CHARLESTON — The following events happened on these dates in West Virginia history. To read more, go to e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia at www.wvencyclopedia.org.
October 3, 1990: Singer Eleanor Steber passed away. Seber was born on July 17, 1914 in Wheeling. She attended the New England Conservatory of Music, studied voice in New York City, and won the Metropolitan Opera radio auditions in 1940. She remained a leading soprano with the Metropolitan Opera until the 1960s, singing 404 performances of 33 roles, made more than 100 recordings and concertized around the world,
October 4, 1977: Lawyer and raconteur Samuel Blackwell Chilton died. The nephew of U.S. Sen. W. E. Chilton, Chilton was Charleston High School’s first football coach. An authority on horse racing. He lobbied the legislature for the passage of the bill permitting horse racing in West Virginia, and was recalled in his obituary as the father of the state’s racing industry.
October 5, 1918: The West Virginia superintendent of health sent a letter to county health officers ordering that all cases of the Spanish Influenza be reported, all affected persons be quarantined, and all public places be closed due to the disease epidemic that had swept across West Virginia. Despite these measures, 71,079 West Virginians were reported as having contracted influenza between October 15 and November 15, and 2,818 were reported as having died.
October 6, 2012: The Wheeling Jamboree, West Virginia’s premier live audience country music program, began broadcasting from the theater of Wheeling Island Hotel, Casino & Racetrack after a short hiatus from broadcasting when the Capitol Theater changed hands and the show lost its venue.
October 7, 1900: Poet Roy Lee Harmon, the founder of the West Virginia Poetry Society and the state’s poet laureate under four governors for 38 years was born in Danville. He was elected to the House of Delegates in 1946 and served four intermittent terms. In addition to his writing and political career, Harmon was a television host in Oak Hill during the 1950s.
October 8, 1993: Reverend Bernard L. Coffindaffer of Nicholas County passed away. While napping in 1984, he received what he described as a vision of the spirit of God, telling him to erect crosses, first in West Virginia, then in all 50 states. In clusters of three, 20 feet tall, the centermost yellow and the others light blue, these mysterious crosses appeared along the highways of West Virginia and much of the Southeast in the 1980s and 1990s.
October 9, 2001: Virginia Ruth Egnor, known as “Dagmar” passed away in Ceredo, Wayne County. Born in Logan County, she grew up in Huntington before moving to New York City to pursue acting and modeling. In 1950, her acting career took off when she was hired to be on NBC’s Broadway Open House, the network’s first late-night television show. Dagmar’s deadpan delivery of punch lines and clever misuse of words made her instantly popular. She appeared on stage with Milton Berle and Frank Sinatra, and on Edward R. Murrow’s Person to Person television show. Her picture, taken by photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt, appeared on the July 16, 1951, cover of Life magazine.
e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia is a project of the West Virginia Humanities Council. For more information, contact the West Virginia Humanities Council, 1310 Kanawha Blvd. E., Charleston, WV 25301; (304) 346-8500; or visit e-WV at www.wvencyclopedia.org.