West Virginia 149 years old today
June 20, 2012 ·
149 years ago today, as the Civil War raged on, West Virginia became the 35th state in the union.
Dennis Frye, chief historian at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, calls the formation of West Virginia a “great story,” and one that parallels Robert E. Lee’s
1863 invasion of the north.
“When Robert E. Lee leaves Virginia and goes to Pennsylvania in 1863 he leaves Virginia,” Frye said. “When he comes back retreating from Gettysburg and with a defeated army, he enters West Virginia.”
Frye calls the whole story of the state’s founding
“It doesn’t start in 1863 but it begins in 1861 almost
immediately with the disruption of Virginia from the Union, with Virginia
secession,” Frye said. “And of course the people of the western part of the
state had voted against secession almost unanimously and they just didn’t want
to have anything to do with a seceded state, which they considered a traitorous
Frye said they created the Loyalist State of Virginia, but
ultimately settled on the name West Virginia.
Frye said despite the fact that West Virginians
decided to separate from Virginia many in the new state had strong allegiance to Virginia and the Confederacy, making the new state a place of
divided loyalties where men fought for both sides.