State of West Virginia
ORIGIN OF STATE NAME: The state was originally the western part of Virginia.
NICKNAME: The Mountain State.
ENTERED UNION: 20 June 1863 (35th).
SONG: "The West Virginia Hills;" "West Virginia, My Home Sweet Home;" "This Is My West Virginia."
MOTTO: Montani semper liberi (Mountaineers are always free).
COAT OF ARMS: A farmer stands to the right and a miner to the left of a large ivy-draped rock bearing the date of the state's admission to the Union. In front of the rock are two hunters' rifles upon which rests a Cap of Liberty. The state motto is beneath and the words "State of West Virginia" above.
FLAG: The flag has a white field bordered by a strip of blue, with the coat of arms in the center, wreathed by rhododendron leaves; across the top of the coat of arms are the words "State of West Virginia."
OFFICIAL SEAL: The same as the coat of arms.
FISH: Brook trout.
TREE: Sugar maple.
LEGAL HOLIDAYS: New Year's Day, 1 January; Birthday of Martin Luther King Jr., 3rd Monday in January; Presidents' Day, 3rd Monday in February; Memorial Day, last Monday in May; West Virginia Day, 20 June; Independence Day, 4 July; Labor Day, 1st Monday in September; Columbus Day, 2nd Monday in October; Veterans' Day, 11 November; Thanksgiving Day, 4th Thursday in November and the day following; Christmas Day, 25 December.
TIME: 7 AM EST = noon GMT.
LOCATION, SIZE, AND EXTENT
Located in the eastern United States, in the South Atlantic region, West Virginia ranks 41st in size among the 50 states.
The area of West Virginia totals 24,231 sq mi (62,758 sq km), including 24,119 sq mi (62,468 sq km) of land and 112 sq mi (290 sq km) of inland water. The state extends 265 mi (426 km) e-w; its maximum n-s extension is 237 mi (381 km). West Virginia is one of the most irregularly shaped states in the United States, with two panhandles of land—the northern, narrower one separating parts of Ohio and Pennsylvania, and the eastern panhandle separating parts of Maryland and Virginia.
West Virginia is bordered on the n by Ohio (with the line formed by the Ohio River), Pennsylvania, and Maryland (with most of the line defined by the Potomac River); on the e and s by Virginia; and on the w by Kentucky and Ohio (with the line following the Ohio, Big Sandy, and Tug Fork rivers).
The total boundary length of West Virginia is 1,180 mi (1,899 km). The geographical center of the state is in the Elk River Public Hunting Area in Braxton County, 4 mi (6 km) e of Sutton.
West Virginia lies within two divisions of the Appalachian Highlands. Most of the eastern panhandle, which is crossed by the Allegheny Mountains, is in the Ridge and Valley region. The remainder, or more than two-thirds of the state, is part of the Allegheny Plateau, to the west of a bold escarpment known as the Allegheny Front, and tilts toward the Ohio River.
The mean elevation of West Virginia is 1,500 ft (458 m), higher than any other state east of the Mississippi River. Its highest point, Spruce Knob, towers 4,861 ft (1,483 m) above sea level. Major lowlands lie along the rivers, especially the Potomac, Ohio, and Kanawha. A point on the Potomac River near Harpers Ferry has the lowest elevation, only 240 ft (73 m) above sea level. West Virginia has no natural lakes.
Most of the eastern panhandle drains into the Potomac River. The Ohio and its tributaries—the Monongahela, Little Kanawha, Kanawha, Guyandotte, and Big Sandy—drain most of the Allegheny Plateau section. Subterranean streams have carved out numerous caverns—including Seneca Caverns, Smoke Hole Caverns, and Organ Cave—from limestone beds.
During the Paleozoic era, when West Virginia was under water, a 30,000-ft (9,000-m) layer of rock streaked with rich coal deposits was laid down over much of the state. Alternately worn down and uplifted during succeeding eras, most of West Virginia is thus a plateau where rivers have carved deep valleys and gorges and given the land a rugged character.
West Virginia has a humid continental climate, with hot summers and cool to cold winters. The climate of the eastern panhandle is influenced by its proximity to the Atlantic slope and is similar to that of nearby coastal areas. Mean annual temperatures vary from 56°f (13°c) in the southwest to 48°f (9°c) at higher elevations. The yearly average is 53°f (12°c). The highest recorded temperature, 112°f (44°c), was at Martinsburg on 10 July 1936; the lowest, −37°f (−38°c), at Lewisburg on 30 December 1917.
Prevailing winds are from the south and west, and seldom reach hurricane or tornado force. In Charleston, average annual precipitation is about 42.9 in (108 cm) and is slightly heavier on the western slopes of the Alleghenies. Accumulations of snow may vary from about 20 in (51cm) in the western sections to more than 50 in (127 cm) in the higher mountains.
FLORA AND FAUNA
With its varied topography and climate, West Virginia provides a natural habitat for more than 3,200 species of plants in three life zones: Canadian, Alleghenian, and Carolinian. Oak, maple, poplar, walnut, hickory, birch, and such softwoods as hemlock, pine, and spruce are the common forest trees. Rhododendron, laurel, dogwood, redbud, and pussy willow are among the more than 200 flowering trees and shrubs. Rare plant species include the box huckleberry, Guyandotte beauty, and Kate's mountain clover. The Cranberry Glades, an ancient lake bed similar to a glacial bog, contains the bog rosemary and other plant species common in more northern climates. In April 2006, six plant species were listed as threatened or endangered by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, including shale barren rock-cress, harperella, northeastern bulrush, running buffalo clover, Virginia spirea, and small whorled pogonia.
West Virginia fauna includes at least 56 species and subspecies of mammals and more than 300 types of birds. The gray wolf, puma, elk, and bison of early times have disappeared. The white-tailed (Virginia) deer and the black bear (both protected by the state) as well as the wildcat are still found in the deep timber of the Allegheny ridges; raccoons, skunks, woodchucks, opossums, gray and red foxes, squirrels, and cottontail rabbits remain numerous. Common birds include the cardinal, tufted titmouse, brown thrasher, scarlet tanager, catbird, and a diversity of sparrows, woodpeckers, swallows, and warblers. Major game birds are the wild turkey, bobwhite quail, and ruffed grouse; hawks and owls are the most common birds of prey. Notable among more than 100 species of fish are smallmouth bass, rainbow trout, and brook trout (the state fish). The copperhead and rattlesnake are both numerous and poisonous. In April 2006, 13 animal species (vertebrates and invertebrates) were listed as threatened or endangered in West Virginia, including the bald eagle, three species (gray, Indiana, and Virginia big-eared) of bat, fanshell, flat-spired three-toothed snail, and the Cheat Mountain salamander.
Major responsibility for environmental protection in West Virginia rests with the Division of Environmental Protection (DEP). The DEP was established in October 1991 and became West Virginia's leading environmental agency in July 1992, with the consolidation of the state's major environmental regulatory programs. Today, the DEP is responsible for the oversight of the state's Abandoned Mine Lands, Air Quality, Mining and Reclamation, Oil and Gas, Waste Management, and Water Resources programs. A new DEP program is the Office of Environmental Advocate. The office was created to improve public access and input into DEP functioning.
Environmental issues confronting the state of West Virginia include the restoration of about 2,000 mi (3,218 km) of streams that are being impacted by acid mine damage. To combat the problem, the state has created a Stream Restoration program, which is using a variety of treatment methods, including limestone drum technology, to improve water quality. The first treatment station is under construction in the Blackwater River watershed, with plans to construct a second station in the Middlefork River watershed. The state is in the midst of an initiative that focuses on better planning and management of West Virginia's five major watersheds. In 1996, less than 1% of West Virginia's land was designated wetlands.
The proper disposal of solid waste had been addressed through requirements for landfills to meet environmental safety standards by the end of 1994 or face closure. West Virginia also mandates that cities with populations of 10,000 or more develop recycling programs. In 2003, 102.2 million lb of toxic chemicals were released in the state. Also in 2003, West Virginia had 154 hazardous waste sites listed in the US Environment Protection Agency (EPA) database, nine of which were on the National Priorities List as of 2006, including the Allegany Ballistics Laboratory of the US Navy. In 2005, the EPA spent over $1.3 million through the Superfund program for the cleanup of hazardous waste sites in the state. The same year, federal EPA grants awarded to the state included $2 million for projects involving water quality protection and control through nonpoint source program management.
West Virginia ranked 37th in population in the United States with an estimated total of 1,816,856 in 2005, an increase of 0.5% since 2000. Between 1990 and 2000, West Virginia's population grew from 1,793,477 to 1,808,344, an increase of 0.8%. The population is projected to decline to 1.76 million by 2025. The population density in 2004 was 75.4 persons per sq mi.
In 2004 the median age was 40.3, compared to the US average of 36.2. Persons under 18 years old accounted for 21.2% of the population (the national average was 25%) while 15.3% was age 65 or older (national average 12.4%).
The state's population grew rapidly in the 1880s and 1890s, as coal mining, lumbering, and railroads expanded to meet the needs of nearby industrial centers, but the pace of expansion slowed in the early 20th century. The population peaked at 2,005,552 in 1950; then mass unemployment, particularly in the coal industry, caused thousands of families to migrate to Midwestern cities. An upswing began in the 1970s.
West Virginia's major cities all have populations of less than 100,000. However, the Charleston metropolitan area had an estimated 2004 population of 307,763. The Huntington-Ashland metropolitan region, which includes parts of eastern Kentucky and southern Ohio, had an estimated population of 287,038 the same year.
Nearly all Indian inhabitants had left the state before the arrival of European settlers. In the 2000 census, about 3,606 Indians were counted. In 2004, 0.2% of the population was American Indian.
The 57,232 blacks in the state in 2000 constituted about 3.2% of the population. That percentage remained unchanged in 2004. The majority lived in industrial centers and coal-mining areas. Only 19,390 West Virginians, or 1.1% of the population, were foreign born in 2000. In 2000, there were 12,279 Hispanics and Latinos, representing 0.7% of the total population. In 2004, Hispanics or Latinos accounted for 0.8% of the total population. In 2000, there were 9,434 persons of Asian origin. In 2004, 0.6% of the population was Asian. In 2004, 0.8% of the population reported origin of two or more races. Persons reporting at least one specific an-cestry group in 2000 included 176,297 English, 253,388 Germans, 198,473 Irish, and 37,837 Dutch.
With little foreign immigration and with no effect from the original Iroquois and Cherokee Indians, West Virginia maintains Midland speech. There is a secondary contrast between the northern half and the southern half, with the former influenced by Pennsylvania and the latter by western Virginia.
The basic Midland speech sounds the /r/ after a vowel as in far and short, and has /kag/ for keg, /greezy/ for greasy, sofy instead of sofa, and nicker in place of neigh. The northern part has /yelk/ for yolk, /loom/ for loam, an /ai/ diphthong so stretched that sat and sight sound very much alike, run for creek, and teeter(totter) for seesaw. The southern half pronounces here and hear as /hyeer/, aunt and can't as /aint/ and /kaint/, and uses branch for creek, and tinter for teeter.
In 2000, 1,661,036 West Virginians—97.3% of the population five years of age or over (virtually unchanged since 1990)—spoke only English at home.
The following table gives selected statistics from the 2000 Census for language spoken at home by persons five years old and over. The category "Other Indic languages" includes Bengali, Marathi, Punjabi, and Romany. The category "Other Asian languages" includes Dravidian languages, Malayalam, Telugu, Tamil, and Turkish.
|Population 5 years and over||1,706,931||100.0|
|Speak only English||1,661,036||97.3|
|Speak a language other than English||45,895||2.7|
|Speak a language other than English||45,895||2.7|
|Spanish or Spanish Creole||17,652||1.0|
|French (incl. Patois, Cajun)||5,693||0.3|
|Other Indic languages||806||0.0|
|Other Asian languages||784||0.0|
Throughout its history, the religiously active population in West Virginia has been overwhelmingly Protestant. Most settlers before the American Revolution were Anglicans, Presbyterians, Quakers, or members of German sects, such as Lutherans, German Reformed, Dunkers, and Mennonites. The Great Awakening had a profound effect on these settlers and they avidly embraced its evangelism, emotionalism, and emphasis on personal religious experience. Catholics were mostly immigrants from Ireland and southern and eastern Europe.
The major Protestant denominations and the number of their adherents (in 2000 except as indicated) include the American Baptist Churches USA, 108,087; the United Methodist Church, 105,879 (in 2004); the Southern Baptist Convention, 43,606; and the Presbyterian Church USA, 28,467. In 2002, the Southern Baptist Convention reported 967 newly baptized members in the state. Other fundamentalist denominations included the Churches of Christ, 24,143; the Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee), 21,657; and the Church of the Nazarene, 21,389. In 2004, there were about 100,648 Roman Catholics in the state. In 2000, there were an estimated 2,400 Jews and 1,528 Muslims. Over 1.1 million people (about 64% of the population) were not counted as members of any religious organization.
