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Monday, August 29, 2016

Mt. Hope Lost First Game Played in New Stadium on Oct. 24, 1936

In the first game played in the newly constructed football stadium, the Mount Hope High School "Mustangs" football team lost 32 to 0 to the Greenbrier Military School's "Cadets." The game, played on Saturday evening, was Mount Hope's homecoming game.

Mount Hope Municipal Stadium

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Pax Once Had a Bank

When coal mining boomed during the early 1900s, banks sprang up in several of the smaller towns in Fayette County, offering banking services to the local mining companies and their employees.

Located in Pax, WV, the Bank of Pax operated from October 1, 1915 until September 4, 1931. Dr. A, L. Hunter was the bank's president and Otis Lively its vice-president. In 1921, the Bank of Pax moved into a handsome new building in town constructed of native sandstone, shown in the photo below.

Former Bank of Pax Building, Pax, WV
The Bank of Pax was one of several West Virginia banks closed during The Great Depression. Following the bank's closure, the Fayette County Board of Education used the building as a school house for a while.  Year later, the building briefly served as city hall.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

1950 Newspaper Reveals When Beury Monument Was Erected

Beury Monument in Quinnimont
It's time to unfurl the "Mission Accomplished" banner and to celebrate by writing another new post. For today, after being on the lookout for it for decades, I  finally stumbled upon a credible source that cites the year that the granite monument was erected in Quinnimont, WV, honoring Joseph Lawton Beury for shipping the first railroad car of coal from the New River Coalfield in 1873.

Now, with this great mystery solved, instead of saying the monument was "probably erected sometime in the 1920s" I can more precisely say it was erected "during the summer of 1921." [1]  Achieving better precision with fewer keystrokes is always a good thing, no?

But unfortunately, just as one Beury mystery was solved, another somehow managed to rear its ugly head. Let me elaborate...

When Joe Beury first came to open the coal mine at present-day Quinnimont, the area was quite literally, a wilderness. According to local legend, Beury gave the settlement that he helped forge, its name.

The story is oft' repeated that when Beury first came to the area, he and his wife lived in "a rude log cabin located on Laurel Creek" for about five years. But according to an old Shirley Donnelly newspaper column from 1962 [2], "One of the cabins that the pioneer coal operator lived in was removed in 1962 by a Huntington man, who took the cabin materials to his home at Huntington, where the cabin was rebuilt and restored."

Does one of the original Beury cabins from the 1870s still survive?  Developing...

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Insurance Salesman Among Those Killed in 1914 Eccles Mine Disaster

It was payday at the Eccles mine and an ambitious insurance salesman had been permitted to go inside the  mines to sell new life and accident policies to workers and collect payments. The agent had managed to sign several miners up for coverage before a violent explosion tore through the workings of the Eccles No. 5 mine, at about 2:30 p.m.

Freeman Linville, an agent of the Providence Life and Accident Company of Charleston, W.Va., was the first victim to be found by the rescuers. At the young age of 32, he had achieved the dubious distinction of being "the only known non-miner to die in a West Virginia mine."

Monday, August 15, 2016

"Pest House" Probably Never Existed on Red Ash Island

For decades, various local history buffs and even some National Park Service (NPS) personnel have recited accounts which usually go something like this: "When a smallpox epidemic swept through the towns of the New River Gorge during the 1890s, health officials decided the unoccupied Red Ash Island was the perfect location for a quarantine camp."

While such claims seem somewhat believable at first glance, they don't seem to stand up to scrutiny very well. There is much evidence that the "pest house" in question was not  located on Red Ash Island. Instead, the evidence points to a location near the mouth of Ephraim Creek, on the opposite side of New River across from the so-called "island."

Circa 1899 panorama showing "Red Ash Island" (view enlarged)
Photo credit: U.S. Geological Survey, Department of the Interior/U. S. Geological Survey.