West Virginia

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State of West Virginia
State flag of West Virginia State seal of West Virginia
(Flag of West Virginia) (Seal of West Virginia)
State nickname: Mountain State
Map of the U.S. with West Virginia highlighted
Other U.S. States
Capital Charleston
Largest city Charleston
Governor Joe Manchin (D)
Senators Robert Byrd (D)

Jay Rockefeller (D)

Official language(s) English
Area 62,809 km² (41st)
 - Land 62,436 km²
 - Water 376 km² (0.6%)
Population (2000)
 - Population 1,808,344 (37th)
 - Density 29.0 /km² (29th)
Admission into Union
 - Date June 20, 1863
 - Order 35th
Time zone Eastern: UTC-5/-4
Latitude 37°10'N to 40°40'N
Longitude 77°40'W to 82°40'W
Width 210 km
Length 385 km
 - Highest point 1,482 m
 - Mean 455 m
 - Lowest point 73 m
 - ISO 3166-2 US-WV
Web site www.wv.gov

West Virginia, known as The Mountain State, is a state of the United States. West Virginia broke away from Virginia during the American Civil War (1861-1865) and was admitted to the Union as a separate state on June 20, 1863.

The Census Bureau considers West Virginia part of the South because of its location below the Mason-Dixon Line, while the USGS designates it as a Mid-Atlantic state. Many in the state's Northern Panhandle, with the nothernmost point of the state about the same latitude as central New Jersey, feel a greater affinity for Pittsburgh, while those in the Eastern Panhandle feel a greater connection with the Washington, D.C. suburbs in western Maryland and Virginia. Lastly, southern West Virginia, in which many West Virginians consider themselves southern, is less than 100 miles north of Tennessee and North Carolina. The state is noted for its coal mining heritage, and union organizing mine wars in particular.

The state has a rich, stark beauty reflecting its topography. Tourist sites include the New River Gorge Bridge (where on Bridge Day the federal government, which controls the landing site, allows BASE jumping [1] from the bridge), as well as many national and state parks. It is also home to the Green Bank Telescope at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory.

The U.S. Navy has named a series of ships USS West Virginia in honor of this state.


Information about West Virginia


See: List of West Virginia counties

It is bordered by Pennsylvania and Maryland to the north, by Ohio to the north and west, by Kentucky to the west, and by Virginia to the east and south. The Ohio River and the Potomac River form parts of the boundaries.

Shaded relief map of Cumberland Plateau and Ridge and Valley Appalachians on the Virginia/West Virginia border
Shaded relief map of Cumberland Plateau and Ridge and Valley Appalachians on the Virginia/West Virginia border

The state is referred to as The Mountain State, and it is the only state in the nation in which all areas are mountainous. About 3/4 of the state is within the Cumberland/Allegheny Plateaus region which is not true mountains but rather a dissected plateau. Though the relief is not high, the plateau region is extremely rugged in most areas. (The two plateaus are essentially the same, the difference being only the naming convention of north and south, with West Virginia happening to be in the middle.)

On the southeastern state line with Virginia, high peaks in the Monongahela National Forest region give rise to an island of colder climate and ecosystems similar to those of New England and eastern Canada.

The native vegetation for most of the state was originally mixed hardwood forest of oak, chestnut, maple, beech, and white pine, with willow along the waterways. Many of the coves are rich in biodiversity and scenic beauty, a fact that is appreciated by native West Virginians, who refer to their home as almost Heaven.

The underlying rock strata are sandstones, shales, bituminous coal beds, and limestones laid down in a near shore environment from sediments derived from mountains to the east, in a shallow inland sea on the west. Some beds illustrate a coastal swamp environment, some river delta, some shallow water. Sea level rose and fell many times during the Mississippian and Pennsylvanian eras, giving a variety of rock strata.

On a map West Virginia's complex shape and irregular outline make it look more like a European country in configuration than an American state. This is because the processes that created West Virginia's eastern boundaries are more like the processes that created the boundaries of European countries. In the USA most state boundaries were established close to the time of settlement and include long straight lines and simplfying features that aid in forming property subdivision for new settlers. In West Virginia the boundaries were formed after settlement for the purpose of rounding up people with a similar socio-cultural outlook (in this case pro-Union, anti-plantation, highlanders) who were already there, just as the European boundaries round up people with similar nationalities who had been there for a long time. This process of rounding up people already spread around here and there results in the typical zig-zag, curving, and extending shape of the resulting political unit.


Historical populations

1790 55,873
1800 78,592
1810 105,469
1820 136,808
1830 176,924
1840 224,537
1850 302,313
1860 376,688
1870 442,014
1880 618,457
1890 762,794
1900 958,800
1910 1,221,119
1920 1,463,701
1930 1,729,205
1940 1,901,974
1950 2,005,552
1960 1,860,421
1970 1,744,237
1980 1,949,644
1990 1,793,477
2000 1,808,344

The population of West Virginia as of 2003 was 1,810,354.

Only 1.1% of the state's residents were foreign-born, placing West Virginia last among the 50 states in that statistic. It has the lowest percentage of residents that speak a language other than English in the home (2.7%).

The racial makeup of the state is:

The five largest ancestry groups in West Virginia are: American (23.2%), German (17.2%), Irish (13.5%), English (12%), Italian (4.8%).

Many West Virginians identify their ancestry as "American," it is the largest reported ancestry in most counties in the state, and the state has the highest percentage of residents of "American ancestry" in the nation. This choice often corresponds to Scots-Irish heritage.

Large numbers of people of German ancestry are present in the northeastern counties of the state.

5.6% of West Virginia's population were reported as under 5, 22.3% under 18, and 15.3% were 65 or older. Females made up approximately 51.4% of the population.


The religious affiliations of the people of West Virginia are:

See also

External links

Flag of West Virginia

State of West Virginia
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Potomac Higlands | Eastern Panhandle | Northern Panhandle | Allegheny Plateau | Cumberland Plateau | Ridge-and-valley Appalachians | Baltimore-Washington Metropolitan Area

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Charleston | Huntington | Wheeling

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