West Virginia Day – June 20
June 20 celebrates the birth of my home state. West Virginia was founded in 1863. I just returned from WV on Sunday. I love driving the mountain roads, but I’m sure many others do not. They are intimidated by the curves. When I come out of the tunnel at Bluefield, the one which separates West Virginia from Virginia, my heart always says “home.”
On June 20, 1863, West Virginia became the thirty-fifth state in the Union. The land that formed the new state formerly constituted part of Virginia. The two areas had diverged culturally from their first years of European settlement, as small farmers generally settled the western portion of the state, including the counties that later formed West Virginia, while the eastern portion was dominated by a powerful minority class of wealthy slaveholders. There were proposals for the trans-Allegheny west to separate from Virginia as early as 1769. When Virginia seceded from the Union in 1861, the residents of a number of contiguous western counties, where there were few slaves, decided to remain in the Union. Congress accepted these counties as the state of West Virginia on condition that its slaves be freed. “Montani semper liberi,” “mountaineers always freemen,” became the new state’s motto.
Personally, I love driving the mountain roads, but I’m certain many others do not. Many are intimidated by the sharp curves. When I exit the tunnel at Bluefield on Interstate 77, the one which separates West Virginia from Virginia, my heart always says “home.”
Here are some fun facts shared by the Harper’s Ferry Adventure Center:
- West Virginia formed after breaking away from Virginia during the Civil War. It was admitted to the Union on June 20, 1863 under a proclamation issued by President Abraham Lincoln. West Virginia is the only state to be admitted under presidential proclamation.
- Mother’s Day was first observed as a holiday at Andrews Church in Grafton on May 10, 1908. It became a national holiday in 1914.
- The New River Gorge Bridge is the longest steel arch bridge in the Western Hemisphere. It spans a length of 1,700 feet. Every October on Bridge Day, the bridge is closed to traffic while individuals parachute and bungee jump 876 feet off the bridge.
- One of the world’s first suspension bridges was built in Wheeling in November of1849.
- Organ Cave is the largest natural cave in West Virginia and the third largest cave in the United States
- Camping in WV is fun to do because there is no shortage of places to go. Nearly 75 percent of the state is covered by forests.
- West Virginia produces 15 percent of the total coal used nationwide. It is home to Coal House, the world’s only residence built entirely of coal. Coal House is in White Sulphur Springs and was occupied on June 1, 1961.
- West Virginia became the first state to have a sales tax. The tax went into effect on July 1, 1921.
- Golden Delicious, a variety of yellow apples, are native to West Virginia. The first golden apple tree originated in Clay County in 1775.
Here are some more fun facts you likely did not know about West Virginia. These come from the West Virginia Tourism site. https://wvtourism.com/almost-heaven-fun-facts-2/
West Virginia is known for its scenic mountain beauty, unmatched outdoor recreation opportunities and the friendliest folks in the country. But did you know that nearly 80% of the state is covered by forests? Or that the state’s youngest & oldest governor are the same person? Here are 20 facts you may not have known about this slice of heaven:
- Let’s start with the fact that it almost wasn’t named West Virginia. The state was originally going to be named “Kanawha” to honor a Native American tribe; however, after its succession from the Commonwealth of Virginia, officials still wanted Virginia to be part of its name.
- West Virginia is the only state completely within the Appalachian Mountain range, aptly given the nickname the Mountain State.
- North America’s largest alluvial diamond was found in Peterstown. It is known as the Punch Jones Diamond after William “Punch” Jones and his father Grover found the diamond in 1928.
- Outdoor advertising got its start in Wheeling when the Bloch Brothers Tobacco Company painted bridges and barns with “Treat Yourself to the Best, Chew Mail Pouch.”
- The first rural free delivery mail service took place in 1896 in Charles Town through the Post Office Department’s pilot program to determine the feasibility for rural delivery for the rest of the country.
- Harrisville is home to America’s oldest dime store, Berdine’s Five and Dime, which has been continuously operating since 1908.
- Cecil Underwood made history in 1956 when he became the state’s youngest governor at 34 – then again in 1996 when he became the state’s oldest governor after being reelected at 74.
- West Virginia is the third most forested state. In fact, the Monongahela National Forest covers nearly a million acres of land and spans across 10 counties.
- West Virginia is comparable in size to both Latvia and Lithuania.
- Contrary to its name, the New River is actually one of the oldest in the world and unusually flows south to north because it was formed before the mountains.
- Standing tall at 292 feet, the State Capitol dome is higher than the dome at the nation’s capital.
- West Virginia is located within a day’s drive from 75% of the U.S. population, yet remains an untouched gem among outdoor enthusiasts.
- The Golden Delicious Apple originated in Clay County in 1905.
- The USS West Virginia was hit during the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 – a date which will live in infamy. The mast from the ship now lives on West Virginia University’s campus, in front of Oglebay Hall.
- The first brick street in the world was laid in Charleston on Summers Street.
- The Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, a National Historic Landmark, is the largest hand-cut stone masonry building in North America and second in the world to the Kremlin.
- The largest sycamore tree in the world was located in Webster Springs until it fell in 2010 when it was estimated to be over 500 years old!
- The Phil G. McDonald Bridge in Beckley is the highest truss bridge in the world at 700 feet tall, although it’s often overshadowed by the famous New River Gorge Bridge.
- West Virginia was home to the first land battle of the Civil War at the Battle of Philippi in 1861.
- You don’t have to travel far to see the world – West Virginia holds the record for having the most towns named after cities in other countries, including Athens, Berlin, Cairo, Calcutta, Geneva and Shanghai.
“In 1963, West Virginia Day was the highpoint of a year-long celebration of the state centennial, with President John F. Kennedy speaking from the steps of the state capitol. The state enjoyed its grandest birthday party that day, beginning with a breakfast restricted to people born on June 20 and culminating with evening fireworks. A 35-layer cake was served at noon, and Kennedy’s speech was followed by a 35-gun salute.
“In addition to official observances, West Virginians celebrate their state’s birthday with a variety of tavern toasts, family cookouts, and other unofficial acknowledgments. Long-standing customs include the creation of a special glass-work by Blenko Glass of Cabell County. Issued in a number equal to the state’s age, the limited-edition piece is sold in Charleston to first-comers on the morning of West Virginia Day.” [e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia “West Virginia Day.” e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 20 June 2014. Web. 22 May 2018.]