First Post Office Established in WVa

The first post office in what is now West Virginia was established at Martinsburg on June 30, 1792. Originally built to serve as both a courthouse and post office, the unique turreted red brick and stone building is located on King Street in Berkeley County. It now functions as an art gallery called the Borman Arts Center.

Byrd Succession Hinges on Ambiguous West Virginia Laws

West Virginia’s Democratic Gov. Joe Manchin will have to appoint a successor to replace Sen. Robert Byrd, who died early this morning at the age of 92 — and with ambiguous state rules making it unclear exactly what the replacement process will entail, his next step is anyone’s guess.
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Treaty of Versailles Signed

The Treaty of Versailles, signed in the palace’s Hall of Mirrors on June 28, 1918, ended the state of war between Germany and the Allied Powers. The date was exactly five years after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. The other Central Powers on the German side of World War I were dealt with in separate treaties. Although the armistice signed on 11 November 1918 ended the actual fighting, it took six months of negotiations at the Paris Peace Conference to conclude the peace treaty.

Of the many provisions in the treaty, one of the most important and controversial required Germany to accept sole responsibility for causing the war and, under the terms of articles 231–248 (later known as the War Guilt clauses), to disarm, make substantial territorial concessions and pay reparations to certain countries that had formed the Entente powers. The total cost of these reparations was assessed at 132 billion marks (then $31.4 billion, £6.6 billion) in 1921.[ This was a sum that many economists deemed to be excessive because it would have taken Germany until 1988 to pay. The Treaty was undermined by subsequent events starting as early as 1932 and was widely flouted by the mid-1930s.

The result of these competing and sometimes conflicting goals among the victors was compromise that left none contented: Germany was not pacified or conciliated, nor permanently weakened. This would prove to be a factor leading to later conflicts, notably and directly the Second World War.

The Great Textbook War Begins

On June 27, 1974, the school board of Kanawha County met and formally approved new textbooks which many considered to be anti-Christian. About 1,000 anti-textbook protesters demonstrated outside the board office. Despite the protest, the board voted to purchase the books—with the exception of eight of the most controversial high school works. The vote was three to two.

Thus began the nation’s most violent protest over public school textbooks. In previous years, the textbook adoption process had been fairly routine, but the atmosphere was different in 1974. The State Board of Education had recently mandated that books used in public schools reflect more multiracial themes. In response, the proposed language arts books featured a diverse range of authors including works by Beat Generation poet Allen Ginsberg, black rights advocate Eldridge Cleaver, and Sigmund Freud, the father of modern psychiatry. Other books included Animal Farm by George Orwell, The Crucible by Arthur Miller and The Autobiography of Malcolm X.

The textbook supporters generally believed that in an increasingly global society with interconnected economies, students needed to have access to the languages and ideas of diverse cultures. This included an obligation to challenge existing belief systems as well as to question the U.S. government. This concept was especially powerful in 1974, when the Watergate scandal was about to bring down a presidency.

Twenty-seven ministers publicly denounced the books. Ten other ministers and the West Virginia Council of Churches announced support for the books. In general, those who opposed the books were from evangelical churches in rural parts of the county; the ministers who supported the books mostly represented churches located in the city of Charleston, the county seat.

The response was swift. Ministers Ezra Graley, Avis Hill, Charles Quigley and Marvin Horan galvanized the anti-textbook forces and called for a school boycott; 12,000 people signed petitions to keep the books out of schools. The protests were not limited to the religious community. Business leaders began taking sides in the debate too. By late summer, the battle lines were drawn.

On Labor Day, the Rev. Marvin Horan led a rally attended by about 8,000 outraged demonstrators. They labeled their group Concerned Citizens. Horan urged his followers to keep their children out of school until the board reversed its decision.

When schools opened the next day, a large number of students failed to show up. Disputes raged over the numbers. Anti-textbook forces said as many as half the school children in Kanawha County were kept home to protest the books. The school system reported that about 20 percent of students were absent on that first day. Textbook supporters said many students were held out for their own safety, not over objections to the books.

Protesters who opposed the books carried signs and formed picket lines at schools and businesses across the county. One demonstration was at Heck’s Department Store, whose president was pro-book board member Russell Isaacs. One by one, businesses shut down rather than violate picket lines. The protesters even managed to stop Kanawha County’s bus service.

