15 Things You Might Not Know About West Virginia

istock / istock

1. West Virginia became a state in 1863, but about a century earlier, a group led by Benjamin Franklin wanted to make the area a colony called Vandalia. They chose this name because Queen Charlotte, the wife of King George III, was descended from the ancient Vandal tribe. The group hoped that flattering the Queen might persuade the King to approve the colony proposal.

2. Some people still think that the state of West Virginia was illegally formed. After Virginia seceded from the Union in 1861, representatives from the western part of the state formulated a plan to secede from Virginia and form their own state, with the support of the federal government. The United States Constitution says if a new state forms out of an old state, it must gain the official approval of the old state’s legislature. This never occurred in the case of West Virginia, so some still claim its existence is unconstitutional.

3. In the late 1800s, Bramwell, West Virginia, was home to the largest number of millionaires per capita of any town in the U.S. Today, the median income is around $20,000.

4. Bringing together over 10,000 guests each year, the Lilly family reunion in Flat Top, West Virginia, has held the world record for largest family reunion.

5. West Virginia is home to the New River, which, despite its name, is one of the five oldest rivers in the world.

6. What makes West Virginia wild and wonderful? Lots of forests. Seventy-eight percent of the state's land is forested.

7. West Virginia only has one natural lake, named Trout Pond.

8. Some state history books claim that the Appalachian Mountain dialect in West Virginia is the closest extant accent to the Victorian accent.

9.The world famous Greenbrier Hotel and Resort, in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, is home to famous sulphur springs that are rumored to have strong healing powers. Now a luxury resort, the property has attracted pioneers and distinguished guests looking to relieve ailments such as rheumatoid arthritis since 1778. 

10. The dome on the state’s Capitol building is 292 feet high, higher than the dome of the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C.

11. After the 1888 election, four men claimed to be the Governor of West Virginia. Candidate Nathan Goff Jr. appeared to have won the election, but his opponent Aretas Fleming disputed the vote count and requested to be declared the winner. While the dispute was unfolding, both Senate President Robert S. Carr and incumbent Governor E.W. Wilson claimed governorship until the matter could be settled. Ultimately the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia granted Wilson the authority to remain governor until both Goff and Fleming were sworn in as Governor on March 4, 1889. Then, the state legislature declared Fleming the true victor and rightful Governor of the state.

12. On Oct. 8, 1921, West Virginia University played against the University of Pittsburgh in the first football game ever broadcast on the radio.

13. West Virginia was home to the first black woman legislator in the U.S. In 1928, the governor appointed Minnie Buckingham Harper to the House of Delegates to fill the vacancy caused by her husband’s death.

14. West Virginia Governor Cecil Underwood has the honor of being both the state’s youngest governor and the nation’s oldest governor. He was first elected to office in 1956 (at the age of 34) and again in 2000 (at age 88).

15. Article IV of the West Virginia state constitution says that you cannot hold public office if you’ve ever participated in a duel.