speaks in Beckley, Lester, and Prince. [Raleigh Herald]
Jan. 1914. The Winding Gulf Bank (organized in 1913) moves from Hotcoal to Beckley. (It was renamed the Beckley National Bank later that year.)
Apr. 1914. A fire at the Raleigh Register destroys all of its old files of papers [Beckley USA].
April 28, 1914. Mine disaster at Eccles results in 192 or 183 deaths, the second worst mine disaster in West Virginia history.
1915. Harley M. Kilgore (1893-1956) organizes the first high school in Raleigh County, serving as its principal for one year. The school was located at Eccles in the 1916-1917 school year.
Dec. 9, 1915. The Raleigh Register reports, “Fire believed to have originated from an overheated stove destroyed the East Beckley Baptist church between ten and eleven o'clock Sunday night. The church stood just outside of Wildwood cemetery and was a very good frame structure, worth probably $2,000.”
1916. Raleigh County’s first levy election for road construction is held.
Feb. 1916. The City of Beckley takes over the Beckley Volunteer Fire Department [Wood].
March 1, 1916. The Beckley Hotel opens at Main and North Kanawha Streets, the former site of the Hull Hotel. [It remained open until 1981.]
Oct. 1916. The Raleigh Register has a circulation of 2400. The owners at this time are Dr. W. W. Hume, G. W. Thompson, George W. Williams, and M. J. Meadows.
Dec. 19, 1916. A Beckley newspaper reports, “Fire at 7:30 o'clock Sunday night completely destroyed the Baptist church of this city, leaving nothing but the foundation.”
Jan. 1, 1918. The Beckley Messenger reports, “The coldest period of weather we have had in the county for years was last Saturday night and Sunday. Many heating plants of citizens of our city were put out of commission, and much suffering resulted therefrom. The lowest temperature was reported from Flat Top, at which point the thermometer is said to have registered 27 degrees below zero.” [Records show a low temperature in Beckley on Dec. 30, 1917, of -20. Lewisburg reported a temperature of -37 on Dec. 30, 1917, considered the lowest temperature in West Virginia history.]
Mar. 22, 1918. Beckley Institute is destroyed by fire.
Fall 1918. Beckley Public School, the first public high school, is established in Beckley. The building, on Kanawha Street, later housed Beckley Junior High School.
Apr. 16, 1919. Fire destroys two city landmarks, the old Hull store on the corner of Main and Kanawha streets and what was known as the old Trail building across the street.
July 1919. A Sunday night fire destroys six buildings and damaged three others. The entire business district of the city was threatened. The fire was discovered in the rear of the Toney Alloy grocery store, located in an old frame building on the corner of Main and Kanawha streets. The fire caused losses to two dozen businesses and individual property owners [Register-Herald, Apr. 12, 1986].
1920. The Bair Building is constructed. [The building was extensively remodeled in 2006 with the exterior restored to its original appearance. It was renamed the Bickey & Bair Building.]
Oct. 25, 1920. Democratic Presidential candidate James M. Cox speaks on Main Street in Beckley. The Democratic newspaper, the Raleigh Register, described his audience as the largest crowd that had ever assembled in Beckley, an estimated it variously as "over 20,000" and "upwards of 15,000."
1921. Charles Hodel becomes publisher of the Raleigh Register, becomes a semi-weekly during the same year. [It changed to tri-weekly publication in 1923.]
1921. The Egeria school becomes a high school. The building had been constructed in 1918 [Wood].
1921. Mark Twain High School opens in a two-story frame house. The school moved into its new brick building in 1922 according to Wood, although another source says the building was constructed in 1922 and classes there began in 1923. The principal was W. J. B. Cormany. [The last class graduated in 1965. Sen. Robert C. Byrd is a graduate of the school and was valedictorian of his class. The school was named by students of Stotesbury-McAlpin Junior High School]
Sept. 1921. The first public Jewish religious services are conducted, for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, in the Beckley Presbyterian Church on South Kanawha St., where the Beckley Fire Department was later located. A student rabbi from Cincinnati officiated. [According to Shirley Donnelly, the first Jew came to Raleigh County around 1909; his name was Max Sager. Ben Hurvitz, who later opened a store on Main Street, was living in Mount Hope by 1906. The S. N. Fisher Department Store in Beckley, owned by Samuel Fisher, was in operation by 1908, although he may have been living in Mount Hope at that time.]