The controversy took a crucial turn on September 4 when some 3,500 coal miners went on strike to protest the textbooks—directly violating orders from the United Mine Workers labor union. The explanation for this unauthorized strike still remains unclear. Some miners simply refused to cross the picket lines that had formed at area mines. Others did not approve of their children reading what they perceived as left-wing books. The miners—experienced in organized demonstrations—helped escalate the protests to another level.

On September 12, in an attempt to calm tensions, the board pulled all the adopted books from schools temporarily and appointed a committee of 18 citizens to review each book. But the compromise failed to satisfy either side. Anti-textbook protesters demanded permanent removal of the books and the firing of school superintendent Kenneth Underwood. Infuriated by what they perceived as censorship, 1,200 students at George Washington High School walked out of school and insisted the books be returned. A leader of the student walkout called Episcopal priest Jim Lewis to ask for assistance. Lewis, a relative newcomer to Charleston, quickly became the most vocal leader of the pro-textbook forces.

That same day, an anti-textbook protestor was shot and wounded. The shooter was wrestled to the ground by demonstrators and beaten severely. After the incident, the county appealed to the state for law enforcement assistance, but Governor Arch Moore was hesitant to dispatch state police to tackle what he considered a local problem. In response, the Kanawha County sheriff announced he could no longer control the increasingly violent situation.

With the community descending into chaos, school superintendent Kenneth Underwood closed the county schools for four days. He said the closing was needed to protect students and employees. Over the next few weeks, the board-appointed citizen committee reviewed all of the books. On September 25, the committee ended up approving the books by an 11-7 margin. Frustrated by the process, the committee’s anti-textbook members split away, conducted their own review, and released a 500-plus-page document that rejected 184 of the adopted books.

The ongoing controversy soon captured the attention of national media. All the major national news outlets—ABC, CBS, and NBC—rushed to Kanawha County to cover the conflict, and the threats and violence continued.

During a rally, the Rev. Charles Quigley prayed for God to kill the three board members who had approved the books. The Ku Klux Klan sent at least three national leaders to Charleston in support of the anti-textbook cause. Protesters attacked a CBS reporter and his film crew, and cars were set on fire. The anti-textbook protestors were threatened too. School board member Alice Moore had to be protected by bodyguards around the clock because of death threats. Gunshots were fired near her house.

Angered by a lack of progress, some of the more radical anti-textbook protesters decided to shut down schools by force. On the night of October 9, 1974, dynamite was thrown through the windows of one elementary school. Another school was firebombed and dynamited. Two nights later, protesters threw Molotov cocktails into a school; another school was firebombed a few nights after that. Then, 15 sticks of dynamite were exploded near a gas meter at the board of education office just after a meeting had adjourned. No injuries resulted from any of these incidents, but the level of violence and destruction shook the community.

On November 8, 1974, the Kanawha County School Board met to determine the final fate of the books. Throughout the controversy, the anti-textbook side complained that public meetings had been held in the small board of education auditorium. Responding to these concerns, the board moved the November 8 meeting to the Charleston Civic Center, which could accommodate thousands of people.

On November 9, protesters take to the streets the day after the school board reinstates the books.

But fewer than 100 people showed up. The recent violence had begun to hurt the anti-textbook cause. Fearing that the meeting would incite more violent behavior, anti-textbook leaders urged their supporters to avoid the Civic Center. Before a sparse crowd, the board voted to return the books to schools.

Although the textbooks had officially been reinstated, the anti-textbook camp was not giving up. The day after the November 8 meeting, they marched again, while their leader, the Rev. Avis Hill, echoed Revolutionary War hero John Paul Jones’s sentiments: “We have just begun to fight.” And the violence continued. In one incident, snipers fired on state police cruisers that were accompanying school buses. In another, a protestor fired a shotgun at a school bus. There were no serious injuries, but the resentment and distrust within the community lingered.

And while the school board vote appeared to be a victory for the pro-textbook forces, the final outcome was not as clear-cut. Conservative school board member Alice Moore introduced a series of guidelines for selecting future textbooks. “Textbooks for use in the classrooms of Kanawha County shall recognize the sanctity of the home,” was one of the guidelines. Also: “Textbooks must encourage loyalty to the United States.” And, “Textbooks must not defame our nation’s founders or misrepresent the ideals and causes for which they struggled and sacrificed.”

