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Celebrating West Virginia Day

By Staff | Jun 20, 2014

Around the state today, citizens celebrate West Virginia Day, the state holiday commemorating the state’s admission to the Union as the 35th state.

The state holiday sees many state and local offices close as well as schools and public libraries. Federal offices, banks and other businesses do not observe the holiday as do the state offices so one will not find a disruption in most services.

The formation of the state came about when, during the Civil War, the Virginia General Assembly in Richmond chose to join the Confederate States of America. As a result of this and the early political and social divisions, 50 counties separated from Virginia and the state of West Virginia was created. Loyal unionists gradually pushed for the creation of a new state and after two years of legal maneuvering, West Virginia was formally admitted to the United States of America on June 20, 1863.

West Virginia is the only state in the Union to have acquired its sovereignty by proclamation by the President of the United States, which was proclaimed by President Abraham Lincoln.

The West Virginia Legislature adopted the official holiday in 1927, after it had been celebrated unofficially across the state for decades prior.

The day is traditionally celebrated with festivities at the capitol in Charleston, as well as other locations around the state. Such festivities often include festivals, serving birthday cake, displays of Civil War crafts, exhibits on the state’s agricultural and industrial heritage and much more.

Looking at the history of West Virginia, one notes that the first governor was Arthur Boreman, who was inaugurated the first day of statehood.

The list of unique, and often unusual, facts about the state is quite lengthy. Among them is the fact that the first rural free mail delivery was started in Charles Town on October 6, 1896, and then spread throughout the United States. The first steamboat was launched by James Rumsey in the Potomac River at New Mecklensburg (Shepherdstown) on December 3, 1787.

Many other interesting facts, especially in local areas, can be found. Among them are the facts that 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. “Paws-Paws,” nicknamed the “West Virginia banana,” originated in the state and took their name from Paw Paw, Morgan County. The first post office in West Virginia was established on June 30, 1792, at Martinsburg. The first spa open to the public was at Berkeley Springs, West Virginia, in 1756 (then, Bath, Virginia). Chester Merriman of Romney was the youngest soldier of World War I, having enlisted at the age of 14.

Other significant tidbits about the State include that it was the first to have a sales tax, which became effective July 1, 1921. Another claim to fame is that outdoor advertising had its origin in Wheeling about 1908 when the Block Brothers Tobacco Company painted bridges and barns with the wording: “Treat Yourself to the Best, Chew Mail Pouch.” Many of those can still be seen today as one travels throughout the state.

A few other facts include that 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. TheCoal House, the only residence in the world built entirely of coal, is located in White Sulphur Springs. The house was occupied on June 1, 1961.

In addition, stone that was quarried near Hinton was contributed by West Virginia for the Washington Monument and arrived in Washington in February 1885.

West Virginia University was established on February 7, 1867 under the name of “Agricultural College of West Virginia.”

As many know, Mother’s Day was first observed at Andrews Church in Grafton on May 10, 1908 but some may not realize that the longest steel arch bridge (1,700 feet) in the Western Hemisphere is the New River Gorge Bridge.

The state seal of West Virginia depicts two crossed rifles and a Phrygian or Liberty cap, representing the importance of fighting for liberty, in front of a boulder. A farmer with an ax and plow, representing agriculture, and a miner with a pickax, anvil and sledge hammer, representing industry, stand next to the boulder, which is inscribed with the date West Virginia, became a state.