West Virginia

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West Virginia
Flag of West Virginia.svg Seal of West Virginia.svg
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Capital: Charleston
State motto: Montani Semper Liberi ( lat. )
( Dt . : mountain dwellers are always free)
Official language : English
Surface: 62,755 km²
Residents: 1,831,102 (estimated in 2016) (29 U / km²)
Member since: June 20, 1863
Time zone: Eastern: UTC − 5 / −4
The highest point: 1,482 m (Spruce Knob)
Average Height: 455 m
Deepest point: 73 m Potomac
Governor : Jim Justice ( R )
Post  / Office /  ISO WV / / US-WV
Map of West Virginia
Map of West Virginia
West Virginia topographic map
West Virginia topographic map
Border sign on Highway 52

West Virginia ( English pronunciation  [ wɛst vɝːd͡ʒɪnjə ] , German older also West Virginia ) is a federal state of the United States in the Appalachian region , popularly called The Mountain State . It is bounded by Virginia in the southeast, Kentucky in the southwest, Ohio in the northwest, Pennsylvania in the north and Maryland in the northeast. West Virginia, which separated from Virginia in the Civil War , is also known as a mining region, as well as for its labor disputes and relative poverty . Please click to listen!Play


Geographical location

West Virginia is located in the eastern United States between Virginia in the southeast and south, Kentucky in the southwest, Ohio in the northwest, and Pennsylvania and Maryland in the northeast. The northernmost part of the state forms a narrow strip between Ohio and Pennsylvania and is therefore known as the " panhandle " (pan handle). The border with Ohio is formed by the upper reaches of the Ohio River , the border with Maryland by the North Branch of the Potomac River .

The state lies entirely in the Appalachian Mountains , which is why it is nicknamed the "mountain state". From northwest to southeast it is divided into the Allegheny Plateau (part of the Appalachian Plateau ), the Allegheny Mountains and the Valley and Ridge Zone . The highest point is the Spruce Knob at 1,482 m, with West Virginia an average of 455 m above sea level, which is the highest value for a state east of the Mississippi.

rivers and lakes

The eastern North American watershed cuts through West Virginia. The easternmost part of the state belongs to the catchment area of ​​the Potomac River , which drains directly to the Atlantic Ocean, the larger western part drains over the Ohio River and the Mississippi River into the Gulf of Mexico .

Important tributaries of the Ohio in West Virginia are Wheeling Creek , Little Kanawha River with the Burnsville Lake Reservoir , Kanawha River with the Elk River, and the Big Sandy River with its Tug Fork . The Big Sandy River and Tug Fork form the border between West Virginia and Kentucky, and the Tug Fork forms a small portion of the border between West Virginia and Virginia.


West Virginia's emergence is unique in the history of the United States : it was part of Virginia until the Civil War . Ever since the settlement of this part of the country, however, there have been political differences between the rather poorer smallholders in this mountainous region and the plantation owners in the plains that were dominant in the politics of the state. After the outbreak of the American Civil War and the breakaway of Virginia from the Union , the western counties separated from their mother state on April 27, 1861. Representatives from these counties formed a new government based in Alexandria , Virginia. They were authorized to do so by a note dated December 31, 1862 by Abraham Lincoln .

Virginia at that time had two parliaments, one that had decided to join the Confederation , and an opposing parliament that was loyal to the Union and thus to the northern states . According to the United States Constitution , it is not allowed to accept part of a state territory into the Union without that state's consent. Virginia's anti-parliament gave such approval on May 13, 1862, so that the constitution was formally satisfied. Since the counter-parliament consisted almost entirely of delegates from the western part of Virginia, there were, also with Abraham Lincoln, strong doubts about the constitutionality of the admission of West Virginia into the Union; but for strategic reasons they were ignored during the war. During the Civil War, West Virginia was the site of numerous battles and skirmishes, such as: B. the battle at Philippi , the battle at Cheat Mountain , the battle at Rich Mountain or the fighting in the Kanawha valley .

gray: counties of West Virginia that were still held by the Confederates in February 1863

In 1870, after Virginia had been re-admitted to the Union with all rights, the Supreme Court presupposed the legality of the secession of West Virginia in a court judgment on the affiliation of the two counties Berkeley and Jefferson to West Virginia.

The residents of West Virginia self-ironically refer to their state as the Ireland of the USA . Because the area is rural and characterized by poor conditions. For generations, the profits from the rich wood and coal deposits flowed into the vaults of monopoly trusts , without a large part of the population having received even a modest share in it. Finally, when the end of the 19th century here railroad from the east had advanced into the mountainous regions, it took advantage of this transportation advantage for large-scale clearing of forests.

