Place:West Virginia, United States

NameWest Virginia
Alt namesWVsource: Webster's Geographical Dictionary (1988) p 1258
WVasource: abbreviation
W Virsource: abbreviation
W Virgsource: abbreviation
W Vasource: abbreviation
Coordinates39°N 80°W
Located inUnited States     (1863 - )
See alsoVirginia, United Statesparent state
Contained Places
Drawdy Cemetery
Barbour ( 1863 - )
Berkeley ( 1863 - )
Boone ( 1863 - )
Braxton ( 1863 - )
Brooke ( 1863 - )
Cabell ( 1863 - )
Calhoun ( 1863 - )
Clay ( 1863 - )
Doddridge ( 1863 - )
Fayette ( 1863 - )
Gilmer ( 1863 - )
Grant ( 1866 - )
Greenbrier ( 1863 - )
Hampshire ( 1863 - )
Hancock ( 1863 - )
Hardy ( 1863 - )
Harrison ( 1863 - )
Jackson ( 1863 - )
Jefferson ( 1863 - )
Kanawha ( 1863 - )
Lewis ( 1863 - )
Lincoln ( 1867 - )
Logan ( 1863 - )
Marion ( 1863 - )
Marshall ( 1863 - )
Mason ( 1863 - )
McDowell ( 1863 - )
Mercer ( 1863 - )
Mineral ( 1866 - )
Mingo ( 1895 - )
Monongalia ( 1863 - )
Monroe ( 1863 - )
Morgan ( 1863 - )
Nicholas ( 1863 - )
Ohio ( 1863 - )
Pendleton ( 1863 - )
Pleasants ( 1863 - )
Pocahontas ( 1863 - )
Preston ( 1863 - )
Putnam ( 1863 - )
Raleigh ( 1863 - )
Randolph ( 1863 - )
Ritchie ( 1863 - )
Roane ( 1863 - )
Summers ( 1871 - )
Taylor ( 1863 - )
Tucker ( 1863 - )
Tyler ( 1863 - )
Upshur ( 1863 - )
Wayne ( 1863 - )
Webster ( 1863 - )
Wetzel ( 1863 - )
Wirt ( 1863 - )
Wood ( 1863 - )
Wyoming ( 1863 - )
source: Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names
source: Family History Library Catalog

the text in this section is copied from an article in Wikipedia

West Virginia is a state in the Appalachian, Mid-Atlantic and Southeastern regions of the United States. 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 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 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.

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. 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.[1]

Other nominated names for the state included Vandalia, Kanawha, Appalachia, and Western Virginia. The capital was originally Wheeling, before switching to Charleston, moving back to Wheeling, and finally back to Charleston. The first governor was Arthur Boreman.



the text in this section is copied from an article in Wikipedia

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.

In the 1670s, during the Beaver Wars, the powerful Iroquois, five allied nations based in present-day New York and Pennsylvania, drove out other American Indian tribes from the region to reserve the upper Ohio Valley as a hunting ground. Siouan language tribes, such as the Moneton, had previously been recorded in the area.

A century later, the area now identified as West Virginia was contested territory among Anglo-Americans as well, with the colonies of Pennsylvania and Virginia claiming territorial rights under their colonial charters to this area before the American Revolutionary War. Some speculative land companies, such as the Vandalia Company, the Ohio Company and the Indiana Company, tried but failed to legitimize their claims to land in parts of West Virginia and present-day Kentucky. This rivalry resulted in some settlers petitioning the Continental Congress to create a new territory called Westsylvania. With the federal settlement of the Pennsylvania and Virginia border dispute, creating Kentucky County, Virginia, Kentuckians "were satisfied [...] and the inhabitants of a large part of West Virginia were grateful."

