Written in 1879 by Reverend David King as a poem for his wife Ellen. Mr. King wanted wife's name on music. H.E. Engle (Henry Everett Engle) (1849-1933) put the poem to music in 1885 and it was designated as a state song in 1961. Arranged by W.L. Reed. West Virginia has adopted three state songs reflecting three different eras of the state’s history. Col. Julian Hearne, a military officer who distinguished himself in World War II, composed "West Virginia, My Home Sweet Home." The song "The West Virginia Hills" was written by Reverend David King as a poem for his wife, Ellen, in 1879. In 1885, Henry Everett Engle added a chorus and composed music to accompany the poem. An edited version of the song was made official in 1961. "This Is My West Virginia," composed by Charleston jazz musician Iris Bell, was designated the "official centennial song" in 1962. On February 28, 1963, the state legislature passed a resolution declaring all three songs official and equal. Of all the songs, however, "The West Virginia Hills" is the most popular, partly for its "call and response" structure that sounds like echoing across the hills
Oh, the West Virginia hills! How majestic and how grand,
With their summits bathed in glory, Like our Prince Immanuel's Land!
Is it any wonder then, That my heart with rapture thrills,
As I stand once more with loved ones On those West Virginia hills?
Oh, the hills, beautiful hills, How I love those West Virginia hills!
If o'er sea o'er land I roam, Still I'll think of happy home,
And my friends among the West Virginia hills.
Oh, the West Virginia hills! Where my childhood hours were passed,
Where I often wandered lonely, And the future tried to cast;
Many are our visions bright, Which the future ne'er fulfills;
But how sunny were my daydreams On those West Virginia hills!
Oh, the West Virginia hills! How unchang'd they seem to stand,
With their summits pointed skyward To the Great Almighty's Land!
Many changes I can see, Which my heart with sadness fills;
But no changes can be noticed In those West Virginia hills.
Oh, the West Virginia hills! I must bid you now adieu.
In my home beyond the mountains I shall ever dream of you;
In the evening time of life, If my Father only wills,
I shall still behold the vision Of those West Virginia hills.
"The West Virginia Hills," "This Is My West Virginia," and "West Virginia, My Home Sweet Home" were designated as the official State Songs of West Virginia, each ranking equally with the others in official status, by House Concurrent Resolution No. 19, adopted by the Legislature on February 28, 1963.
Each of these three songs had received an official designation from the State Legislature over the years. “West Virginia, My Home Sweet Home” was declared the first official state song in 1947. In 1961, an edited and approved version of “The West Virginia Hills” was also made an official state song. In 1962, “This Is My West Virginia” was named the official Centennial Song of West Virginia. Understandably, this resulted in considerable confusion.
To resolve the matter, all three songs were declared official and equal by House Concurrent Resolution No. 19, adopted by the State Legislature on February 28, 1963. The Secretary of State’s office is guardian of the official versions.
Though they are melodic and heartfelt, Hearne’s and Bell’s works have not been performed often. Long before it was declared official, however, “The West Virginia Hills” was used on many public occasions. And for nearly four generations — in those days when people more often gathered to sing for pleasure — the old anthem proved a favorite. It has sweep and majesty and thunder, especially its inspired chorus, which singers divide into a call and echoed reply, singing, “Oh the hills (beautiful hills), Beautiful hills (beautiful hills), How I love those West Virginia hills!” The three songs represent early, middle, and modern eras of the state’s history. And here’s how each came to be.
Ellen King, the author of the song "The West Virginia Hills," was born in Glenville on April 22, 1846.
1885. On September 15, "The West Virginia Hills" by Ellen King was published. It later became one of the official state songs. Source: Clagg, West Virginia Historical Almanac, p. 113.
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