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West Virginia (WV): State Guide and Fun Facts

When was West Virginia Founded? West Virginia became a state in 1863, when it seceded from the state of Virginia.

Who Founded West Virginia? No specific founder. The state was originally part of Virginia, which was founded by Captain John Smith

First settlers: Ancestors of the Chickahominy, Mattaponi, Monocan Indian Nation, Nansemond, Pamunkey and Rappahannock Tribes

Square Miles: 24,231

US Rank: 41st

State Flower: Rhododendron

State Bird: Cardinal

State Motto:
Latin: “Mantani Semper Liberi”
Translation: Mountaineers are always free

Capital City

Charleston – Charleston is the largest city in West Virginia, and has been the capital of the state since 1885, when an election was held to decide the capital city. The original economy of Charleston was driven by salt, natural gas and goal, however these have slowly lost their importance, to be replace by trade, government and education.


What is West Virginia famous for?

1. Coal Mining – West Virginia mines the second largest amount of coal in the United States. Most of the coal is shipped domestically to produce electricity and to assist with iron production. The state has mines that are excavated either underground or on the surface of the Earth.

2. Chuck Yeager – Born in 1923 in Myra, West Virginia, Charles Elwood Yeager was a young major general in the Air Force. While serving in World War II, Yeager was an aircraft mechanic, a test pilot, fighter pilot and a flight officer. Shortly after the end of the war, Yeager continued to be a test pilot, and on October 14, 1947 he became the first man to fly faster than the speed of sound. His record was broken by Scott Crossfield in 1953, when the pilot reached Mach 2 (twice the speed of sound). After this flight, Yeager managed a new record of Mach 2.44.

3. John D. Rockefeller IV – The West Virginia Senator is the great-grandson of oil giant John D. Rockefeller and the only politician in the family at present. The Senator was not a native West Virginian; he was born in New York City, educated at Phillips Exeter Academy, and attended college at Harvard University. His first post college endeavor was a job in Washington DC with the Peace Corps. In 1966, the fourth Rockefeller became a delegate of West Virginia, and two years later he was elected as the Secretary of State. After an unsuccessful run for governor in 1972, Rockefeller persevered and ran again in 1976, this time winning the election. He was re-elected in 1980 and went on to hold a handful of office after his governorship ended. Since June 2010, John D. Rockefeller has been serving as the Senior US Senator from West Virginia.

What is West Virginia’s economy?

1. Mining – West Virginia’s most important mining export is coal, and the state is the second leading coal producing state in the nation. In addition to coal, and perhaps less well known, the state also mine natural gas, petroleum, stone and salt.

2. Agriculture – West Virginia’s agricultural revenue is primarily based on livestock, while crops account for a lesser share. The most important livestock products include chickens, beef cattle, milk, eggs, turkeys, pigs and farmed fish. Grown crops include hay, apples, corn, soybeans, tobacco and peaches.

3. Services – Small businesses and personal services account for the largest share of revenue generators in the services industry of West Virginia. These businesses include law firms, health care companies, hotels, tourism and information technology companies.


West Virginia Historical Points of Interest

1. Town of Helvetia – This small town, located in the mountain of West Virginia, has survived since it was founded by Swiss and German settlers in the 19th century. The area today attracts visitors to traditional events such as Fasnacht, the Feast of Sankt Nicholaus, the Swiss National Holiday and the Helvetia Fair.

2. The Greenbrier – This massive Classic Revival structure is a luxury hotel located in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. The Grand Central Hotel was built in 1858 on the grounds, but was torn down in 1922 and a new building was built in its place. It has been the temporary location for the Duke of Windsor, Bing Crosby, Kennedy families and Princess Grace of Monaco. In 1950, the hotel gained an important political affiliation when the US government asked the hotel to build a secret bunker in which Congress could hide after a nuclear holocaust. The bunker was never used, and was kept as a secret from the public until 1992, at which point the government decommissioned the facility.

3. Dr. Robert B. McNutt House – The Dr. Robert B. McNutt House was built in 1840 and is located in Princeton, West Virginia. It was the only house that remained after the entire city was set aflame by Confederate forces under the command of Captain Water Jenifer during the Civil War. The home is now open to visitors that wish to learn about the rich history of the home and the surrounding area.

4. Railroads – the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad is the oldest railroad line in the United States, and is primarily located in West Virginia. The Chesapeake & Ohio railroad was also a large contributor to early transport of coal, timber, oil and gas. Visitors to West Virginia can explore the C&O Heritage Museum, or see the Cass Scenic Railroad State Park (, which offers rides on steam driven trains. The trains run on the same track that was built at the beginning of the 20th century to transport lumber to the mills in West Virginia.