The Crown considered the area of West Virginia part of the British Virginia Colony from 1607 to 1776. The United States considered this area the western part of the state of Virginia (commonly called Trans-Allegheny Virginia) from 1776 to 1863, before West Virginia's formation. Its residents were discontented for years with their position in Virginia, as the government was dominated by the planter elite of the Tidewater and Piedmont areas. The legislature had electoral malapportionment, based on the counting of slaves toward regional populations, and western white residents were underrepresented in the state legislature. More subsistence and yeoman farmers lived in the west, and they were generally less supportive of slavery, although many counties were divided on their support. Residents of that area became more sharply divided after the planter elite of eastern Virginia voted to secede from the Union during the Civil War.

Residents of the western and northern counties set up a separate government under Francis Pierpont in 1861, which they called the Restored Government. Most voted to separate from Virginia, and the new state was admitted to the Union in 1863. In 1864 a state constitutional convention drafted a constitution, which was ratified by the legislature without putting it to popular vote. West Virginia abolished slavery by a gradual process and temporarily disenfranchised men who had held Confederate office or fought for the Confederacy.

West Virginia's history has been profoundly affected by its mountainous terrain, numerous and vast river valleys, and rich natural resources. These were all factors driving its economy and the lifestyles of its residents, who tended to live in many small, relatively isolated communities in the mountain valleys.


A 2010 analysis of a local stalagmite revealed that Native Americans were burning forests to clear land as early as 100BCE. Some regional late-prehistoric Eastern Woodland tribes were more involved in hunting and fishing, practicing the Eastern Agricultural Complex gardening method which used fire to clear out underbrush from certain areas. Another group progressed to the more time-consuming, advanced companion crop fields method of gardening. Also continuing from the ancient indigenous people of the state, they cultivated tobacco through to early historic times. It was used in numerous social and religious rituals.

"Maize (corn) did not make a substantial contribution to the diet until after 1150 BP", to quote Mills (OSU 2003). Eventually, tribal villages began depending on corn to feed their turkey flocks, as Kanawha Fort Ancients practiced bird husbandry. The local Indians made cornbread and a flat rye bread called "bannock" as they emerged from the protohistoric era. A horizon extending from a little before the early 18th century is sometimes called the acculturating Fireside Cabin culture. Trading posts were established by European traders along the Potomac and James rivers.

Tribes that inhabited West Virginia as of 1600 were the Siouan Monongahela Culture to the north, the Fort Ancient culture along the Ohio River from the Monongahela to Kentucky and extending an unknown distance inland, and the Eastern Siouan Tutelo and Moneton tribes in the southeast. There was also the Iroquoian Susquehannock in the region approximately east of the Monongahela River and north of the Monongahela National Forest, a possible tribe called the Senandoa, or Shenandoah, in the Shenandoah Valley and the easternmost tip of the state may have been home to the Manahoac people. The Monongahela may have been the same as a people known as the Calicua, or Cali. The following may have also all been the same tribe—Moneton, Moheton, Senandoa, Tomahitan.

During the Beaver Wars, other tribes moved into the region. The Iroquoian Tiontatecaga (also Little Mingo, Guyandotte) seem to have split off from the Petun after they were defeated by the Iroquois. They eventually settled somewhere between the Kanawha and Little Kanawha Rivers. During the 1750s, when the Mingo Seneca seceded from the Iroquois and returned to the Ohio River Valley, they contend that this tribe merged with them. The Shawnee arrived as well; though primarily stationed within former Monongahela territory approximately until 1750, they extended their influence throughout the Ohio River region. They were West Virginia's last Native tribe and were driven out by the United States during the Shawnee Wars (1811–1813). The Erie, who were chased out of Ohio around 1655, are now believed to be the same as the Westo, who invaded as far as South Carolina before being destroyed in the 1680s. If so, their path would have brought them through West Virginia. The historical movement of the Tutelo and carbon dating of the Fort Ancients seem to correspond with the given period of 1655–1670 as the time of their removal.[2] The Susquehannocks were original participants in the Beaver Wars but were cut off from the Ohio River by the Iroquois around 1630 and found themselves in dire straits. Suffering from disease and constant warfare and unable to provide for themselves financially, they began to collapse and moved further and further east, to the Susquehanna River of Eastern Pennsylvania. The Manahoac were probably forced out in the 1680s when the Iroquois began to invade Virginia. The Siouan tribes there moved into North Carolina and later returned as one tribe, known as the Eastern Blackfoot, or Christannas.

