West Virginia

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Country roads, take me home to the place I belong.
West Virginia, mountain mama.
Take me home, country roads. ~ John Denver
Montani Semper Liberi- Mountaineers Are Always Free.
Ask anyone who's been there about West Virginia. ~ Lynn Seldon
West Virginia my home, sweet home
My heart beats with lasting love for you
Where my roots are so deep, where my forefathers sleep
Where the kinfolks and friends are staunch and true ~ Julian G. Hearne, Jr.
Oh, the hills, beautiful hills, how I love those West Virginia hills!
If o'er sea o'er land I roam, still I'll think of happy home,
And my friends among the West Virginia hills. ~ Ellen King & H.E. Engle
West, by God! West Virginia!
Woodburn Hall at West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV
Her maternal instinct spoils us with the gorgeous green of summer, the dazzling colors of autumn, and the fresh pastels of spring, but disciplines us with occasional hard winter storms that snow us in and remind us how vulnerable we are. She indulges us with dozens of parks and campgrounds, outdoor festivals of you-name-it, and my goodness, gracious, don't forget the ramp feeds. ~ Dan Light
The community closest to the project, you see, was the unincorporated town of Gad. Today, there exists only in imaginative speculation what might have resulted if the widely known magnificent structure had been named "Gad Dam". ~ Dan Light
When I stand with others at the foot of the hills in the shadows of an evening and look up at the peaks and pinnacles or hike the summits and gaze out some early morning at the layers of drifting fog caressing the slopes, that is when Mountain Mama really shows her stuff. "Take me home, country roads." ~ Dan Light
The number of West Virginia lovers is growing quickly as word spreads about what the state has to offer. Visitors are drawn to incredible natural beauty, a wealth of outdoor recreation opportunities, many historical attractions, an excellent state park system, friendly people, and a simpler and slower-paced way of life. ~ Lynn Seldon
One should not think of West Virginia as being "western" Virginia. It is a totally distinct and separate entity. ~ John Gunther
I hear her voice in the mornin' hour, she calls me
The radio reminds me of my home far away
Drivin' down the road, I get a feelin'
That I should've been home yesterday, yesterday... ~ John Denver
The state's beauty is definitely worth the drive. ~ Lynn Seldon
West Virginia, oh my home.
West Virginia, where I belong.
In the dead of the night, in the still and the quiet I slip away like a bird in flight
Back to those hills, the place that I call home. ~ Hazel Dickens
Unpaved street near Welch, WV in 1946
The West Virginia motto is Montani semper liberi, and the state is one of the most mountainous in the country; sometimes it is called the "little Switzerland" of America, and once I heard an irreverent local citizen call it the "Afghanistan of the United States." The precipitous upland nature of the terrain makes naturally for three things: (1) poor communications; (2) fierce sectionalism; (3) comparatively little agriculture. ~ John Gunther
Oh, the West Virginia hills! I must bid you now adieu.
In my home beyond the mountains I shall ever dream of you;
In the evening time of life, if my Father only wills,
I shall still behold the vision of those West Virginia hills. ~ Ellen King & H.E. Engle

West Virginia, officially the State of West Virginia, is a U.S. state located in the Appalachian region in the Southern United States and is also considered to be a part of the Middle Atlantic states. It is bordered by Pennsylvania to the north, Maryland to the east and northeast, Virginia to the southeast, Kentucky to the southwest, and Ohio to the northwest. West Virginia is the 41st largest state by area, and is ranked 38th in population. The capital and largest city is Charleston.

Montani semper liberi  (motto)

Quotes[edit]

