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West Virginia Counties

There are fifty-five counties in the state of West Virginia. Fifty of them existed at the time of the Wheeling Convention in 1861, before which West Virginia was part of the state of Virginia. The remaining five (Grant, Mineral, Lincoln, Summers and Mingo) were formed within the state after its admission to the United States on June 20, 1863. At that time, Berkeley County and Jefferson County, the two easternmost counties of West Virginia, refused to recognize their inclusion in the state. In March 1866, the US Congress passed a joint mandate assenting to their inclusion.

Pleasants County, West Virginia

Pleasants County Education, Geography, and History

Pleasants County, West Virginia Courthouse

Pleasants County is a county located in the state of West Virginia. Based on the 2010 census, the population was 7,605, making it the third-least populous county in the state. Its county seat is St. Marys. The county was created by the Virginia General Assembly in 1851 and named for US Senator and Virginia Governor James Pleasants, Jr.

Etymology - Origin of Pleasants County Name

For James Pleasants, Jr., Senator from VA, and VA Governor, 1822-1825


County QuickFacts: CensusBureau Quick Facts

Early History of Pleasants County, West Virginia

Pleasants County was created by an act of the Virginia General Assembly in 1851 from parts of Ritchie, Tyler and Wood counties. It was named in honor of James Pleasants, Jr. (1769-1839).

James Pleasants Jr., was born in Goochland County, Virginia on October 24, 1769. He studied law and was admitted to the bar in Goochland County. He served in the Virginia General Assembly from 1796 to 1803 and was the clerk of the Virginia lower house from 1803 to 1810. He represented Virginia in the US House of Representatives from 1811 to 1819 and in the US Senate from 1819 to 1822. He then was the Governor of Virginia from 1822 to 1825. He died on November 9, 1839.
Robert Cavelier de La Salle was probably the first European to set foot in present Pleasants County. He sailed down the Ohio River in 1669. In 1749, Louis Bienville de Celeron sailed down the Ohio River, and may have set foot in present day Pleasants County. He claimed all of the lands drained by the Ohio River for King Louis XV of France. He met several English fur traders on his journey and ordered them off of French soil and wrote strong letters of reprimand to the colonial governors protesting the English's presence on French soil.

Despite de Celeron's warning, many English fur traders and hunters continued to visit Pleasants County during the early 1700s, but their names have not been recorded. The first name that does appear in the memoirs of the era was an English fur trader named Tygart, who was said to have lived on Middle Island around 1765. In 1770, George Washington explored the area. The first, permanent settlers were Isaac and Jacob LaRue, Frenchmen who had been granted a large tract of land in the present county for their service to the colonies during the American Revolutionary War. They built a cabin on Middle Island in 1790. At that time, the entire county was a wilderness. In 1797, Basil Riggs settled above Raven Rocks narrows and starting in 1800 the county's population began to increase as several families moved into the county annually.

The first meeting of the county court took place on May 15, 1851 at the home of Alexander H. Creel, at St. Mary's. At that time, there were less than 1,500 people living in the county. A collection was taken to raise $5,300 for the construction of a courthouse and jail, with Alexander H. Creel donating the most, $700. The county court then meet at the house of Isaac Reynolds while construction of the public buildings continued. The construction took a long time, and it was not until June 11, 1854 that the courthouse was completed and occupied.

The land comprising St. Mary's, the county seat, was originally owned by Henry Thomas and was chartered as a town by the Virginia General Assembly in 1815. He transferred the title to the land to William McClerry, who transferred it to Stephen West. West's heirs later transferred the title to the land to Alexander H. Creel's father, who, in turn, passed it onto his son, the founder of St. Mary's, in 1834.
Local legend had suggested that when Alexander H. Creel passed the area on a steamboat he had a vision in his sleep of the Virgin Mary who informed him that he was viewing "the site of what will one day be a happy and prosperous city." Once fully awake, he supposedly opened the outer door to his state room and clearly saw the lower end of Middle Island and the cove beyond. He marked the sight in his mind, returned, bought the land, and started the city. Record books of the time, however, indicate that the land was actually purchased by his father. In any case, he apparently changed his mind because he sold the land in 1837 to Hugh L. Pickens and started another settlement nearby, called Vaucluse. In 1849, he returned to the area, repurchased that portion of his land that is currently St. Mary's, and had Thomas Browse, another prominent citizen of the area, lay out the town for him. Creel named the town, then known as Pickens' Bottom, in honor of the Virgin Mary. Most historians believe that Creel returned to St. Mary's in anticipation of the extension of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad to the town. At that time, there were only three or four houses in the town. Its population grew some after being named the county seat (it is said that all of the inhabitants of Vaucluse moved to St. Mary's after St. Mary's was named the county seat). Unfortunately, the railroad line to Ohio was built through Wheeling, with a branch to Parkersburg, leaving St. Mary's isolated and with a population of less than 200 through the Civil War years.

St. Mary's was incorporated in 1872, but the charter was repealed in 1876. It was incorporated again in 1880. The discovery of oil in the area following the Civil War helped the city grow and prosper.

Geography: Land and Water

As reported by the Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 135 square miles (350 km2), of which 130 square miles (340 km2) is land and 4.4 square miles (11 km2) (3.3%) is water.

It is the fourth-smallest county in West Virginia by area.

Neighboring Counties

Bordering counties are as follows:

  • Northeast: Tyler County
  • Northwest: Washington County, Ohio
  • Southeast: Ritchie County
  • Southwest: Wood County


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