The Westo did not secure the territory they conquered. Even before they were gone, displaced natives from the south flooded into freshly conquered regions and took them over. These became known as the Shattaras, or West Virginia Cherokees. They took in and merged with the Monetons, who began to call themselves the Mohetons. The Calicua also began to call themselves Cherokees soon after, showing an apparent further merger. These Shattaras were closely related to the tribes that formed to the south in the aftermath of the Westo—the Yuchi and Cherokee. From 1715 to 1717, the Yamasee War sprang up. The Senandoa allegedly sided with the Yuchi and were destroyed by Yamasee allies. Therefore, if the Senandoa were the same tribe as the Moneton, this would mean the collapse of Shattara-Moneton culture. Another tribe that appeared in the region was the Canaragay, or Kanawha. It later migrated to Maryland and merged into colonial culture.

European exploration and settlement

In 1671, General Abraham Wood, at the direction of Royal Governor William Berkeley of the Virginia Colony, sent a party from Fort Henry led by Thomas Batts and Robert Fallam to survey this territory. They were the first Europeans recorded as discovering Kanawha Falls. Some sources state that Governor Alexander Spotswood's 1716 Knights of the Golden Horseshoe Expedition (for which the state's Golden Horseshoe Competition for 8th graders is named) had penetrated as far as Pendleton County, but modern historians interpret the original accounts of the excursion as suggesting that none of the expedition's horsemen ventured much farther west of the Blue Ridge Mountains than Harrisonburg, Virginia. John Van Metre, an Indian trader, penetrated into the northern portion in 1725. The same year, German settlers from Pennsylvania founded New Mecklenburg, the present Shepherdstown, on the Potomac River, and others followed.

King Charles II of England, in 1661, granted to a company of gentlemen the land between the Potomac and Rappahannock rivers, known as the Northern Neck. Thomas Fairfax, 6th Lord Fairfax of Cameron ultimately took possession of this grant, and in 1746 a stone was erected at the source of the North Branch Potomac River to mark his grant's western limit. George Washington surveyed a considerable part of this land between 1748 and 1751. His diary recorded that there were already many squatters, largely of German origin, along the South Branch Potomac River.

Christopher Gist, a surveyor in the employ of the first Ohio Company, which was composed chiefly of Virginians, explored the country along the Ohio River north of the mouth of the Kanawha River between 1751 and 1752. The company sought to have a 14th colony established with the name "Vandalia". Many settlers crossed the mountains after 1750, though they were hindered by Native American resistance. Few Native Americans lived permanently within the state's present limits, but the region was a common hunting ground, crossed by many trails. During the French and Indian War (the North American front of the Seven Years' War in Europe), Indian allies of the French nearly destroyed the scattered British settlements.

Shortly before the American Revolutionary War, in 1774 Crown Governor of Virginia John Murray, 4th Earl of Dunmore, led a force over the mountains. A body of militia under then-Colonel Andrew Lewis dealt the Shawnee Indians, under Hokoleskwa (or "Cornstalk"), a crushing blow during the Battle of Point Pleasant at the junction of the Kanawha and the Ohio rivers. At the Treaty of Camp Charlotte concluding Dunmore's War, Cornstalk agreed to recognize the Ohio River as the new boundary with the "Long Knives". But by 1776 the Shawnee returned to war, joining the Chickamauga, a band of Cherokee known for the area where they lived. Native American attacks on settlers continued until after the American Revolutionary War. During the war, the settlers in western Virginia were generally active Whigs; many served in the Continental Army. Claypool's Rebellion of 1780–1781, in which a group of men refused to pay taxes to the Continental Army, showed war-weariness in what became West Virginia.

