History of West Virginia

History of West Virginia

For thousands of years, people have been living in the great state of West Virginia. The Paleo-Indians, the Adena, and the Hopewell people were among its early settlers. Some of them have built huge mounds for their religious rituals and they still exist today.

The Native Americans

Native American tribes already settled in the region before the Europeans arrived. These tribal groups include the Cherokee, the Iroquois, and the Shawnee. The Shawnee were the most powerful tribe when the first Europeans arrived in the land. They constructed dome-shaped houses called wigwams. To survive they hunted all kinds of game like rabbit, deer, geese, bear, and bison. They also cultivated squash, corn, and sunflowers. However, in the late 1600's, the Shawnee were forced out of the region by the Iroquois tribes of the north.

European Colonizers

The state was originally part of the Virginia Colony founded by England in 1606. The Jamestown settlement was established in 1607 and later on people began to occupy eastern Virginia. Nonetheless, West Virginia was considered the frontier for quite some time. In the late 1600's, European explorers arrived and started to create maps for the territory.

The Early Settlers

Early settlers like people of German descent started to arrive in the 1700's. Most of them came from Pennsylvania in the north in search of new lands. It was in 1726 when they founded the New Mecklenburg settlement. Eventually, it became the city of Shepherdstown, the oldest town in the state of West Virginia. These people had to endure the hostility of the Native Americans who considered West Virginia their hunting territory. Furthermore, many early settlements were ravaged during the French and Indian War.

The Revolutionary War

West Virginia became part of the Virginia Colony when the Revolutionary War broke. The region tried to break off and establish its own state during the revolution. They submitted a petition to the Second Continental Congress to join the Union as a 14th state named "Westsylvania" but was denied.

West Virginia was always physically separated from Virginia by the majestic Appalachian Mountains. This made the state very different in terms of economics and culture. When Virginia left the Union in 1861 and joined the Confederacy, many locals opposed and remained in the union. Furthermore, West Virginia seceded from Virginia later that year during the Wheeling Convention and remained faithful to the Union during the war. On June 20, 1863, West Virginia applied to become an autonomous state making it the 35th US state.

The Railroad

During the late 1800's and early 1900's, the advent of the railroad in Appalachia unleashed West Virginia's buried natural resources of coal, oil, natural gas, and timber. Numerous bustling towns were expanding near the tracks as the industry prospered in the region. A hundred years later, many of these boom towns were transformed into ghost towns and the primary transportation became the automobile. Over the years, tourists have enjoyed the scenic rides along the old industrial tracks. The magnificent Appalachian Mountains and the rugged terrain of West Virginia also has a significant role in the state's colorful history. West Virginia's rich history and diverse culture is truly a marvelous experience.