We do magic to Maps
West Virginia (WV) Fast Facts
Location and Geography: West Virginia is a bag-shaped state that is located directly to the north and west of Virginia, the original colony from which it was formed. It is the only state in America that is located entirely within the Appalachian Mountain Range, and this landscape has created the basis for much of its traditional culture.
Counties and Regions: West Virginia is split up into 55 counties, in addition to these basic regions:
- Eastern Panhandle
- North-Central West Virginia
- Northern Panhandle
- Potomac Highlands
- Southern West Virginia
Population: Well over 1.8 million people live in West Virginia, which is a large number considering the state’s size and the rugged nature of its landscape. It ranks 27th in the United States for population density.
Major Cities: West Virginia’s largest city is also its capital, Charleston, which has more than 50,000 residents and greater than 300,000 people in its metropolitan area. Other major cities include Huntington, Parkersburg, and the historically important Wheeling.
Story Behind the Name: West Virginia’s name is fairly self-explanatory, as it was formed by splitting off the state of Virginia’s western counties. Proposed names for the area in earlier history were “Westsylvania” and “Vandalia.”
History and Colonization: The land that now constitutes West Virginia was once a part of the original colony of Virginia, although its rugged terrain had always set it apart from the culture and way of life in the eastern part of the state. The mountainous land was not amicable to an agrarian society, and so it was settled by more adventurous trappers, miners, and prospectors. No Native American tribe had permanent settlements in the area, but it was a popular hunting ground that local tribes fought to control up to and during the early years of the American Revolution.
Much of current West Virginia was fought over by the original colonies of Virginia and Pennsylvania in the the mid-eighteenth century. Both colonial governments attempted to exert their authority in the area, along with a couple of powerful corporations (the Ohio Company and the Indiana Land Company) who wanted to create a new colony there under their own control. The settlers of the region simply wanted to control the area themselves without being subject to either Virginia or Pennsylvania, as they felt that their values were not fully represented in either government. Right after the end of the American Revolution, citizens of this area proposed that a 14th state, “Westsylvania,” be created. However, the United States thought it would be more beneficial to settle the dispute between Pennsylvania and Virginia without appealing to the separatists.
West Virginia got another chance to secede at the beginning of the American Civil War, and this time, it would be more successful. Like many things related to the Civil War, the decision was complicated and controversial. After the state of Virginia made the decision to join the Confederacy, several of its western counties organized under a provisional government and declared their secession from Virginia. The Wheeling Conventions, two meetings that took place in 1861, formally established that the western counties would break away and form a Union state called West Virginia. In the following years, there was much debate as to the legality and constitutionality of what took place, but West Virginia’s status as a separate state has long been cemented by time.
West Virginia’s economy has historically been heavily reliant on logging and mining, as practically the entire state is made up of thick forests growing atop ancient rock formations. Within the last several decades, the state has also attracted a healthy tourist industry centered around its scenic beauty and the many opportunities for sports and other outdoor activities that it provides.