West Virginia has long been plagued by inadequate transportation. The first major pre-Civil War railroad line was the Baltimore and Ohio (B&O), completed to Wheeling in 1852. Later railroads, mostly built between 1880 and 1917 to tap rich coal and timber resources, also helped open up interior regions to settlement. Today, the railroads still play an important part in coal transportation. In 2003, CSX and Norfolk Southern were the state's Class I operators. In the same year, total rail mileage was 2,489 mi (4,007 km). Coal was the top commodity carried by rail that terminated and originated within the state that year. As of 2006, Amtrak provided east-west passenger service (Washington DC to Chicago) to 10 communities in the state.
In 2004, there were 37,011 mi (59,587 km) of public roads under the state system The West Virginia Turnpike was completed from Charleston to Princeton in 1955. There were some 1.3 million registered motor vehicles in the state in 2003 and 1,292,036 licensed drivers in 2004.
Major navigable inland rivers are the Ohio, Kanawha, and Monongahela. Each has locks and dams. West Virginia is home to the Port of Huntington-Tristate, the largest inland river port in the United States. Located on the Ohio River, the port handled 77.307 million tons of cargo in 2004, making it the eighth-busiest port in the United States. In 2003, waterborne shipments totaled 73.326 million tons. In 2004, West Virginia had 682 mi (1,098 km) of navigable inland waterways.
In 2005, West Virginia had a total of 126 public and private-use aviation-related facilities. This included 75 airports, 40 heliports, 1 STOLport (Short Take-Off and Landing), and 10 seaplane bases. Yeager Airport in Charleston is the state's main air terminal. In 2004, the airport had 292,054 passenger enplanements.
Paleo-Indian cultures in what is now West Virginia existed some 15,000 years ago, when hunters pursued buffalo and other large game. About 7000 bc, they were supplanted by Archaic cultures, marked by pursuit of smaller game. Woodland (Adena) cultures, characterized by mound-building and agriculture, prevailed after about 1000 bc.
By the 1640s, the principal Indian claimants, the Iroquois and Cherokee, had driven out older inhabitants and made the region a vast buffer land. When European settlers arrived only a few Shaw-nee, Tuscarora, and Delaware Indian villages remained, but the area was still actively used as hunting and warring grounds, and European possession was hotly contested.
The fur trade stimulated early exploration. In 1671, Thomas Batts and Robert Fallam explored New River and gave England a claim to the Ohio Valley, to which most of West Virginia belongs. France also claimed the Ohio Valley by virtue of an alleged visit by Robert Cavelier, Sieur de la Salle, in 1669. England eventually prevailed as a result of the French and Indian War.
Unsubstantiated tradition credits Morgan Morgan, who moved to Bunker Hill in 1731, with the first settlement in the state. By 1750, several thousand settlers were living in the eastern panhandle. In 1769, following treaties with the Iroquois and Cherokee, settlers began to occupy the Greenbrier, Monongahela, and upper Ohio valleys, and movement into other interior sections continued into the Revolutionary War, although wars with Indians occurred sporadically until the 1790s. The area that is now West Virginia was part of Virginia at the time of that state's entry into the Union, 25 June 1788.
Serious differences between eastern and western Virginia developed after the War of 1812. Eastern Virginia was dominated by a slaveholding aristocracy, while small diversified farms and infant industries predominated in western Virginia. Westerners bristled under property qualifications for voting, inadequate representation in the Virginia legislature, and undemocratic county governments, as well as poor transportation, inadequate schools, inequitable taxes, and economic retardation. A constitutional convention in 1829–30 failed to effect changes, leaving the westerners embittered. Another convention in 1850–51 met the west's political demands but exacerbated economic differences.
When Virginia seceded from the Union in 1861, western counties remaining loyal to the Union set up the Reorganized Government and consented to the separation of present-day West Virginia from Virginia. After approval by Congress and President Lincoln, West Virginia entered the Union on 20 June 1863 as the 35th state. West Virginia won control over Jefferson and Berkeley counties in the eastern panhandle in 1871, giving it a greater share of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad lines in the state.
Both Bourbon Democratic and Republican governors after the Civil War sought to improve transportation, foster immigration, and provide tax structures attractive to business. Industrialists such as Democrats Henry Gassaway Davis and Johnson N. Camden, who amassed fortunes in coal, oil, railroads, and timber, sat in the US Senate and dominated party affairs in West Virginia. Similarly, industrialists Nathan Goff Jr., and Stephen B. El-kins—Davis's son-in-law—wielded preponderant influence in the Republican Party from the 1870s until 1911. Native industrialists often collaborated with eastern interests to give the state a colonial economy dominated by absentee owners. Although Republican governors of the early 20th century were dominated by Elkins, they were attuned to Progressive ideas and were instrumental in the adoption of the direct primary, safety legislation for the coal mines, revision of corporate tax laws, and improvements in highways and education.
The Great Depression of the 1930s, from which West Virginia suffered acutely, ushered in a Democratic era. West Virginians embraced the New Deal and Fair Deal philosophies of presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S Truman.
World Wars I and II produced significant changes in West Virginia, particularly through stimulation of chemical, steel, and textile industries in the Kanawha and Ohio valleys and the eastern panhandle. These industries lessened the state's dependence on extractive industries, historically the backbone of its economy, and gave cities and towns a more cosmopolitan character.
Overshadowing the economic diversification was the plight of the coal-mining areas, where, after World War II, mechanization and strip-mining displaced thousands of miners and resulted in a large exodus to other states. By 1960, West Virginia was considered one of the most economically depressed areas of the country, primarily because of conditions in the mining regions. The antipoverty programs of the Kennedy and Johnson administrations provided some relief, but much of it was temporary, as was a brief upsurge in coal mining during the late 1970s.
Over the last several decades, West Virginia's manufacturing and mining sectors have shrunk dramatically. Automation, foreign competition, and the recession of the early 1980s caused employment in steel, glass, and chemical manufacturing and in coal mining to drop by a third between 1979 and 1985, when the state had the highest rate of unemployment in the nation.
West Virginia's economy improved in the 1990s. Coal and timber production expanded, and trade and tourism were boosted by the completion of Interstate Highway 64 in 1988. The state won a number of federal projects (including the FBI's fingerprint identification division), aided by the tenure of Democrat Robert C. Byrd as chairman of the US Senate Appropriations Committee from 1988 to 1995 and from 2001 to 2003. Byrd remained ranking member on the committee as of 2005.
In 2003, Democratic governor Bob Wise called for a special session of the legislature to prevent the state Workers' Compensation Fund from going bankrupt. The system provides medical care and cash benefits for workers injured on the job. Democrat Joe Manchin III was elected the state's governor in November 2004 after Wise decided not to run for reelection. Manchin's election marked the first time two persons of the same political party have followed one another in the governor's office since 1964.
Since becoming a state, West Virginia has had two constitutions. The first, adopted in 1863, served until 1872, when the present constitution was adopted. As of January 2005, 71 amendments to this constitution had become law.
The legislature consists of a Senate with 34 members and a house of delegates with 100 members. Senators and delegates must be at least 25 and 18 years old, respectively. All legislators must be qualified voters, state citizens, and residents of their districts for at least one year before taking their seats. In addition, delegates must have been US citizens for at least one year, and a one-year resident of the state. Senators must be US citizens for at least five years, and five-year residents of their state. Senators are elected to staggered four-year terms, and delegates serve for two years. The legislature meets annually in 60-day sessions, beginning in January. Special sessions may be called by a petition signed by three-fifths of the members of each house. The legislative salary in 2004 was $15,000, unchanged from 1999.
Elected officials of the executive branch of government are the governor, secretary of state, auditor, attorney general, commissioner of agriculture, and treasurer, all elected for four-year terms. The governor, who may serve no more than two terms in succession, must be at least 30 years old, a registered voter, a citizen of the state for at least five years, and a resident for at least one. His successor is the president of the Senate (there is no lieutenant governor). As of December 2004, the governor's salary was $90,000.
Bills passed by the legislature become law when signed by the governor or left unsigned for five days when the legislature is in session (or 15 days after it has adjourned). Bills vetoed by the governor become law if passed again by a majority of the elected members of each house. Either house may propose an amendment to the state constitution. If both houses approve it by a two-thirds majority, it is submitted to the voters at the next regular election or at a special election for adoption by majority vote.
Voters in West Virginia must live in the state, be US citizens, and at least 18 years old. Restrictions apply to those convicted of certain crimes and to those judged by the court as mentally incompetent to vote.
The Republican Party presided over the birth of West Virginia, but the Democrats have generally been in power for the past five decades. In 1940, a strong New Deal faction, headed by Matthew M. Neely and supported by organized labor, formed the "state-house machine," which became a dominant factor in state politics. Only two Republicans, Cecil H. Underwood (1957–61, 1997–2001) and Arch Moore Jr. (1969–77, 1985–89), have been governor since 1933. Underwood was elected in 1996, having vacated the office 35 years earlier. Democrat Bob Wise unseated Underwood in 2000. Underwood did not seek a second term; in 2004 Democrat Joe Manchin III was elected.
Democratic senator Robert C. Byrd, first elected in 1958, was reelected to his eighth term in 2000. Democratic senator John D. "Jay" Rockefeller IV, first elected in 1984, was reelected to his fourth term in 2002. Following the 2004 elections, West Virginia sent two Democrats and one Republican to the US House of Representatives. As of mid-2005, Democrats controlled both the state House and state Senate. There were 21 Democrats and 13 Republicans in the state Senate, and 68 Democrats and 32 Republicans in the state House.
|West Virginia Presidential Vote by Major Political Parties, 1948–2004|
|YEAR||ELECTORAL VOTE||W. VA. WINNER||DEMOCRAT||REPUBLICAN|
|*Won US presidential election.|
|**IND. candidate Ross Perot received 108,829 votes in 1992 and 71,639 in 1996|
|2000||5||*Bush, G. W. (R)||295,497||336,475|
|2004||5||*Bush, G. W. (R)||326,541||423,778|
Republican presidential candidates carried West Virginia in 1956, 1972, 1984, 2000, and 2004. In 2000, Republican George W. Bush received 52% of the popular vote to Democrat Al Gore's 46%; Green Party candidate Ralph Nader garnered 2% of the vote. In 2004, Bush again won the state, with 56% of the vote to Democrat John Kerry's 43%. In 2004 there were 1,169,000 registered voters. In 1998, 63% of registered voters were Democratic, 29% Republican, and 8% unaffiliated or members of other parties. The state had five electoral votes in the 2004 presidential election.
As of 2005, West Virginia had 55 counties, 234 municipal governments, 55 school districts, and 342 special districts. The chief county officials are the three commissioners, elected for six-year terms, who serve on the county court; the sheriff, assessor, county clerk, and prosecuting attorney, elected for four-year terms; and the five-member board of education, elected for six-year terms. The sheriff is the principal peace officer but also collects taxes and disburses funds of the county court and board of education. The cities, towns, and villages are divided into classes according to population. They are run by mayor and council or by council and city manager.
In 2005, local government accounted for about 60,712 full-time (or equivalent) employment positions.
To address the continuing threat of terrorism and to work with the federal Department of Homeland Security, homeland security in West Virginia operates under the authority of the governor; the public safety director/secretary was designated as the state homeland security advisor.
The Department of Education determines policy for public elementary and secondary schools, and the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission governs the state's colleges and universities. The Department of Transportation is responsible for construction and operation of state roads. Services of the Department of Health and Human Resources center around treatment of alcoholism and drug abuse, mental health, environmental health services, maternal and child care, family planning, and control of communicable diseases, along with a variety of economic, medical, and social services.
In the area of public protection, the Department of Public Safety enforces criminal and traffic laws, the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management oversees civil defense and other emergency activities, and the Department of Corrections oversees prisons and other such facilities. The Public Service Commission regulates utilities. The Housing Development Fund concentrates on housing for low- and middle-income families and the elderly. The Department of Environmental Protection has the major responsibility for protection of forests, wildlife, water, and other resources, for reclamation projects, and for operation of state parks and recreational facilities.
Responsibility in labor matters is shared by the Division of Labor, Bureau of Employment Programs, Office of Miners' Health, Safety, and Training, and BrickStreet (workers' compensation plan).
The highest court in West Virginia, the Supreme Court of Appeals, has five justices, including the chief justice, elected for 12-year terms. The court has broad discretionary appellate jurisdiction in both civil and criminal cases, and original jurisdiction in certain other cases.
West Virginia's general trial court is the circuit court, with 156 judges in 1999. Each circuit serves from one to four counties and has jurisdiction over civil cases in amounts that exceed $300 and criminal cases. Circuit courts also have jurisdiction over juveniles, domestic relations, and certain administrative appeals. Family law specialists conduct most domestic relations hearings.
Local courts include the county magistrate and municipal courts. Magistrate courts have original jurisdiction in criminal matters but may not convict or sentence in felony cases. All judges down to the magistrate level are popularly elected by partisan ballot. Municipal, police, or mayor's courts have authority to enforce municipal ordinances. Unlike other courts, these are not part of the unified court system. Appeals from municipal and magistrate courts are to circuit courts, and from circuit courts are to the supreme court.
