West Virginia is a state of the United States, known as The Mountain State.
While many consider it part of the South, many in the state's Northern Panhandle feel a greater affinity for Pittsburgh, while those in the Eastern Panhandle feel a greater affinity for Washington D.C.. West Virginia broke away from Virginia during the American Civil War. The state is noted for its coal mining heritage, and union organizing mine wars in particular.
The state has a rich, stark beauty reflecting its topography. Tourist sites include the New River Gorge Bridge (where on Bridge Day the federal government, which controls the landing site, allows parachuting and bungee jumping from the bridge), as well as many national and state parks. It is also home to the Green Bank Telescope at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory.
The US Navy has named a series of ships USS West Virginia in honor of this state.
West Virginia is the only American state formed as a direct result of the American Civil War. Originally the western part of the state of Virginia, considerable dissatisfaction over the control of the state existed between those in the western part of the state, and plantation owners in the plains and tidewater regions. Under the United States constitution, state boundaries could not be redrawn without the consent of the state in question.
However, the American Civil War allowed western Virginia to form its own state. Western Virginia was strongly anti-slavery and contained the only three counties in the south to vote for Abraham Lincoln. During the debate on secession, the western counties of Virginia voted overwhelmingly to stay in the Union. Upon the secession of Virginia from the union on April 27, 1861, the western counties of Virginia formed a pro-Union reformed government for Virginia based in Wheeling. This reformed government authorized the creation of the state of Kanawha, consisting of all of the counties that had remained loyal to the Union. Eventually, the state of Kanawha was renamed West Virginia. This new state was admitted to the union in 1863, following Abraham Lincoln's signing of an act on December 31, 1862 that authorized this.
Following the war, Virginia had hoped for reunification with West Virginia, however West Virginia decided to remain as an independent state within the Union. For several decades thereafter, the two states disputed the new state's share of the Virginian government's debt. The issue was finally settled in 1915, when the United States Supreme Court ruled that West Virginia owed Virginia $12,393,929.50. The final instalment of this sum was paid off in 1939.
Law and Government
See: List of Governors of West Virginia
The capital is Charleston, in the south west area of the state.
The legislature is bicameral, consisting of the House of Delegates and a Senate. Legislators are not full-time, but part-time. Consequently, the legislators hold a full-time job in their community of residence, which stands in stark contrast to the neighboring states of Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Ohio.
Typically, the legislature is in session between January and early April. The remainder of the year sees legislators gathering periodically for interim meetings to discuss issues which will see debate during the next regular session.
The governor is elected every four years, on the same day as the president, sworn in during January. The current governor is Bob Wise; Joe Manchin will be inaugurated as the new governor in January 2005.
See: List of West Virginia counties
It is bordered by Pennsylvania and Maryland to the north, by Ohio and Kentucky to the west, and by Virginia to the east. The Ohio River and the Potomac River form parts of the boundaries.
Shaded relief map of Cumberland Plateau and Ridge and Valley Appalachians on the Virginia/West Virginia border
The state is sometimes referred to as The Mountain State, which is a bit of a misnomer, as the only true mountains are the belt of Ridge-and-valley Appalachians along the eastern border with Virginia. About 3/4 of the state is within the Cumberland/Allegheny Plateaus region which is not true mountains but rather a dissected plateau. Though the relief is not high, the plateau region is extremely rugged in most areas. (The two plateaus are essentially the same, the difference being only the naming convention of north and south, with West Virginia happening to be in the middle.)
The native vegetation for most of the state was originally mixed hardwood forest of oak, chestnut, maple, beech, and white pine, with willow along the waterways. Many of the coves are rich in biodiversity and scenic beauty, a fact that is appreciated by native West Virginians, who refer to their home as almost Heaven.
The underlying rock strata are sandstones, shales, bituminous coal beds, and limestones laid down in a near shore environment from sediments derived from mountains to the east, in a shallow inland sea on the west. Some beds illustrate a coastal swamp environment, some river delta, some shallow water. Sea level rose and fell many times during the Mississippian and Pennsylvanian eras, giving a variety of rock strata.
Coal has been one of the state's primary economic resources, although many mines have been closed. Higher prices for fuels may soon stimulate increased mining again. In past years the coal companies did mostly as they pleased, keeping miners in virtual servitude through credit at company stores. The effort of unions to organize miners is a violent chapter in the state's history; at one point the federal army had to be called in to quell a rebellion, dropping the only bombs ever dropped by the US Army against its own citizens. Today health and safety regulations and miners pay are much improved, and mining is usually the best paying job in the coalfields.
The state has an extensive network of railroads, and much of the coal is transported by rail. The railways were once one of the largest customers for coal to drive the steam locomotives, but these have been replaced by diesel locomotives. Coal is little used now for home heating either. Most coal today is used by power plants to produce electricity.
There is little agriculture in the plateau region, since the topography is primarily narrow V-shaped valleys and ridges with little bottom land. The economic base is usually mining and timber. In the ridge and valley area along the eastern border, the valleys are wide and there are some belts of rich soil which are extensively farmed.
The population of West Virginia as of 2003 was 1,810,354.
As of 2003, West Virginia was probably the US state least affected by immigration. Only 1.1% of the state's residents were foreign-born, placing West Virginia last among the 50 states and the District of Columbia in that statistic. It was also last in the country in percentage of residents that speak a language other than English in the home (2.7%).
The racial makeup of the state is:
The 5 largest ancestry groups in West Virginia are American (23.2%), German (17.2%), Irish (13.5%), English (12%), Italian (4.8%).
The 5 largest religious denominations in West Virginia are Baptist (33%), Methodist (16%), "Christian" (9%), Roman Catholic (8%), Presbyterian (3%). 14% of the population is nonreligious.
5.6% of West Virginia's population were reported as under 5, 22.3% under 18, and 15.3% were 65 or older. Females made up approximately 51.4% of the population.
Important cities and towns
Colleges and universities
Professional sports teams
The Minor League Baseball Teams are:
The minor league hockey team is:
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