Tomorrow is West Virginia Day and 2013 is a real milestone–the state’s 150th birthday. Once part of Virginia, western Virginia became its own state in 1863. Many residents of Virginia who lived west of the Allegheny Mountains weren’t happy when the state seceded from the Union in 1861.
To make a long story short (which is NOT how we do it in WV), a group of mountaineers decided that the government of Virginia–the one that seceded–was illegal. They declared all state offices vacant and filled them with representatives from west of the Allegheny mountains. These “elections” were a wee bit sketchy, but maybe that is how we do it in WV.
President Lincoln seemed to appreciate the western government and worked with them on the condition that they renounced slavery. Which they did. The division ultimately caused a permanent separation and West Virginia was recognized as a state all its own on June 20, 1863. This makes WV the only state to secede from the Confederacy.
My novels are set in this VERY special state. It’s special for so many reasons:
- It’s the only state entirely within Appalachia
- It has a wildly diverse ecosystem ranging from cranberry bogs to subtropical climate
- The New River–ironically–is the second oldest river in the world
- The first organized golf club was formed in WV
- Mother’s Day originated in Grafton, WV
- Minnie Harper, a West Virginian, was the first black woman to serve in a legislative body (the House of Delegates)–in 1928
But mostly it’s special to me because my family has lived there since it was Virginia–since 1800 or so. And having roots that deep makes me feel connected to something so much bigger and wider and deeper than me.
Happy birthday, West Virginia.