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History >> US Geography >> US State History

West Virginia

State History

People have lived in the land of West Virginia for thousands of years. Early cultures include the Paleo-Indians, the Adena, and the Hopewell peoples. Some of the early peoples built large mounds for religious purposes that can still be seen today. The Appalachian Mountains and the mountainous terrain of West Virginia have had a great influence in shaping the history of the land.



The New River Gorge Bridge by A.E. Crane

Native Americans

Before the Europeans arrived, Native American tribes lived in the region. These tribes included the Shawnee, Cherokee, and the Iroquois. The Shawnee were the dominant tribe when Europeans first arrived. They lived in dome-shaped homes called wigwams. For food they hunted all sorts of game such as deer, bear, rabbit, bison, and geese. They also grew corn, sunflowers, and squash. The Shawnee were pushed out of the region in the late 1600s by the Iroquois tribes from the north.

Europeans Arrive

West Virginia was originally part of the Virginia Colony established by England in 1606. The settlement of Jamestown was established in 1607 and soon people began to settle eastern Virginia. West Virginia, however, was considered the frontier for some time. In the last 1600s, explorers entered the land and began to make maps of the territory.

Early Settlers

Settlers began to arrive in the 1700s. Many of these early settlers were of German descent and came from Pennsylvania in the north looking for new lands. In 1726, they established the settlement of New Mecklenburg. Later, in 1762, it would become the city of Shepherdstown, the oldest town in West Virginia. These early settlers had to deal with hostile Native Americans who considered West Virginia their hunting grounds. Many of the early settlements were destroyed during the French and Indian War.

Revolutionary War

West Virginia was part of the Virginia Colony during the Revolutionary War. The region tried to split off and form its own state during the revolution. They petitioned the Second Continental Congress to join the Union as a 14th state called "Westsylvania", but the petition was denied.



Harpers Ferry by Unknown

Splitting from Virginia

West Virginia had always been separated physically from Virginia by the Appalachian Mountains. As a result, it was a very different area in terms of culture and economics. When Virginia seceded from the Union in 1861 and joined the Confederacy, many West Virginians disagreed and wanted to remain in the Union. West Virginia seceded from Virginia later that year at the Wheeling Convention and remained loyal to the Union during the war. They applied to become a separate state and, on June 20, 1863, West Virginia became the 35th state.

Civil War

Although West Virginia split from Virginia and remained in the Union, there were West Virginians who fought on both sides of the war. The Union maintained control of much of the state throughout the war, but there were still many battles inside the state including the Battle of Shepherdstown, the Battle of Harpers Ferry, and the Battle of Droop Mountain.



The Hatfield Clan are famous
for their feud with the McCoys
(photo by Unknown)

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Works Cited

History >> US Geography >> US State History





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