Sept. 1921. South Beckley Land Co. selects the name Woodlawn Avenue for the street running through its development. The name was one of 300 entered in a contest. The Raleigh Register reported, "When the landscape layout is completed, it will present a beautiful park appearance which will make it one of the most desirable residential sections of the city" [Wood].
1922. King’s Daughter’s Hospital (later the Raleigh General Hospital) opens at Woodlawn and Park Avenues.
Feb. 1922. Construction is completed on Beckley’s tallest building, the new location of the Raleigh County Bank at Main and North Fayette Streets.
Apr. 13, 1922. The New York Times reports that the first serious outbreaks of violence since the coal strike began have occurred in the New River field, where the miners are reported to be restless and ready to rebel against the Federal injunction restraining further unionization activities. One non-union miner was shot while riding from Mount Hope to Oswald, near Beckley, and the home of a black non-union miner employed by the Raleigh Coal and Coke Co. at Sylvia, near Beckley, was dynamited.
Dec. 15, 1922. The governors of eleven states, who were attending the national governors conference in White Sulphur Springs, descend 250 feet to inspect a coal mine at Glen White. The governors came here by a special train and were meet at the Beckley train station and were escorted to the mine by a delegation of citizens.
1923. Besoco High School opens. [The school moved to a new building at Lego in 1926, but the name was changed to Stoco High School. Some newspaper articles in the 1920 and 1930s called in Lego High School. Stoco High School closed in 1976.]
June 1923. The Raleigh Register publishes its first Sunday edition.
1923. C. G. Peregoy (later Principal of Woodrow Wilson High School) begins his first teaching job at Eccles High School, which has 18 pupils and two teachers.
Dec. 31, 1923. The Palace Theatre opens. Its first film is Ashes to Vengeance [Wood].
1924. Beckley gets its first police department.
1924. Mark Twain High School graduates its first class of seven students: Fred X. Williams, Fred Combs, Ottie Goode, James Sleboda, Gaynes Stinnette, Albert Lindley, and Mona Noel.
1924. Shady Spring High School is established. [According to Wood, the school was established in 1923. According to the website of Shady Spring High School, classes began in the fall of 1924 and the first graduating class, in the spring of 1925, consisted of four students.]
1924. Clear Fork High School opens. [According to Wood, Clear Fork High School was established in 1923. According to an alumni website, the first graduating class was in 1929 (14 students), the largest was in 1960 (73 students), and the last graduation was 1992 (27 students).]
1924. Voters approve a bond issue to build a new high school in Beckley
Jan. 2, 1924. Fire damages the Lyric Theater at Heber and Neville Streets. [The fire was started by an arsonist, who also burned the Strand theater on west Neville Street on Jan. 11, 1924, and the Palace Theater on April 7, 1924. Information from Jim Wood.]
Feb. 12, 1924. Evening Post is founded, the first daily in Beckley.
Apr. 19, 1924. The Raleigh Register reports thousands of persons visited the Beckley National Bank on Main Street, taking part in its opening celebration. [Beckley Mayor Joe L. Smith was President of the bank at the time of its construction. In September 1959, Beckley National Bank opened a new facility at Neville Street and First Avenue and sold the Main Street building to Beckley Federal Savings and Loan Association (later Beckley Federal Savings Bank). That institution operated there until it merged into the Bank of Raleigh (later City National) in 1997. In 2002 Marz Attar of Highland Cellular donated the building to Forward Southern West Virginia.]
June 21, 1924. Waterdale, the county’s first public swimming pool, opens. It closed in Sept. 1963.
Nov. 1, 1924. William Jennings Bryan speaks in Beckley.
1925. Raleigh County mines produce 17,598,224 tons of coal, the most in any year [Wood].
1925. The two-room Montcoal High School opens. [In 1930, the school reached its first milestone, graduating seven students. In 1932 the school became known as Marsh Fork High School.]
November 1925. Woodrow Wilson High School opens on Park Avenue. Students in grades 10-12 moved to the new building; those in grades 7-9 remain in the building on Kanawha Street. The new building was dedicated on December 4.
