A state of the American Union, bounded on the northeast by Pennsylvania and Maryland, on the northwest by Ohio, on the southeast and south by Virginia, and on the southwest by Kentucky; it is situated between latitude 37°36' and 40°38' North, and between the meridians 77°45' and 82°03' West. Its area is 24,780 square miles, of which 24,645 square miles is land and 135 square miles is water, containing 15,859,200 acres. The population, according to the U.S. Census of 1910, is 1,221,119. The principal cities are: Wheeling, 41,641; Huntington, 31,161; Parkersburg, 17,742 Charleston, 22,926; Clarksburg, 9201.
West Virginia geographically belongs to the Mississippi Valley, and the principal rivers, which are the Sandy, Guyandotte, Big and Little Kanawha, and the Monongahela, with its tributaries the Youghiogheny and Cheat, are tributary to the Ohio River, which flows for 300 miles along this state.
This great watercourse puts West Virginia in direct communication with the trade of the Mississippi Valley, the Gulf of Mexico, and in fact with the markets of the far West. The Allegheny Ridge forms in this state the watershed between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mississippi Valley. West of the Allegheny Range and that of the Shenandoah on the east, and the Greenbrier and Laurel Mountains on the west, are numerous short parallel ridges of which the most important are Potts or Middle Warm Spring and Jackson River Mountains. The most western of these continuous chains is the Laurel Ridge with its prolongations, the Greenbrier and Flat Top Mountains. Near the line of Randolph County the Greenbrier Mountains throw off a spur east to the Allegheny Range, and from this extend numerous parallel ridges following the usual course of the mountain chains of the state and known as Rich, Middle Shaves, Cheat, and Valley Mountains. The Great Flat Top Mountain, as the south-western portion of this ridge is called, also throws out spurs north and north-west called the White Oak Mountain and Barker's Ridge. These mountain chains enclose many fertile valleys.
The prevailing ingredients of the soil are silica, aluminium, pure clay, marl, lime, magnesia, and iron, which the very unevenness of the surface tends to amalgamate to the greatest practical advantage. Thus the alluvial or bottom lands composed of the diluvium from adjacent and distant hills combine mechanically and chemically every kind of mineral and vegetable decomposition in the country. This soil, which varies in depth from three to forty feet, produces the largest timber and heaviest crops, and, resting upon a substantial basis of dark loam and fertile clay, exceeds in reliability and endurance the black, rich, but thirsty and chaffy, soils of the Western prairies. The second bottom is generally representative of the rocks prevailing upon this level, with a strong admixture of the strata above brought down by the gradual landslips and the rains, and accumulated probably to a great extent before the present vegetation took possession of the surface. On ascending, the soil is found gradually less mixed in substance and colour, the timber is less varied, and on steeper places less thrifty. When the ridge is sharp and narrow, the bare rock is found but a few inches below and not seldom protruding above the surface; but when flat or gently inclined, as in a majority of cases, there is found a deep, arable soil heavily coated with humus, and producing, with few exceptions, the identical kinds of timber and crops found in the alluvial valley below. In those regions of the state where the table-lands are exceptionally met with, the surface presents undulating plains, which, but for their timber, would recall to mind an Illinois prairie, reaching along the mountain summits for miles in length and breadth, with scarcely an elevation sufficiently great to divide the water. West Virginia is richly invested with timber, comprising many varieties of the oak and fir, the hemlock, cedar, laurel, tulip-tree, the black and white walnuts, hickory, beech, sycamore, elm, maple, birch, white and mountain ash, besides the wild-fruit varieties peculiar to the surrounding states. It has been estimated that 11,300,000 acres, or nearly three-fourths of the superficial area of the state, are as yet unimproved, and of these a considerable proportion are still in the vigour and juvenescence of original growth.
There is a great diversity of climate in West Virginia. In the mountain regions the summers are never very warm, while the winters are extremely cold, the thermometer sometimes registering 25 below zero. Except in these mountain regions the climate is generally free from the extremes of heat and cold, rain and drought, and upon the whole one of the most agreeable and salubrious in the Union. The mean annual temperature is about 50°; summer 72°; autumn 54° Fahrenheit. The average rainfall is from 43 to 45 inches.
The production and value of leading crops in 1910 were as follows: hay, 810,000 tons, value $12,150,000; corn, 23,290,000 bushels, value, $16,226,000; wheat, 5,125,000 bushels, value, $5,228,000; oats, 2,520,000 bushels, value, $1,260,000; rye, 155,000 bushels, value $140,000; buckwheat, 575,000 bushels, value $443,000; potatoes, 3,772,000 bushels, value, $2,527,000; tobacco, 12,800,000 lbs., value, $1,318,000. The fruit crop aggregated over $1,000,000 in value. Stock raising is also an important industry.
