The Americana Series Monthly Challenge – May 2022: West Virginia

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The Americana Series Monthly Challenge – May 2022: West Virginia

1bhabeck
Edited: Apr 30, 11:06pm

Each month, we will visit a different state in the United States of America for the Monthly Reading Challenge in the Mystery & Suspense Extra! Group. This month, we travel a little north and west to – West Virginia.

The Americana Series Monthly Challenge – May 2022: West Virginia


History
West Virginia is a state in the Appalachian, Mid-Atlantic and Southeastern regions of the United States. West Virginia is the 10th-smallest state by area and ranks as the 12th-least populous state, with a population of 1,793,716 residents. The capital and largest city is Charleston.

West Virginia’s split from Virginia was, in many ways, a microcosm of the Civil War divide between North and South. Many residents in the state’s rugged western region opposed slavery, and for decades felt ignored by a government they saw as dominated by wealthy plantation owners. After Virginia voted to secede in 1861, delegates called a meeting in the city of Wheeling, and voted to side with the Union and form a separate state. In 1863, Abraham Lincoln signed the order admitting West Virginia into statehood.

West Virginia was admitted to the Union on June 20, 1863, and was a key border state during the war. It was the only state to form by separating from a Confederate state, the second to separate from a state after Maine separated from Massachusetts, and one of two states (along with Nevada) admitted to the Union during the Civil War. Some of its residents held slaves, but most were yeoman farmers, and the delegates provided for the gradual abolition of slavery in the new state constitution. The state legislature abolished slavery in the state, and at the same time ratified the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery nationally on February 3, 1865.

After Reconstruction, the new 35th state benefited from the development of its mineral resources more than any other single economic activity. Saltpeter caves had been employed throughout Appalachia for munitions; the border between West Virginia and Virginia includes the "Saltpeter Trail", a string of limestone caverns containing rich deposits of calcium nitrate which were rendered and sold to the government. The West Virginia official state rock is bituminous coal, and the official state gemstone is silicified Mississippian fossil Lithostrotionella coral.

The limestone also produced a useful quarry industry. Usually small, and softer, high-calcium seams were burned to produce industrial lime. This lime was used for agricultural and construction purposes; for many years a specific portion of the C & O Railroad carried limestone rock to Clifton Forge, Virginia as an industrial flux.

Salt mining had been underway since the 18th century, though it had largely played out by the time of the American Civil War, when the red salt of Kanawha County was a valued commodity of first Confederate, and later Union, forces. In the years following, more sophisticated mining methods would restore West Virginia's role as a major producer of salt.

However, in the second half of the 19th century, there was an even greater treasure not yet developed: bituminous coal. It would fuel much of the Industrial Revolution in the U.S. and the steamships of many of the world's navies.

As coal mining and related work became major employment activities in the state, there was considerable labor strife as working conditions, safety issues and economic concerns arose. Even in the 21st century, mining safety and ecological concerns are still challenging to the state whose coal continues to power electrical generating plants in many other states. From the Great Depression to the 1990s, the state voted heavily for the Democratic Party due to its tradition of union-based politics. Since then, the state has become heavily Republican, and is considered a "deep red" state at the federal level.

Geography

It is bordered by Pennsylvania to the north and east, Maryland to the east and northeast, Virginia to the southeast, Kentucky to the southwest, and Ohio to the northwest.

West Virginia's Northern Panhandle extends adjacent to Pennsylvania and Ohio to form a tristate area, with Wheeling and Weirton just across the border from the Pittsburgh metropolitan area. Huntington in the southwest is close to Ohio and Kentucky, while Martinsburg and Harpers Ferry in the Eastern Panhandle region are considered part of the Washington metropolitan area, between Maryland and Virginia. West Virginia is often included in several U.S. geographical regions, including the Mid-Atlantic, the Upland South, and the Southeastern United States. It is the only state entirely within the area served by the Appalachian Regional Commission; the area is commonly defined as "Appalachia".

The state is noted for its mountains and rolling hills, its historically significant coal mining and logging industries, and its political and labor history. It is also known for a wide range of outdoor recreational opportunities, including skiing, whitewater rafting, fishing, hiking, backpacking, mountain biking, rock climbing, and hunting.

Fun Facts
Many ancient manmade earthen mounds from various prehistoric mound builder cultures survive in West Virginia, especially in the areas of present-day Moundsville, South Charleston, and Romney. Artifacts uncovered in these give evidence of village societies with a tribal trade system culture that crafted cold-worked copper pieces. There are 424 recorded prehistoric mounds in West Virginia, left by ancient people who once occupied the region. Most are constructed of earth or stone or a combination of both.


The first federal prison exclusively for women in the United States was opened in 1926 in West Virginia.

In the late 18th century, saltpeter miners in Haynes Cave found large animal bones in the deposits. These were sent by a local historian and frontier soldier Colonel John Stuart to Thomas Jefferson. The bones were named Megalonyx jeffersonii, or great-claw, and became known as Jefferson's three-toed sloth. It was declared the official state fossil of West Virginia in 2008.


