A Dictionary of American History

Author: Thomas L. Purvis  | Date: 1995

West Virginia

West Virginia About 1726, Morgan ap Morgan became the first white settler of W.Va., in Berkeley County. When Wheeling became its first transmontane settlement in 1772, no Indians occupied W.Va. It was the scene of Dunmore’s War. British-directed Indian raids lasted from the American Revolution (see Revolutionary War) to the first treaty of Greenville. In 1800 modern W.Va. had 78,592 inhabitants, 9 percent of Va. residents.

In 1860 it had 376,688 inhabitants, of whom 5 percent were slaves. The Civil War created W.Va. After Va,’s secession from the Union, a convention established, on 11 June 1861, a provisional Union government at Wheeling for the northwestern counties. Union victory at Rich Mountain gave federal forces control over 75 western counties, including 25 that had voted for secession. W.Va. was admitted as the 35th state on 20 June 1863, and abolished slavery in February 1865. It furnished 32,068 USA troops (including 196 blacks) and about 10,000 CSA soldiers. Democrats won control of the state in 1870.

Railroads and coal mining diversified the economy in the late 19th century. In 1900 W.Va. had 958,800 residents, of whom 87 percent were rural, 4 percent were black, and 2 percent were foreign-born; it ranked 28th among states in population, 28th in the value of its agricultural products, and 31st in manufactures. As its agricultural base declined, it lost 127,400 out-migrants from 1920 to 1940. After diesel fuels began replacing coal and mines became increasingly mechanized, 1,347,600 persons left the state from 1940 to 1970. Its population declined by 212,075 from 1950 to 1990. In 1990 W.Va. was the 34th largest state and had 1,793,477 residents (96 percent white, 3 percent black, 1 percent Hispanic), of whom 36 percent were urban and 0.9 percent were foreign-born. Mining employed 12 percent of workers and manufacturing 15 percent.


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Chicago: Thomas L. Purvis, "West Virginia," A Dictionary of American History in A Dictionary of American History (Cambridge, Mass.: Blackwell Reference, 1995), Original Sources, accessed September 25, 2022, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=KRC44IQSSTUVA3X.

MLA: Purvis, Thomas L. "West Virginia." A Dictionary of American History, in A Dictionary of American History, Cambridge, Mass., Blackwell Reference, 1995, Original Sources. 25 Sep. 2022. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=KRC44IQSSTUVA3X.

Harvard: Purvis, TL, 'West Virginia' in A Dictionary of American History. cited in 1995, A Dictionary of American History, Blackwell Reference, Cambridge, Mass.. Original Sources, retrieved 25 September 2022, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=KRC44IQSSTUVA3X.