Trans-Allegheny Virginia

Social conditions in western Virginia were entirely unlike those in the eastern part. The population was not homogeneous, as a considerable part of the immigration came by way of Pennsylvania and included Germans, Protestant Scotch-Irish, and settlers from states farther north. Counties in the east and south were settled mostly by eastern Virginians. During the American Revolution, the movement to create a state beyond the Alleghenies was revived and a petition for the establishment of "Westsylvania" was presented to Congress, on the grounds that the mountains presented an almost impassable barrier to the east. The rugged terrain made slavery unprofitable, and time only increased the social, political, economic, and cultural differences (see Tuckahoe-Cohee) between Virginia's two sections.

In 1829, a constitutional convention met in Richmond to consider reforms to Virginia's outdated constitution. Philip Doddridge of Brooke County championed the cause of western Virginians who sought a more democratic frame of government, but western reforms were rejected by leaders from east of the Alleghenies who "clung to political power in an effort to preserve their plantation lifestyles dependent on enslaving blacks". Virginia leaders maintained a property qualification for suffrage, effectively disenfranchising poorer farmers in the west whose families did much of the farm work themselves. In addition, the 1829–30 convention gave slaveholding counties the benefit of three-fifths of their slave population in apportioning the state's representation in the U.S. House of Representatives. As a result, every county west of the Alleghenies except one voted to reject the constitution, which nevertheless passed because of eastern support. The eastern planter elite's failure to make constitutional reforms exacerbated existing east–west sectionalism in Virginia and contributed to its division.

The Virginia Constitutional Convention of 1850–51, the Reform Convention, addressed a number of issues important to western Virginians. It extended the vote to all white males 21 years or older. The governor, lieutenant governor, the judiciary, sheriffs, and other county officers were to be elected by public vote. The General Assembly's composition was changed. Representation in the House of Delegates was apportioned on the basis of the census of 1850, counting whites only. The Senate representation was arbitrarily fixed at 50 seats, with the west receiving 20 senators and the east 30. This was made acceptable to the west by a provision that required the General Assembly to reapportion representation on the basis of the white population in 1865, or else put the matter to a public referendum. But the east also gave itself a tax advantage in requiring a property tax at true and actual value, except for slaves. Slaves under age 12 were not taxed and slaves over that age were taxed at only $300, a fraction of their true value, but small farmers had all their assets, animals, and land taxed at full value. Despite this tax and the lack of internal improvements in the west, the vote was 75,748 for and 11,063 against the new constitution. Most of the opposition came from delegates from eastern counties, who did not like the compromises made for the west.

Given these differences, many in the west had long contemplated a separate state. In particular, men such as lawyer Francis H. Pierpont from Fairmont had long chafed under the Tidewater and Piedmont slaveholders' political dominance. In addition to differences over slavery, he and allies felt the Virginia government ignored and refused to spend funds on needed internal improvements in the west, such as turnpikes and railroads.

Separation from Virginia

West Virginia was the only state in the Union to separate from a Confederate state (Virginia) during the Civil War. In Richmond on April 17, 1861, the Virginia Secession Convention of 1861 voted to secede from the Union, but of the 49 delegates from the northwestern corner (which ultimately became West Virginia) only 17 voted in favor of the Ordinance of Secession, while 30 voted against (with two abstentions). Almost immediately after that vote, a mass meeting at Clarksburg recommended that each county in northwestern Virginia send delegates to a convention to meet in Wheeling on May 13, 1861. When this First Wheeling Convention met, 425 delegates from 25 counties were present, though more than one-third of the delegates were from the northern panhandle area. Soon there was a division of sentiment.

Some delegates led by John S. Carlile favored the immediate formation of a new state, while others led by Waitman Willey argued that, as Virginia's secession had not yet been passed by the required referendum (as happened on May 23), such action would constitute revolution against the United States. The convention decided that if Virginians adopted the secession ordinance (of which there was little doubt), another convention including the members-elect of the legislature would meet in Wheeling in June 1861. On May 23, 1861, secession was ratified by a large majority in Virginia as a whole, but in the western counties 34,677 voted against and 19,121 voted for the ordinance.