As of 31 December 2004, a total of 5,067 prisoners were held in West Virginia's state and federal prisons, an increase from 4,758 of 2.5% from the previous year. As of year-end 2004, a total of 4,589 inmates were female, up from 405 or 13.3% from the year before. Among sentenced prisoners (one year or more), West Virginia had an incarceration rate of 277 per 100,000 population in 2004.
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, West Virginia in 2004, had a violent crime rate (murder/nonnegligent manslaughter; forcible rape; robbery; aggravated assault) of 271.2 reported incidents per 100,000 population, or a total of 4,924 reported incidents. Crimes against property (burglary; larceny/theft; and motor vehicle theft) in that same year totaled 45,497 reported incidents or 2,506.2 reported incidents per 100,000 people. West Virginia abolished its death penalty in 1965.
In 2003, West Virginia spent $76,290,914 on homeland security, an average of $41 per state resident.
In 2004, there were 503 active duty military personnel and 1,810 civilian personnel stationed in West Virginia. The state has no military bases, academies, or training facilities. The Naval Telecommunications Station, Sugar Grove, operated by the National Security Agency is the main receiving facility for the Navy's global high-frequency radio communications and for point-to-point circuits destined for Washington, DC, and has been mentioned as a site that intercepts all international communications entering the Eastern United States.
In 2004, defense contracts awarded West Virginia totaled about $279 million, and defense payroll outlays were $410 million.
In 2003, there were 188,101 veteran living in West Virginia, of whom 27,900 served in World War II; 23,322 in the Korean conflict; 59,857 in the Vietnam era; and 24,626 in the Gulf War. In 2004, the Veterans Administration expended more than $747 million in pensions, medical assistance, and other major veterans' benefits.
As of 31 October 2004, the West Virginia State Police employed 649 full-time sworn officers.
West Virginia has considerable national and ethnic diversity. Settlers before the Civil War consisted principally of English, German, Scotch-Irish, and Welsh immigrants, many of whom came by way of Pennsylvania. A second wave of immigration from the 1880s to the 1920s brought thousands of Italians, Poles, Austrians, and Hungarians to the coal mines and industrial towns, which also attracted many blacks from the South. In 1980, 79% of the residents of the state were born in West Virginia (fourth highest among states).
Between 1950 and 1970, West Virginia suffered a 13% loss in population, chiefly from the coal-mining areas; but between 1970 and 1980, population rose by almost 12%. According to federal estimates, the state had a net migration gain of 71,000 in the 1970s and a net migration loss of about 81,000 in the 1980s. Between 1990 and 1998, West Virginia had net gains of 8,000 in domestic migration and 3,000 in international migration. In 1998, the state admitted 375 foreign immigrants. Between 1990 and 1998, the state's overall population increased by 1%. In the period 2000–05, net international migration was 3,691 and net internal migration was 10,518, for a net gain of 14,209 people.
The West Virginia Commission on Interstate Cooperation participates in the Council of State Governments. West Virginia is a member of some 30 regional compacts, including the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation and Potomac River Basin compacts, Interstate Mining Compact Commission, Wheeling Creek Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Commission, Ohio River Basin Commission, Appalachian Regional Commission, Jennings Randolph Lake Project Compact, Southern Regional Education Board, Southern States Energy Board, and Southern Governors' Association. In fiscal year 2005, federal grants to West Virginia totaled $2.960 billion, an estimated $2.861 billion in fiscal year 2006, and an estimated $3.045 billion in fiscal year 2007.
Agriculture was the backbone of West Virginia's economy until the 1890s, when extractive industries (including coal, oil, natural gas, and timber) began to play a major role. World War I stimulated important secondary industries, such as chemicals, steel, glass, and textiles. The beauty of West Virginia's mountains and forests attracted an increasing number of tourists in the 1990s, but the state's rugged topography and relative isolation from major markets continued to hamper its economic development. West Virginia did not participate substantially in the high-tech boom of the 1990s, and the long-term decline of its critical coal mining sector continued. From 1997 to 2000, output from the general services and retail trade sectors grew 19% and 13.6%, respectively, while coal mining declined 17.6%, trends that meant the loss of coal mining jobs paying more than $53,000 a year and the increase in service jobs paying $14,000 to $24,000 annually. Output from the manufacturing sector fell at the same rate as mining output (17.6%) from 1997 to 2000, although from a high base ($6.5 billion in 1997 vs. $2.4 billion from coal mining). Overall growth was sluggish in the late 1990s, reaching 3.8% in 1999 (up from 1.9% in 1998), but falling to 0.1% in 2000. In 2001, growth actually improved to 3.5%, including a 13.8% jump in output from coal mining. However, by 2002, the national economic slowdown had begun to impact West Virginia's employment, and by October 2002, there was a year-on-year losses in jobs in every state economic sector except services and government (a sector that grew 24.5% 1997 to 2001). The overall decline in employment was 0.7%, ahead of the national average of 0.4%.
In 2004, West Virginia's gross state product (GSP) was $49.454 billion, of which manufacturing (durable and nondurable goods) accounted for the largest share at $5.469 billion or 11% of GSP, followed by health care and social assistance at $4.757 billion (9.6% of GSP), and the real estate sector at $4.598 billion (9.2% of GSP). In that same year, there were an estimated 119,806 small businesses in West Virginia. Of the 36,830 businesses that had employees, an estimated total of 35,621 or 96.7% were small companies. An estimated 3,937 new businesses were established in the state in 2004, down 4.6% from the year before. Business terminations that same year came to 5,136, down 7.5% from 2003. There were 247 business bankruptcies in 2004, down 14.8% from the previous year. In 2005, the state's personal bankruptcy (Chapter 7 and Chapter 13) filing rate was 600 filings per 100,000 people, ranking West Virginia 20th in the nation.
In 2005 West Virginia had a gross state product (GSP) of $54 billion which accounted for 0.4% of the nation's gross domestic product and placed the state at number 41 in highest GSP among the 50 states and the District of Columbia.
According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, in 2004 West Virginia had a per capita personal income (PCPI) of $25,792. This ranked 50th in the United States and was 78% of the national average of $33,050. The 1994–2004 average annual growth rate of PCPI was 4.1%. West Virginia had a total personal income (TPI) of $46,749,648,000, which ranked 39th in the United States and reflected an increase of 5.3% from 2003. The 1994–2004 average annual growth rate of TPI was 4.1%. Earnings of persons employed in West Virginia increased from $29,740,318,000 in 2003 to $31,612,176,000 in 2004, an increase of 6.3%. The 2003–04 national change was 6.3%.
The US Census Bureau reports that the three-year average median household income for 2002–04 in 2004 dollars was $32,589 compared to a national average of $44,473. During the same period an estimated 16.1% of the population was below the poverty line as compared to 12.4% nationwide.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in April 2006 the seasonally adjusted civilian labor force in West Virginia 813,700, with approximately 33,600 workers unemployed, yielding an unemployment rate of 4.1%, compared to the national average of 4.7% for the same period. Preliminary data for the same period placed nonfarm employment at 754,200. Since the beginning of the BLS data series in 1976, the highest unemployment rate recorded in West Virginia was 18.2% in March 1983. The historical low was 3.8% in January 2006. Preliminary nonfarm employment data by occupation for April 2006 showed that approximately 5.1% of the labor force was employed in construction; 8.1% in manufacturing; 18.6% in trade, transportation, and public utilities; 4% in financial activities; 7.8% in professional and business services; 15.3% in education and health services; 9.3% in leisure and hospitality services; and 19% in government.
Important milestones in the growth of unionism were the organization of the state as District 17 of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) in 1890 and the formation of the State Federation of Labor in 1903. The coal miners fought to gain union recognition by coal companies, and instances of violence were not uncommon in the early 1900s. Wages, working conditions, and benefits for miners improved rapidly after World War II. Membership in unions in 1980 was 222,000, or 34% of the work force, compared to 47% in 1970, an indication of the UMWA's waning strength.
The BLS reported that in 2005, a total of 99,000 of West Virginia's 688,000 employed wage and salary workers were formal members of a union. This represented 14.4% of those so employed, up from 14.2% in 2004, and above the national average of 12%. Overall in 2005, a total of 107,000 workers (15.5%) in West Virginia were covered by a union or employee association contract, which includes those workers who reported no union affiliation. West Virginia is one of 28 states that does not have a right-to-work law.
As of 1 March 2006, West Virginia had a state-mandated minimum wage rate of $5.15 per hour, which was applied to those employers with six or more employees at any one location. In 2004, women in the state accounted for 46.7% of the employed civilian labor force.
With estimated farm marketings of $429 million ($348 million from livestock and poultry), West Virginia ranked 46th among the 50 states in 2005. Poultry, meat animals, and dairy dominate the farm economy in the Mountain State.
Until about 1890 small, diversified farms were dominant, but, as in other states, farms have grown larger and the farm population has dropped. In 2004, the state had 3,600,000 acres (1,457,000 hectares), or 23% of its land, devoted to farming. Its 20,800 farms averaged 173 acres (70 hectares) in size. Major farm sections are the eastern panhandle, a tier of counties along the Virginia border, the upper Monongahela Valley, and the Ohio Valley. Leading crops produced in 2004 were hay, 1,062,000 tons; corn for grain, 3,799,000 bushels; corn for silage, 306,000 tons; commercial apples, 86,000,000 lb; and tobacco, 1,690,000 lb.
In 2005, there were an estimated 405,000 cattle and calves, valued at $315.9 million. During 2004, the state had 10,000 hogs and pigs, valued at around $1.1 million. During 2003, poultry farmers produced 357 million lb (162 million kg) of broilers valued at $121.5 million, and 92 million lb of turkey, valued at $33.1 million. The dairy industry yielded 222 million lb (101 million kg) of milk and 270 million eggs.
West Virginia fishing has little commercial importance. In 2004, there were 34 trout farms, selling 378,000 lb (172,000 kg) of fish. In 2004, the state issued 269,727 sport fishing licenses. The White Sulphur Springs National Fish Hatchery is located within the state. There are two state hatcheries.
In 2004, West Virginia had four-fifths, or 12.1 million acres (4.9 million hectares), of its land area in forestland and, of this, 11.9 million acres (4.8 million hectares) are classified as timberland.
Despite increasing production of wood and paper products, West Virginia's total softwood and hardwood inventory has more than doubled since 1953. Sawtimber volumes average 6,500 board feet per acre. About 92% of West Virginia forest species are hardwoods, with approximately 77% of the timberland being of the oak-hickory forest type. In all, West Virginia's forests contain more than 100 species of trees.
During the early 1900s, West Virginia became a lumbering giant. From 1908 to 1911, some 1,500 mills produced up to 1.5 billion board ft of lumber annually to feed the nation's needs. By 1920, the state was first in the production of cherry and chestnut lumber and 13th in total production. After the extensive logging and resulting debris came forest fires which devastated the remaining forest resource and caused extensive soil erosion. In the early 1930s, a cooperative fire prevention program was initiated in the state and later in the early 1950s, an educational and forestry technical assistance program was created to help forest landowners manage and protect their forests. The maturing forests of West Virginia languished in their contribution to the state's economy until the 1980s when annual production, which had averaged around 350 to 450 million board ft per year, began to increase significantly.
Production increased to 600 million board ft in 1988, and 701 million board ft by 2004, with over 300 mills and manufacturing facilities. Employment in the forest industry is second only to the chemical and primary metal manufacturing industries. However, it is estimated that growth still exceeded removals by a ratio of 1.34 to 1.
The state is encouraging the professional management of its forests so they will continue to produce a sustained array of benefits, such as wood products, jobs, clean water, oxygen, scenery, and diverse recreational opportunities like hunting, hiking, and tourism.
According to preliminary data from the US Geological Survey (USGS), the estimated value of nonfuel mineral production by West Virginia in 2003 was $168 million, which was only a marginal increase over 2002.
According to preliminary USGS data for 2003, crushed stone was the state's top nonfuel mineral by value, accounting for about 39% of all nonfuel mineral output, and was followed by cement (portland and masonry), industrial sand and gravel, lime and salt. Collectively, these five commodities accounted for around 95% of all nonfuel mineral output, by value. By volume, West Virginia in 2003 was the nation's ninth leading producer of salt.
Preliminary data for 2003 showed crushed stone production as totaling 14.8 million metric tons, with a value of $65.9 million, while construction sand and gravel that year at 1.6 million metric tons, with a value of $8 million.
All of West Virginia's mines in 2003 produced either coal or industrial minerals. No metals were mined in the state. Although raw steel and primary aluminum were produced in that year, materials were acquired from other states or foreign sources. West Virginia ranked 11th out of 12 primary aluminum producing states.
ENERGY AND POWER
West Virginia has long been an important supplier of energy in the form of electric power and fossil fuels. As of 2003, West Virginia had 17 electrical power service providers, of which two were publicly owned and three were cooperatives. Of the remainder, 11 were investor owned, and one was the owner of an independent generator that sold directly to customers. As of that same year there were 974,510 retail customers. Of that total, 961,675 received their power from investor-owned service providers. Cooperatives accounted for 9,318 customers, while publicly owned providers had 3,516 customers. There was only one independent generator or "facility" customer.
