West Virginia has a very colorful history. Before the 17th century, a large number of Indians lived in this Atlantic coastal region of North America, as revealed by many artifacts found in almost every village. However, the earliest explorers of the land found few Indians here. Perhaps many of the Indians died of famine, disease or tribal wars.
Since 1600, the land has been explored and claimed by British and French colonizers. It was named Virginia after Queen Elizabeth I, the “Virgin Queen.” It remained a royal colony until 1776, when it was declared an independent commonwealth. In 1788, it became the 10th state of the United States.
Soon after, the Civil War incited conflicts and divided the people of Virginia. In 1863, the Eastern and the Western parts of Virginia were formally separated, making West Virginia the 35th US state with Arthur I. Boreman as the first governor.
West Virginia is situated within the Appalachian Mountain Range, thus, its name, the “Mountain State.” It is found below the states of Pennsylvania and Ohio, which also borders its west at the northeastern side of Kentucky.
To date, this 24,077-square-mile state is composed of 55 counties that are inhabited by 1,808,344 people, based on the 2000 resident census. It ranks 37th among the US states in terms of population.
The most populated county in West Virginia as of 2004 is Kanawha County with 195,218 residents. About 51,685 of them live in Charleston City, the largest city of Kanawha, also the capital of West Virginia.
Majority–almost 95 percent, in fact–of the people in Charleston are white and non-Hispanic, while the rest are Black, American-Indian, Asian-Indian and Hispanic.
In terms of economy, West Virginia is one of the weakest states, along with Arkansas and Mississippi. The 2003 US Census Bureau statistics show that it has the lowest median household income, which is only about $31,008.
Among the reasons for its poor economy is the low level of education in West Virginia. Only 15.3 percent of its entire population has finished college. However, West Virginia also has a long list of reputable colleges and universities, among which is the famous West Virginia University in Morgantown.
Much of West Virginia is mountainous, which makes it a perfect haven for most nature lovers. The state takes pride in its rich biodiversity and spectacular sceneries. West Virginia is an excellent for all sorts of outdoor activities such as fishing to hunting, camping, skiing, kayaking and canoeing.
The climate in West Virginia is humid continental, which means that it has variable weather patterns and varying temperatures. Summers are typically hot, except in the upper regions, while winters vary from cool to cold.