• August 16, 1851 — In the early morning hours of Sunday, along the wooded hills of Ben Creek near Willamson, a posse under the direction of W. W. Phaup in an attempt to flush out a band of bandits threw 10 sticks of dynamite into the trees and underbrush in order to try and recover the Glen-Alum payroll that had been taken earlier in the week. At the end of the skirmish, 11 lay dead; all five bandits, three of the posse, and three more victims of the bandits. It was believed that the men were part of the Black Hand society, an underworld society of Italian immigrants that, during the first decades of the 20th century, sought to extort money from other Italian immigrants. These men, it was believed had went to Elkhorn after the robbery and were to mingle in with the Italian immigrants on War Eagle Mountain, but were foiled by the quick response of the posse who had went for days without sleep in order to corner the men.
• August 17, 1976 — The Mine Health and Safety Academy in Beckley was dedicated. A total of 40 men were inaugurated into the freshmen class of the National Mine Health and Safety Academy. The men underwent 18 months of training in coal mine health and safety at the academy directed by James R. O’Neal of Oak Hill and Washington, D. C. as well as a staff of 6 – 10 instructors on subjects ranging from mine ventilation, blasting, dust and other safety related subjects as well as English, mathematics, the social aspects of the industry, environmental problems, and the background of the development of the Bureau of Mines among other topics. In his remarks at the dedication ceremony, the Interior Department secretary also paid tribute to U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W. Va., for his efforts to have Congress appropriate money for the new facility, and the Raleigh County Airport Authority and the Raleigh County Commission for donating the 70-acre site for the facility. Senator Byrd, who was the keynote speaker at the dedication, told the audience that coal has been and continues to be the backbone of the West Virginia economy. “Our coal deposits in American will meet our energy needs for several centuries,” the senator said. “It is obvious the future of coal is bright, but mining the coal requires the labor of men.” The academy, which was constructed over a period of four years, consists of an administration section, academic wing, dormitory wing, mining equipment shop, equipment storage section and recreation section. It is the seventh permanent Federal Academy joining the Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, Maritime, Navy, and FBI Academies. As of this year, the academy classrooms and labs can accommodate 600 students and dormitory space for 320.
• August 18, 1749 — French explorer Celeron de Blainville planted a lead plate along the Ohio River at present-day Point Pleasant, claiming the territory for France. The first aggressive movement by the French for possession of the Ohio Valley was the sending out of a flotilla from Montreal 15th of June 1749, by the Governor General of Canada, which consisted of large boats and canoes propelled by oars and paddles. The flotilla contained 216 French and Canadians and 55 indians, under the command of Captain Bienville De Celeron. On the 29th of July they reached the Allegheny River, and as the large boats followed by the smaller ones moved out into the Ohio. The expedition carried with it lead plates inscribed in raised letters in the French language, taking possession of all the country watered by the large tributaries of the Ohio river for the French Crown. The plates read, “In the year 1749, reign of Louis XV., King of France, We, Celeron, commandant of a detachment sent by Monsieur the Marquis de la Galissoniere, Commandant General of New France, to re-establish tranquillity in some Indian villages of these cantons, have buried this plate at the mouth of the river Chinodashichetha, the 18th August, near the river Ohio, otherwise Beautiful River, as a monument of renewal of possessions, which we have taken of the said river Ohio, and of all those which fall into it, and of all the lands on both sides, as far as to the sources of said rivers; the same as were enjoyed or ought to have been enjoyed, by the preceding Kings of France, and that they have maintained it by their arms and by treaties, especially by those of Ryswick, Utrecht, and Aix-la- Chapelle.” Three of these plates were found. The other two were broken but the one found at Point Pleasant is perfect except for a little corrosion on one corner. The Wheeling plate has never been found on account of the locality of its burial blace [sic] not being clearly given, but it is known to have been placed on the north bank of Wheeling Creek at its mouth, and it is though[t] perhaps to be under the approach to the Baltimore and Ohio Bridge. If it has not been washed away and lost.
