West Virginia - History

History

Many ancient man-made earthen mounds from various prehistoric mound builder cultures survive, especially in the areas of Moundsville, South Charleston, and Romney. The artifacts uncovered in these give evidence of a village societies. They had a tribal trade system culture that crafted cold worked copper pieces.

The Iroquois drove out other Native American tribes from the area to reserve the upper Ohio Valley as a hunting ground after the Beaver Wars further east. Other indigenous tribes had occupied the area before them: the Osage and other Siouan-language tribes migrated west across the Mississippi River to escape the warfare.

The area now occupied by West Virginia was contested territory among European Americans as well, with the colonies of Pennsylvania and Virginia claiming territorial rights before the American Revolutionary War. Some speculative land companies, such as the Vandalia Company, and later the Ohio Company and Indiana Company, tried to legitimize their claims to land in parts of West Virginia and Kentucky, but failed. With the settlement of the Pennsylvania and Virginia border dispute, which resulted in the creation of Kentucky, Kentuckians "were satisfied, and the inhabitants of a large part of West Virginia were grateful."

West Virginia was originally part of the British Virginia Colony (from 1607 to 1776) and the western part of the state of Virginia (from 1776 to 1863). Long discontented with electoral malapportionment and underrepresentation in the state legislature, its residents became sharply divided over the issue of secession from the Union. Residents of western and northern counties set up a separate government under Francis Pierpont in 1861, which they called the "restored" government. Most voted to separate from Virginia, and the new state was admitted to the Union in 1863. In 1864 a state constitutional convention drafted a constitution, which was ratified by the legislature without putting it to popular vote. West Virginia abolished slavery and temporarily disfranchised men who had held Confederate office or fought for the Confederacy.

West Virginia's history has been profoundly affected by its mountainous terrain, numerous and vast river valleys, and rich natural resources. These were all factors driving its economy and the lifestyles of residents, and remain so today.

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