Coal is not the only valuable mineral found in West Virginia, as the state was the site of the 1928 discovery of the 34.48 carat (6.896 g) Jones Diamond.. While playing horseshoes with his father, William "Punch" Jones found an interesting shiny pebble in Rich Creek. He kept the diamond in a cigar box for 14 years before a Virginia Tech geologist confirmed the pebble he had found was a 34.46 carat diamond. At the time of discovery it was the only diamond ever discovered in West Virginia, the second largest diamond ever found in the United States, and the largest alluvial diamond ever found in North America.


The New River Gorge Bridge near Fayetteville is the second highest steel arch bridge in the United States. The bridge is also the longest steel arch bridge (1,700 feet) in the world. Every October on Bridge Day, the road is closed and individuals parachute and bungee cord jump 876 feet off the bridge. Its West Virginia's largest single day event and attracts about 100,000 people each year.


Outdoor advertising had its origin in Wheeling about 1908 when the Block Brothers Tobacco Company painted bridges and barns with the wording: "Treat Yourself to the Best, Chew Mail Pouch."

Built in 1778, the historic Greenbrier Hotel has hosted more than half of all U.S. Presidents. For more than thirty years, it was also the location of a secret bunker where Congress could operate in the event of a nuclear strike. In 1992, The Washington Post exposed the facility, and today it’s used as a meeting room.


West Virginia’s oldest and youngest governor are the same person. In 1956, 34-year-old Cecil Underwood, a former high school teacher, was elected to the position. Because of term limits in the state constitution, he was unable to run for reelection. So he bided his time, and 40 years later was elected for a second term, at age 74.


Harper’s Ferry, located at the eastern edge of the state, played a critical role in starting the Civil War thanks to John Brown’s raid. Things were no less contentious within the town's borders during the war. In four years, it changed hands eight times.


And, here's one for Carol…. Point Pleasant, West Virginia, is home to a storefront museum dedicated to a humanoid creature known as the Mothman. Like the Jersey Devil, the Mothman—who supposedly has glowing red eyes and wings—was sighted several times during the '60s, cementing its status as a local legend. The town also boasts a Mothman statue, and throws a yearly festival dedicated to the beast.


Notable Residents

Mrs. Minnie Buckingham Harper, a member of the House of Delegates by appointment in 1928, was the first African American woman to become a member of a legislative body in the United States.

Some famous individuals from West Virginia include: Pearl Buck (author), Peter Marshall (television host), Chuck Yeager (test pilot /Air Force General), Don Knotts (actor), Mary Lou Retton (Olympic gold medallist for gymnastics), and Kathy Mattea (country music singer).

While there are quite many mystery/suspense books that take place in West Virginia, there were a limited number of mystery authors that came up in my search. These include: Julia Keller, Craig Johnson, and Charlene Thompson. Other authors include: Booker T. Washington, Jayne Anne Phillips, Stephen Coonts, Rajia Hassib, Denise Giardina and Cynthia Rylant.

In honor of WEST VIRGINIA, read a Mystery/Suspense book (any sub-genre will do!) that satisfies one or more of the following:

• A Mystery/Suspense book with "West," "Bridge," "Mine," "Diamond," or "Mountain" in the title OR has a picture of a bridge, a mountain or a fossil/skeleton on the cover;

• A Mystery/Suspense book that takes place in West Virginia or one of the states that fought for the Union during the Civil War OR includes a scientist as a main character OR has a main character that is a soldier or veteran OR involves meetings in a secret location/bunker; and

• A Mystery/Suspense book where the author's FIRST and LAST initial (no middle initials or names) can be found in WEST VIRGINIA.


Happy Reading ❤

2bhabeck
Edited: May 16, 12:56am

Brenda's Americana Challenge - May 2022: West Virginia
3/3 Complete

In honor of WEST VIRGINIA, read a Mystery/Suspense book (any sub-genre will do!) that satisfies one or more of the following:

• A Mystery/Suspense book with "West," "Bridge," "Mine," "Diamond," or "Mountain" in the title OR has a picture of a bridge, a mountain or a fossil/skeleton on the cover;
Diamonds and Cole by Micheal Maxwell; finished 5/15/22; 2.5 stars

• A Mystery/Suspense book that takes place in West Virginia or one of the states that fought for the Union during the Civil War OR includes a scientist as a main character OR has a main character that is a soldier or veteran OR involves meetings in a secret location/bunker; and
Die Trying by Lee Child; main character is an Army veteran; finished 5/2/22; 4 stars

• A Mystery/Suspense book where the author's FIRST and LAST initial (no middle initials or names) can be found in WEST VIRGINIA.
Lattes and Spirits by Alyn Troy; finished 5/14/22; 3 stars

3Carol420
Edited: May 16, 8:12pm


Carol's New Reading Buddy - (He's cuter than the fossil one) (West Virginia)
💐 - ★
3/3
💐1. A Mystery/Suspense book with "West," "Bridge," "Mine," "Diamond," or "Mountain" in the title OR has a picture of a bridge, a mountain or a fossil/skeleton on the cover.
Third You Die - Scott Sherman -4.5★