Total net summer generating capability by the state's electrical generating plants in 2003 stood at 16.124 million kW, with total production that same year at 94.711 billion kWh. Of the total amount generated, 67.6% came from electric utilities, with the remainder coming from independent producers and combined heat and power service providers. The largest portion of all electric power generated, 92.468 billion kWh (97.6%), came from coal-fired plants, with hydroelectric plants in second place at 1.356 billion kWh (1.4%). Other renewable power sources, petroleum and natural gas fired plants, and plants using other types of gases accounted for the remaining output.
Major coal-mining regions lie within a north-south belt some 60 mi (97 km) wide through the central part of the state and include the Fairmount, New River-Kanawha, Pocahontas, and Logan-Mingo fields. West Virginia in 2004, had 261 producing coal mines, 109 of which were surface mines and 152 were underground. Coal production that year totaled 147,993,000 short tons, up from 139,711,000 short tons in 2003. Of the total produced in 2004, underground mines accounted for the largest share of production at 90,932,000 short tons. In 2004, West Virginia's output of coal was exceeded only by Wyoming. Recoverable coal reserves that year totaled 1.51 billion short tons. One short ton equals 2,000 lb (0.907 metric tons).
As of 2004, West Virginia had proven crude oil reserves of 11 million barrels, or under 1% of all proven US reserves, while output that same year averaged 4,000 barrels per day. Including federal offshore domains, the state that year ranked 25th (24th excluding federal offshore) in proven reserves and 26th (25th excluding federal offshore) in production among the 31 producing states. In 2004 West Virginia had 6,037 producing oil wells and accounted for less than 1% of all US production. As of 2005, the state's sole refinery had a crude oil distillation capacity of 19,400 barrels per day.
In 2004, West Virginia had 47,117 producing natural gas and gas condensate wells. In that same year, marketed gas production (all gas produced excluding gas used for repressuring, vented and flared, and nonhydrocarbon gases removed) totaled 187.723 billion cu ft (5.33 billion cu m). As of 31 December 2004, proven reserves of dry or consumer-grade natural gas totaled 3,306 billion cu ft (93.89 billion cu m).
Major industrial areas are the Kanawha, Ohio, and Monongahela valleys and the eastern panhandle. The largest industrial corporations with headquarters in West Virginia are Weirton Steel and Wheeling-Pittsburgh. Other major industrial companies with operations in West Virginia include E. I. du Pont de Nemours, Union Carbide, Ravenswood Aluminum, and Rhone Poulenc.
According to the US Census Bureau's Annual Survey of Manufactures (ASM) for 2004, West Virginia's manufacturing sector covered some 14 product subsectors. The shipment value of all products manufactured in the state that same year was $20.578 billion. Of that total, chemical manufacturing accounted for the largest share at $6.325 billion. It was followed by primary metal manufacturing at $3.379 billion; transportation equipment manufacturing at $2.538 billion; wood product manufacturing at $1.795 billion; and fabricated metal product manufacturing at $1.662 billion.
In 2004, a total of 63,094 people in West Virginia were employed in the state's manufacturing sector, according to the ASM. Of that total, 47,549 were actual production workers. In terms of total employment, the chemical manufacturing industry accounted for the largest portion of all manufacturing employees at 10,101, with 6,121 actual production workers. It was followed by primary metal manufacturing at 9,081 employees (7,110 actual production workers); wood product manufacturing at 8,782 employees (7,692 actual production workers); fabricated metal product manufacturing at 6,520 employees (5,157 actual production workers); and food manufacturing with 4,433 employees (3,105 actual production workers).
ASM data for 2004 showed that West Virginia's manufacturing sector paid $2.651 billion in wages. Of that amount, the chemical manufacturing sector accounted for the largest share at $648.063 million. It was followed by primary metal manufacturing at $535.129 million; wood product manufacturing at $251.845 million; fabricated metal product manufacturing at $226.838 million; and transportation equipment manufacturing at $203.334 million.
According to the 2002 Census of Wholesale Trade, West Virginia's wholesale trade sector had sales that year totaling $10.9 billion from 1,699 establishments. Wholesalers of durable goods accounted for 1,162 establishments, followed by nondurable goods wholesalers at 486 and electronic markets, agents, and brokers accounting for 50 establishments. Sales by durable goods wholesalers in 2002 totaled $5.1 billion, while wholesalers of nondurable goods saw sales of $5.3 billion. Electronic markets, agents, and brokers in the wholesale trade industry had sales of $426.5 million.
In the 2002 Census of Retail Trade, West Virginia was listed as having 7,454 retail establishments with sales of $16.7 billion. The leading types of retail businesses by number of establishments were: gasoline stations (1,212); motor vehicle and motor vehicle parts dealers (1,010); food and beverage stores (873); miscellaneous store retailers (863); and clothing and clothing accessories stores (646). In terms of sales, motor vehicle and motor vehicle parts dealers accounted for the largest share of retail sales at $4.2 billion, followed by general merchandise stores at $3.1 billion; food and beverage stores at $2.1 billion; and gasoline stations at $2.06 billion. A total of 89,340 people were employed by the retail sector in West Virginia that year.
In 2005, exports of goods originating from the state had a value of $3.1 billion.
The state Attorney General Office's, Division of Consumer Protection and Antitrust, is empowered to investigate, arbitrate, and litigate complaints by consumers alleging unfair and deceptive trade practices, and violations of the West Virginia Consumer Credit and Protection Act, the West Virginia Antitrust Act, and the Pre-need Funeral Contracts Act. There are five assistant attorneys general assigned to defend these laws.
The Public Service Commission, consisting of three members, regulates rates, charges, and services of utilities and common carriers. Since 1977, it has included one member who is supposed to represent the "average" wage earner.
When dealing with consumer protection issues, the state's Attorney General's Office can initiate civil but not criminal proceedings; represent the state before state and federal regulatory agencies; administer consumer protection and education programs; handle formal consumer complaints; and exercise broad subpoena powers. In antitrust actions, the Attorney General's Office can act on behalf of those consumers who are incapable of acting on their own; initiate damage actions on behalf of the state in state courts; and represent counties, cities and other governmental entities in recovering civil damages under state or federal law. However, the Office cannot initiate criminal proceedings over antitrust actions.
The office of the Consumer Protection Division of the Office of the Attorney General is located in Charleston.
As of June 2005, West Virginia had 71 insured banks, savings and loans, and saving banks, in addition to 7 state-chartered and 110 federally chartered credit unions (CUs). Excluding the CUs, as of 2004, the Charleston market area ranked first for its portion of financial institution deposits in the state with $4.404 billion and second in the number of financial institutions. The Huntington-Ashland market area in that same year was first in the number of financial institutions at 25, and was second by the volume of deposits at $3.566 billion. As of June 2005, CUs accounted for 9.8% of all assets held by all financial institutions in the state, or some $2.234 billion. Banks, savings and loans, and savings banks col-lectively accounted for the remaining 90.2% or $20.560 billion in assets held.
The state's insured banks median return on assets (ROA) ratio (the measure of earnings in relation to all resources) was unchanged in 2005 compared to 2004, at 0.96%, but up from 0.92% for 2003. The median net interest margin (the difference between the lower rates offered to savers and the higher rates charged on loans) stood at 4.30% in fourth quarter 2005, up from 4.23% for all of 2004 and 4.12% for all of 2003.
|West Virginia—State Government Finances|
|(Dollar amounts in thousands. Per capita amounts in dollars.)|
|Abbreviations and symbols: - zero or rounds to zero; (NA) not available; (X) not applicable.|
|source: U.S. Census Bureau, Governments Division, 2004 Survey of State Government Finances, January 2006.|
|Individual income tax||1,068,212||589.20|
|Corporate income tax||181,515||100.12|
|Miscellaneous general revenue||1,239,726||683.80|
|Liquor store revenue||59,803||32.99|
|Insurance trust revenue||1,935,071||1,067.33|
|Insurance benefits and repayments||1,257,883||693.81|
|Assistance and subsidies||167,482||92.38|
|Interest on debt||190,468||105.06|
|Exhibit: Salaries and wages||1,343,106||740.82|
|General expenditures, by function:|
|Parks and recreation||56,547||31.19|
|Interest on general debt||190,468||105.06|
|Other and unallocable||893,805||493.00|
|Liquor store expenditure||51,263||28.28|
|Insurance trust expenditure||1,257,883||693.81|
|Debt at end of fiscal year||4,745,387||2,617.42|
|Cash and security holdings||12,389,391||6,833.64|
Regulation of West Virginia's state-chartered banks and other state-chartered financial institutions is the responsibility of the West Virginia Division of Banking.
As of 2003, there were four property and casualty companies and one life and health insurance company domiciled in the state. In 2003, direct premiums for property and casualty insurance totaled $2.3 billion. That year, there were 21,424 flood insurance policies in force in the state, at a total value of $1.8 billion. About $47 million of coverage was held through FAIR plans, which are designed to offer coverage for some natural circumstances, such as wind and hail, in high risk areas.
In 2004, there were about 1.1 million individual life insurance policies in force with a total value of $43.7 billion; total value for all categories of life insurance (individual, group, and credit) was $80.3 billion. The average coverage amount is $39,600 per policy holder. Death benefits paid that year totaled $308.2 million.
In 2004, 47% of state residents held employment-based health insurance policies, 3% held individual policies, and 32% were covered under Medicare and Medicaid; 17% of residents were uninsured. In 2003, employee contributions for employment-based health coverage averaged at 14% for single coverage and 17% for family coverage. The state offers an 18-month health benefits expansion program for small-firm employees in connection with the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA, 1986), a health insurance program for those who lose employment-based coverage due to termination or reduction of work hours.
In 2003, there were over 1.2 million auto insurance policies in effect for private passenger cars. Required minimum coverage includes bodily injury liability of up to $20,000 per individual and $40,000 for all persons injured in an accident, as well as property damage liability of $10,000 and uninsured motorist coverage. In 2003, the average expenditure per vehicle for insurance coverage was $841.95.
There are no securities exchanges in West Virginia. In 2005, there were 220 personal financial advisers employed in the state and 390 securities, commodities, and financial services sales agents. In 2004, there were over 21 publicly traded companies within the state, with over eight NASDAQ companies and three AMEX listings. In 2006, the state had one Fortune 1,000 company; Wheeling Pittsburgh, based in Wheeling and listed on NASDAQ, ranked 943rd in the nation with revenues of over $1.5 billion.
The state constitution requires the governor to submit to the legislature within 10 days after the opening of a regular legislative session a budget for the ensuing fiscal year (FY) which runs 1 July through 30 June.
Fiscal year 2006 general funds were estimated at $3.9 billion for resources and $3.8 billion for expenditures. In fiscal year 2004, federal government grants to West Virginia were $3.7 billion.
In the fiscal year 2007 federal budget, West Virginia was slated to receive $35 million to build a Department of Veterans Affairs data center in Martinsburg.
In 2005, West Virginia collected $4,301 million in tax revenues or $2,367 per capita, which placed it 16th among the 50 states in per capita tax burden. The national average was $2,192 per capita. Property taxes accounted for 0.1% of the total, sales taxes 25.5%, selective sales taxes 24.6%, individual income taxes 27.2%, corporate income taxes 10.8%, and other taxes 11.8%.
As of 1 January 2006, West Virginia had five individual income tax brackets ranging from 3.0% to 6.5%. The state taxes corporations at a flat rate of 9.0%.
In 2004, state and local property taxes amounted to $979,034,000 or $540 per capita. The per capita amount ranks the state 44th highest nationally. Local governments collected $975,664,000 of the total and the state government $3,370,000.
West Virginia taxes retail sales at a rate of 6%. Food purchased for consumption off-premises is taxable. The tax on cigarettes is 55 cents per pack, which ranks 35th among the 50 states and the District of Columbia. West Virginia taxes gasoline at 27 cents per gallon. This is in addition to the 18.4 cents per gallon federal tax on gasoline.
According to the Tax Foundation, for every federal tax dollar sent to Washington in 2004, West Virginia citizens received $1.83 in federal spending, which ranks West Virginia third-highest nationally.
The West Virginia Development Office supports business and industry in the state and assists new companies with site location and employee training programs as well as with the construction of plants and access roads and the provision of essential services. The West Virginia Economic Development Authority may make loans of up to 45% of the costs of land, buildings, and equipment at low interest rates for a normal term of 15 years. Tax incentives include a credit of 10% on industrial expansion and revitalization, applicable to the business and occupations tax over a 10-year period. The Development Office helps small business by investing in venture capital companies and by offering loans for venture capital purposes. In 2006, West Virginia has trade offices in Munich, Germany and Nagoya, Japan. Workforce development has been one important focus for economic development in the state.
The infant mortality rate in October 2005 was estimated at 8.2 per 1,000 live births. The birth rate in 2003 was 11.5 per 1,000 population. The abortion rate stood at 6.8 per 1,000 women in 2000. In 2003, about 85.8% of pregnant woman received prenatal care beginning in the first trimester. In 2004, approximately 87% of children received routine immunizations before the age of three.