1926. Stratton High School graduates its first class, with seven students. A 1998 article in the Register-Herald stated that two of the seven, Rev. W. H. Law and valedictorian Grace Brown Robinson, were still living.
Mar. 8, 1926. A second major disaster at the Eccles mine kills 19 men.
1927. Lincoln School opens, according to a 1963 newspaper article.
Apr. 26, 1927. The legislature grants a new charter enlarging the boundaries of the city, combining the offices of recorder and treasurer, and giving the mayor greater authority.
Feb. 1928. The first traffic signals are installed in Beckley, at Main and Kanawha, Main and Fayette, Main and Heber, Heber and Neville, and Fayette and McCreery [Wood].
June 1928. Raleigh Register becomes a daily.
1928. Joe L. Smith is elected to the U. S. House of Representatives, the first Congressman from Raleigh County. [He served in Congress from 1929 to 1945; Erland H. Hedrick of Beckley was elected in 1944.]
Oct. 22, 1928. Six miners die in an explosion in the McAlpin Coal Co. mine near McAlpin [Wood].
1929. The Richmond District high school is built [Wood].
1929. Charles Hodel purchases the Beckley Post-Herald.
May 6, 1929. The first talking motion picture, On Trial, is shown at the Lyric Theater [Wood].
May 31, 1929. Black Knight Country Club has its grand opening. One of the guests is Gov. William C. Conley. [The golf course opened a year later. In 1950, Raleigh Coal & Coke Co. ceased operations, and members purchased the club in April 1951. Five years later, members decided to move the club to its present location on the hill above Raleigh. Information from a Register-Herald article in 2004.]
Jan. 12, 1930. The newly constructed First Baptist Church on Neville Street is dedicated.
Jan. 19, 1930. An explosion in the Lillybrook Coal Co. No. 1 mine at Lillybrook kills eight men [Wood].
Mar. 18, 1930. Rutherford Sanitarium formally opens. [The name was changed to Pinecrest Sanitarium by the legislature in 1934. In 2009 the name was changed to Jackie Withrow Hospital.]
April-July, 1930. Raleigh County experiences a severe drought.
Dec. 23, 1931. A fire destroys the Pickus Department Store, Murphy’s Five and Ten, and the Rahall Department Store, all on Main Street. Constable James Campbell "Cam" McDowell dies fighting the fire [Wood].
May 30, 1932. The Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Building [later known as Soldiers Memorial Theatre] officially opens.
Sept. 2, 1932. The G. C. Murphy store holds its grand opening at Main and Heber Streets [Wood].
1933. Beckley College is established. [In 1991, the name of the college was changed to the College of West Virginia. In 2001, the school was renamed Mountain State University.]
1933. A new post office is constructed. [It served as the Federal Courthouse from 1961 to 1999.]
1936. The Beth-El Temple is constructed.
1937. Beckley-Mt. Hope Airport is dedicated.
1939. A new Stratton High School is built on South Fayette St.
1939. The Pagoda drive-in restaurant is constructed on Harper Road by George Patrick McCollam and his son Maurice Vincent McCollam, with the help of his two youngest sons, Robert Vincent McCollam and George William (Skeeter) McCollam. [The original sit-down Restaurant was added in late 1948. The grocery store was added sometime around the early 1950’s. The Pagoda Motel was built in 1962. The restaurant and grocery store burned in 1979. The restaurant was rebuilt about 1981. Information from Natalie Shaw and Pamela Lynn Ramieh]
Mar. 5, 1939. Beckley’s first radio station, WJLS, begins broadcasting, on 1210 kHz. The station was founded by Joe L. Smith, Jr., and named for his father, Joe L. Smith, former Mayor, newspaper editor, and Congressman.
April, 1939. Fire damages a dozen businesses in the Smith Building (or the Swan Cafe Building) on Main Street.
Aug. 1940. Construction of Grand View park is completed.
Dec. 17, 1940. An explosion in the Raleigh Coal and Coke Co. No. 4 mine at Raleigh kills eight men.
Dec. 6, 1941. At 11:59 p.m., Murell Ralsten, a descendant of Gen. Alfred Beckley, pushes a button switching Beckley from operator-processed calls to automatic dial telephones. Mayor A. K. Minter dials the first number—9286—the home of Beckley Chamber of Commerce President E. G. Larrick.
