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Ekstrom Library

Government Resources: States: West Virginia

Hatfield McCoy Mountains

The Hatfield-McCoy Mountains raise their craggy backs in the deep southwestern corner of the state, where West Virginia’s mountaineer spirit, like the landscape, has never quite been  tamed. The terrain is rugged and the history tumultuous. The people are independent and deeply proud of their heritage. Something about these mountains fosters fearlessness. The  region is the boyhood home of world heavyweight champion Jack Dempsey. The land of Logan, the Mingo chief who is credited with instigating the Battle of Point Pleasant to avenge the murders of his family. And, of course, the neighborhood where the Hatfields and McCoys duked it out.  Source: State of West Virginia

Lincoln and West Virginia Statehood

West Virginia, the 35th state to be admitted to the Union, was one of two added to the nation in the administration of Abraham Lincoln. It is in some ways unique among the fifty states. West Virginia has been well described as the "most southern of the northern, the most northern of the southern, the most western of the eastern, and the most eastern of the western states."1 But it is unique in more than these four geographical ways. It is one of two states in our Union that were once a part of another state. And it is the only state in the nation whose admission directly involved the basic thinking of President Abraham Lincoln on the two vexing questions of the American constitutional system and the emancipation of the slaves.

As many historians have pointed out, the movement for statehood for West Virginia long preceded the outbreak of the Civil War. Geographic factors, differences in ethnic backgrounds, conflicting views on taxation, representation, and internal improvements had long been sources of friction between the eastern and western portions of the Old Dominion. In 1860 the forty-eight western counties of Virginia comprised one-third of the population, one-fourth of the area of that slate, and almost all its mineral resources. The population of those counties in 1860 was 380,000. These counties strongly opposed secession when, by a vote of 88-55, the Virginia State Convention passed this ordinance on April 17, 1861. Of the 46 members of that convention who represented what is now West Virginia, 9 voted for the ordinance of secession, 7 were absent, 1 was excused, and 29 were against.

The outraged citizens of the western counties of the state thereupon held two conventions in Wheeling, the first on May 13, and the second on June 11. At this second Wheeling Convention, the ordinance of secession was specifically repudiated, and all the existing offices of the state government functioning at Richmond were declared vacated. A so-called "Restored Government" of Virginia on the basis of loyalty to the United States was established. Francis H. Pierpont was named Governor, while W. T. Willey and John S. Carlile were elected United States Senators. Henceforth until the end of the war, there were two governments for the State of Virginia, that in Richmond which was, of course, loyal to the Confederacy, and that in Wheeling - later in Alexandria - , headed by Pierpont, which was loyal to the Union.

But a dual government for Virginia was by no means the end of the struggle. A general referendum of the voters in the western counties, held on October 24, 1861, approved all that had been done at Wheeling thus far. It also indicated that the popular desire was ultimately to establish an entirely new state. Source: Lincoln and West Virginia Statehood.

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