Corridor Q opening

• September 15, 1906 — Songwriter Walter E. ‘‘Jack’’ Rollins was born in Keyser in Mineral County. Rollins is known for writing the lyrics to “Here Comes Peter Cottontail” in 1949 and “Frosty the Snowman in 1950.” Working with Steve Nelson, Rollins created the song “Smokey the Bear in 1952 for the US Forest Service. Rollins wrote for some big stars of the day, eventually publishing over 500 songs. He was inducted into the WV Music Hall of Fame in 2011.

• September 15, 1875 — The 14th governor of West Virginia, Henry Drury Hatfield was born in the heart of Hatfield country on Mate Creek, near Matewan in what is today Mingo County. In 1906, he ran on the Republican ticket for the McDowell Co. Court and served as its president for two years before heading to the WV Senate in 1908. In 1912 at age 37, Henry Hatfield was elected governor, to that date West Virginia’s youngest governor ever. Among the progressive measures that passed while Hatfield was governor were a Public Service Commission, a workers’ compensation program, direct election of U. S. Senators, women’s suffrage, a primary election bill, a corrupt practice act, a mine inspection bill, and restrictions on the mine guard or “company thug” system of private policing in the coalfields as well as a workers compensation law. During the Mine Wars, The “Hatfield Contract” gave the workers a 9 hour work day, the right to select their own weighmen, semimonthly pay, and non-discrimination to union miners.

• September 16, 1795 — President George Washington wrote Secretary of War Timothy Pickering proposing that the federal government establish an armory and arsenal at Harpers Ferry. In the 1790s, President George Washington feared another war with England and possibly with France. When the 3rd Congress passed legislation in 1794 to establish arsenals to manufacture and store military arms, it allowed President George Washington to select where the arsenals would be located. In the letter to Secretary of War Timothy Pickering, Washington touted the advantages of Harpers Ferry at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers. "One is the resources. One is the waterpower. And, one is the fact that it's fairly far inland and wouldn't be subject to enemy raids along the coast...It has been represented to me, that this spot affords every advantage that could be wished for water-works to any extent, and that no place is more capable of complete defense at small expense.

• September 17, 1972 — Presidential candidate George McGovern campaigned in Huntington. An outspoken opponent to the Vietnam War, and was a leader of the Commission on Party Structure and Delegate Selection (also known as the McGovern-Fraser Commission that would ensure greater democratic input into how nominees were selected by examining current rules and make recommendations designed to broaden participation in the nominating process. The 1972 campaign was mostly a grass-roots campaign that appealed to younger voters and touted a "demogrant" platform of social aid and reform. The stopover at Marshall University had a large turnout of about 4,000 young voters who saw McGovern as a spokesman for the youth of America. Unfortunately in the general election McGovern lost to incumbent Richard Nixon in one of the biggest landslides in U.S. electoral history, winning only Massachusetts and Washington D.C.

• September 18, 1973 — Eastern segment of Corridor “Q” Opened in Mercer County. Although the 2-lane interstate 460 had seen to the needs of the citizens of Mercer County, the Appalachian Development Highway Project began a series of improvements in the early 1970s to open another 11.2 miles of what was called Corridor Q. At a then estimated cost of $62M, Corridor Q changed the two-lane US 460 to a four-lane beginning at the West Virginia border at Glen Lynn, Va. and continuing to the W. Va./Va. border at Bluefield. Construction on the corridor began in February of 1970 with some of the most difficult terrain engineers had to deal with, according to newspaper reports at the time. The corridor in Mercer County would cover about 13 miles beginning with a 1,700 feet plunge into Virginia at Glen Lynn, connect to I77 in Princeton with a clover-leaf interchange, and continue toward Bluefield where a 100 foot high bridge would be included in the design. The project in Mercer County involved seven separate projects and expanded US 460 a tenth-of-of-a-mile at a time. The Eastern Segment, which went from the Princeton to Va. border at Glen Lynn was opened by Gov. Arch Moore at the foot of Oakvale Mountain to a large crowd that included various engineers and directors for the project, Del. Bill Stafford of Mercer, and Sheriff John Hopkins Jr. with his deputies. Emcee Bill Davis of Oakvale stated that the event, “was like a dream come true. It’s hard to realize hat you can now drive from the West Virginia Turnpike to Virginia on a four-lane road.”

• September 19, 1907 — A meeting called by Governor William Dawson to discuss immigration to West Virginia was quickly adjourned amidst speculation that its termination was due to the presence of UMWA president John Mitchell.  With strikes building from labor disputes, there was a great need for laborers in the state to keep up with demands for coal and operators looked to Europe to fill those jobs. According to a labor journal of the time, “Operators of West Virginia, hoping to defeat the legitimate objects of the United Mine Workers of America, have sent agents to great Britain and Europe for the purpose of persuading skilled miners to immigrate to the United States and accept employment in the mines of West Virginia.” However, when the time came for the Governor and his invitees to sit down and discuss how to increase immigration to the state, they were joined by the presence of President John Mitchell, of the United Mine Workers of America. Receiving notice that the Governor had become quite suddenly ill, and after only one speech by Sam Dixon, the operator of the Fayette mine and Raleigh County political boss, the meeting was adjourned to await a call from the Dawson to reconvene.

• September 20, 1914 — WV Congressman and historian Ken Hechler was born near Roslyn, Long Island, New York. Graduating from Swarthmore College, and later earning M.A. and Ph.D. degrees at Columbia University. Hechler was an Army veteran of WWII and served on President Truman’s staff as a speech writer and researcher from 1949 to 1953. In 1957, Hechler moved to West Virginia to teach at Marshall College (now University) and in the following year, ran for and won the Fourth Congressional Seat in the US House of Representatives. In Congress, he earned a reputation as a liberal Democrat and in 1965, he was the only member of Congress to march with Dr. Martin Luther King at Selma, Alabama. He was an outspoken advocate for mine safety and a fierce foe of the then popular mountain top removal mining. He served 18 years in the House and worked tirelessly for environmental and human rights issues. An intellectual with a gift for showmanship, Mr. Hechler took his populist message to his constituents by driving hundreds of thousands of miles over the years to towns in his trademark red Jeeps that had signs reading, “Ken Hechler: Your Servant in Congress.” In 1976, he left his post in Congress to run an unsuccessful campaign for Governor, and subsequent attempts to regain his seat failed. In 1984, Hechler ran for W. Va. Secretary of State and won where he was reelected in 88, 92, and 96, On June 23, 2009, Hechler, then aged 94, participated in a protest near mountaintop removal mining sites in the West Virginia coalfields in the Coal River valley along with others. Hechler died on December 10, 2016 at his home in Romney from a stroke at the age of 102

Information for this article is derived from the West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture and History, the Bluefield Daily Telegraph archives, the West Virginia Encyclopedia, and Wikipedia

Recommended for you