Mar. 18, 1942. Postmaster General Walker announces the establishment of a fourth class post office in MacArthur in Raleigh County on petition of the town’s citizens who said such action should be taken as an "example of their admiration and respect for General Douglas MacArthur and as being most timely and fitting." [The town was formerly called Hollywood, but a post office named Hollywood already existed in Monroe County.]
Mar. 28, 1942. Marsh Fork High School wins the Class B state basketball championship.
Sept. 4, 1942. Actress Greer Garson speaks at a war bond rally in Beckley [Wood].
Sept. 9, 1942. Beckley conducts its first wartime blackout [Wood].
Dec. 21, 1942. W. Frazier Tams, general manager of Gulf Smokeless Coal Co., is fatally injured in an accident in the company’s No. 2 tipple at Tams. He died the following day.
Aug. 9, 1946. WWNR radio station signs on the air, with 250 watts on 1450 kHz. It is Beckley’s second radio station.
Aug. 15, 1946. WCFC, operated by the Beckley Newspapers, signs on the air as the first FM station in West Virginia and the third radio station in Beckley. [The station suspended operations on June 30, 1951.]
Sept. 6, 1947. Voters approve a bond issue to partially fund the construction of an airport.
Nov. 5, 1947. Two prominent residents of Beckley are found murdered, with their bodies at the bottom of a ravine near Black Knight Country Club. They were E. Ray Bailey, manager of the furniture department of Beckley Hardware and Supply Co., and Mrs. Nellie Mae Combs Rand, the wife of a dentist.
1949. Construction of Valley Drive (later Robert C. Byrd Drive) begins.
Oct. 1950. Major construction is completed on the Veterans Hospital.
1952. Local businessmen Bob Long and Pete George open Pete and Bob’s Drive-In on Valley Drive. [The restaurant closed in 1979.]
July 4, 1952. The Raleigh County Memorial Airport is dedicated. The first Piedmont flights begin on July 15.
July 10, 1953. Gen. Omar Bradley speaks at the dedication of the Bradley Post Office.
Oct. 1953. Beckley Manufacturing begins production at its new plant, which manufactured transformers. The plant closed in 1977.
July 9, 1954. The Beckley Municipal Parking Lot on Prince St. officially opens.
Nov. 8, 1954. The West Virginia Turnpike officially opens.
Dec. 1954. Television station WOAY in Oak Hill begins broadcasting.
Jan. 4, 1956. Miners Memorial Hospital (later Beckley Appalachian Regional Hospital) opens.
August 26, 1956. Beckley Patrolman Carl Dale Buckland is shot and killed while making a traffic stop on South Fayette Street.
Sept. 7, 1958. Four persons are killed the crash of a C-45 Army plane on Pond Knob. They were Maj. George A. Smith and Capt. Edward H. Holcamp, United States Army, and civilians, Mr. and Mrs. William Hamilton from Huntington. The wreckage was found on Sept. 13. More information is here.
Dec. 15, 1958. Bald Knob Ski Slopes at Flat Top opens.
Apr. 11, 1960. Presidential candidate John F. Kennedy speaks in Beckley. Candidate Hubert Humphrey appeared two days earlier.
Oct. 19, 1960. Eleanor Roosevelt appears in Beckley on behalf of the Democratic candidate for President, John Kennedy. [She had also appeared in 1956 on behalf of Adlai Stevenson.]
Dec. 19, 1960. Fire destroys the two-room Colcord Elementary School.
June 27, 1961. The first public performance of the outdoor drama Honey in the Rock takes place at Grandview State Park. [On June 20, 1970, the second drama, Hatfields and McCoys, debuted.]
Jan. 12, 1962. Byrd Prillerman School is destroyed by fire [2007 Register-Herald article].
Feb. 9, 1962. The first major attraction—the Hammid-Morton Circus—appears at the new Raleigh County Armory [Wood].
July 24, 1962. The Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine officially opens to visitors.
Dec. 13, 1962. Fire destroys the three-room Sullivan Elementary School, leaving about 55 children without classrooms. The fire was blamed on an overheated coal stove flue.
