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Revised 27 December 2010

WEST VIRGINIA

    West Virginia was the home of the people of the Adena Culture, also known as the Mound Builders.  These Indian tribes had lived in the area since 1000 BC.  Grave Creek Mound dates back to 1,000 to 2,000 years and is the world's tallest conical prehistoric India burial mound.

    The history of West Virginia and that of Virginia are intertwined.  West Virginia was originally a portion of Virginia.  It was part of that crown colony.  When the settlers first arrived, this portion was primarily an Indian hunting ground.  In 1669, John Lederer, a German physician was one of the first Europeans to enter this portion of the colony.  He found small groups of Indians visiting the area for salt supplies.  In 1727, Germans migrated south from Pennsylvania and settled in the area now known as New Mecklenburg.  The Germans and a group of Scotch-Irish pioneers decided to settle but were attacked by the Indians for taking over their lands.  The Indians were defeated at the battle of Point Pleasant in 1774.

    Two main commodities brought the settlers to this area in addition to the land itself.  Salt was plentiful in the area and was useful for salting hides and as a preservative.  Coal was discovered in this area in 1742 along the Coal River.

    Two key engagements of the Revolutionary War occurred in West Virginia.  The Battle of Point Pleasant occurred in 1774 and was considered by some as the first skirmish of the war.  In 1782, the nation successfully defended Fort Henry against a joint British and Indian attack.  This last was considered to be the final armed event of the Revolutionary War.  

    Throughout Virginia's first 80 years of statehood, the Western counties had great differences, which differences continued to fester over time.  The Counties water source came from the river systems of the midwest rather than from the coastal areas and the agricultural system of the area soon to become West Virginia made the use of slavery impractical.  There were increasing complaints of poor representation in Virginia's legislature which left these people less than satisfactory results.

    As early as 1776, these people sought the right to break away from Virginia, but it was the secession of Virginia from the Union in 1861 that finally gave them the opportunity.  The residents of the West Virginia area refused to agree to secession.  That same year, a Virginia government was reorganized that was loyal to the Union, which formed in Wheeling, and in two years, this area became a fully autonomous state on its own.  It was briefly named Kanawha, but the title changed to its present name and West Virginia became a state 0n 20 June 1863.

In the course of the Civil War, West Virginia endured 632 military actions and one town, Romney, changed hands 56 times.  After the close of the war, and for the next 90 years, Coal was the primary economy of the area.  It gave work to people from throughout the South and East and from such countries as Italy, Poland and Hungary.  Those searching ancestry in this area, will need look to both West Virginia and her parent State, Virginia when reviewing records as they could lie in either state.

Name Date Formed Parent County County Seat
Barbour 1843 Harrison, Lewis, Randolph Philippi
Berkeley 1772 Frederick Martinsburg
Boone 1847 Kenawha, Cabell, Logan Madison
Braxton 1836 Kanawha, Lewis, Nicholas Sutton
Brooke 1797 Ohio Wellsburg
Cabell 1809 Kanawha Huntington
Calhoun 1856 Gilmer Grantsville
Clay 1858 Braxton, Nicholas Clay
Doddridge 1845 Harrison, Tyler, Ritchie, Lewis West Union
Fayette 1831 Kanawha, Greenbrier, Logan Fayetteville
Gilmer 1845 Lewis, Kanawha Glenville
Grant 1866 Hardy Petersburg
Greenbrier 1778 Montgomery Lewisburg
Hampshire 1753 Frederick Romney
Hancock 1848 Brooke New Cumberland
Hardy 1785 Hampshire Moorefield
Harrison 1784 Monongalia Clarksburg
Jackson 1831 Kanawha, Mason, Wood Ripley
Jefferson 1801 Berkeley Charles Town
Kanawha 1789 Greenbrier, Montgomery Charleston
Lewis 1816 Harrison Weston
Lincoln 1867 Boone, Cabell, Kanawha Hamlin
Logan 1824 Kanawha, Cabell, Giles Logan
McDowell 1858 Tazewell Welch
Marion 1842 Harrison, Monongalia Fairmont
Marshall 1835 Ohio Moundsville
Mason 1804 Kanawha Point Pleasant
Mercer 1837 Giles, Tazewell Princeton
Mineral 1866 Hampshire Keyser
Mingo 1895 Logan Williamson
Monongalia 1775 District of West August Morgantown
Monroe 1779 Greenbrier Union
Morgan 1820 Berkeley, Hampshire Berkeley springs
Nicholas 1818 Greenbrier, Kanawha Summersville
Ohio 1777 District of west Augusta Wheeling
Pendleton 1787 Augusta, Hardy Franklin
Pleasants 1851 Ritchie, Tyler, Wood St. Mary's
Pocahontas 1821 Pendleton, Randolph Marlinton
Preston 1818 Monongalia Winfield
Putnam 1848 Kanawha, Mason, Cabell Winfield
Raleigh 1850 Fayette Beckley
Randolph 1787 Harrison Elkins
Ritchie 1843 Harrison, Lewis, Wood Harrisville
Roane 1856 Kenawha, Jackson, Gilmer Spencer
Summers 1871 Greenbrier, Monroe, Mercer Hinton
Taylor 1844 Barbour, Harrison, Marion Grafton
Tucker 1856 Randolph Parsons
Tyler 1814 Ohio Middlebourne
Upshur 18512 Randolph, Barbour, Lewis Buckhannon
Wayne 1842 Cabell Wayne
Webster 1860 Braxton, Nicholas Webster Springs
Wetzel 1846 Tyler New Martinsville
Wirt 1848 Wood, Jackson Elizabeth
Wood 1798 Harrison Parkersburg
Wyoming 1850 Logan Pineville

WEST VIRGINIA RESEARCH LINKS

WEST VIRGINIA GENWEB PROJECT WEST VIRGINIA GENEALOGICAL SOCIETY
WEST VIRGINIA HISTORICAL SOCIETY WEST VIRGINIA VITAL STATISTICS