The Second Wheeling Convention met as agreed on June 11 and declared that, since the Secession Convention had been called without popular consent, all its acts were void and all who adhered to it had vacated their offices. The Wheeling Conventions, and the delegates themselves, were never actually elected by public ballot to act on behalf of western Virginia. Of its 103 members, 33 had been elected to the Virginia General Assembly on May 23. This included some hold-over state senators whose four-year terms had begun in 1859, and some who vacated their offices to convene in Wheeling. Other members "were chosen even more irregularly—some in mass meetings, others by county committee, and still others were seemingly self-appointed". An act for the reorganization of the government was passed on June 19. The next day, convention delegates chose Francis H. Pierpont as governor of Virginia and elected other officers to a rival state government and two U.S. senators (Willey and Carlile) to replace secessionists before adjourning. The federal government promptly recognized the new government and seated the two new senators. Thus there were two state governments in Virginia: one pledging allegiance to the United States and one to the Confederacy.

The second Wheeling Convention had recessed until August 6, then reassembled on August 20 and called for a popular vote on the formation of a new state and for a convention to frame a constitution if the vote were favorable. In the October 24, 1861, election, 18,408 votes were cast for the new state and 781 against. The election results were questioned since the Union army then occupied the area and Union troops were stationed at many of the polls to prevent Confederate sympathizers from voting. This was also election day for local offices, and elections were also held in camps of Confederate soldiers, who elected rival state officials, such as Robert E. Cowan. Most pro-statehood votes came from 16 counties around the Northern panhandle. Over 50,000 votes had been cast on the Ordinance of Secession, yet the vote on statehood garnered little more than 19,000. In Ohio County, home to Wheeling, only about a fourth of the registered voters cast votes. In most of what would become West Virginia, there was no vote at all, as two-thirds of the territory of West Virginia had voted for secession, and county officers remained loyal to Richmond. Votes recorded from pro-secession counties were mostly cast elsewhere by Unionist refugees from these counties.

Despite that controversy, delegates (including many Methodist ministers) met to write a constitution for the new state, beginning on November 26, 1861. During that constitutional convention, a Mr. Lamb of Ohio County and a Mr. Carskadon claimed that in Hampshire County, out of 195 votes only 39 were cast by citizens of the state; the rest were cast illegally by Union soldiers. One of the key figures was Gordon Battelle, who also represented Ohio County, and who proposed resolutions to establish public schools, as well as to limit the movement of slaves into the new state, and to gradually abolish slavery. The education proposal succeeded, but the convention tabled the slavery proposals before finishing its work on February 18, 1862. The new constitution was more closely modeled on Ohio's than Virginia's, adopting a township model of government rather than the "courthouse cliques" of Virginia which Carlile criticized, and a compromise demanded by the Kanawha region (Charleston lawyers Benjamin Smith and Brown) allowed counties and municipalities to vote subsidies for railroads or other improvement organizations. The resulting instrument was ratified (18,162 for and 514 against) on April 11, 1862.

On May 13, 1862, the state legislature of the reorganized government approved the formation of the new state. An application for admission to the Union was made to Congress, introduced by Senator Waitman Willey of the Restored Government of Virginia. Carlile sought to sabotage the bill, first trying to expand the new state's boundaries to include the Shenandoah Valley, and then to defeat the Willey amendment at home. On December 31, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln approved an enabling act admitting West Virginia on the condition that a provision for the gradual abolition of slavery be inserted in its constitution (as Battelle had urged in the Wheeling Intelligencer and also written to Lincoln). While many felt West Virginia's admission as a state was both illegal and unconstitutional, Lincoln issued his Opinion on the Admission of West Virginia finding that "the body which consents to the admission of West Virginia is the Legislature of Virginia", and that its admission was therefore both constitutional and expedient.

