USS West Virginia

CHARLESTON – The following events happened on these dates in West Virginia history. To read more, go to e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia at

Nov. 15, 2010: The landmark Aracoma Hotel in Logan was damaged by fire. It was demolished later that year. Built in 1917 at a cost of $50,000 by Harvey Ghiz, a Syrian immigrant, the hotel was the largest downtown building erected during the wave of fireproof construction that followed Logan’s great fire of January 1912. During the Mine Wars, women of the town set up an emergency food station in the lobby to supply meals and sundries to the troops, police, and other anti-union forces quartered in Logan. Notable guests at the hotel have included the Cincinnati Reds baseball team (1923), evangelist Billy Sunday (1923), Eleanor Roosevelt (1939), and John F. Kennedy and Edward Kennedy during the presidential primary campaign of 1960.

Nov. 16, 1734: Samuel Washington was born at Pope’s Creek, Virginia. Samuel, a younger brother of George Washington, was the first of several members of the Washington family to live in what is now the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia. He moved to present Jefferson County in 1770, building the limestone mansion known as Harewood located near Charles Town. Harewood was inherited by Samuel’s son, George Steptoe Washington. The house, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, remains in the Washington family as a private residence.

Nov. 16, 1823: Politician and industrialist Henry Gassaway Davis, known in the early 20th century as West Virginia’s ‘‘Grand Old Man,’’ was born in Baltimore, Md. Davis became a brakeman for the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad in 1842, later serving as conductor and station agent. Traveling the route from Washington to Cumberland, he noted the potential wealth of forestlands in areas that soon became part of West Virginia. Davis, realizing the relationship of political power to business, won election to the House of Delegates in 1865 and the West Virginia Senate in 1868. In 1870, Davis helped lead the Democratic Party to victory, which began the party’s quarter-century control of West Virginia. He was the Democratic nominee for vice president in 1904, the oldest person ever nominated by a major party for national office.

Nov. 17, 1927: Composer and performer Robert Drasnin was born in Charleston. He performed with classic combos and big bands such as Tommy Dorsey and Les Brown, and scored music for movies and television. In 1966, he wrote the score for CBS Playhouse’s Death of a Salesman and wrote the scores for 26 made-for-television movies as well as two feature films. He was inducted into the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame in 2008. In 2015 he died after suffering a fall. He was 87.

Nov. 18, 2007: Country singer Chickie Williams died. As wife of musician Doc Williams, she performed as a vocalist with his Border Riders band and appeared on the Wheeling Jamboree radio show.

Nov. 19, 1854: Poet Danske Dandridge was born in Copenhagen. The daughter of an American ambassador, she lived in Shepherdstown from age 19, where her work was published in Harper’s and The Century. Both of her homes, The Bower and Rosebrake, are Jefferson County landmarks.

Nov. 19, 1899: Sculptor Gladys Tuke was born in Linwood, Pocahontas County. Tuke was a member of the original artist colony at The Greenbrier; during World War II she taught at Ashford General Hospital, and later established a pottery and sculpture studio in White Sulphur Springs.

Nov. 19, 1900: William Page Pitt was born in New York City. In 1926, Pitt joined the faculty of what was then Marshall College. In his 45-year career at Marshall, he built its journalism program into one with dozens of classes and hundreds of students. Today, Marshall University’s W. Page Pitt School of Journalism and Mass Communications is named in his honor.

Nov. 19, 1909: The Lincoln County courthouse was burned. With coal, oil and gas, and timber booming, the arson was suspected to have been done to destroy land records and confuse titles.

Nov. 19, 1921: The USS West Virginia was christened. It was one of the six battleships at Pearl Harbor on the morning of December 7, 1941, . Although badly damaged at Pearl Harbor, suffering massive damage from torpedoes and bombs in the surprise attack, the USS West Virginia rose from that disaster to take revenge on the Japanese navy. The ship went back to sea in July 1944 and joined the Seventh Fleet for the invasion of the Philippines. At the battle of Surigao Strait on October 24–25, part of the larger Battle of Leyte Gulf, West Virginia led the line and was the first American ship to open fire. The West Virginia was in Tokyo Bay on September 2, 1945, for the surrender ceremony, the only Pearl Harbor survivor present.

Nov. 20, 1894: Eight men were killed in a coal mine disaster at the Blanche Mine near Colliers, Brooke County. They were using a dangerous method called ‘‘shooting from the solid,’’ meaning that they blasted the coal loose without first undercutting it. The accident caused the deaths of seven workers and wounded eleven

Nov. 20, 1917: Robert C. Byrd was born in North Wilkesboro, North Carolina. He was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1958 and remained in office until his death in 2010.

Nov. 20, 1968: An explosion at Consolidation Coal Company’s No. 9 mine near Farmington killed 78 men. The disaster brought national attention to the issue of mine safety.

Nov. 21, 1810: Allen Taylor Caperton was born in Monroe County. Caperton served in the Confederate Senate during the Civil War and in the U.S. Senate from 1875 to 1876.

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

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