West Virginia – Spotlight on the Mountain State
“West Virginia, mountain momma, take me home, country roads.” John Denver’s anthem speaks to the state’s humble beginnings and the hearts of generations living there.
Following an earlier unsuccessful attempt in 1769, on June 20, 1863, West Virginia, or as the locals call it, the “Mountain State,” broke away from the eastern counties of Virginia over the issue of secession and became the 35th state to be admitted into the Union. Land of rugged mountains, West Virginia has the highest altitude east of the Mississippi River and also has the largest single natural scenic and outdoor recreational area in the eastern United States. The state’s motto, Montani Semper Liberi – Mountaineers Always Free – tells the tale of West Virginia’s first settlers.
By the time the Constitution had been ratified, Virginia’s western counties encompassed over 50,000 inhabitants, many of whom came from nearby Pennsylvania and Maryland. The majority of colonial West Virginia settlers were English, but a third of the population was reported to be German. In addition, those of Scotch-Irish decent inhabited West Virginia’s least accessible and mountainous terrain. Since the local economy was dominated by subsistence agriculture, and, in any case, would not support a plantation economy, there were scarcely any persons of African-American birth living along the Blue Ridge until after the Civil War.
The history of the state and its people, from the Upper Monongalia Valley to the Lower Shenandoah Valley can be vast, therefore, genealogical references materials can help locate and research 18th and 19th-centrury relatives. “Early West Virginia Settlers,” for example, is a CD that contains the records of 200,000 early West Virginia settlers. The CD’s contents consist of wills, land grants, marriage records, military records, family histories, and local histories. To browse a wider selection West Virginia publications available from Genealogical.com, click on the following link here.
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons, the Proposed State of Kanawha