The crude death rate in 2003 of 11.8 deaths per 1,000 population was the highest rate in the nation. West Virginia also had the highest mortality rates in the nation for heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory diseases and diabetes. As of 2002, the death rates for major causes of death (per 100,000 resident population) were: heart disease, 343.5; cancer, 258.2; cerebrovascular diseases, 69.9; chronic lower respiratory diseases, 68.2; and diabetes, 47. The mortality rate from HIV infection was 1.1 per 100,000 population, the second-lowest rate in the nation after Iowa. In 2004, the reported AIDS case rate was at about 5.1 per 100,000 population. In 2002, about 61.2% of the population was considered overweight or obese, representing the highest percentage in the nation. As of 2004, about 26.9% of state residents were smokers, representing the second-highest percentage in the nation, after Kentucky.
In 2003, West Virginia had 57 community hospitals with about 7,800 beds. There were about 296,000 patient admissions that year and 5.8 million outpatient visits. The average daily inpatient census was about 4,800 patients. The average cost per day for hospital care was $993. Also in 2003, there were about 136 certified nursing facilities in the state with 11,152 beds and an overall occupancy rate of about 89.3%. In 2004, it was estimated that about 62.5% of all state residents had received some type of dental care within the year. West Virginia had 254 physicians per 100,000 resident population in 2004 and 861 nurses per 100,000 in 2005. In 2004, there was a total of 844 dentists in the state.
Medical education is provided by medical schools at West Virginia University and Marshall University and at the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine.
About 20% of state residents were enrolled in Medicaid programs in 2003. In 2004, 19% were enrolled in Medicare programs; this percentage was the highest in the nation. Approximately 17% of the state population was uninsured in 2004. In 2003, state health care expenditures totaled $2.2 million.
Although rich in natural resources, West Virginia is a generally poor state. In 2004, about 44,000 people received unemployment benefits, with the average weekly unemployment benefit at $219. In fiscal year 2005, the estimated average monthly participation in the food stamp program included about 262,442 persons (114,038 households); the average monthly benefit was about $81.94 per person. That year, the total of benefits paid through the state for the food stamp program was about $258 million.
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), the system of federal welfare assistance that officially replaced Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) in 1997, was reauthorized through the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005. TANF is funded through federal block grants that are divided among the states based on an equation involving the number of recipients in each state. West Virginia's TANF program is called West Virginia Works. In 2004, the state program had 36,000 recipients; state and federal expenditures on this TANF program totaled $88 million in fiscal year 2003.
In December 2004, Social Security benefits were paid to 407,460 West Virginians. This number included 205,770 retired workers, 54,610 widows and widowers, 76,340 disabled workers, 31,890 spouses, and 38,850 children. Social Security beneficiaries represented 22.6% of the total state population and 92.2% of the state's population age 65 and older. Retired workers received an average monthly payment of $943; widows and widowers, $858; disabled workers, $936; and spouses, $443. Payments for children of retired workers averaged $447 per month; children of deceased workers, $616; and children of disabled workers, $268. Federal Supplemental Security Income payments in December 2004 went to 75,982 West Virginia residents, averaging $401 a month.
In 2004, West Virginia had an estimated 866,944 housing units, 736,954 of which were occupied; 74% were owner-occupied (the third-highest percentage of owner-occupied units in the nation, following Minnesota and Michigan). About 70.2% of all units were single-family, detached homes; 16% were mobile homes. Utility gas and electricity were the most common energy sources for heating. It was estimated that 44,343 units lacked telephone service, 3,995 lacked complete plumbing facilities, and 4,267 lacked complete kitchen facilities. The average household had 2.40 members.
In 2004, 5,700 new privately owned housing units were authorized for construction. The median home value was $81,826, one of the lowest in the country. The median monthly cost for mortgage owners was $769, representing the lowest rate in the country. Renters paid a median of $461 per month, which was also the lowest rate in the nation. In September 2005, the state received grants of $400,000 from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for rural housing and economic development programs. For 2006, HUD allocated to the state over $17 million in community development block grants.
In 2004, 80.9% of adult West Virginians were high school graduates, below the national average of 84%. Only 15.3% had completed four or more years of college, also well below the national average of 26%.
The total enrollment for fall 2002 in West Virginia's public schools stood at 282,000. Of these, 197,000 attended schools from kindergarten through grade eight, and 82,000 attended high school. Approximately 94.1% of the students were white, 4.6% were black, 0.5% were Hispanic, 0.6% were Asian/Pacific Islander, and 0.1% were American Indian/Alaskan Native. Total enrollment was estimated at 279,000 in fall 2003 and expected to be 255,000 by fall 2014, a decline of 9.8% during the period 2002–14. Expenditures for public education in 2003/04 were estimated at $2.6 billion. There were 14,397 students enrolled in 166 private schools in fall 2003. Since 1969, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) has tested public school students nationwide. The resulting report, The Nation's Report Card, stated that in 2005, eighth graders in West Virginia scored 269 out of 500 in mathematics compared with the national average of 278.
As of fall 2002, there were 93,723 students enrolled in college or graduate school; minority students comprised 7.2% of total postsecondary enrollment. In 2005 West Virginia had 40 degree-granting institutions including 12 public 4-year schools, 6 public 2-year schools and 10 nonprofit private 4-year schools. The state supports West Virginia University, Marshall University, and the West Virginia College of Graduate Studies (all offering graduate work), as well as three medical schools.
The West Virginia Commission on the Arts was established in 1967 and is part of the West Virginia Division of Culture and History. In 2005, the commission and other West Virginia arts organizations received eight grants totaling $637,900 from the National Endowment for the Arts. In 2005, the National Endowment for the Humanities contributed $578,176 for six state programs. Contributions to the arts also come from state and private sources.
West Virginia is known for the quilts, pottery, and woodwork of its mountain artisans. The Huntington Museum of Art, the Avampato Discovery Museum at the Clay Center (formerly the Sunrise Museum), and Oglebay Park in Wheeling are major art centers. The Avampato Discovery Museum was initially accredited by the American Association of Museums (AAM) in 1976 and has maintained that status as of 2003. The museum features both art and science exhibits and, since their relocation in July 2004 to the Clay Center, the museum has hosted almost 300,000 guests.
Other musical attractions include the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra in Charleston, the Charleston Ballet, Charleston Light Opera Guild, the Wheeling Symphony, and a country music program at Wheeling. The Charleston Stage Company and the Children's Theater of Charleston are also popular. As of 2005, the Charleston Light Opera Guild (founded in 1949) has produced over 150 musical theater shows. The Mountain State Art and Craft Fair is held each summer at Ripley. FestivALL Charleston began in 2005 and was designed to become an annual celebration of the arts.
LIBRARIES AND MUSEUMS
In 2001, West Virginia had 97 public library systems, with a total of 177 libraries, of which there were 80 branches. In that same year, the systems had a combined 4,920,000 volumes of books and serial publications, and a combined circulation of 7,868,000. The system also had 151,000 audio and 126,000 video items, 11,000 electronic format items (CD-ROMs, magnetic tapes, and disks), and seven bookmobiles. The largest was the Kanawha County Public Library system at Charleston, with 628,308 volumes. Of college and university libraries, the largest collection was at West Virginia University. In fiscal year 2001, operating income for the state's public library system totaled $26,844,000 and included $336,000 from federal sources and $8,302,000 from state sources.
There were 51 museums in 2000, including the State Museum and the Sunrise Museum in Charleston, and Oglebay Institute-Mansion Museum in Wheeling. Point Pleasant marks the site of a battle between colonists and Indians, and Harpers Ferry is the site of John Brown's raid. Wheeling is the location of the Oglebay's Good Children's Zoo.
In 2004, 93.2% of West Virginian homes had telephones. Additionally, by June of that same year there were 713,657 mobile wireless telephone subscribers. In 2003, 55.0% of West Virginia households had a computer and 47.6% had Internet access. By June 2005, there were 178,242 high-speed lines in West Virginia, 166,454 residential and 11,788 for business. In 2005, broadcasting facilities included 9 major AM and 46 major FM radio stations, and 13 major television stations. Approximately 13,062 Internet domain names were registered in the state as of 2000.
In 2005 West Virginia had 20 daily newspapers and 12 Sunday newspapers.
The following table shows leading West Virginia newspapers with their approximate 2002 circulations:
|*The Sunday edition is a combination of the Gazette and the Daily Mail.|
|Daily Mail (e,S)||68,975||84,676*|
|Wheeling||Intelligencer/News Register (m,e,S)||33,644||39,696|
In 2006, there were over 2,300 nonprofit organizations registered within the state, of which about 1,421 were registered as charitable, educational, or religious organizations.
The West Virginia Coal Association is one of several statewide labor, business, and professional associations. The Black Lung Association promotes safe working conditions in coalmines and benefits for disabled miners. The Appalachian Studies Association is based in Huntington. The Hereditary Order of the Families of the Presidents and First Ladies of America, based in Sutton, was established in 2003. There are city and county historical societies throughout the state. Some counties also sponsor arts councils. The Cacapon Institute and the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition are regional environmental conservation organizations. The headquarters of the Appalachian Trail Conference is in Harpers Ferry and the American Association of Zoological Parks and Aquariums is in Oglebay.
TOURISM, TRAVEL, AND RECREATION
In 2004, tourists spent $3.4 billion on visits to the state; in 2002, almost 23.9 million travelers visited West Virginia, representing an increase of 8.5% from 2000, with some 14.19 million visitors making day trips. Travel spending has increased every year since 2000. Tourism supports an estimated 41,000 jobs and generates $766 million in state taxes. About 250,000 whitewater rafting enthusiasts raft West Virginia waters each year, and more than 750,000 skiers venture down the slopes of the Appalachian Mountains.
Major attractions are Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, New River Gorge National River, the Naval Telecommunications Station at Sugar Grove, and White Sulphur Springs, a popular mountain golfing resort. Mountaineer casinos, with over 3,200 slot machines, attract many visitors also.
Nearly 80% of the state is covered by forest. Among the 37 state parks and state forests are Cass Scenic Railroad, which includes a restoration of an old logging line, and Prickett's Fort, with recreations of pioneer life.
No major professional teams are based in West Virginia, but there are minor league baseball teams in Charleston, Bluefield, and Princeton, and there is minor league hockey in Wheeling. West Virginia University's basketball team won a National Invitation Tournament championship in 1942 and was National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I runner-up in 1959. In football, West Virginia produced a string of national contenders in the late 1980s and early 1990s. West Virginia won the Peach Bowl in 1981 and played for the national championship in the 1989 Fiesta Bowl, which they lost to Notre Dame. Marshall University has also risen to the elite among college football teams, having secured a string of several Mid-American Conference champions and having won five straight bowl game appearances from 1998 to 2002.
Horse-racing tracks operate in Chester and Charles Town. Greyhound races are run in Wheeling and Charleston. Other popular sports are skiing and white-water rafting.
Professional athletes born in West Virginia include George Brett, Mary Lou Retton, and Jerry West.
FAMOUS WEST VIRGINIANS
Among West Virginians who have served in presidential cabinets are Nathan Goff Jr. (1843–1920), navy secretary; William L. Wilson (1843–1900), postmaster general; John Barton Payne (1855–1935), interior secretary; and Newton D. Baker (1871–1937), secretary of war during World War I. Lewis L. Strauss (1896–1974) was commerce secretary and chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, and Cyrus R. Vance (1917–2002) served as secretary of state. John W. Davis (1873–1955), an ambassador to Great Britain, ran as the Democratic presidential nominee in 1924. Prominent members of the US Senate have included Matthew M. Neely (1874–1958), who was also governor, Harley M. Kilgore (1893–1956), and Robert C. Byrd (b.1917).
Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson (1824–63) was a leading Confederate general during the Civil War. Brigadier General Charles E. "Chuck" Yeager (b.1923), a World War II ace, became the first person to fly faster than the speed of sound.
Major state political leaders, all governors (though some have held federal offices), have been E. Willis Wilson (1844–1905), Henry D. Hatfield (1875–1962), Arch A. Moore Jr. (b.1923), and John D. "Jay" Rockefeller IV (b.New York, 1937).
The state's only Nobel Prize winner has been Pearl S. Buck (Pearl Sydenstricker, 1893–1973), who won the Nobel Prize for literature for her novels concerning China. Alexander Campbell (b.Ireland, 1788–1866), with his father, founded the Disciples of Christ Church and was president of Bethany College in West Virginia. Major labor leaders have included Walter Reuther (1907–70), president of the United Automobile Workers, and Arnold Miller (1923–85), president of the United Mine Workers.
Musicians include George Crumb (b.1929), a Pulitzer Prize-winning composer, and opera singers Eleanor Steber (1916–90) and Phyllis Curtin (b.1922). Melville Davisson Post (1871–1930) was a leading writer of mystery stories. Important writers of the modern period include Mary Lee Settle (1918–2005) and John Knowles (1926–2001). Jerry West (b.1938) was a collegiate and professional basketball star, and a pro coach after his playing days ended; Rod Hundley (b.1934) and Hal Greer (b.1936) also starred in the National Basketball Association. Mary Lou Retton (b.1968) won a gold medal in gymnastics at the 1984 Olympics. Another West Virginian of note is Anna Jarvis (1864–1948), founder of Mother's Day.