💐2. A Mystery/Suspense book that takes place in West Virginia or one of the states that fought for the Union during the Civil War OR includes a scientist as a main character OR has a main character that is a soldier or veteran OR involves meetings in a secret location/bunker.
Ashes Beneath Her - J R Erickson - 4.5★

💐3. A Mystery/Suspense book where the author's FIRST and LAST initial (no middle initials or names) can be found in WEST VIRGINIA.
Hurry Home- Roz Nay -3★ - (R & N)

4Andrew-theQM
Edited: May 31, 10:11pm

• A Mystery/Suspense book with "West," "Bridge," "Mine," "Diamond," or "Mountain" in the title OR has a picture of a bridge, a mountain or a fossil/skeleton on the cover;

✔️The Diamond Eye by Kate Quinn Read : 31/5/22

• A Mystery/Suspense book that takes place in West Virginia or one of the states that fought for the Union during the Civil War OR includes a scientist as a main character OR has a main character that is a soldier or veteran OR involves meetings in a secret location/bunker; and

✔️ Certain Prey by John Sandford (Set in Minnesota) Read : 21/5/22

• A Mystery/Suspense book where the author's FIRST and LAST initial (no middle initials or names) can be found in WEST VIRGINIA.

✔️A Flicker in the Dark by Stacy Willingham Read : 15/5/22

5gaylebutz
May 1, 9:51pm

I’m going to read Drybone Hollow by John Billheimer.
It takes place in West Virginia.

6Sergeirocks
Edited: May 29, 2:46pm

Well-Schooled in Murder - Elizabeth George 4★s (Author’s initials in WEST VIRGINIA)
The Diamond Eye - Kate Quinn 4★s (“Diamond” in title)
The First Wave - James R. Benn 4.5★s (Main characters are soldiers)

7bhabeck
Edited: May 18, 10:03am

8Andrew-theQM
May 16, 4:25am

A Flicker in the Dark by Stacy Willingham ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2 (Author’s initials in West Virginia)

9Carol420
May 16, 8:15pm



All Done. Nice trip, Brenda!

10Andrew-theQM
May 21, 1:28pm

Certain Prey by John Sandford ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 21/5/22

11gaylebutz
May 24, 10:08am

Done - Drybone Hollow by John Billheimer - 4 ★
It takes place in West Virginia.

12Carol420
May 24, 12:23pm

>11 gaylebutz:

Good job, Gayle!

13bhabeck
May 30, 11:45pm

>3 Carol420: >5 gaylebutz: >6 Sergeirocks: Well done all!

>4 Andrew-theQM: >6 Sergeirocks: I've been waiting to see what you two thought of Diamond Eye -- I read it in April. Have you read Kate Quinn's other WWII books? The Alice Network, The Huntress and The Rose Code?

14Sergeirocks
May 31, 2:02pm

>13 bhabeck: This was my first Kate Quinn book, Brenda, but based on The Diamond Eye I will certainly be looking to read more from her. I liked her writing style (easy to read), and the mixing of fiction with fact. I’d never heard of Lyudmila Pavlichenko, ‘Lady Death’, an interesting life story - if it hasn’t been propagandised.

15Andrew-theQM
Edited: May 31, 10:11pm

Finished the challenge with 90 minutes to go until the end of the month by finishing The Diamond Eye.

>13 bhabeck: Brenda, I agree with >14 Sergeirocks: A very enjoyable read, with a good writing style and plotting. I too like the fiction and fact, and how it was weaved in well based on her research. I enjoyed the first half more than the second half, prior to arriving in the US. I felt the section in the US was a bit slow. Lady Death was quite incredible, especially given the time it was written in. Could this have ben achieved at the time by someone in the the US or UK?

Overall though I think whilst a very good book I preferred The Alice Network and The Rose Code, two of my favourite Historical fiction Books in recent years. I’m yet to read The Huntress and need to get to this.

16bhabeck
Edited: May 31, 10:20pm

>14 Sergeirocks: >15 Andrew-theQM: thanks for the feedback. While I found The Diamond Eye interesting, I think it was my least favorite of the 4 WWII books Kate Quinn has written. My favorite was The Rose Code then The Huntress and The Alice Network tied for a close second place.

I haven’t read any of her Rome books yet as they don’t seem as interesting to me but they’re on my tbr at this point.

Ps >15 Andrew-theQM: there’s a “very slight” crossover between The Diamond Eye and The Huntress 😉

17Andrew-theQM
May 31, 10:22pm

>16 bhabeck: I would agree, I’d put The Rose Code as my favourite too, followed by The Alice Network, be interesting to see where The Huntress figures when I read it.

I also haven’t yet read any of the Rome books. So many Roman books out there!

18Andrew-theQM
Edited: May 31, 10:24pm

>16 bhabeck: I did get that impression about a connection and sounds like there will be a future connection as sound like she is planning to write a book about Vika, the ballerina turned tank driver based on the author notes.

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