The school board approved all of Moore’s guidelines. And in the end, many of the more controversial books approved in 1974 were placed only in school libraries and required a signed parent permission slip to be checked out. Principals were given veto power over individual books. The result was that the most controversial books never entered schools in the rural areas of the county that had objected most stridently.

Happy Birthday Pearl Buck

Pearl Buck (1892-1973) was born in Hillsboro, West Virginia on June 26, 1892. She grew up in China, where her parents were missionaries, but was educated at Randolph-Macon Woman’s College. After her graduation she returned to China and lived there until 1934 with the exception of a year spent at Cornell University, where she took an M.A. in 1926. Pearl Buck began to write in the twenties; her first novel, East Wind, West Wind, appeared in 1930. It was followed by The Good Earth (1931), Sons (1932), and A House Divided (1935), together forming a trilogy on the saga of the family of Wang. The Good Earth stood on the American list of «best sellers» for a long time and earned her several awards, among them the Pulitzer Prize and the William Dean Howells Medal. She also published The First Wife and Other Stories (1933), All Men are Brothers (a translation of the Chinese novel Shui Hu Chuan) (1933), The Mother (1934), and This Proud Heart (1938). The biographies of her mother and father, The Exile and Fighting Angel, were published in 1936 and later brought out together under the title of The Spirit and the Flesh (1944). The Time Is Now, a fictionalized account of the author’s emotional experiences, although written much earlier, did not appear in print until 1967.

Pearl Buck’s works after 1938 are too many to mention. Her novels have continued to deal with the confrontation of East and West, her interest spreading to such countries as India and Korea. Her novelist’s interest in the interplay of East and West has also led to some activity in political journalism.

Pearl Buck has been active in many welfare organizations; in particular she set up an agency for the adoption of Asian-American children (Welcome House, Inc.) and has taken an active interest in retarded children (The Child Who Never Grew, 1950).

William Penn Signs Peace Treaty

On June 23, 1683, William Penn and Delaware Chief Tamenend (Lenni Lenape tribe) signed a peace treaty in Shackamoxon, Pennsylvania. Tamenend was also called Tammany. He was renowned for his honor and the Tammany societies were thus named after him. In exchange for a long list of supplies, William Penn purchased two plots of land on and between the Pennypack and Neshaminy Rivers from the Chief. The area of land they where sharing was given to Penn by King Charles II.

The War of 1812 Begins

On June 18, 1812, the United States stunned the world by declaring war on Great Britain.

Supporting its allies in Spain and Portugal, Britain’s army was on the Iberian Peninsula, involved in a struggle with Napoleon Bonaparte, who had marshaled the forces of Revolutionary France under his penumbra.

Despite losing the Thirteen Colonies to George Washington and the American revolutionaries twenty-five years earlier, England, like many on the European continent, did not take the United States that seriously. Despite the fact that most of Britain’s supplies for the Napoleonic war came from America and Canada -from beef to feed the Duke of Wellington’s army, to the oak trees essential to maintain Britain’s majestic navy. Britain found itself faced with another war, a war they had assiduously tried to avoid.

The ostensible reasons for the war seemed to have been forgotten once the opening shots were sounded. The United States was upset at the British navy’s arrogance on the high seas. Desperate to find sailors for a fleet of over one thousand ships, Great Britain didn’t hesitate to stop and search American ships in the hopes of recovering seaman who deserted the draconian existence of the British navy for the easier life aboard U.S. vessels. British captains were not above press-ganging the odd American while they were at it. England had also begun to seize Yankee ships trading with Napoleonic France. These tactics caused a huge controversy in the American Congress. Eventually, the United States cut off all trade with the continent.

As the record reveals, the Americans wanted more than just maritime rights. What they also wanted was the other half of the North American continent still in the hands of the King of England. In 1778, during the American Revolution, the Yankees tried to seize Canada, and actually captured Montreal. The expedition however, under Generals Richard Montgomery and Benedict Arnold, perished in the sub-zero cold beneath the towering walls of the fortress at Quebec.

In 1812, Americans were determined to make another attempt at eradicating the British presence in North America, and settle “the Indian question” once and for all. Such a campaign, promised Thomas Jefferson, would be a matter of mere marching. In Congress, the War Hawks took up this position and demanded the United States finalize the independence from Britain they had fought so hard to win. Many Americans came to see the 1812 conflict as the second Revolutionary War.