West Virginia is richly endowed with a high grade of oil or crude petroleum. During the year 1909 the production was 10,745,092 barrels, valued at $17,642,283. This state is also very rich in high-grade coal, containing every variety except anthracite; during 1909 there were 51,466,010 tons mined, thus ranking second, after Pennsylvania, in the production of coal; coke was produced to the amount of 2,637,132 short tons. In 1908 the production of natural gas was valued at $14,837,130; and in this year the clay products amounted in value to $3,261,756.
There are a number of manufacturing industries within the state, most of which are located along the Ohio River. In 1907 there were 2150 manufacturing establishments, with a combined capital of $41,175,913, turning out a product valued at $94,584,091, and employing 45,871 persons whose annual wages were $24,268,502. The leading industries in this year were iron and steel, thirteen plants, product valued at $20,095,000; lumber and planing mills, product valued at $10,359,615; coke, product valued at $5,074,403; glass, $6,322,223; leather and harness, $6,623,567; machinery and castings, $6,521,374; brewing and distilling, $2,650,895; flour and feed, $2,664,012; pottery, $1,826,745; wood pulp and paper, $1,735,967; brick and tile, $1,064,710.
Although the state is of comparatively recent development, an efficient free school system has been established of which a state superintendent has general supervision, and a county superintendent and board of three commissioners for each school district have local jurisdiction. In 1908 there were 351,966 children of school age; of these 336,279 were white and 15,657 were coloured. Separate schools are provided for white and coloured persons. There were 7021 public schools with 8282 teachers, with property of an estimated valuation of $7,705,768, while $3,979,125 was expended in maintenance. Other state institutions are: six normal schools, two preparatory branches of the State university, two coloured institutes, a school for the deaf and blind, the State Reform School, the Industrial School for Girls, the Weston Hospital for the Insane, and the West Virginia University. This university, situated at Morgantown, originated by virtue of the National Land Act of Congress of 2 July, 1862, the subsequent action of the Legislature in accepting its provision, and from the foundations of an educational institution which had already been laid at Morgantown for half a century. Its sources of revenue are: first, an annual productive endowment of $115,750; second, the Morrill fund, which amounts to $25,000 a year; third, the Hatch fund, amounting to $15,000 annually; fourth the biennial appropriations of the Legislature; and, fifth, fees and tuitions paid only by students of other states.
The Sisters of the Visitation have academies for young ladies at Mount de Chantal, near Wheeling, and at Parkersburg. The Sisters of St. Joseph have academies for young ladies at Clarksburg and Wheeling; the Xaverian Brothers conduct a high school for boys at Wheeling. St. Edward's Preparatory School for Young Men, at Huntington, was opened in September, 1909. There are 14 parochial schools with 1975 pupils, and in all 3300 young persons are under Catholic care.
The oldest Catholic charitable institution in the state is the Wheeling Hospital, incorporated in 1850, and in charge of the Sisters of St. Joseph, who have been labouring in the diocese since its foundation. The same order conduct hospitals at Parkersburg and Clarksburg, also St. Vincent's Home for Girls, and St. John's Home for Boys at Elm Grove, a suburb of Wheeling. A manual training school for boys at Elm Grove is conducted by the Xaverian Brothers, a home for wayward and homeless girls, at Edgington Lane, Wheeling, is in charge of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd.
The Constitution provides that there shall be no special laws concerning property held for religious or charitable purposes. No church or religious denomination can be incorporated. A religious congregation can legally acquire and hold a limited quantity of real property by deed of conveyance for three purposes only: first, for a place of worship; second, for a place of burial; third, for a place of residence for a minister. The title to such property is vested in trustees, named in the deed of conveyances or appointed by the proper court, which trustees hold the property for the use and benefit of the congregation. No devise or bequest by will of either personal or real property to any church, or trustees thereof, or to any congregation is valid. Any persons desiring to make a bequest or devise for the benefit of any church may make such bequest or devise in favour of some individual, absolutely and without any limitation or qualifications, trusting to the loyalty of such person for faithful application of the property to the real purposes for which the bequest or devise is desired to be made. But any devise or bequest if questioned in legal proceedings, and the real facts shown, would doubtless be held to be void. A gift of personal property to the trustees or other proper authorities of any church for the benefit thereof with delivery of possession by the donor, of course, is valid. On some of the questions relating to charitable trusts the decisions of the courts are not free from confusion. Property used for educational, literary, scientific, religious, or charitable purposes is exempt from taxation.
