Battle of Droop Mountain

• June 29, 1899 — A prize fight held at Fries Park, Parkersburg, between Kid Wanko of Parkersburg and Felix Carr of St. Albans led to Carr’s death. After shaking hands the men went to work and fought four vicious rounds with regulation 5 ounce boxing gloves. The fighting was very fast, but it was soon apparennt [sic] that Carr was no match for his opponent who landed blows at will without getting any punishment in return. The fifth round had only fairly begun when Carr received a blow alongside the head which sent him to his knees, while he grasped the ropes with one hand and rested the other hand on the floor. While the referee was counting off the ten seconds Carr fell forward on his face and made several ineffectual attempts to rise. He was not able to do so and when the fight was decided in favor of Wanko Carr’s seconds assisted him to his corner. He was rubbed down and no one supposed that he was seriously hurt, but in a few minutes he began vomiting and then went into convulsions. His condition was so alarming that a messenger was despatched for a physician. Dr. Davidson was summoned but before he arrived Carr was placed in a hack and brought to town at 12 o’clock. He was taken to a room at the Commercial and Dr. Bailey also assisted Dr. Davidson, but Carr was beyond human aid and lingered in an unconscious condition until a few minutes after 1 o’clock this morning when death ensued. The prize money was for $50 and a portion of the gate receipts. Wanko took it greatly to heart and did not make any attempt to escape and was charged with murder. A coroners inquest was convened to determine the cause of death. Wanko reported that the last blow he struck was comparatively light and landed on the right jaw below the ear. It was not a full force blow by any means and he was surprised when Carr went to his knees and was counted out, as none of the blows he had delivered were of the knockout kind. After Carr was taken to his corner he went over and shook hands with him, and he thought he would be all right within a few minutes. Ben Morrison, Wanko’s backer, says that Wanko did not deliver a knockout blow. He, as well as others thought it was just a case of quit on Carr’s part, and they had no idea that anything serious would result. E.E. Wright, Carr’s backer, says that Carr has been suffering with a touch of the malaria for several weeks, and while not in a very good condition he thought he was able to go through with it. The referee, J. H. Nightingale, also thought that Carr wasn’t in good condition, but didn’t think that a k knockout blow was struck. According to Dr. J. H. Kelley, who assisted at the post mortem, Carr’s death was caused by a blow on the head, but that his physical condition was such that a much lighter blow would have caused death than had he been in physical condition. As he was he could have stood very little violent exercise or hard labor. Violent exercise would have caused death from heart failure. The blow caused Carr’s death but the same blow might not have killed a well man. Wanko was conviced of voluntary manslaughter, but the verdict was overturned. He then quit prizefighting and worked for the B & O Railroad.

• June 30, 1931 — Gas prices in the Bluefield area that were jumped to 24 cents per gallon were restored to the “normal” price of 20.6 cents per gallon after distributors were given the ok by their main offices in order to compete with the Virginia side of the state line. According to reports, the local Gulf and Amoco stations were the first to restore the prices with Purol and Standard stations were waiting on the confirmations for Bluefield to return to the competitive pricing. Although the changes were expected to be short lived, the oil men in Bluefield contended that if they had dropped the price five cents, they would be paying their customer to buy gas because “the low price on the Virginia side was made possible by the distributors in southwestern Virginia that have been engaged in a cut price war for several weeks.” The Roaoke Oil Company along with others in the distribution area raised their braces to 21.3 cents per gallon for regular and 22.3 cents per gallon for high-test in order to make a more uniform price throughout the state.

• June 30, 1935 — The toll that had existed between Bluefield WV and Bluefield VA was eliminated allowing callers in the Two Virginias to contact each other at the normal exchange rate thanks to Bluefield VA City Manager, Robert Baylor.