1963. A National Weather Service station opens at the Raleigh County Memorial Airport.
1964. Beckley TeleCable establishes cable television service in Beckley.
Feb. 3, 1964. A new Beckley City Hall officially opens.
April 3, 1964. Nelson Rockefeller campaigns for President in Beckley.
Nov. 1964. Hulett C. Smith of Beckley is elected Governor of West Virginia.
Sept. 3-6, 1965. The first West Virginia Arts and Crafts Festival is held at the Armory.
July 17, 1966. Lake Stephens, Raleigh County’s largest park, is dedicated [Wood].
Fall 1966. Shady Spring High School moves to a new building, according to the school’s website.
May 18, 1967. The Municipal Parking Building between East Main and East Prince Streets officially opens.
Sept. 1967. Woodrow Wilson High School moves to a new building on Stanaford Road; its former building becomes Park Junior High School.
Nov. 15, 1967. Construction is completed on an extension of W. Va. 16 from Mabscott to Sophia, the county’s first strip of four-lane highway.
July 9, 1967. Main, Neville, and Prince streets are converted to one-way traffic, beginning at 12:01 a.m.
April 12, 1968. Sen. Robert Kennedy, a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, makes a campaign stop at Beckley Airport. He spoke to a crowd of about 2,500 persons, and said he was happy to return to his “second home.” Kennedy spent the night in Princeton and was scheduled to make stops in Logan,Welch, Keystone, Madison, Pineville, and Charleston the following day. He was assassinated seven weeks later.
1969. Gov. Arch Moore announces a delay in construction of Interstate 64 to study whether the highway should run parallel to U. S. 60 to Charleston.
1973. The Arab oil boycott temporarily reverses Raleigh County’s population decline of the 1950s and 1960s.
1973. Raleigh General Hospital opens its new facility on Harper Road.
Aug. 9, 1973. Groundbreaking takes place for the new Raleigh Mall at Skelton, the county’s first totally indoor shopping center [Wood].
Mar. 28, 1974. Gov. Moore announces Interstate 64 will be routed from Sam Black Church to a junction with the West Virginia Turnpike near Beckley.
May 12, 1975. Beckley police officer Sgt. David Lee Lilly, age 30, is killed during a traffic stop.
May 10, 1976. The Raleigh County Public Library moves into its new facility on North Kanawha St.
Sept. 20, 1976. Independence High School between Sophia and Coal City opens, taking students from the old Sophia and Stoco High Schools.
Sept. 1977. Liberty High School at Glen Daniel opens.
Oct. 4, 1977. A new terminal at Raleigh County Memorial Airport opens. A longer north-south runway is completed the following year.
Nov. 1977. Six persons are killed in a plane crash on the grounds of the U. S. Mine Health and Safety Academy near the airport. It is the county’s worst air tragedy.
Apr. 8, 1981. Crossroads Mall officially opens at Bradley.
June 4, 1982. Beckley Newspapers officially opens its new building on North Kanawha St.
Dec. 20, 1983. Winter Place ski slopes open at Flat Top.
July 15, 1988. The official opening of the final 35-mile segment of I-64 in West Virginia. Governor Moore speaks at the dedication, which is attended by 10,000 persons [Wood].
Feb. 1, 1989. Construction is completed on the State Office Building on Neville St.
Mar. 13, 1993. Snow totaling 30.9 inches falls from the night of March 12 to the morning of March 14. Crossroads and Raleigh malls were closed. The old H & M Shoe Store at Heber and Neville Streets collapsed.
Aug. 30, 1993. Groundbreaking is held for a new medium security federal penitentiary on Airport Road adjacent to Interstate 64.
Jan. 27-28, 1998. The heaviest snowfall in Beckley history causes widespread power outages; thirty-five inches of snow fall in a 24-hour period at Flat Top, establishing a new state record.
May 1, 1998. The new Beckley-Stratton Junior High School at Gray Flats is dedicated.
Aug. 16, 1999. Sen. Robert C. Byrd speaks at the dedication and naming ceremony for the new 101,000-square-foot Robert C. Byrd U. S. Courthouse and Federal Building in Beckley.
Oct. 1999. Beaver Coal Co. donates 75 acres of reclaimed mine land at Gray Flats for a proposed YMCA Southern West Virginia Youth Sports Complex. Plans call for eight soccer fields, baseball fields, and walking trails.