No appropriation of school funds to support any sectarian or denominational school is allowed. A clergyman is incompetent to testify concerning any confession made to him in the course of discipline enjoined by the Church to which he belongs. Ministers of the Gospel regularly in charge of a congregation are exempt from military duty, labour on public roads, and jury service. No religious or political test or oath can be required as a prerequisite or qualification to vote, serve as a juror, sue, plead, appeal, or pursue any profession or employment. No person can be compelled to attend or support any particular religious worship; the Legislature may not prescribe any religious test whatsoever, or confer any peculiar privileges or advantages on any sect or denomination; it may not pass any law or levy any tax for the erection or repair of any house for public worship, or for the support of any Church or ministry; but every person is free to select his religious instructor and provide for his support. Marriage between whites and negroes is prohibited. Divorces which are vinculo matrimonii or a mensa et toro can only be granted by the courts, on statutory grounds which are very similar to those of most of the Eastern states. In the court all testimony is required to be given under oath. Search warrants cannot be issued without affidavits. Profanity and drunkenness are prohibited by law, and a penalty is imposed for its violation. While the observance of Sunday is not directly enjoined, labouring at any trade or calling or the employing of minor apprentices or servants in labour on Sunday, except in household or other work of necessity or charity, are forbidden. Also hunting and fishing on Sunday are forbidden by law. A penalty is imposed for the disturbance of religious worship.
The territory now embraced in West Virginia was an unexplored wilderness when it first became known to white men. That it was first inhabited not many generations before the coming of the white explorer is evidenced by many relics found, such as pieces of flint, rude stone implements, human bones, large mounds, and other unmistakable witnesses to that fact. Different Indian tribes at various times had their homes within the present limits of the state: the Delawares in the Monongahela Valley; the Mohicans in the Kanawha Valley; the Conoys in the New River Valley, and the Shawnees on the south branch of the Potomac. The first permanent settlement in the state was made at New Mecklenburg in 1727; this is now Shepherdstown, the oldest town in West Virginia. In 1681 Charles II granted to a company of gentlemen a tract of land which comprised as a part of what is now called the "Eastern Pan Handle" of the state.
This tract of land was inherited by Thomas, Lord Fairfax, and became known as the "Fairfax Land Grant". Surveyors were employed to determine the boundaries, and during this work, on 17 October, 1746, was erected the famous "Fairfax Stone", the first monument marking boundary of real estate in West Virginia. George Washington, at a later period, was employed on this survey. West Virginia was organized and became a state during the early years of the Civil War, and was composed of the western and northern counties of the State of Virginia. John Letcher, Governor of Virginia, convened the General Assembly in extra session on 7 January, 1861, at which session an act providing for a convention of the people of Virginia was passed. At this gathering, held in the Old State House at Richmond, the Ordinance of Secession was passed on 13 April, 1861. The people of the eastern counties of the state favoured its ratification, while those of the western and northern counties, separated by a range of mountains from the fertile plains of the Old Dominion and holding but few slaves, had little in common with the wealthy planters and slave owners of the eastern and southern sections, and were opposed to secession. Moreover, many of the latter were of northern descent, especially those residing along the Ohio River, and, when war broke out, they took sides with the Union. Representatives from the counties opposed to secession assembled in Wheeling, and on 19 June, 1861, the convention unanimously adopted An Ordinance for the Reorganization of the State Government . This convention reassembled on 6 August, and an ordinance providing for the creation of a new state out of a portion of the territory of Virginia was adopted. By its provisions this ordinance was to be submitted to the people of the thirty-nine counties, and as many other counties as wished to vote on it, at an election to be held on 24 October, 1861. The vote resulted 18,489 for and 781 against the new state. The proposed constitution was adopted by the people on 11 April, 1863. Its motto is "Montani semper liberi" (Mountaineers are always free). The Constitution of 1863 was superseded by the present one, adopted in 1872. The first capital of the state was situated at Wheeling, but was afterwards removed to Charleston in 1885.
DODGE, West Virginia (Philadelphia, 1865); SUMMERS, The Mountain State (Charleston, 1893); LEWIS, Hist. of West Virginia (new ed., New York, 1904); FAST and MAXWELL, Hist. and Government of West Virginia (new ed., Morgantown, 1908); Reports of the State Board of Agriculture; Reprts of the State Superintendent of Free Schools; Reports of the State Department of Mines; Reports of the State Tax Commissioner; Reports of the Bureau of Labor; The Code of West Virginia, 1906, Acts of the Legislature, 1907; CALLAHAN, Evolution of the Constitution of West Virginia (Morgantown, 1909).
APA citation. (1912). West Virginia. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/15605a.htm
MLA citation. "West Virginia." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 15. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/15605a.htm>.
Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Thomas M. Barrett. Dedicated to the people of West Virginia.
Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. October 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.
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