Today is the sesquicentennial of the creation of the great state of West Virginia! You see, there was a disagreement on how things ought to go, known as the Civil War. Due to the mountainous terrain, slavery was not really profitable so it was more common in eastern Va than in western VA. When the VA legislature decided to count 3/5 of the slaves when setting up representation, western VA residents were not happy. The people of the region that is now WV did not feel properly represented and saw an opportunity for independence from VA by seceding and joining the Union. Residents of western and northern counties set up a separate government under Francis Pierpont in 1861, which they called the “restored” government. Most voted to separate from Virginia, and the new state was admitted to the Union in 1863. In 1864 a state constitutional convention drafted a constitution, which was ratified by the legislature without putting it to popular vote. West Virginia was the only state to form by seceding from a Confederate state and was one of two states formed during the American Civil War (the other being Nevada, which separated from Utah Territory). Personally, I think they should have called Virginia, East Virginia to clarify that we are indeed separate entities. Many people outside the region still think we are one state, united with East Virginia. As a small protest, I always call “Virginia” “East Virginia”…so take that!
Although I am not a native, I have been a part of WV since 1990 when I first came to the state to attend West Virginia Wesleyan College. That happens to be the same place I met my lovely wife when she accosted me from the library and made me drink hot chocolate with her back at her dorm room. She’s a native. We spent a few years away doing schooling and stuff but we were delighted to move back to WV in 2005. All of her people are here and this is where I will live the rest of my days if it is up to me.
The new license plate, the capitol and a view from the Greenbrier
Flowers in the WV mountains
West Virginia is the only state that is entirely within the area commonly defined as Appalachia. To some people, Appalachia is a negative term, but to me, it means something special. Typical stereotypes paint Appalachia with ugly traditions such as moonshining and clan feuding, and often portray the region’s inhabitants as uneducated and prone to impulsive acts of violence. Some of that is true, but there are ugly things everywhere. Rather, I prefer to think of West Virginians as quiet and kind folks who value simple living and the land and family. The music and mountains and old traditions of WV run deep and make WV naturally a different culture than much of Virginia. The state motto, “Montani Semper Liberi” means “Mountaineers are always free” and absolutely represents the mindset that outsiders perceive incorrectly as backwardness or mistrust of outsiders rather than as fierce independence and pride in one’s home.
Panorama from a WV ridgetop
To me, West Virginia is a lot about a way of life. There is rugged beauty here and an abundance of natural, awe-inspiring landscape. It’s about front porch sitting and gardening and being surrounded closely by the mountains that help feed me both physically and spiritually. WV is about people and history and simplicity and freedom. WV is home to me and my family and will always be where I return. It’s home and I am so glad to help celebrate it’s 150 anniversary!