Sept. 29, 2000. Gov. Cecil Underwood visits Beckley to announce the creation of 450 new jobs and a $3.3 million investment by Applied Card Systems, which expects to open a facility at the Beckley Crossing shopping center by Nov. 6.
Oct. 31, 2000. Actor Charlton Heston speaks in Beckley on behalf of Presidential candidate George W. Bush.
2004. Beckley Elementary School opens on Grey Flats Road.
Jan. 3, 2003. Pat Reed is sworn in as the first woman on the Raleigh County Commission. She is a Democrat and a former member of the West Virginia House of Delegates.
July 2003. The West Virginia Supreme Court votes 4-1 to uphold a decision by the county school board to close Marsh Fork High School. [On Dec. 18, 2005, the school was destroyed by a fire set by an arsonist.]
March 30, 2004. Mountain State University wins the NAIA Division I men’s national championship, defeating Concordia University, 74-70, in Kansas City, Missouri.
July 9, 2004. The Democratic candidates for President and Vice President, John Kerry and John Edwards, speak at the Raleigh County Memorial Airport near Beckley. [Edwards returned to Beckley on Aug. 30-31.]
July 16, 2004. President Bush brings his campaign for re-election to Beckley, speaking at the Raleigh County Armory Civic Center. [It was the first time a current U. S. President visited Beckley.]
Sept. 13, 2004. Vice President Cheney speaks at the Raleigh County Memorial Airport. [It is believed to be the first time a current vice president visited Raleigh County.]
Aug. 29, 2006. Beckley Police Detective Cpl. Charles "Chuck" Smith, age 29, is killed as the result of multiple gunshot wounds he received while working undercover.
Jan. 30, 2007. Four people are killed and five others seriously injured in an accidental explosion at a convenience store in Ghent.
Feb. 8, 2007. The state House of Delegates declares the seat of Del. Ron Thompson of Raleigh County vacant after he had sent a letter asking to extend his absence until March 1. He had failed to appear for the swearing-in on Jan. 10.
Sept. 15, 2007. The Neville Street park is officially dedicated as the Jim Word Memorial Park.
March 20, 2008. Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama speaks at the Beckley-Raleigh County Convention Center.
March 26, 2008. Former President Bill Clinton speaks at the Beckley-Raleigh County Convention Center, campaigning on behalf of his wife, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton. [On Nov. 1, 2008, Clinton appeared at Jim Word Memorial Park on behalf of Sen. Barack Obama. On Nov. 1, 2010, he campaigned at Tamarack with Gov. Manchin, who was a candidate for U. S. Senate, and Rep. Nick Rahall, a candidate for re-election.]
Dec. 18-19, 2009. Heavy snow falls in southern West Virginia. Beckley received 20 inches and Oak Hill had 24 inches. [The winter of 2009-10 set an all-time record for most snow in Beckley.]
March 12-13, 2010. Severe flooding hits Raleigh County, resulting from heavy rain and an already-saturated ground because of recent snow. A woman in the Bradley area died when she was swept away by flood waters, and a rescuer from the Glasgow Volunteer Fire Department drowned when his rescue boat capsized.
April 5, 2010. Twenty-nine miners are killed in an explosion at a mine at Montcoal.
April 25, 2010. President Obama and Vice President Biden speak at the Beckley-Raleigh County Convention Center during a memorial service for the miners killed three weeks earlier.
Aug. 23, 2011. An unusual earthquake centered near Mineral, Virginia, is felt in Raleigh County.
Jan. 2, 2012. A fire destroys three buildings at the corner of Neville and Heber streets. One building was owned by the city and the others housed Trio Consignment and Kopy Xpress.
June 27, 2012. A severe storm leaves most of Raleigh County without power for several days.
July 10, 2012. The Higher Learning Commission announces it will withdraw the general accreditation of Mountain State University, effective Aug. 27. [The university closed at the end of 2012.]
Jan. 18, 2013. The new Marsh Fork Elementary School is dedicated.
Jan. 2, 2014. Bill O’Brien is elected interim mayor of Beckley, following the resignation of long-time mayor Emmett Pugh.