15 Fascinating Facts About West Virginia

Were you aware that West Virginia was the first state in the US to construct brick roads?

West Virginia, officially known as the “Mountain State” but also referred to as the “Panhandle State,” became the 35th state to join the United States of America on June 20, 1863.

It has a population of 1,792,147 people (as of 2019), making it the 38th most populous state.

West Virginia is bordered by Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland, and Kentucky.

Covering a total of 24,230 square miles (62,755 square kilometers) of land and water, it is the 18th largest state.

The capital city of West Virginia is Charleston, which is located just southwest of the state’s center.

That’s enough quick facts about the Mountain State; let’s delve right in!

People have been residing in West Virginia for over 13,000 years!

The most prominent theory about how the Americas were populated suggests that the first settlers came from the far east of modern-day Russia between 10-40,000 years ago.

At that time, sea levels were lower, allowing them to cross via a land bridge into modern-day Alaska.

These early explorers were primitive individuals who spread across the Americas as small family groups that survived by hunting and gathering.

Known as the Paleo-Indians, they are identified by how they created their stone spear tips, which have been found across the Americas.

The earliest proof of Paleo-Indians in modern-day West Virginia dates back to around 11,000 BC.

West Virginia was home to many diverse tribes and cultures before Europeans discovered North America.

The region encompassing modern-day West Virginia was home to at least three language groups.

Many of these had comparable cultural identities but spoke totally different languages.

The main language groups were the Ohio Valley Siouan, Iroquoian, and Central Algonquian.

Much of what we know about this area is from the archaeological evidence left behind by its inhabitants, ranging from intricate smoking pipes to huge earthen burial mounds.

West Virginia was nearly uninhabited by Native Americans when Europeans attempted to colonize it.

European colonization of the east coast of North America forced much of the Native American population out or those who had not already died due to conflicts or European diseases.

One Native American nation, the Iroquois Confederacy, was relatively prosperous compared to other tribes and invaded modern-day West Virginia, displacing the previous inhabitants.

The Iroquois did not settle there but instead used the region as a hunting ground. By the time settlers from Virginia began moving west, the area was home to only a few scattered villages.

West Virginia is the sole state in the US created by separating from a Confederate state.

West Virginia was part of the Virginia Colony and then the state of Virginia for a long time.

The eastern and western sides of the state were vastly different, as the Allegheny Mountain Range almost completely separated them.

The state’s eastern side relied heavily on slavery, while the western side generally did not, instead living on smallholdings.

Because of the drastic differences, there were calls to split the region long before the state of Virginia was even established.

In April 1861, Virginia voted to leave the Union and join the Confederate States of America. West Virginia used this opportunity to form its own state. Two years later, West Virginia was accepted as a state in the United States of America. West Virginia had a chaotic start due to its formation during the American Civil War. The location of the state capital changed four times. The first was in Wheeling, then it moved to Charleston in 1870. In 1875, the capitol returned to Wheeling for a newer, better capitol building. However, just two years later, the state voted to move the capitol back to Charleston. The current capitol building was constructed in another part of Charleston in 1921. The Coal House in Williamson, WV was constructed in 1933 using 65 tons of locally sourced coal. It is highly flammable and caught fire in 2010. West Virginia is home to the second oldest river in the world called New River. The river runs from North Carolina through Virginia into West Virginia and is estimated to have been around for 10-36 million years. It is also the only river in the US that flows in reverse, from south to north. Golden Delicious apples were first discovered in West Virginia by Anderson Mullins in 1905.

When he tasted it, he knew he had something special – a new type of apple that had never been seen before. Mullins quickly named it “Mullins’s Yellow Seedling and Annit apple,” which is universally considered to be a terrible name. Shortly thereafter, Mullins sold the tree’s rights for $5,000, and its name was changed to Golden Delicious. In 1995, it was declared the official state fruit of West Virginia.

The world’s first steamboat was designed and tested in West Virginia. Although many people erroneously attribute the construction of the first steamboat to Robert Fulton, this is not accurate. James Rumsey, a man of modest means with aspirations of becoming an inventor, was nothing more than a would-be inventor with no financial means to realize his dreams back in the late 18th century. By happenstance, he met George Washington before his presidency and shared his idea for a steam-powered engine. Washington was impressed and gave him a letter of recommendation that provided him with the advantage he required to approach investors and turn his dreams into reality. Within five years, he had constructed the world’s first steamboat, which he tested on the Potomac River in West Virginia in 1787. Unfortunately, Rumsey died five years later before the idea took off. It wasn’t until 1807 that Robert Fulton, an engineer with numerous connections, successfully marketed the concept to the general public with his designs.