• August 19, 1899 — W. E. Stathers, superintendent of Weston Hospital for the Insane, was found not guilty of charges that he engaged in improper relations with female employees. During a a special meeting of the Board of Directors of the hospital, several female employees were questioned by the board in order to find out whether or not the superintendent was having improper relations with them. Beginning with a Mrs. Mary L. Sommerville, a former patient and, at the time, an employee in charge of the storeroom. After stating that, “the Superintendent going to her room and the occasions when he endeavored to make her ‘his pet.’ “ the defense had their turn, pointing out her previous private life and character. Ms Sommerville, being the star witness for the prosecution was then subjected to a minute breakdown of her life, her unhappiness with her married life, and numerous letters to and from Morris Smith, a relative of Dr. Strathers. These love letters were used in an attempt to or the purpose of influencing the board to discredit her statements of Dr. Stathers misconduct toward her. Another witness, a Harriet Green, was brought in and questioned about a trip that she had undertaken with Strathers where she traveled under the name “Maude Strathers” Throughout the day, woman after woman were brought before the board, all of them stating to some measure of impropriety pushed upon them by the doctor, from a lingering hand to a suggestion of “fun trips” to be taken with him. One Miss Alfaretta Wilson stating, “the doctor coming to her room, after she had retired on the night of the 30th of April. He found her door unlocked and entered the room, in which an electric light was burning. He extinguished the light, sat down upon the bed and tried to put his arms around her. Some conversation ensued and he attempted to kiss her, he told her to meant no harm, and said she would never lose anything by being his little pet,” and telling her to deny to anyone who asked that he was in her room saying that it was “one of Grace Bussy’s big lies” The defense then brought a host of witnesses telling the board that they wouldn’t believe either of the star witnesses “on oath” and several young ladies who further dragged the two through the mud. The order that came through on that day read, “On motion, it is ordered that the board proceed to consider the charges filed against the Superintendent, and all evidence presented in connection therewith, and after mature consideration the board is of the opinion that the prosecution has failed to sustain the charges so filed against said W. E. Stathers, Superintendent, and find him not guilty as charged.” However, when the board met in January, they gave Strathers no other alternative but to resign his post.
• Aug. 20, 1961 — The trial of Bluefield patrolman Ted Land began in the Mercer County Courthouse over a 1950 robbery of about $1,200 from the Crowder Freman Auto Agency. According to Bluefield Police Lt. Charles Fox the burglary occurred at about 1 a.m. on Sept. 15/16, 1950 when he suggested to Land that they rob the place. Fox testified while he was working as a desk sergeant and Land as a patrolman they got together to find out what was in Crowder-Freemans as they both had access to the building when an employee forgot to lock the door one night. During a routine “out on dinner” break, the two grabbed some tire tools and working with a spatula, worked the sliding glass door open that was held in place with just a stick. Although the opening was too small for Land, Fox entered the store room and opened the door so his friend could enter; they then proceeded to the upstairs office and attempted to pry open the safe, during which the safe crashed to the floor, opening the door. After they grabbed the cash they went out the show room door, flipping the lock catch as they went and returned to HQ where they split the money. After a robust cross examination revealing that Fox was not only implicated in the robbery, but gambling and drinking as well as sundry unrelated arrests in recent years. Fox and Land were only two of seven that were indicted on breaking and entering charges into Crowder Freeman. All were removed from the force.
Aug. 21, 1996 — The body of a woman was discovered in Jimmy Lewis Lake on Nemours Road. Two fishermen found the body about 4 p.m. that was later identified as Mary Regina Cline of Galax. According to the medical examiner, it appeared as though the woman was beaten before being thrown into the water and had been in the lake for about two to five days. Kenneth Junior Manns of Bluefield was arrested for first degree murder, but pled not guilty. Cline was found to have broken teeth and bruising consistent with a beating about her head. Mann was found with bandages on his hand and witnesses told of hearing a man and woman fight at the lake and seeing a “red Ford Escort” leaving the lake later on. Mann’s lawyer later fought to have the testimony of the Medical Examiner removed stating that the injury looked to be a tooth mark. Genetic testing and eyewitness testimony stating that Mann had picked up his girlfriend “with a hurt hand and all wet” later on the evening in question led to his conviction in June of 1997.
• On August 24, 1852 — Rufus Maxwell of Lewis County was issued a patent for his improvement in churns. This new innovation applied the use of a spinning motion instead of the traditional up and down motion in order to turn milk into butter. A crank connected to the frame with the supporting frame so that the center of the bottom of the churn may revolve about a circle causing the milk to flow rapidly around the churn. A rack for the purpose of breaking this current was set in the middle causing “commotion and friction” Historically, the most common churn was the plunge churn, or the “up and down” where the action used a plunger in the center with a flat center with holes to allow milk to flow and agitate. Whole milk was poured in and vigorous plunging would produce butter. The addition of the crank allowed for a quicker and cleaner product.