In the 19th century, the principle of the Company Town developed among the large coal mining companies in the south of the state . There the workers received a wage, but had to pay a large part for food and accommodation in towns where most of the money belonged to the coal companies. In addition, the lowered entrepreneurs to pay gradually more and more, so that the exploitation and debt of the working time was more oppressive. The result was heavy labor disputes, the so-called Mine Wars (mining wars ). In these conflicts the unions were fought and held down with military aid.

It was not until 1967 that West Virginia was forced by the Supreme Court to become one of the last states in the United States to lift the ban on mixed marriages .


Presidential election results
year republican Democrats
2016 67.86% 483,436 26.16% 186,397
2012 62.14% 417,655 35.45% 238,269
2008 55.58% 397,466 42.49% 303,857
2004 56.06% 423,778 43.20% 326,541
2000 51.92% 336,475 45.59% 295,497
1996 36.76% 233,946 51.51% 327,812
1992 35.39% 241,974 48.41% 331,001
1988 47.46% 310,065 52.20% 341,016
1984 55.11% 405,483 44.60% 328,125
1980 45.30% 334,206 49.81% 367,462
1976 41.93% 314,760 58.07% 435,914
1972 63.61% 484,964 36.39% 277,435
1968 40.78% 307,555 49.60% 374,091
1964 32.06% 253,953 67.94% 538,087
1960 47.27% 395,995 52.73% 441,786

West Virginia is one of the poorest states in the United States. Due to its strongly unionized political tradition, it is traditionally linked to the Democratic Party , which is why it was mostly represented by Democratic senators, governors and representatives, such as Robert Byrd , who died in June 2010 , the doyen of the Democratic Senate faction and senator with the longest term in office to date . Representatives in the United States Senate until 2014 were Jay Rockefeller and former Governor Joe Manchin . At the Midterm Elections in November 2014, Rockefeller's Senate seat fell to Republican Shelley Moore Capito . This means that West Virginia is represented by a woman for the first time and again by a Republican senator in 55 years.

In presidential elections , West Virginia was also considered to be more of the Democratic camp until 2000; it was one of only six states to vote for Jimmy Carter and against Ronald Reagan in 1980 . However, the state, whose residents, in addition to the economically political left, also largely represent a conservative position in socio-political matters and are close to evangelical free churches, has always voted for the candidate of the Republican Party in presidential elections since 2000 and can therefore be counted among the Red States .

In the 2016 US presidential election , 67.9% of West Virginia voters voted for Republican candidate Donald Trump . This was the highest proportion nationwide.




Population development
Census Residents ± in%
1790 55,873 -
1800 78,592 40.7%
1810 105,469 34.2%
1820 136,808 29.7%
1830 176.924 29.3%
1840 224,537 26.9%
1850 302.313 34.6%
1860 376,688 24.6%
1870 442.014 17.3%
1880 618.457 39.9%
1890 762.794 23.3%
1900 958,800 25.7%
1910 1,221,119 27.4%
1920 1,463,701 19.9%
1930 1,729,205 18.1%
1940 1,901,974 10%
1950 2,005,552 5.4%
1960 1,860,421 -7.2%
1970 1,744,237 -6.2%
1980 1,949,644 11.8%
1990 1,793,477 -8th %
2000 1,808,344 0.8%
2010 1,852,994 2.5%
Before 1900

1900-1990 2000

Population density

West Virginia has 1,852,994 inhabitants (as of the 2010 Census ), of which 93.9% are whites, 3.4% African American, 0.7% Asians, 0.2% Indians, and 1.2% Hispanics and Latinos of any ethnic group .

Only 1.1% of the state's residents were born outside of the United States. This puts West Virginia in one of the last places in the US statistics. The state also has the smallest population of any US state who speaks any language other than English at home, at 2.7%.

The five largest groups whose ancestors had a certain nationality are: Americans (23.2%), Germans (17.2%), Irish (13.5%), English (12%) and Italians (4.8% ). Larger sections of the population of German origin have settled in northeastern West Virginia.

5.6% of the population of West Virginia are under 5 years old, 22.3% are under 18, and 15.3% are 65 years or older. The proportion of women in the total population is 51.4%.

In 2017, 38.1% of the population were severely overweight . This is the highest proportion of any state in the United States.

Biggest cities

Bluefield (West Virginia) Vienna (West Virginia) St. Albans (West Virginia) South Charleston (West Virginia) Clarksburg (West Virginia) Martinsburg (West Virginia) Beckley Fairmont (West Virginia) Weirton Wheeling (West Virginia) Morgantown (West Virginia) Parkersburg (West Virginia) Huntington (West Virginia) Charleston (West Virginia)


The main university is West Virginia University . Additional colleges are included in the list of universities in West Virginia .

