West Virginia's early history from 1609 until 1863 is largely shared with Virginia, of which it was a part until Virginia seceded from the Union in 1861. The delegates of the 40 western counties who opposed secession formed their own government, which was granted statehood in 1863.
In 1731 Morgan Morgan established the first permanent white settlement on Mill Creek in present-day Berkeley County. Coal, a mineral asset that would figure significantly in West Virginia's history, was discovered in 1742. Other important natural resources are oil, natural gas, and hardwood forests, which cover about 75% of the state's area.
The state's rapid industrial expansion began in the 1870s, drawing thousands of European immigrants and African Americans into the region. Miners' strikes between 1912 and 1921 required the intervention of state and federal troops to quell the violence.
Today, the state ranks second in total coal production, with about 15% of the U.S. total. It is also a leader in steel, glass, aluminum, and chemical manufactures
. Major agricultural commodities are poultry and eggs, dairy products, and apples.
Tourism is increasingly popular in mountainous West Virginia. More than a million acres have been set aside in 37 state parks and recreation areas and in 9 state forests and 2 national forests
. Major points of interest include Harpers Ferry and New River Gorge National River, The Greenbrier and Berkeley Springs resorts, the scenic railroad at Cass, and the historic homes in the Eastern Panhandle.
Entered Union (rank): June 20, 1863 (35)
Present constitution adopted: 1872
Motto: Montani semper liberi (Mountaineers are always free)
flower rhododendron (1903)
tree sugar maple (1949)
bird cardinal (1949)
animal black bear (1973)
colors blue and gold (official) (1863)
songs “West Virginia, My Home Sweet Home,” “The West Virginia Hills,” and “This Is My West Virginia” (adopted by Legislature in 1947, 1961, and 1963 as official state songs)
Nickname: Mountain State
Origin of name: In honor of Elizabeth, “Virgin Queen” of England
10 largest cities (2005 est.): Charleston, 51,176; Huntington, 49,198; Parkersburg, 32,020; Wheeling, 29,639; Morgantown, 28,292; Weirton, 19,544; Fairmont, 19,049; Beckley, 16,936; Clarksburg, 16,439; Martinsburg, 15,996
Land area: 24,077 sq mi. (62,359 sq km)
Geographic center: In Braxton Co., 4 mi. E of Sutton
Number of counties: 55
Largest county by population and area: Kanawha, 193,559 (2005); Randolph, 1,040 sq mi.
State forests: 9 (79,502 ac.)
State parks: 37 (74,508 ac.)
Residents: West Virginian
2005 resident population est.: 1,816,856
2000 resident census population (rank): 1,808,344 (37). Male: 879,170 (48.6%); Female: 929,174 (51.4%). White: 1,718,777 (95.0%); Black: 57,232 (3.2%); American Indian: 3,606 (0.2%); Asian: 9,434 (0.5%); Other race: 3,107 (0.2%); Two or more races: 15,788 (0.9%); Hispanic/Latino: 12,279 (0.7%). 2000 percent population 18 and over: 77.7; 65 and over: 15.3; median age: 38.9.