West Virginia was originally intended to be named Kanawha. When the area now known as West Virginia declined Virginia’s efforts to withdraw from the Union, they established a provisional government to begin the lengthy process of becoming a separate state. Surprisingly, the state’s current name was not among the first names recommended. Instead, the first name was “Kanawha,” after the Kanawha River that flows through the state. The Kanawha River was named after the Kanawha Native American tribe that lived along its banks. The name was ultimately rejected because there was already a county named Kanawha, which was quite difficult to pronounce. Other names recommended before West Virginia was finally agreed upon include Vandalia, Augusta, Allegheny, and Western Virginia. Ultimately, a vote was held, with West Virginia winning 30 out of 44 votes.

A long-extinct species of giant sloth discovered in West Virginia was named after Thomas Jefferson. In 1796, miners discovered the animal’s fossilized remains in West Virginia’s Monroe County, initially believing them to be from a giant lion, the soldiers sent them to Thomas Jefferson, a well-known amateur paleontologist in his days before becoming Vice President. Jefferson quickly realized that the remains were not from any lion but an as-yet-undiscovered species of a giant sloth. He believed that there may still have been some giant sloths roaming around North America and later instructed the Lewis and Clarke expedition to keep their eyes peeled for it. Jefferson proposed the name “Megalonyx” (Great claw, in Greek), and the giant sloth was later officially named Megalonyx Jeffersonii. In 2008, the Megalonyx Jeffersonii was designated the official state fossil of West Virginia.

In 2009, West Virginia hosted the largest family reunion in the world.

The Lilly family had held 29 reunions before deciding to attempt breaking the Guinness World Record for the largest family reunion for their 80th gathering. With 2,585 members from all over the US and some foreign relations, they successfully beat the previous record held by the Busse family from Illinois. All participants had to prove their relation to the Lilly bloodline, including those related through marriage or adoption.

West Virginia is responsible for several significant contributions to American culture. Mother’s Day was first celebrated in Grafton, WV in the early 1900s, after years of campaigning by Ann Jarvis. Her daughter, Anna, held an unofficial celebration in 1907, and the following year, it was officially celebrated at the same church. By the year after, it was celebrated all over New York.

In 1870, most US cities used dirt roads that became muddy during the rainy season. Charleston resident Mordecai Levi solved this problem by paving the roads with red bricks, which were financed by a local doctor. John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads” became an instant hit in the US, but even more so in West Virginia. It was adopted as the unofficial state anthem and later became the official state song in 2014. Lastly, West Virginia is known for its breathtaking mountain wilderness, which offers various outdoor activities, from picnicking and fishing to base jumping.

FAQ

1. What is the history of West Virginia becoming a state?

West Virginia became a state on June 20, 1863, during the American Civil War. It was formed from Virginia, which had seceded from the Union, but not all Virginians supported the Confederacy and some wanted to remain in the Union. West Virginia was created as a result of this divide, with the Union loyalists forming their own state.

2. What is the state capital of West Virginia?

The state capital of West Virginia is Charleston. It is the largest city in the state and is located in the central part of West Virginia. Charleston is known for its rich history, including its role in the American Civil War, and its many cultural attractions.

3. What is the state animal of West Virginia?

The state animal of West Virginia is the black bear. The black bear is a common sight in the state’s forests and is a symbol of the state’s natural beauty and wilderness. West Virginia is also home to many other species of wildlife, including white-tailed deer, wild turkey, and bald eagles.

4. What is the state flower of West Virginia?

The state flower of West Virginia is the rhododendron. This beautiful flowering plant is known for its large, pink or purple blooms and can be found throughout the state. The rhododendron is a symbol of the state’s natural beauty and is often used in landscaping and gardening.

5. What is the highest point in West Virginia?

The highest point in West Virginia is Spruce Knob, which has an elevation of 4,863 feet (1,482 meters). Spruce Knob is located in the Monongahela National Forest and is a popular destination for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts. From the top of Spruce Knob, visitors can enjoy breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and forests.

6. What is the most famous attraction in West Virginia?

One of the most famous attractions in West Virginia is the New River Gorge Bridge. This impressive steel arch bridge spans the New River Gorge and is one of the longest and highest arch bridges in the world. It is a popular destination for tourists and outdoor enthusiasts, who come to enjoy the bridge’s stunning views and the many recreational activities available in the area.

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