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West Virginia History & Interesting Facts 

West Virginia became a state June 20, 1863, in the midst of the Civil War. West Virginia is the only state in the Union to have acquired its sovereignty by proclamation by the President of the United States. Statehood was proclaimed by President Abraham Lincoln.

Before achieving statehood, the citizens of western Virginia organized the Restored State of Virginia via the Wheeling Convention with Francis H. Pierpont as Governor, feeling that the sitting Virginia government had acted illegally in seceding from the Union. West Virginia adopted its first constitution in 1863 upon achieving statehood. In 1872, a second constitution was adopted, and this document still guides the government of the state. Thirty-one governors have served the state, including the current executive. The state also has a legislature body drawn from 17 senatorial districts and 40 delegate districts. The state is divided into 55 counties. All but five of the counties are older than the state.

West Virginia's earliest inhabitants were the mound- building Adena Indians, whose legacies of artifacts and impressive burial mounds - including the Grave Creek Mound, the largest earth mound east of the Mississippi River - are scattered throughout the Ohio and Kanawha River Valleys. European and American settlers began arriving in the area in the early 1600's. By this time, the native population had already been greatly reduced by tribal wars and smallpox epidemics, and West Virginia was used principally as a hunting ground. The remaining natives fought the gradual influx of predominantly Scotch-Irish and German settlers, who in turn built protective forts. These forts and blockhouses, including Fort Henry and Fort Lee, often became major towns and cities such as Wheeling and Charleston. West Virginia was legally opened to settlement by treaty with the Indians in 1768. By 1775, there were some 30,000 settlers in the area between the Allegheny Mountains and the Ohio River.

The area that became West Virginia was active in the Revolutionary War and began building an economy based on the development of the rich mineral resources of the region. By the Civil War, economic, political, and ideological reasons led West Virginia to split from the eastern portion, joining the Union forces and becoming the 35th state in 1863. Several early battles of the war were fought on West Virginia's soil. After the war, the new state proceeded to develop its industrial economy, making significant contributions to the World War efforts and the nation's energy supply. In recent years, West Virginia has broadened its economic base with the addition of new manufacturing ventures, tourism programs, and service industries.

To learn more about important dates, famous West Virginians, and to read some unusual facts about the State of West Virginia, click on a subject below to go to the West Virginia Division of Tourism's Fun Facts web site:




Other suggested sites for more information on West Virginia History:

Please report any non-functioning links here

County Commissioners' Association of West Virginia - Early History of West Virginia Counties -

West Virginia Archives and History web page. -

West Virginia: A History for Beginners is more than a list of boring names, dates and places. John Alexander Williams' fascinating interpretation helps readers understand why events happened the way they did -- and why things are the way they are. -