Miscellaneous History

Annable Desegregation

Disturbances occurred in the counties of Greenbrier, Marion, Barbour, and Boone. In Barbour and Boone, they were of little moment. In Greenbrier, because of a strike by students, picketing, and threatened bloodshed, the board of education rescinded its former action approving integration. In Marion, where the Annabelle School was picketed by white parents to prevent teachers from entering the school, Judge J. Harper Meredith, in granting an injunction on a petition from other parents, referred to the picketing as "a rebellion against the government, which cannot be tolerated." He told those present at the hearing, including the county board of education and superintendent of schools, Joseph J. Straight: "It cannot continue and I won't permit it to continue. If necessary, I will fill the jail until their feet are sticking out the windows."

In October 1954, the West Virginia Education Association for white teachers and the West Virginia State Teachers' Association for Negro Teachers, by a resolution, adopted unanimously by both organizations, united under the name of the West Virginia Education Association in which organization teachers of both races have equal rights and equal opportunities. At the first State-wide meeting of delegates of the Association, held in Charleston May 6-7, 1955, a Negro was elected to the Executive Committee. The integration of these two associations, having been effected without disturbance, indicated a determination on the part of the teachers of both races to work together for better educational facilities for all the children of all the people.

Black Hand Society-Mafia

The Mafia, more commonly known as the Black Hand in West Virginia, reared its ugly head in Marion County in 1908. The members of the Black Hand, all natives of Italy, had banded together with Frank Pisconeri as their president. They carried out a campaign of extortion throughout the county with their victims either Italians or Italians by descent.

Letters, threatening and punishment to the prospective victims, were sent and signed with a crudely drawn picture of a hand that had been painted black. Prosecuting Attorney, Tusca Morris, successfully conducted a campaign against the old world crime syndicate.

The next appearance of the Mafia locally was in t921 when the law enforcement officers began to see evidence of organized crime whose headquarters appeared to be in the rear of Pete Fisher's barber shop on Water Street in East Fairmont. This organization was known as the Famalie Vagabonda. To become a member, the applicant must have committed a murder at the order of the organization. A murder committed for personal reasons did not count. Joe Urso, was the president, Rocco Fioiello was the secretary and Dick Ferry was the executioner. Ferry boasted of killing 23 persons when he was one of five people hung at the state prison in Moundsville. The group engaged in extortion, operated brothels and had extensive activity in narcotics.

A chosen victim, usually an Italian businessman, would receive a letter demanding a sum of money and state the time and place for delivery. If the victim refused, a second letter was sent with an increase in the sum of money. If this failed, the third letter would inform the victim he had been marked for death. Then dynamiting would follow. At least ten residents homes were dynamited and then the murder would be carried out. The president of the Clarksburg lodge was "Big Jim" Centeniene. He was assassinated one summer night which led a breech in the organization that sent five men to the gallows and fifteen to the state Penitentiary. Rocco Fioiello turned state's evidence. After the trials his body was found riddled with bullets.

One of the murder cases became nationally known. Belle Lemmon was living with Rosairo DeMarko in a Black Hand owned apartment on Water Street.. When he was assessed for his share of the lawyer fees, he could not pay the full amount. He was required to return Chicago. The Chicago Black Hand placed "Big Nose Phil" Cenendre was sent to the apartment. Belle hated him and began to drink to excess and became too talkative. The organization removed Cenendre with Tony Corbi in his place. Tony soon fell in love with Belle and she reciprocated the feeling. As she and Tony took a train bound for Baltimore, a young Irish girl, Carmella Malone was crying. When John McKinney, asked her was wrong, she replied she would never see Belle again. Belle's body was found stabbed 17 times, naked and violated. Tony's hat was found that was concealing the blackjack used to strike Belle by the police. The young Irish girl was taken to Baltimore to testify. She asked for police protection and was committed to a reformatory. When the detectives went to talk to her, it was discovered she had been taken against her will by a Baltimore attorney with a court order and bondsman She was never heard from again. Tony Corbi disappeared and the case never went to trial. The family of Bella Lemmon claimed the body and her father brought her back to Mannington for burial.

John C. McKinnney was a retired detective who worked in the Black Hand investigations. He later served as police Chief. The above information was take from his recollections in the Marion County Centennial Yearbook, 1963

Feast of the Seven Fishes

The Feast of the Seven Fishes Festival is held each year in Fairmont, West Virginia to celebrate the Italian Christmas Eve tradition. It’s a one day event with food, shopping, music, more food, cooking demos, fish, a street market, and even more food, but we already mentioned that. Everybody is welcome—because when it comes to Christmas Eve and the Feast of the Seven Fishes, everyone is Italian.

Jones and ImBoden Raid

The Jones-Imboden Raid was a Confederate military action conducted in western Virginia (now the state of West Virginia) in April and May 1863 during the American Civil War. The raid, led by Brig. Gens. William E. Jones and John D. Imboden, was aimed at disrupting traffic on the vital Baltimore and Ohio Railroad and reasserting Confederate authority in transmountain Virginia in an effort to derail the growing statehood movement in the region. The raid was successful from a military vantage as severe damage was inflicted upon the railroad and other critical Union resources and valuable supplies and recruits were obtained. From a political standpoint, however, the raid was a failure, having little affect on the sentiment for the formation of a new state.