Brisbin, Richard A. Jr., et al. (eds.). West Virginia Politics and Government. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1996.
Council of State Governments. The Book of the States, 2006 Edition. Lexington, Ky.: Council of State Governments, 2006.
Duda, Mark Damian. West Virginia Wildlife Viewing Guide. Helena, Mont.: Falcon, 1999.
Lesser, W. Hunter. Rebels at the Gate: Lee and McClellan on the Front Line of a Nation Divided. Naperville, Ill.: Sourcebooks, 2004.
Lilly, John (ed.). Mountains of Music: West Virginia Traditional Music from Goldenseal. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1999.
Rice, Otis K. West Virginia: A History. 2nd ed. Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 1993.
Shogan, Robert. The Battle of Blair Mountain: The Story of America's Largest Labor Uprising. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 2004.
Thomas, Jerry Bruce. An Appalachian New Deal: West Virginia in the Great Depression. Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky, 1998.
US Department of Commerce, Economics and Statistics Administration, US Census Bureau. West Virginia, 2000. Summary Social, Economic, and Housing Characteristics: 2000 Census of Population and Housing. Washington, D.C.: US Government Printing Office, 2003.
"West Virginia." Worldmark Encyclopedia of the States. . Encyclopedia.com. (July 22, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/international/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/west-virginia
"West Virginia." Worldmark Encyclopedia of the States. . Retrieved July 22, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/international/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/west-virginia
WEST VIRGINIA. The British landed on the Virginia coast in 1606 but exploration into the interior was slow. Besides curiosity, the main motivation for westward expansion was the fur trade, which played a large role in the commercial success of the colony. Sir William Berkeley, William Byrd, and Abraham Wood organized and financed a number of western expeditions. In 1671 Thomas Batts and Robert Fallam led the first expedition, organized by Abraham Wood, to travel far enough west to reach what would become the Virginia-West Virginia border. The rugged and mountainous physical characteristics of the territory earned the state the title of "the Switzerland of America." A relatively small population of Native Americans inhabited the area, the largest group of whom were the Iroquois. By 1669, the Iroquois and other groups like the Cherokees, Delawares, and Mingos used the land mostly for hunting and as a source of salt.
The first settler of record is Morgan Morgan who made his home in Berkley County at Bunker Hill in 1726. By the late 1700s, settlers, mostly Scotch-Irish and German, had penetrated the wilderness of the Allegheny Plateau. On the far western border, settlers arrived in Wirt County in 1796, and Wood County was organized in 1798. The first census reported 55,873 persons living within the borders of what would become West Virginia. By 1800 the number increased to 78,592. A number of towns incorporated during the 1780s: Lewisburg (1782), Clarksburg (1785), Morgantown (1785), Charles Town (1786), Frankfort (1787), and Middleton and West Liberty (1787). These first settlers were true pioneers entirely dependent on themselves and their environment for survival.
By the start of the nineteenth century, small industries such as saw mills, gristmills, salt manufacturing, and boatyards had started in the west. Transportation also improved and opened western Virginia for commercial pursuits. The opening of the Mississippi River meant businesses had a route around the region's mountains. Roads also developed. The 1818 Cumberland Road, from Cumberland to Wheeling, particularly benefited the west. However, it was the railroad that created the most change. As railroads penetrated through the trans-Allegheny region, populations in already settled areas doubled and even tripled, new places were settled, coal mines were opened, and other natural resources were harvested. As the region settled and became prosperous the west Virginians became more dissatisfied with the state's eastern government.
West Virginia remained part of the larger colony and then state of Virginia until the Civil War. Tension between the two regions of eastern and western Virginia was evident in the early nineteenth century. The Virginia constitution, adopted in 1776, provided the east with a number of advantages. For example, the document granted voting rights to white men owning twenty-five acres of worked land or fifty acres of unworked land, which favored the plantation culture of the east, not the small farmers of the west. The constitution also provided that slaves be taxedless than any other kind of property, which again benefited the east. To complicate matters the slave population was counted in determining representation in the state legislature. As a result of the east's dominance there was a corresponding distribution of funds. The majority of money for public works and government buildings went to the east.
In 1798 John G. Jackson, Harrison County delegate, presented the state government with a petition calling for amendments to the 1776 constitution. Although the petition was rejected, Jackson continued by writing for the Richmond Examiner with the pseudonym "A Mountaineer." His arguments became the foundation for reform. The legislature still refused to call a constitutional convention but made attempts to appease the westerners. The West, however, continued to voice their discontent and in 1828 the legislature finally agreed to a constitutional convention.
The western delegates had a number of goals including the extension of voting rights to all white men; representation based on white population; and election of county officials instead of appointment. The convention in Richmondon 5 October 1829 included past and future presidents, jurists, and an array of other statesmen. Unfortunately for the West, the convention's officers were elected using the traditional method, which meant the east had a distinct and profound advantage. Voters defeated every western goal. In response, every western delegate (except one too sick to attend) voted against the new constitution. Angered, some westerners called for immediate secession. In response the east granted some concessions over the next twenty years. However, the concessions still did not resolve the need to revise the 1776 constitution. A second convention called the Reform Convention convened in 1850. Despite the uneasy relationship between eastern and western delegates, they reached agreements on the remaining 1829 issues. The convention gave white males age twenty-one and older the right to vote; it made numerous offices elective; and it reformed the jury system.
During the 1850s the sectional troubles of the nation overshadowed Virginia's newfound harmony. Joseph Johnson, governor from 1852 to 1856, was the first popularly elected governor and also the first governor from the west. Johnson provided the western region with a real and psychological boost. Railroads continued to grow, as did commercial success. The region's population expanded and new counties formed. By the late 1850s, however, national tension over slavery began to disrupt Virginia. The two regions responded very differently to the growing sectional crisis. Westerners tended to remain moderate while the easterners were adamantly against abolition. Even after John Brown's 1859 raid on Harpers Ferry in western Virginia, the westerners remained moderate and calm, much to the chagrin of easterners who were outraged by Brown's actions.
Virginia as a whole was against secession. Even after the election of Abraham Lincoln and the secession of seven southern states in 1860 and early 1861, Virginia was still undecided. The course changed with Lincoln's call for volunteers after the 12 April 1861 firing on Fort Sumter, South Carolina. Virginia passed a secession ordinance on 17 April by a vote of eighty-five to fifty-five. Of forty-seven western delegates, thirty-two voted against secession, eleven favored secession, and four did not vote. The western delegates hurried back to their home counties and began to organize themselves for resistance.
A number of mass town meetings were held all over the west. The most significant of these was at Clarksburg organized by John S. Carlile. The meeting called for each West Virginia county to send five of its wisest men to Wheeling. During the first Wheeling Convention, 13–15 May 1861, Carlile's group wanted to separate from Virginia immediately. A more conservative group, led by Waitman T. Willey, wanted to wait until the people had a chance to vote on the secession ordinance. After three days of growing tension Carlile agreed to wait until the referendum.
The ordinance passed 23 May 1861. The second Wheeling Convention convened 11–25 June 1861, and nullified the secession ordinance and formed the "Restored" government of Virginia. On 24 October 1861, west Virginians voted 18,408 to 781 in favor of creating a new state. The constitutional convention met from 26 November 1861 until 18 February 1862. It outlined a new government and the physical boundaries of the state. According to the U.S. Constitution, any new state must have the permission of its parent state before it can achieve statehood. West Virginia asked the Restored government at Wheeling for permission to form a new state. On 13 May 1862, the Restored governor Francis Pierpont approved the formation of a new state. The West Virginia state bill went to Congress on 29 May 1862. After debate on the slavery issue the bill passed with one amendment. The Willey Amendment was a compromise; it provided for emancipation of slaves over twenty-one and the emancipation of younger slaves when they reached twenty-one. The bill passed and President Abraham Lincoln signed it on 31 December 1862. The people of the fifty western Virginian counties voted in favor of the statehood bill on 26 March 1863, and on 20 June 1863, West Virginia officially became the thirty-fifth state. Among other names considered for it were Kanawha, Western Virginia, Allegheny, and Augusta; of the forty-four votes the name "West Virginia" received thirty.
After the Civil War, Virginia and West Virginia struggled over an issue of compensation. After a number of legal battles, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that West Virginia owed Virginia $12,393,930. The debt was paid off over time with the last installment made in 1939.
Throughout the Civil War the Union held the advantage in West Virginia. Supporters for both the Union and the Confederacy lived in West Virginia, and the war literally split families as some members fought for the North and others for the South. West Virginians also served in militias and irregular units sympathetic to the Confederacy. The fighting in the western theater was guerrilla in nature consisting of raids, arson, robbery, and intimidation.
Reconstruction was difficult for West Virginia, despite its Union loyalty. Hostility between former Confederate and Union soldiers was a serious problem. Some Confederate sympathizers continued violence causing Arthur Boreman, West Virginia's first governor, to recommend citizens organize themselves for protection. The majority of Confederate veterans, however, were not violent and in some cases federal troops were called to protect former Confederates from Unionist violence.
Another concern was that former Confederates, most of whom held Democratic views, would threaten the existence of the new state. Lincoln's reelection in 1864 lessened those fears, but his assassination in 1865 aroused them again. Governor Boreman traveled to meet with now President Andrew Johnson, who promised West Virginia his support. Boreman's administration also restricted former Confederates from holding public office and curtailed their voting rights. The laws did not relax until a new governor, William E. Stevenson, took office. By 1871, former Confederates were allowed to vote and hold office.
With restrictions removed, the Democrats slowly came to power in West Virginia, controlling the state from 1871 until 1897. The state held a constitutional convention in 1872 where sixty-six of seventy-eight members were Democrats. The new constitution omitted the word "white" from voter qualifications, placed executive power with the governor, and made changes in the judicial and legislative branches. The Democratic Party consisted of a diverse group of former Confederates, Unionists, former Whigs, and Bourbon Democrats. Republicans resumed control in 1897 and stayed in power until 1933 when Democrats regained their influence.
Sectional difference also affected the location of the state's capital. The capital was in Wheeling from 1863 until 1870. Associating the city with radical Republicanism, the Democratic legislature moved the capital to Charleston where it stayed until 1875. Charleston, however, was much smaller than Wheeling, and it was harder to reach since it did not have a railroad or an established structure for shipping. Legislators moved the capital back to Wheeling. Finally, in 1877 the legislature agreed to hold a referendum to establish a permanent capital. The voters chose among Charleston, Clarksburg, and Martinsburg; Charleston won and officially became the permanent capital of West Virginia on 1 May 1885.
In 1863 over 80 percent of West Virginians were involved in agriculture. The most important crop was corn, but wheat, oats, hay, and potatoes were also important. By the late nineteenth century, extractive industries such as coal mining, lumbering, and oil and gas production had overshadowed agriculture, taking wealth from the land without returning profit to the state.
The bituminous coal industry soared after the Civil War and climbed until the Great Depression. In 1914 coal production was 69,783,088 tons and by 1929 the production was 139,297,146 tons. The importance and place of coal in West Virginia created a new socioeconomic structure. As big business moved into the region the agrarian society became a mass of landless wage earners. Mining towns created a system of worker dependence on the company. A variety of people sought employment in West Virginia's mines, including newly freed slaves and new immigrants. As smaller coal companies consolidated into large powerful corporations they gained more and more influence over local and state governments. The vast wealth that coal mining generated went to absentee landowners who cared little about the land, environment, or people.
The United Mine Workers of America (UMWA), organized in 1890, attempted to unionize West Virginia's coal miners. The powerful companies used special police, blacklisting, and court injunctions to block the UMWA from even meeting. Miners often tried striking in hopes of securing better working conditions, which resulted in their eviction from the company-owned housing. Often tensions between miners and company guards led to violence. One of the most violent episodes, the Paint Creek Strike of 1912–1913, resulted in martial law. The other extractive industries, oil, gas, and timber, developed along similar lines. The cycle of feudalistic absenteeism and the extractive nature of West Virginia's industries ravaged the environment and left the people in poverty.
During World War I, UMWA membership increased from 7,000 members in 1913 to 50,000 members by the end of the war. World War I also brought interest in chemical and steel industries. Labor made some advances, such as a workers' compensation law, but the wartime demand and necessity of industrial goods outweighed other needs. The Great Depression hit the entire Appalachian region especially hard. A 40 percent reduction in coal production meant a rise in unemployment in an already economically depressed area. For people whose whole lives depended on the company town, the Red Cross and religious organizations were often the only places left to turn. Falling in line with the rest of the country, West Virginia began to vote out Republicans in favor of Democrats. Although at the close of World War II West Virginia shared the nation's prosperity, the state experienced a drop in population largely due to an increased use of technology. Mechanization reduced the need for employees, so people went elsewhere for work.