• July 1, 1914 — Prohibition took effect in West Virginia. The Yost Law that, “prohibits the manufacture, sale and keeping for sale of malt, vinous or spirituous liquors, wine, porter, ale, beer or any intoxicating drink, mixture or preparation of like nature, except the manufacture, sale and keeping for sale for medicinal, pharmaceutical, mechanical, sacramental or scientific purposes, and the manufacture and sale of denatured alcohol for industrial purposes…” took effect in the state, a full five years before the 18th Amendment was ratified nationally. This was thanks in part to the participation of the Women’s Christian Temperance movement in West Virginia. In the early 1900s, WCTU members worked for women’s right to vote in the hope that women would elect upstanding public officials who would support a ban on alcohol. West Virginia temperance activists waged a highly effective campaign to pass a prohibition amendment. The night before, huge quantities of booze were sold to those trying to stock up before the ban with some sales in Charleston being at least $15,000 was spent for whiskey and beer the day before and possibly reaching as high as $25,000 the day of. Despite the temperance movement’s legal successes, the manufacture and sale of alcohol continued underground and bootlegging flourished in West Virginia. The violence and corruption of the illegal liquor trade led to the national repeal of Prohibition in 1933, although some West Virginia towns and counties elected to remain dry for many years.

• July 2, 1949 — The Ritchie County community of Mole Hill changed its name to Mountain. Beginning as a radio stunt to determine whether a mountain could be made out of a molehill, the life of this community was changed by the Borden Milk radio show “County Fair” and the rural community of Mole Hill, birthplace of John J. Cornwell, of Romney, distinguished governor of West Virginia during World War I, with great pomp and circumstance, took down the Post Office sign and officially declared their name change to Mountain. Radio contestant, Bob Falk, was offered $500, to get Mole Hill switched to that of Mountain. Contacts were made with the United States Post Office department, which approved the change and the necessary signatures of the residents were obtained on a petition. All maps, road signs, post office records and other official documents were “corrected” with the result being that a “Mountain” was truly made out of a “Mole Hill!” After 50 years, in 1999, the community was ready to change it back. After the hoopla and coverage by Life magazine, by 1996, the community failed to see any popularity or notoriety had failed to come about and the promises of a new road in return for its friendly cooperation failed to come about. Although a long time resident wrote to then Governor Cecil Underwood in 1999, the name has stuck, regardless of the joke.

• July 3, 1901 — Fire continued to ravage the town of Huntington after starting at the Adelphia Hotel early the previous morning and quickly spread to destroy two city blocks in the heart of the city. The reservoir was completely depleted with, “not a gallon of water” available to try and check the flames. It was guessed that a lightning strike had hit the hotel after a fairly fierce storm had passed over the city and the lack of the city to keep the water works up with the recent growth had contributed to the fire.

• July 4, 1928 — Droop Mountain Battlefield State Park was dedicated. One of the most significant Civil War battles to take place in West Virginia was fought November 6, 1863, on Droop Mountain in the town of Hillsboro in Pocahontas County. The stage was set for the battle in September after Union forces suffered a defeat at the Battle of Chickamauga. Federal commanders feared Union troops would be pushed from Tennessee entirely so they sent cavalry units from West Virginia to attack the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad in southwestern Virginia. They hoped an attack on the railroad would get the attention of federal commanders and force them to withdraw from east Tennessee to protect it. Official casualties at Droop Mountain included 119 Union and an estimated 275 Confederates killed, wounded, or missing marking the decline of Confederate strength in the mountains. An estimated at ten thousand people attended the ceremonies with speakers Hon. John D[.] Sutton, chairman of the Legislative Commission which bought and marked the battlefield. Judge George W. McClintic, Judge of the United States Court for the Southern District of West Virginia, and a native of Pocahontas county; Governor Howard Gore, Governor of West Virginia; Hon. E. T. England, Congressman from this the Sixth District; Hon. Alfred Taylor, former congressman and nominee of his party for Governor of West Virginia. Among the veterans present were M. J. McNeel, N.D. McCoy, R. F. Diehl, of the Confederate army; J. W. Tyler, J.D. Sutton and Peter McCarty of the Union army. The park is now famous for reenactments of the Battle of Droop Mountain, which was the last major American Civil War conflict in West Virginia. Reenactments occur in October of even-numbered years.

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