Labor's Day

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Miner's Day

The worst mining disaster in American History occurred in the community of Monongah, West Virginia on December 6, 1907. On that dreadful day, 362 men and boys lost their lives. Some say the number is closer to 500.

On January 2, 2006, another mine disaster in West Virginia occurred at Sago, West Virginia, and resulted in the deaths of 12 miners.

Then on January 20, 2006... yet another mining accident has happened at the Aracoma mine near Mellville, West Virginia. Unfortunately, two more miners lives have been lost.

February 2, 2006... two more coal miners have died in separate accidents in Boone County, West Virginia.

Creed Holden, in Fairmont, WV, began the movement to create West Virginia Miner's Day, National Miner's Day, National Miner's Day, and the International Year of the Miner on January 16, 2006, and formed the Miner's Day Memorial Association of West Virginia, of which Roy Lee Cooke, of Irmo, South Carolina, is President.

Monogah Mining Disaster

The Monongah Mine disaster of Monongah, West Virginia occurred on December 6, 1907 and has been described as "the worst mining disaster in American History". An explosion thought to have been caused by the ignition of methane (also called "firedamp") ignited the coal dust in mines number 6 and 8, killing hundreds of workers.

Rescue workers could only work in the mines for 15 minutes due to the lack of breathing equipment. Some of those workers also perished due to suffocation caused by methane oxidation.

Officially, the lives of 362 workers including children were lost in the underground explosion, leaving 250 widows and more than 1000 children fatherless. During October 1964 Reverend Everett Francis Briggs stated that "a fairer estimate of the victims of the Monongah Disaster would be upward of 500"[1]. This estimate is corroborated by the research of Davitt McAteer, Assistant Secretary for Mine Safety and Health at the United States Department of Labor during the Clinton administration.[2] The exact death toll remains unknown.

Many of the victims (171) were Italians who had migrated from San Giovanni in Fiore, San Nicola dell'Alto, Falerna, Gizzeria, Civitella Roveto, Duronia, Civita d'Antino, Canistro, Torella del Sannio and other villages in Calabria, Abruzzo and Molise. The ruins of the coal mines have been sealed shut with bricks. Many of the original mining homes were built on the hillside above the mine.

The sole survivor of the blast was Peter Urban. He found a small fox-hole to climb out before the toxic gases reached him. Some historians believe that several other men escaped with him, but there is little evidence to validate that. He had a twin brother Stanley who was killed by the disaster. Peter Urban was killed by a mine cave-in 19 years later.

On May 1, 2009 the President of the Italian Republic, Giorgio Napolitano, conferred the honour of "Stella al Merito del Lavoro" (Star of Reward of Work) upon the victims of the disaster.

National Thespians

In 1925 was the founding of the Alpha Psi Omega, the National Collegiate Drama Honorary Fraternity at Fairmont State Normal School (FSNS) now known as Fairmont State University.

In 1929 was the founding of Delta Psi Omega, the Junior College Drama Honorary Fraternity at Fairmont State Normal School.

Also, in 1929, The International Thespian Society was established by the Alpha Psi Omega on the stage of the auditorium of Fairmont State Normal School. Dr. Opp's fraternity brother and teacher at Natrona County High School in Casper Wyoming, Earl Bank, suggested to him. In reply Paul Opp contacted Harry Leeper, EFHS, Ernest Baverly and Blank organized the National Thespian Society. The APO financed the organization and the constitution was patterned after the constitution of the APO. The name was taken from the Greek word Thespis meaning the First Actor. Harry Leeper designed the insignia and edited the society's first publication The High School Thespian in October 1929. The membership now is over 3,000,000 strong.

The first casts to join were:
1. Natrona County High School in Casper, Wyoming
2. Fairmont Senior High School
3. East Fairmont High School

All three of the above were founded under the leadership of Dr. Paul E Opp, FSNS Professor of English, Speech and Drama.

Pepperoni Rolls

Pepperoni Rolls

The pepperoni roll was invented by Giuseppe "Joseph" Argiro at the Country Club Bakery in Fairmont, West Virginia, in 1927. The rolls originated as a lunch option for the coal miners of north-central West Virginia in the first half of the 20th century. Pepperoni rolls do not need to be refrigerated for storage and could readily be packed for lunch by miners. Pepperoni and other Italian foods became popular in north-central West Virginia in the early 20th century, when the booming mines and railroads attracted many immigrants from Italy. The pepperoni roll bears a resemblance to the pasty and sausage roll, which originated in the mining communities of Great Britain, as well as to the Italian calzone.

The pepperoni roll is a snack popular in West Virginia and some nearby regions of the Appalachian Mountains such as Western Pennsylvania, Western Maryland and Appalachian Ohio. It is ubiquitous in West Virginia, particularly in convenience stores, and is arguably the food most closely associated with the state.



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