When Great Britain finally realized that the Americans would go to war on the impressment issue, it revoked the Orders-in-Council which authorized the seizures. In the final analysis, these causes bore so little weight, that they were not even mentioned in the peace treaty which, eventually ended the war. But in early 1812, it was too late. War was imminent, and could would not be stopped.

June 26 Meeting in St. Albans

The next state Executive Committee meeting of the CPWV will be held Saturday, June 26, 2010 at the Shoney’s Restaurant in St. Albans, WV from 12:00 noon to 2pm. Read more

The Battle of Bunker Hill

The sun was shining from a cloudless sky a little past noon on June 17, 1775 when a British force of 1500 men landed on Charlestown Heights in Massachusetts. Their objective: a surprise attack to nullify the threat posed by “rebel” batteries on the peninsula.

However, the night before for nearly twelve hours the Americans had worked non-stop building their main fortification on Breed’s Hill which lay at the foot of Bunker Hill to the north.

At daybreak on the 17th gazing through the morning fog, British General Howe was astonished to see a six-foot high earthwork a mushroom fortress that seemingly appeared overnight. “The rebels,” he exclaimed, “have done more work in one night than my whole army would have done in one month.” British cannons immediately opened fire from the ships offshore but the patriots continued work on the intrenchments without harm.

By mid-afternoon General Howe ordered his troops to advance and open fire. As the British moved forward, the Americans remained as silent as the tomb. “Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes,” was the order passed along the lines. When that moment came, the word “FIRE!” was shouted, and whole enemy platoons were mowed down and shattered, retreating to the foot of the hill.

Howe rallied his forces and repeated the attack with the same crushing results. Not to be discouraged, Howe rallied his men a third time, ordering them to use only their bayonets. After a desperate hand-to-hand struggle, the Americans were driven out.

In that final assault American General Joseph Warren and British Major John Pitcairn were killed. While the exact number of casualties varies among historians, the Americans were estimated at 441 killed and wounded… with the British casualties at 1,150 killed and wounded.

In all of the twenty battles of the Revolution, Bunker Hill exacted a heavy toll on British officers. In this one battle alone one-eighth of the British officers in the entire War were killed and one-sixth were wounded on that day.

Following the earlier skirmishes at Lexington and Concord, the battle of Bunker Hill was significant in that it overruled any real hope of conciliation. The outcome of the battle rallied the colonies and moved a lethargic Congress to take action. Bunker Hill showed the Americans that the British were not invincible. It showed the British Government that the “rebels” were a serious opponent, that “the mightiest army in all of Europe” had a real fight on its hands.

Washington Commissioned as Commander of Continental Army

The Journals of the Continental Congress report that George Washington was unanimously selected as Commander in Chief of the Continental Army on June 15, 1775. In a speech given to the Continental Congress on June 16, Washington accepted the commission and requested that he not receive a salary for his service, only that his expenses be paid at the conclusion of the war. On June 17, the Continental Congress drafted Washington’s commission as commander in chief.

The Letters of Delegates to Congress contains a letter that George Washington wrote to Martha Washington on June 18, 1775, after receiving word of his commission as Commander in Chief. Washington announced that the “whole army raised for the defense of the American Cause shall be put under my care, and that it is necessary for me to proceed immediately to Boston to take upon me the Command of it. You may believe me my dear Patsy, when I assure you in the most solemn manner, that, so far from seeking this appointment, I have used every endeavor in my power to avoid it.” The Letters of Delegates to Congress also contains a letter that John Adams sent to Abigail Adams stating, “I can now inform you that the Congress have made Choice of the modest and virtuous, the amiable, generous and brave George Washington Esqr., to be the General of the American Army, and that he is to repair as soon as possible to the Camp before Boston.”

The Continental Congress commissioned George Washington as Commander in Chief of the Continental Army on June 19, 1775. Washington was selected over other candidates such as John Hancock based on his previous military experience and the hope that a leader from Virginia could help unite the colonies. Washington left for Massachusetts within days of receiving his commission and assumed command of the Continental Army in Cambridge on July 3, 1775. After eight years of war, Washington resigned his commission as Commander in Chief on December 23, 1783.

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