The convention was reconvened on February 12, 1863, and the abolition demand of the federal enabling act was met. The revised constitution was adopted on March 26, 1863, and on April 20, 1863, Lincoln issued a proclamation admitting the state 60 days later on June 20, 1863. Meanwhile, officers for the new state were chosen, while Pierpont moved his pro-Union Virginia capital to Union-occupied Alexandria, where he asserted and exercised jurisdiction over all the remaining Virginia counties within the federal lines.

The question of the constitutionality of the formation of the new state was later brought before the Supreme Court of the United States in Virginia v. West Virginia. Berkeley and Jefferson counties, lying on the Potomac east of the mountains, voted in favor of annexation to West Virginia in 1863, with the consent of Virginia's reorganized government.

Many voters of the strongly pro-secessionist counties were absent in the Confederate Army when the vote was taken and refused to acknowledge the transfer when they returned. The Virginia General Assembly repealed the act of secession and in 1866 brought suit against West Virginia asking the court to declare the counties part of Virginia, which would have made West Virginia's admission as a state unconstitutional. Meanwhile, on March 10, 1866, Congress passed a joint resolution recognizing the transfer. The Supreme Court decided in West Virginia's favor in 1870.

During the Civil War, Union General George B. McClellan's forces gained possession of the greater part of the territory in the summer of 1861, culminating at the Battle of Rich Mountain, and Union control was never again seriously threatened. In 1863, General John D. Imboden, with 5,000 Confederates, raided a considerable portion of the state and burned Pierpont's library, although Willey escaped their grasp. Bands of guerrillas burned and plundered in some sections, and were not entirely suppressed until the war ended. The Eastern Panhandle counties were more affected by the war, with military control of the area repeatedly changing hands.

The area that became West Virginia actually furnished about an equal number of soldiers to the Union and Confederate armies, about 22,000–25,000 each. In 1865, the Wheeling government found it necessary to strip voting rights from returning Confederates in order to retain control. James Ferguson, who proposed the law, said if it was not enacted he would lose the election by 500 votes. Confederates' property might also be confiscated, and in 1866 a constitutional amendment disfranchising all who had given aid and comfort to the Confederacy was adopted. The addition of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution caused a reaction. The Democratic party secured control in 1870, and in 1871 the constitutional amendment of 1866 was abrogated. Republicans had taken the first steps toward this change in 1870. On August 22, 1872, an entirely new constitution was adopted.

Beginning in Reconstruction, and for several decades thereafter, the two states disputed the new state's share of the prewar Virginia government's debts, which had mostly been incurred to finance public infrastructure improvements, such as canals, roads, and railroads under the Virginia Board of Public Works. Virginians—led by former Confederate general William Mahone—formed a political coalition based upon this: the Readjuster Party. West Virginia's first constitution provided for the assumption of a part of the Virginia debt, but negotiations opened by Virginia in 1870 were fruitless, and in 1871 Virginia funded two-thirds of the debt and arbitrarily assigned the remainder to West Virginia. The issue was finally settled in 1915, when the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that West Virginia owed Virginia $12,393,929.50. The final installment of this sum was paid in 1939.

Claims by Maryland

The original charters for Maryland and Virginia were silent as to which branch of the upper Potomac was the boundary. This was settled by the 1785 Mount Vernon Conference. Nevertheless, when West Virginia seceded from Virginia, Maryland claimed West Virginia land north of the South Branch (all of Mineral and Grant Counties and parts of Hampshire, Hardy, Tucker and Pendleton Counties). The Supreme Court rejected these claims in two separate decisions in 1910.

Development of natural resources

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 trail stretched from Pendleton County to the western terminus of the route in the town of Union, Monroe County. Nearly half of these caves are on the West Virginia side, including Organ Cave and Haynes Cave. 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. 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.

The residents (both Native Americans and early European settlers) had long known of the underlying coal, and that it could be used for heating and fuel. However, for a long time, "personal" or artisanal mining was the only practical development. After the War, with the new railroads came a practical method to transport large quantities of coal to expanding U.S. and export markets. As the anthracite mines of northwestern New Jersey and Pennsylvania began to play out during this same time period, investors and industrialists focused new interest in West Virginia. Geologists such as Dr. David T. Ansted surveyed potential coal fields and invested in land and early mining projects.