West Virginia had few public schools before the Civil War, but advances came quickly between 1872 and World War I. West Virginia University opened 2 September 1868, in Morgantown. Still, financing schools was hard for the poor region. West Virginia did, however, establish a minimum wage for teachers: about $22 a month. Between 1910 and 1925 the state saw a surge in the growth of high schools, but the depression meant education took a backseat to survival. The 1940s and 1950s brought a wave of reforms to the educational system, including better benefits for teachers, new textbooks, merging elementary and secondary schools, and programs like Head Start and Upward Bound. Education, however, remained a problem well into the 1980s, due to financial problems in the state. In 1984 the average public teacher's salary was more than $4,000 less than the national average. Despite efforts to enact legislation to improve salaries and redesign state education financing, West Virginia's schools continued to suffer. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, the state's high school and college graduation rates were the nation's lowest.
The governors during the 1960s began to initiate programs to help clean up the state's environment. William Wallace Barron created the Air Pollution Control Commission and a volunteer statewide cleanup program, and Hulett Carlson Smith's administration brought legislation to control air and stream pollution and strip mining. During the environmental movement of the 1970s, attention was finally given to the drastic impact extractive industries made on the region's land and people. Clear cutting and strip mining created pollution that ruined streams and landscapes. Government programs such as the Appalachian Regional Commission and private organizations strove to help rebuild the regions and increase money coming into the Appalachian regions with tourism. During the 1980s, West Virginia suffered severely from the recession and energy crisis. By 1984 the state had the nation's highest unemployment rate. Renewed attention helped to draw some people to the region. In 1970 the population was 1,744,237 and by 2000 the number had increased somewhat to 1,808,344 but both were still lower than the 1950 count of 2,005,552. In the year 2000 West Virginia's poverty rates remained the highest in the nation.
The population drop also cost West Virginia a congressional seat. Arch Alfred Moore Jr., governor from 1985 to 1989, developed a recovery program and tax cuts designed to attract new industries and revitalize the coal industry. While West Virginia failed to attract GM's Saturn automobile plant in 1985 (the plant went to Spring-hill, Tennessee), by 1990 over two hundred corporations were receiving tax credits and bolstering the state's economy. Jobs in the coal industry, however, continued to decline. The program of tax cuts also led to widespread corruption so severe that Moore was convicted of extortion in 1990. The next governor, William Gaston Caperton III (1989–1997), inherited the state's financial woes. To battle the long-term financial problems, he raised taxes and adopted a state lottery to no avail.
A great deal of financial help stemmed from the efforts of Senator Robert C. Byrd. In 1986 Byrd became chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and promised to bring more than $1 billion of federal projects to West Virginia by 1995; by 1992 he had exceeded that goal. Besides various highway and water projects, West Virginia also received a new federal prison and the FBI relocated its fingerprint center from Washington, D.C. to Clarksburg. The state also benefited from a new appreciation of Appalachian culture and art. Artists and novelists helped awaken the nation to West Virginia's beauty and plight while historians, sociologists, and anthropologists began to create a new body of scholarly interest and work about the region.
Ambler, Charles Henry. West Virginia. New York: Prentice-Hall, 1940.
Rasmussen, Barbara. Absentee Landowning and Exploitation in West Virginia, 1760–1920. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1994.
Rice, Otis. The Allegheny Frontier: West Virginia Beginnings, 1730–1830. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1970.
———and Stephen W. Brown. West Virginia: A History. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1993.
West Virginia Division of Culture and History. Available from http://www.wvculture.org/.
"West Virginia." Dictionary of American History. . Encyclopedia.com. (July 22, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/west-virginia
"West Virginia." Dictionary of American History. . Retrieved July 22, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/west-virginia
West Virginia, E central state of the United States. It is bordered by Pennsylvania and Maryland (N, NE), Virginia (E and S), Kentucky (W) and, across the Ohio River, Ohio (NW).
Facts and Figures
Area, 24,181 sq mi (62,629 sq km). Pop. (2010) 1,852,994, a 2.5% increase since the 2000 census. Capital and largest city, Charleston. Statehood, June 20, 1863 (35th state). Highest pt., Spruce Knob, 4,863 ft (1,483 m); lowest pt., Potomac River, 240 ft (73 m). Nickname, Mountain State. Motto,Montani Semper Liberi [Mountaineers Are Always Free]. State bird, cardinal. State flower,Rhododendron maximum, or "Big Laurel." State tree, sugar maple. Abbr., W.Va.; WV
Nicknamed the "Mountain State," West Virginia is very hilly and rugged, with the highest mean altitude (1,500 ft/457 m) of any state E of the Mississippi. Nearly all of the state is on the Allegheny Plateau, with the jagged Virginia–West Virginia line roughly following the eastern escarpment of the plateau (known as the Allegheny Front). Extremely irregular in outline, West Virginia has two narrow projections—the Northern Panhandle, which cuts north between Ohio and Pennsylvania, and the Eastern Panhandle, which cuts east between Maryland (with the Potomac River forming the state line) and Virginia. In the Eastern Panhandle, a part of the Appalachian ridge and valley country, lie the state's lowest point (240 ft/73 m) near Harpers Ferry where the Shenandoah River joins the Potomac, as well as its highest point, Spruce Knob (4,860 ft/1,481 m).
West Virginia is well drained; its important rivers include the Tug Fork, the Big Sandy River, the New River, the Kanawha, the Little Kanawha, the Cheat, and the Monongahela, all of which find their way to the Ohio. The New River and the Kanawha combine to form the most important waterway entirely within the state. West Virginia's climate is generally of the humid continental type, with hot summers (except in the highest areas) and cool to cold winters.
West Virginia's natural beauty is spectacular, and the excellent hunting, fishing, hiking, camping, and skiing offered here form the basis of a growing tourist industry. The state has numerous state parks, public hunting areas, and state forests; Monongahela National Forest and a portion of George Washington National Forest (most of which is in Virginia) are in West Virginia. Mineral springs are scattered throughout the state, notably at the resorts of Berkeley Springs and White Sulphur Springs. Other tourist attractions include Harpers Ferry National Historical Park (see National Parks and Monuments, table) and various mounds built by ancient peoples, most notably Grave Creek Mound in Moundsville, one of the nation's largest. Charleston is the capital and largest city; Huntington is the second largest city, followed by Wheeling and Parkersburg.
Except on river-bottom lands, on a few small plateaus, and in the northern end of the rolling, fertile Valley of Virginia in the Eastern Panhandle, farming is not extensive. (The population nevertheless is predominantly rural.) Apples, peaches, hay, corn, and tobacco are the principal crops, while broiler chickens, cattle, and dairy products lead in market receipts. West Virginia has extensive natural resources; it is among the nation's leading producers of bituminous coal, although coal production has declined. Natural gas, stone, cement, salt, and oil are also important.
Utilizing these mineral resources are major glass, chemical (including synthetic textile), and high-technology industries; they are concentrated in the highly industrialized Ohio and Kanawha river valleys, with Charleston a leading center; Huntington and Parkersburg are also important. Other manufactures include primary and fabricated metals and machinery. Steel mills extend south from Pittsburgh, Pa., into the Northern Panhandle; Wheeling is a manufacturing hub there. Lumber has long been an important resource; about two thirds of the land is still forested, most of it in valuable hardwoods. Since the 1960s a number of federal offices and facilities have been built in West Virginia, and government service is a growing employment sector.
Government, Politics, and Higher Education
West Virginia's first constitution was ratified in 1862. The present constitution dates from 1872. The executive branch is headed by a governor elected for a four-year term. The state's legislature has a senate with 34 members and a house of delegates with 100 members. The state sends two senators and three representatives to the U.S. Congress and has five electoral votes. Democrats have generally dominated West Virginia politics since the Great Depression, but in recent years Republican candidates have been more successful in the state. Gaston Caperton, elected governor in 1988 and reelected in 1992, was succeeded by Republican Cecil H. Underwood, elected in 1996, but Underwood lost to Democrat Bob Wise in 2000. In 2004, Democrat Joe Manchin was elected to the office; he was reelected in 2008. In 2011 Earl Ray Tomblin, a Democrat who became acting governor after Manchin was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2010, was elected governor; he was reelected in 2012.
The state's leading institution of higher learning is West Virginia Univ., which has its main campus at Morgantown. Other schools include the Univ. of Charleston and West Virginia Wesleyan College, at Buckhannon. West Virginia also has an extensive state college system.
Early Inhabitants and European Settlement
The Mound Builders were the earliest known inhabitants. When the first Europeans arrived, however, the region was for the most part unpopulated, serving as a common hunting ground (and therefore a battleground) for the settlers and Native Americans. This part of Virginia, which later became West Virginia, was penetrated by explorers and fur traders as early as the 1670s. It was cut off from the eastern regions by rugged mountains and remained uninhabited for more than a century after Virginia had thriving colonies.
What is now the Eastern Panhandle attracted the first settlers. They were Germans and Scotch-Irish, and they came not over the Blue Ridge Mts. from Virginia but rather down the valleys from Pennsylvania. German families established (c.1730) a settlement on the Potomac and named it Mecklenburg; now called Shepherdstown, it is the oldest town in the state. Homes sprang up along the rivers, but the formidable Allegheny Plateau barrier was not crossed until after the British government, concerned about French claims to the Ohio valley, granted (1749) the Ohio Company large tracts of land in the trans-Allegheny region.
Settlers began laboriously making their way over the mountains, and they eventually came into conflict with the French; this conflict was the direct cause of the French and Indian War (1754–63; see under French and Indian Wars). During the war, most settlers fled the area. They returned after the English captured Fort Duquesne in 1758 and broke the French hold on the Ohio valley. Great numbers poured back over the mountains, ignoring the British proclamation of 1763, which, in the hopes of avoiding conflict with the Native Americans, forbade settlement W of the Alleghenies.
The Native Americans resented this encroachment on their hunting grounds, and their hostility was fed by the often unjust treatment they received at the hands of settlers. The brutal murder of the family of chief James Logan provoked a series of attacks that resulted in Lord Dunmore's War (see Dunmore, John Murray, 4th earl of), in which the Native Americans were decisively defeated (Oct. 10, 1774).
The American Revolution
During the American Revolution the area was invaded three times by British-led Native American forces. After the American conquest of the Northwest by an army (consisting mostly of western Virginians) under George Rogers Clark, the British and Native American threat to the area was virtually removed. Western Virginians overwhelmingly supported ratification of the U.S. Constitution; they wanted a strong federal government that would quell further conflict with the Native Americans and that would enrich commerce along the Ohio, a river of central importance to their economic life.
Growth and Estrangement from Eastern Virginia
Population growth and prosperity were spurred by the opening of the Mississippi River with the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, by the resulting expansion and improvement of river-borne commerce, and by the completion (1818) of the National Road at Wheeling. The area became an increasingly important part of Virginia, but the predominance of small farms and the almost total absence of slavery were already contributing to a sense of estrangement from the eastern part of the state.
Virginia was politically dominated by the wealthy tidewater planters, who were overrepresented in the state legislature because slaves were counted in apportioning representation. As a result the western Virginians suffered from inequitable taxation, and their demands for internal improvements and public education were not met. A new Virginia constitution, ratified in 1830, brought no reforms, but another charter (1851) effected a compromise by which representation in the lower house was based on white population and under which universal white male suffrage was granted. It was not enough; tidewater domination of the state legislature continued, and the two sections were being pulled further apart by economic differences—western Virginia was becoming an industrialized coal and steel center—and by the increasing prominence of the slavery issue.
Civil War and the Creation of West Virginia
At the outset of the Civil War the northwestern counties of Virginia overwhelmingly opposed the state's ordinance of secession (Apr. 17, 1861). Unable to halt Virginia's secession from the Union, westerners in the state were quick to take advantage of a long-awaited opportunity for their own separation from Virginia. Protected by federal troops, delegates representing most of Virginia's western counties met at Wheeling on June 11, 1861, and nullified the Virginia ordinance of secession, declared the offices of the state government at Richmond to be vacated, and formed the "restored government" of Virginia, with Francis H. Pierpont as governor.
Creation of a new state was overwhelmingly approved in the referendum of Oct. 24, and in November another convention at Wheeling began to draft the state constitution that was approved in Apr., 1862. President Lincoln proclaimed (Apr. 20, 1863) admission of a new state, West Virginia, to be effective 60 days thence, and on June 20, 1863, Arthur I. Boreman was inaugurated as its first governor. Pierpont and his "restored government" of Virginia had, of course, consented to the formation of the new state, thereby technically fulfilling the requirement in the U.S. Constitution that a state consent to its own division. Pierpont continued to act as governor of occupied Virginia throughout the war.
Meanwhile, the Confederates had failed to hold on to the region militarily; Union forces, under the command of Gen. George B. McClellan and then under Gen. William S. Rosecrans, were victorious in battles at Philippi (June 3, 1861), Rich Mt. (July 11), Corrick's Ford (July 13), and Carnifax Ferry (Sept. 10). Gen. Robert E. Lee's attempt to rally the Confederate forces ended in defeat at Cheat Mt. (Sept. 12–13), and a year later Rosecrans's victory at Gauley Bridge extended Union control to the lower Kanawha valley.
