Catch up on your state trivia with these West Virginia history firsts and interesting fun facts about the state.
38.35055 N, 081.63043 W
June 20, 1863
Number of Counties
55 Counties in West Virginia
Largest County (by population)
903 sq. mi.
West Virginia History Firsts
& State Facts
1671 - September 17 - The first white people to go through the New River Gorge and reach the head of Kanawha Falls were Thomas Batts and
Robert Fallam .
1756 - First spa open to the public was at Berkeley Springs, West Virginia, in 1756 (then, Bath, Virginia).
1775 - A variety of the yellow apple, the Golden Delicious, originated in Clay County. The original Grimes
Golden Apple Tree was discovered in 1775 near Wellsburg.
1785 - First pottery plant was in Morgantown.
1787 - First steamboat was launched by James Rumsey in the Potomac River at New Mecklensburg (Shepherdstown) on December
1792 - The first post office in West Virginia was established on June 30, 1792, at Martinsburg.
1794 - The first iron furnace west of the Alleghenies was built by Peter Tarr on Kings Creek in 1794.
1798 and 1799 - Daniel Boone made his last survey of Charleston on September 8, 1798. He left the state in 1799.
1815 - First glass plant in West Virginia was at Wellsburg.
1824 - On February 14, 1824, at Harpers Ferry, John S. Gallaher published the "Ladies Garland," one of the first papers in the
nation devoted mainly to the interests of women.
1838 - Moundsville is the site of the continent's largest cone-shaped prehistoric burial mound. It is 69 feet high and
900 feet in circumference at the base and was opened on March 19, 1838. An inscribed stone was removed from the vault and is on display at the Smithsonian
Institute in Washington, D.C.
1841 - William Tompkins used natural gas to evaporate salt brine in 1841, thus becoming the first person in the United States
to use natural gas for industrial purposes.
1849 - One of the first suspension bridges in the world was completed in Wheeling in November 1849.
1859 - Abolitionist John Brown led a raid on a national armory at Harpers Ferry in an attempt to secure weapons for a planned slave rebellion.
1860 - In May, the first well in the state for producing crude oil was drilled at Burning Springs.
1861 - West Virginia was a part of Virginia until that state seceded from the United States in 1861; delegates from 40 counties formed
their own government, and statehood was granted them two years later.
1861 - First major land battle fought between Union and Confederate soldiers in the Civil War was the
Battle of Philippi on June 3, 1861.
1861 - Bailey Brown, the first Union solider killed in the Civil War, died on May 22, 1861, at Fetterman, Taylor County.
1862 - The first free school for African Americans in the entire south opened in Parkersburg in 1862.
June 20 - Declared a state by President Abraham Lincoln, West Virginia is the only state to be designated and acquired its sovereignty
by proclamation of the President of the United States.
A naval battle was fought in West Virginia waters during the Civil War. United States Navy armored steamers were actively engaged
in the Battle of Buffington Island near Ravenswood on July 19, 1863.
"West Virginia, My Home Sweet Home," by Julian G. Hearne, Jr.
"The West Virginia Hills," words and music by Ellen King and H.E. Engle
"This is My West Virginia," by Iris Bell were all designated as West Virginia State Songs
The Megalonyx jeffersonii was chosen as West Virginia State Fossil
2009 - Bituminous coal becomes West Virginia State Rock
2013 - Hall flintlock model 1819 is West Virginia State Firearm
"Take Me Home Country Roads," by John Denver, Taffy Nivert, and Bill Canoff is adopted as West Virginia
Cass Scenic Railroad State Park's Shay No. 5 is designated as West Virginia State Steam locomotive
More West Virginia History Firsts & State Facts
West Virginia is considered the southern most northern state and the northern most southern state.
West Virginia has the oldest population of any state. The median age is 40.
Jackson's Mill is the site of the first 4-H Camp in the United States.
The world's largest sycamore tree is located on the Back Fork of the Elk River in Webster Springs.
The longest block in the world is the 1500 block of Virginia Street.
West Virginia is one of the nation's leading producers of bituminous coal and is also noted for the manufacture of fine glass. 15%
of the nation's totalcoal production comes from West Virginia.
"Paws-Paws," nicknamed the "West Virginia banana," originated in the state and took their name from Paw Paw, Morgan County.
Adena burial mounds are the largest example of the distinctive constructions created by Native American mound builders.
Nearly 75% of West Virginia is covered with forests.
Because of its mountains, West Virginia is sometimes referred to as "the Switzerland of the United States".
West Virginia is the second-largest coal producing state in the country.
West Virginia has long been famous for its manufacture of fine glass.
The New River Gorge Bridge
near Fayetteville is the second highest steel arch bridge in the United States. The bridge is also the longest steel arch bridge
(1,700 feet) in the world. Every October on Bridge Day, the road is closed and individuals parachute and bungee cord jump 876 feet off the bridge.
Its West Virginia's largest single day event and attracts about 100,000 people each year.
One of the nation's oldest and largest Indian burial grounds is located in Moundsville. Its 69 feet high, 900 feet in circumference,
and 50 feet high. An inscribed stone was removed from the vault and is on display at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C.
Some famous individuals from West Virginia include: Pearl Buck (author),
Peter Marshall (television host), Chuck Yeager (test pilot /Air Force General,) Don Knotts (actor), Mary Lou Retton (Olympic gold medallist for gymnastics),
and Kathy Mattea (country music singer).
West Virginia covers about 24,000 square miles and has a population of about 1.8 million.
West Virginia has an mean altitude of 1,500 feet, giving it the highest average altitudeeast of the
The border of the state of West Virginia is 1,365 miles flat (as the crow flies).
Organ Cave, near Ronceverte, is the third largest cave in the United States and the largest in the state.
The first electric railroad in the world, built as a commercial enterprise, was constructed between Huntington and Guyandotte.
The Christian Church was begun in West Virginia by Alexander Campbell in Bethany.
Chester Merriman of Romney was the youngest soldier of World War I, having enlisted at the age of 14.
The first organized golf club in America is in West Virginia. West Virginia continues that tradition today with 1884 Oakhurst Links in White Sulphur
White Sulphur Springs, Greenbrier County, was the first "summer White House."