The completion of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway (C&O) across the state to the new city of Huntington on the Ohio River in 1872 opened access to the New River Coal Field. Soon, the C&O was building its huge coal pier at Newport News, Virginia, on the large harbor of Hampton Roads. In 1881, the new Philadelphia-based owners of the former Atlantic, Mississippi and Ohio Railroad (AM&O), which stretched across Virginia's southern tier from Norfolk, had sights clearly set on the Mountain State, where the owners had large landholdings. Their railroad was renamed Norfolk and Western (N&W), and a new railroad city was developed at Roanoke to handle planned expansion. After its new president Frederick J. Kimball and a small party journeyed by horseback and saw firsthand the rich bituminous coal seam, which Kimball's wife named Pocahontas, the N&W redirected its planned westward expansion to reach it. Soon, the N&W was also shipping from new coal piers at Hampton Roads.

In 1889, in the southern part of the state, along the Norfolk and Western rail lines, the important coal center of Bluefield, West Virginia, was founded. The "capital" of the Pocahontas coalfield, this city would remain the largest city in the southern portion of the state for several decades. It shares its name with a sister city, Bluefield, in Virginia.

In the northern portion of the state and elsewhere, the older Baltimore and Ohio Railroad (B&O) and other lines also expanded to take advantage of coal opportunities. The B&O developed coal piers in Baltimore and at several points on the Great Lakes. Other significant rail carriers of coal were the Western Maryland Railway (WM), Southern Railway (SOU), and the Louisville and Nashville Railroad (L&N).

Particularly notable was a latecomer, the Virginian Railway (VGN). By 1900, only the most rugged terrain of southern West Virginia was any distance from the existing railroads and mining activity. Within this area west of the New River Coalfield in Raleigh and Wyoming counties lay the Winding Gulf Coalfield, later promoted as the "Billion Dollar Coalfield".

A protégé of Dr. Ansted was William Nelson Page (1854–1932), a civil engineer and mining manager in Fayette County. Former West Virginia governor William A. MacCorkle described him as a man who knew the land "as a farmer knows a field". Beginning in 1898, Page teamed with northern and European-based investors to take advantage of the undeveloped area. They acquired large tracts of land in the area, and Page began the Deepwater Railway, a short-line railroad chartered to stretch between the C&O at its line along the Kanawha River and the N&W at Matoaka—a distance of about .

Although the Deepwater plan should have provided a competitive shipping market via either railroad, leaders of the two large railroads did not appreciate the scheme. In secret collusion, each declined to negotiate favorable rates with Page, nor did they offer to purchase his railroad, as they had many other short-lines. However, if the C&O and N&W presidents thought they could thus kill the Page project, they were to be proved mistaken. One of the silent partner investors Page had enlisted was millionaire industrialist Henry Huttleston Rogers, a principal in John D. Rockefeller's Standard Oil Trust and an old hand at developing natural resources and transportation. A master at competitive "warfare", Henry Rogers did not like to lose in his endeavors and also had "deep pockets".

Instead of giving up, Page (and Rogers) quietly planned and then built their tracks all the way east across Virginia, using Rogers' private fortune to finance the $40  million cost. When the renamed Virginian Railway (VGN) was completed in 1909, no fewer than three railroads were shipping ever-increasing volumes of coal to export from Hampton Roads. West Virginia coal was also in high demand at Great Lakes ports. The VGN and the N&W ultimately became parts of the modern Norfolk Southern system, and the VGN's well-engineered 20th-century tracks continue to offer a favorable gradient to Hampton Roads.

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.

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.