The Confederates made no serious endeavor to recover the territory W of the Allegheny Front, although guerrilla attacks persisted throughout the war. The strategically important Eastern Panhandle, on the other hand, was the scene of continual fighting; not originally a part of West Virginia, it had been quickly annexed (1863) because it contained the Baltimore and Ohio RR. (West Virginia's possession of this area was confirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1871.) Of the many West Virginians who remained loyal to the old state, Virginia, the most notable was Gen. Thomas J. (Stonewall) Jackson; his only sister, however, was a staunch Union supporter. Such a division in allegiance was common in many families, and these divisions affected West Virginia's politics for several decades after the war.
Postwar Political Changes and the Hatfield-McCoy Feud
Slavery was abolished in 1865, but it was not until 1872 that the state allowed African Americans to vote and to hold public office. In 1866 Radical Republicans disenfranchised all persons who had aided the Confederacy, but after the Democrats came to power (which they held for 25 years thereafter), this act was annulled (1871) by the Flick Amendment.
In 1885 the capital, which had been shuttled back and forth between Wheeling and Charleston, became fixed at Charleston. Three years earlier, along the border region between West Virginia and Kentucky, there had begun the now famous Hatfield-McCoy feud, which was to encompass many killings and embroil the governors of the two states in lengthy and heated controversy. The blood of West Virginia Hatfields and Kentucky McCoys was shed until 1896.
Industrial Expansion and the Labor Movement
Of great significance to West Virginia was the state's industrial expansion in the late 19th cent. Based on rich resources and supported by the immigration of Southern blacks and northern laborers, industrialization marked a change from the largely self-sufficient economy of local communities to one of dependence on industry's profits and labor's wages. West Virginia's great chemical industry was founded during World War I when German chemicals could no longer be imported, and it was greatly expanded during World War II.
Both wars also brought unprecedented boom periods to the mines and the steel mills. The state's rapid industrialization, however, was long accompanied by serious labor problems. This was especially true in the coal mines, where wages were low and working conditions dangerous. Unionization was bitterly resisted by mine owners, and strikes throughout the latter part of the 19th cent. and the first third of the 20th cent. were often marked by serious and extended violence, particularly in 1912–13 and in 1920–21.
The Great Depression in 1930 intensified difficulties, but reform measures under the New Deal finally assured the miners their right to organize; membership in the United Mine Workers of America soared, and by 1937 labor leaders enjoyed tremendous political power in the state. During the 1950s economic weakness in the coal industry, combined with the mechanization and automation that enabled mines to operate at top efficiency with far fewer employees, were the chief factors in bringing about the highest unemployment rate in the country and a major exodus of the state's population—down 7.2% from 1950 to 1960 and another 6.2% from 1960 to 1970.
Economic conditions improved during the 1960s, as federal aid poured into the state (in part owing to the rise to power in the U.S. Senate of Robert C. Byrd), and massive efforts were made to attract new industry. Since the 1960s the ravages of surface mining have been a major political issue; recently, the practice of leveling mountains and filling creeks with slag has come under fire. In the 1970s, West Virginia's coal-based economy flourished as energy prices rose dramatically; but in the 1980s energy prices fell and employment in the mines rapidly declined as West Virginia suffered through one of the worst economic periods in its history. By 1983 the state's unemployment rate had risen to 21% as its manufacturing base also slumped. West Virginia's population declined 8% from 1980 to 1990. It rose slightly from 1990 to 2000, as a modest recovery based largely on foreign investment and further development of the tourist industry took place, but the state still ranked last in U.S. housing construction.
See O. K. Rice, The Allegheny Frontier: West Virginia Beginnings, 1780–1830 (1969); West Virginia: The State and Its People (1972); and West Virginia: A History (1985); Federal Writers' Project, West Virginia: A Guide to the Mountain State (1941, repr. 1980); S. B. Cohen and M. Pervical, King Coal (1984); A. Hyde, A Portrait of West Virginia (1989).
"West Virginia." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (July 22, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/west-virginia
"West Virginia." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved July 22, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/west-virginia
Charleston . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 669
Huntington . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 681
The State in Brief
Nickname: Mountain State
Motto: Montani semper liberi (Mountaineers are always free)
Flower: Big rhododendron
Area: 24,230 square miles (2000; U.S. rank: 41st)
Elevation: Ranges from 240 feet to 4,861 feet above sea level
Climate: Continental; humid, with hot summers and cool winters, colder in mountains
Admitted to Union: June 20, 1863
Head Official: Governor Joe Manchin (D) (until 2009)
2004 estimate: 1,815,354
Percent change, 1990–2000: 0.8%
U.S. rank in 2004: 37th
Percent of residents born in state: 74.2% (2000)
Density: 75.1 people per square mile (2000)
2002 FBI Crime Index Total: 45,320
Racial and Ethnic Characteristics (2000)
Black or African American: 57,232
American Indian and Alaska Native: 3,606
Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander: 400
Hispanic or Latino (may be of any race): 12,279
Age Characteristics (2000)
Population under 5 years old: 101,805
Population 5 to 19 years old: 352,910
Percent of population 65 years and over: 15.3%
Median age: 38.9 years (2000)
Total number of births (2003): 20,817
Total number of deaths (2003): 21,102 (infant deaths, 153)
AIDS cases reported through 2003: 645
Major industries: Chemicals, mining, metals, timber, oil, coal, tourism
Unemployment rate: 4.9% (December 2004)
Per capita income: $24,672 (2003; U.S. rank: 49th)
Median household income: $31,210 (3-year average, 2001-2003)
Percentage of persons below poverty level: 16.9% (3-year average, 2001-2003)
Income tax rate: Ranges from 3.0% to 6.5%
Sales tax rate: 6.0%
"West Virginia." Cities of the United States. . Encyclopedia.com. (July 22, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/west-virginia
"West Virginia." Cities of the United States. . Retrieved July 22, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/west-virginia
June 20, 1863
The Mountain State
State bird :
State flower :
State tree :
State motto :
Mountaineers are always free
"West Virginia." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (July 22, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/west-virginia
"West Virginia." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved July 22, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/west-virginia
West Virginia is a state full of natural beauty yet it is plagued by economic difficulties. Its rugged terrain has made communication and transportation difficult. Though blessed with coal and timber resources, it has gone through many periods of economic depression. Although the economy improved throughout the 1990s, West Virginia is still one of the nation's poorest states
In the 1640s, before European settlers reached the land, Iroquois and Cherokee Indians inhabited the area which later became West Virginia. When Europeans did arrive, Shawnees, Delawares, and Tuscaroras disputed their claims. Early explorers were fur traders, two of whom, Robert Fallam and Thomas Batts, claimed the Ohio valley for England in 1671. The French also claimed the area, not surrendered until after the French and Indian War. Several thousand settlers inhabited the eastern panhandle area of the territory by 1750. More settlement in interior sections occurred through the time of the American Revolution (1775–1783), though periodic skirmishes with Indians slowed the pioneers' progress. West Virginia was originally part of Virginia, which was instrumental in forming the Union in 1788.
After the War of 1812 (1812–1814), conflicts developed between eastern and western Virginia. Slaveholding planters dominated the eastern section while the westerners were mostly small farmers or workers in small industries. The east controlled most of the state leaving the west with unequal representation, poor roads, unfair taxes, and other evidence of economic deprivation. In addition, according to one historian, "Most parts of western Virginia were like the Shenandoah region, a true borderland between the North and the South." (John Alexander Williams) Two constitutional conventions failed to settle the differences and it was not until Virginia seceded from the Union in 1861 that West Virginia decided to side with the North and separate from Virginia, entering the Union in 1863 as the 35th state. The state did not gain control of the upper panhandle area until 1871.
Trade developed naturally along the state's rivers in towns such as Wheeling and Harpers Ferry, but traversing the mountainous terrain of West Virginia has always been a challenge. Although Wheeling was the western terminus of the National Road, other roads were slow in coming and often almost impassable. The first successful railroad to be built was the Baltimore and Ohio (B&O), completed to Wheeling in 1852. Later railroads enabled the state to gain access to its timber and coal resources and opened up areas of the interior. The Chesapeake and Ohio, completed in 1873, extended westward from the old Virginia Central to the Ohio River. At its terminus was a new town called Huntington, after the railroad magnate who had financed the line. The two panhandles at the northwestern and eastern ends of the state can be seen as West Virginia's successful attempts to hold on to two important railroad corridors.
The rapid changes brought about by the American Civil War (1861–1865) and by the formation of a new state had some important consequences. Industrialism moved southward and eastward along the expanding railroads and new kinds of communities arose. Lingering rivalries between unionists and secessionists, along with the difficult transitions from an agricultural to an industrial economy, often caused open conflict. In the backward mountain areas, these sometimes erupted into the legendary "mountain feuds."
After the Civil War governors of both Republican and Democratic parties worked to improve transportation, encourage immigration, and change the tax structure to encourage business. Several powerful senators from West Virginia who had made large fortunes in coal, oil, timber, and railroads held sway over party politics in the state for many years. West Virginia industrialists often cooperated with businessmen from other states, giving the state an almost colonial economy dominated by outside interests. Republican governors of the early twentieth century, notably Stephen B. Elkins, supported progressive legislation such as safety regulations for coal mines, revised corporate tax laws, and highway improvements.
The exploitation of the state's vast coal resources after 1890 would not have been possible without the state's network of railroads, especially after the completion of the Norfolk and Western. The same could be said of timber resources: From 1908 to 1911, 1,500 mills produced up to 1.5 billion board feet of lumber annually. Technological improvements in the industry, such as the band saw and the geared locomotive, helped to increase production of lumber and transportation of logs. An unfortunate consequence of this boom period was the destruction of millions of acres of virgin forest. After the 1920s a decline occurred and lumbering was again an important sector of modern West Virginia's economy.
Since 1890 the United Mine Workers of America (UMHA) had been attempting to unionize West Virginia miners, often with violent consequences. One of the most dramatic episodes in United States labor history occurred in West Virginia in 1920–1921. In Mingo and Logan counties, federal troops were called in to quell miners' unrest at the Baldwin-Felts mine in 1920. The so-called "Matewan Massacre" involved the deaths of ten men when the conflict got out of hand. When a union member was gunned down in 1921 by a company guard, 3,000 angry miners marched along the Kanawha River, fighting for five days on Blair Mountain with a sheriff's posse until the violence was quelled by federal authorities, who threatened to use howitzers and poison gas dropped from several U.S. Army bombers which were deployed at the Charleston airport.
The Great Depression (1929–1939) of the 1930s was devastating to West Virginia, with the greatest effects felt in the coal industry. Volunteer relief workers had difficulty keeping up with the needs of unemployed miners. President Franklin D. Roosevelt's (1933–1945) New Deal programs, in combination with private philanthropy, brought a measure of economic stability to the state and helped to make the West Virginia Democratic Party the majority party. Later political developments also increased the power of labor unions in the state, particularly the UMWA, under the leadership of the dynamic John L. Lewis.
World War I (1914–1918) and World War II (1939–1945) brought several economic changes to the state as chemical, steel, and textile industries grew up in the Kanawha and Ohio river valleys and the eastern panhandle. Decreasing the state's reliance on mining, these industries added new economic dimensions to the state and gave it a more diverse character.
After World War II, however, West Virginia's coal industry went into a state of decline. Mechanization and strip-mining caused many mineworkers to lose their jobs, and many began to immigrate to other states. In 1960 West Virginia was one of the most economically depressed states. Though antipoverty programs in the John F. Kennedy (1961–1963) and Lyndon B. Johnson (1963–1969) administrations brought some measure of relief, the state's manufacturing and mining industries had declined dramatically. In the early 1980s West Virginia experienced a serious recession, particularly in the steel, glass, chemical, and mining industries. In 1985 West Virginia had the highest unemployment rate in the nation. In 1995 the per capita personal income was still only $18,444, the second lowest in the U.S., and 16.7 percent of the population lived below the federal poverty level.
In the 1990s things improved for the state in several ways. Industrial production is still strong in the Kanawha, Ohio, and Monongahela valleys. Coal and timber production increased and the state gained a number of federal projects under the tenure of Senator Robert C. Byrd, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. After the completion of Interstate Highway 64, tourism has also become an important sector of the economy. West Virginia's numerous, well-maintained state parks, glassmaking centers, and historic sites such as Harpers Ferry and the Cass Scenic Railroad have attracted approximately two million visitors a year.
See also: Coal Industry, Virginia
Conley, Phil, and William Thomas Doherty. West Virginia History. Charleston, SC: Education Foundation, 1974.
Rice, Otis K. West Virginia: The State and Its People. Parsons, WV: McClain, 1972.
——. West Virginia: A History, 2nd ed. Lexington, KY: University of Kentucky Press, 1993.
Williams, John Alexander. West Virginia: A Bicentennial History. New York: Norton, 1976.
Willis, Todd C., ed. West Virginia Blue Book, 1984. Charleston, SC: Jarrett, 1984.
"West Virginia." Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. Economic History. . Encyclopedia.com. (July 22, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/west-virginia
"West Virginia." Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. Economic History. . Retrieved July 22, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/west-virginia