West Virginia is the US state with the lowest percentage of academics. Only 20% of the population over the age of 24 have a bachelor's degree or higher education (USA: 31%); only 0.64% have a PhD (USA: 1.88%). 15% of students finish high school without a degree (US: 13%).

Culture and sights

Blackwater Falls


With the song Take Me Home, Country Roads released in 1971 , John Denver reached number 2 on the US singles chart. After the song quickly became an unofficial anthem of the state, it has also been one of West Virginia's official anthems since 2014.

Allegheny Mountains

The Allegheny Mountains are not yet overly developed for tourism, although they are only a few hours' drive from the metropolises on the east coast. They are suitable for rafting , mountain bike and climbing tours.

New River Gorge

The New River Gorge is a famous 300 m deep gorge west of the village of Lewisburg, which can only be reached by water (rafting), or you can enjoy the fantastic view from the railway bridge from an Amtrak train . Many extreme athletes, however, are more interested in jumping with a paraglider . The arch bridge construction that spans it is the second tallest bridge of its kind in the United States , along with the Royal Gorge Bridge over the Arkansas River in Colorado .

Economy and Infrastructure

Enter West Virginia on I-64

The population of West Virginia is traditionally one of the poorest in the US states. The real gross domestic product per capita (. English per capita GDP) - the most important indicator of prosperity - was in 2016 at USD 40,071 (national average of 50 US States: USD 57,118; national rank order: 48). Only Mississippi is always behind West Virginia in the state rankings.

The unemployment rate was 5.3% in November 2017 (national average: 4.1%).

The once magnificent forests were cut down for a long time. A reforestation showing success in recent decades. Mining (above all hard coal; furthermore natural gas, crude oil) still plays an important role, but 50 percent of the state's income is already generated through tourism .

A growing nuisance is what is called " brutal" coal extraction in opencast mining by environmentalists , the so-called " Mountaintop Removal Mining ". For this purpose, mountain peaks are cut down and loosened by blasting, especially in the southwest of the state, the earth and rock material is cleared and emptied into sinks in order to access the coal seams more cheaply than in traditional underground mining . There is enormous environmental damage with this method, entire villages are at risk from water and mud falls. The recultivation of the exploited camps is required by law, but it is not always carried out quickly. In this way, mountainous and sparsely populated West Virginia has got a number of golf courses that would otherwise hardly have been built.


  • Otis K. Rice, Stephen W. Brown: West Virginia: A History . Second edition. University Press of Kentucky, Lexington 1993, ISBN 978-0-8131-1854-3 .
  • John Alexander Williams: West Virginia: A History . WW Norton, New York 1984, ISBN 978-0-393-30182-3 .

Individual evidence

  1. ^ The mineral lubricating oil from West Virginia. In: Polytechnisches Journal . 193, 1869, Miszelle 5, pp. 89-91.
  2. Hardway, Ronald V., On Our Own Soil. William Lowther Jackson and the Civil War in West Virginia's Mountains . Quarrier Press, 2003, pp. 39-40
  3. James Carter Linger, Confederate Military Units from West Virginia , 2002 ed., P. 20.
  4. Text of the court ruling in the Virginia v West Virginia case (English)
  5. ^ David Leip: Dave Leip's Atlas of US Presidential Elections. Retrieved November 28, 2018 .
  6. ^ A blue state's road to red in Washington Post, October 26, 2013, accessed July 6, 2014
  7. ^ US Census Bureau _ Census of Population and Housing . Retrieved February 28, 2011
  8. Extract from Census.gov . Retrieved February 28, 2011
  9. Excerpt from factfinder.census.gov.Retrieved February 28, 2011
  10. US Census Bureau
  11. ^ Adult Obesity in the United States . In: The State of Obesity . ( stateofobesity.org [accessed December 2, 2018]).
  12. ^ West Virginia Education Data. Retrieved February 5, 2019 .
  13. ^ "Country Roads" is the new anthem from West Virginia. In: ORF.at-News. March 7, 2004, accessed February 2, 2017 .
  14. ^ US Department of Commerce, BEA, Bureau of Economic Analysis: Bureau of Economic Analysis. Retrieved August 27, 2017 (American English).
  15. State economy ranking [1]
  16. ^ Unemployment Rates for States. Retrieved January 8, 2018 .
  17. Jörg Blech: Mountains without peaks . In: Der Spiegel . No. 17 , 2009, p. 142-143 ( online ).

Web links

Wiktionary: West Virginia  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : West Virginia  - Album containing pictures, videos and audio files

Coordinates: 38 ° 40 ′  N , 80 ° 41 ′  W