1774Battle of Point PleasantSource:Wikipedia
1790First censusSource:Population of States and Counties of the United States: 1790-1990
1863West Virginia becomes a stateSource:Wikipedia
1898William Nelson Page teamed with investors, acquired land and began the Deepwater RailwaySource:Wikipedia

Population History

source: Source:Population of States and Counties of the United States: 1790-1990
Census Year Population
1790 55,873
1800 78,592
1810 105,469
1820 136,808
1830 176,924
1840 224,537
1850 302,313
1860 376,688
1870 442,014
1880 618,457
1890 762,794
1900 958,800
1910 1,221,119
1920 1,463,701
1930 1,729,205
1940 1,901,974
1950 2,005,552
1960 1,860,421
1970 1,744,237
1980 1,949,644
1990 1,793,477

Note: West Virginia was admitted as a State on June 20, 1863, comprising 50 counties formerly part of Virginia. Berkeley County and Jefferson County were subjects of litigation after the Civil War, and may have operated as part of the State of Virginia for some period of time, but the 1863 effective date of their incorporation into West Virginia was eventually upheld by both Congress and the Supreme Court, nullifying any actions taken during any return to Virginia. Census coverage included all parts of the present State from 1790 on. Populations for 1790-1850 are totals of the Virginia counties that were wholly or primarily within the present-day boundaries of West Virginia; populations at these censuses are not available for the exact present area of the State, because some Virginia counties extended across the current State line. Population for 1860 is the total of the 50 Virginia counties that formed West Virginia in 1863 and 1866, and does refer to the present area of the State.

Research Tips

Births, Marriages, and Deaths has a variety of collections available for free online:

Links to West Virginia Genealogy and Historical Web Sites

The West Virginia Division of Culture and History is currently involved in the Vital Records Research Project which is making available birth, marriage and death information for all counties in the state for online access. This is an ongoing project; currently there are birth and marriage records for sixteen counties but all years are not yet available. State death certificates for individuals from all 55 counties dating from 1917 through 1957 are currently available online in a viewable, searchable and downloadable format. Additional death certificates will be added in a batch once a year as the certificates pass the 50-year mark of issuance.

Outstanding guide to West Virginia family history and genealogy (FamilySearch Research Wiki). Birth, marriage, and death records, wills, deeds, county records, archives, Bible records, cemeteries, churches, censuses, directories, immigration lists, naturalizations, maps, history, newspapers, and societies.

This site also offers Place Names in West Virginia for cities, towns, villages, current and historic, in West Virginia.

This site, Mother of all Counties gives dates and mother counties of all the counties in West Virginia even while the state was still Virginia. You need to scroll to the bottom of the page to select from alpha list.
Another list of counties with dates of organization is here:
A good map of counties in census year 1850 while West Virginia was still in Virginia:

Hackers Creek Pioneer Descendants is an organization dedicated to the history and genealogy of West Virginia, especially the central part of the state. Lewis County, Harrison County, Monongalia County, Barbour County, Upshur County, Webster County, Braxton County, Gilmer County, and Doddridge County all have special interest for them; but members research in most of the counties in the northern half of West Virginia. In addition to this website, they operate a library dedicated to genealogy and historical research and publish numerous research tools for the region.

West Virginia Biographies searchable by county; then surname.

WVGenWeb Project is a loosely woven, nonprofit, grassroots association of individuals interested in preserving and freely sharing all types of genealogical and historical records within and about the state of West Virginia, known as Western and Northwestern Virginia prior to the formation of the state of West Virginia in 1863. WVGenWeb provides a central location for this information by means of computer networking via the Internet.

List of West Virginia Web Sites hosted by RootsWeb. This includes sites for each county plus many sites dedicated to various West Virginia subjects. Clay County Historical Society Website

The West Virginia Cemetery Preservation Association works to document, gather information, increase public awareness, raise funds, organize projects, and network with other organizations and tradesmen to preserve, protect, and maintain our historical cemeteries and churches in West Virginia. They work to document these historic landmarks and make them available to all on the internet.

West Virginia in the Civil War Site includes much info on both Union and Confederate Regiments
West Virginia in the Civil War: Regiments, History, Books, Genealogy, Biographies, Rosters Site includes the 1890 Federal census of Veterans and Widows for several counties.

This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original content was at West Virginia. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with WeRelate, the content of Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.