Happy birthday, West Virginia!June 20, 2013
We’re breaking out the party hats across Southern WV today, and we wanted to take a moment to look back in remembrance at what it is exactly we’re celebrating.
June 20, 1863 was the day West Virginia became its own state, separate from Virginia. We never did quite get around to asking for permission. It’s not our style. “Mountaineers are always free,” is our motto, and we championed our values and took our independence.
Plus, the wartime divide meant that the federal government was more than willing to let us join their cause, even if that meant separating from our Confederate brothers in Virginia. So we drew our lines, President Lincoln acknowledged us officially, and we followed him into battle.
The Constitution requires that new states get approval from the original state before splitting, but Virginia had seceded from the USA. Essentially, our Restored Virginia government (based in soon-to-be West Virginia) was temporarily accepted as the official Virginian government, so we were allowed to grant ourselves permission to form our new state.
It was a final step on a long, rough road to statehood.
We westerners had endured building tensions with Eastern Virginia for years. As early as 1829 (more than 30 years before the Civil War even began), some of us had been calling for a secession from Virginia based on political tension. We were upset that the government had an unfair bias toward the East: many of us in the western area couldn’t vote because we didn’t own land, and that was a voting requirement in Virginia.
We also had a strong support for the abolitionist movement. Some for economic purposes and some in the interest of human rights, but the goal was clear: we did not want slavery to continue.
The Confederate Virginia seceded to assert its right to continue slavery in the state, but we disagreed. So we broke away, carefully dividing the state to give us an advantage in the war.
We’re still the only state to have been granted approval for statehood by the President. Like siblings, we love Virginia, but we had our own identity. We’ve built up 150 years of independent culture and history, and we’re darn proud of it.
And that is why there’s so much regalia today across Southern WV. We hope you can join us! If not, here are just a few places you can visit some other time this year to get more connected to our Wild and Wonderful history:
- Mercer County War Museum – Staffed by veterans, this museum includes wars from our roots in the Civil War through today.
- Wyoming County Historical Museum – Dig back into the past all the way to the first settlers of the area, and learn about mining culture and heritage of WV.
- Raleigh County Veterans Museum – Look through war memorabilia from WV veterans
- Veterans Memorial Museum of Southern WV, Inc .- Browse collections from wars including the Civil, Korean, Vietnam, Gulf and World (I and II) Wars.
How are you celebrating WV’s 150 years?