  • West, by God! West Virginia!
    • Anonymous miner or settler in various folk tales about the territory that became West Virginia. The usual story goes that a man from future West Virginia territory became irritated with being considered a Virginian and retorted with the territory's future name.
  • Things you are slower than, #5: A West Virginia prom date.
    • Dan Caddy, Awesome Sh*t My Drill Sergeant Said (2015), p. 79
  • I hear her voice in the mornin' hour, she calls me
    The radio reminds me of my home far away
    Drivin' down the road, I get a feelin'
    That I should've been home yesterday, yesterday...
  • West Virginia, oh my home.
    West Virginia, where I belong.
    In the dead of the night, in the still and the quiet I slip away like a bird in flight
    Back to those hills, the place that I call home.
    • Hazel Dickens, "West Virginia My Home", A Few Old Memories (1987)
  • Montani Semper Liberi
    • State motto of West Virginia, "Mountaineers Are Always Free"
  • West Virginia my home, sweet home
    My heart beats with lasting love for you
    Where my roots are so deep, where my forefathers sleep
    Where the kinfolks and friends are staunch and true
    • Julian G. Hearne, Jr., "West Virginia, My Home Sweet Home", adopted as the first official state song of West Virginia in 1947.
  • West Virginia my home, sweet home
    Where mountains and hills and valleys, too
    And the orchards, the farms, timberlands, all have charms <brAnd the factories and mines are on review;
    There I work, and I play, and I worship Sunday
    In that land where the mountaineers are free
    Other states are OK, it's a grand old USA
    But West Virginia's home, sweet home for me!
    • Julian G. Hearne, Jr., "West Virginia, My Home Sweet Home", adopted as the first official state song of West Virginia in 1947.
  • Oh, the hills, beautiful hills, how I love those West Virginia hills!
    If o'er sea o'er land I roam, still I'll think of happy home,
    And my friends among the West Virginia hills.
    • Ellen King & H.E. Engle, "The West Virginia Hills", designated one of the state songs of West Virginia on 3 February 1961.
  • Oh, the West Virginia hills! I must bid you now adieu.
    In my home beyond the mountains I shall ever dream of you;
    In the evening time of life, if my Father only wills,
    I shall still behold the vision of those West Virginia hills.
    • Ellen King & H.E. Engle, "The West Virginia Hills", designated one of the state songs of West Virginia on 3 February 1961.
  • The West Virginia motto is Montani semper liberi, and the state is one of the most mountainous in the country; sometimes it is called the "little Switzerland" of America, and once I heard an irreverent local citizen call it the "Afghanistan of the United States." The precipitous upland nature of the terrain makes naturally for three things: (1) poor communications; (2) fierce sectionalism; (3) comparatively little agriculture. West Virginia lies mostly in the Ohio orbit; all but eight of its counties drain into the Ohio River, and a pressing problem is strip mining, as in Ohio. On the other hand, the state has, it is hardly necessary to point out, little of the prodigious urban development of Ohio, and at the same time no great rural blocs such as those that dominate the Ohio legislature. The pull of Pennsylvania is also very strong, particularly near Wheeling which, like Pittsburgh hard by, is based on steel. Finally, in this geographical realm, one should not think of West Virginia as being "western" Virginia. It is a totally distinct and separate entity. Virginians themselves, as a matter of fact, pay almost no attention nowadays to their craggy neighbor.
  • If you have never set foot in my home state and we happen to make one another's acquaintance, perhaps in a plane or in a national park or while standing in line at Disneyworld, and I tell you I'm from West Virginia, please don't ask me if I live near Richmond. Don't inform me, "Oh, I have a friend whose hometown is Newport News." Many of you who are reading this book are probably aware of what I'm about to say, but I'll say it anyway. If you have ever hung your hat in the "Mountain State" a sense of duty springs up within you, when the occasion calls for it, to inform anybody, or everybody- tactfully and politely, of course there is a WEST- by God- Virginia.
    • Dan Light, West - By God - Virginia: Appalachia Reflections (2019), p. ix
  • I can name hundreds of unincorporated towns that have risen and fallen at the whims of industry or major highway relocation. Communities that were once bustling, thriving places take a huge hit in an already not-so-huge population, when mining operations or nearby factories close down or when newly constructed superhighways re-route the main traffic which formerly streamed through town. Boarded-up stores, empty or deteriorating houses, and abandoned school buildings reveal glaring evidence that what once was, is no more. In a lot of little places nobody gathers at the Dairy Queen on the main drag or congregates at the truck stop or scads of former hang-out locations. They went bust. Too few people are still around to congregate, even in the church buildings. Aside from the sad fact of the population decline, downsizing what was not big in size in the first place, some little-known but much-loved settlements have hung in there and still bloom where they were planted.
    • Dan Light, West - By God - Virginia: Appalachia Reflections (2019), p. 8-9
  • I've passed through a place in Roane County that lies along West Virginia Route 36 southeast of the city of Spencer, which is named Left Hand, but why there isn't a town called Right Hand somewhere nearby beats me. It's as big a mystery as finding out which is the true Hollywood we hear so much about and which is the impostor, the one in Monroe County or its competitor in Raleigh County. (There are rumors that a third Hollywood exists in Los Angeles County, California, but don't believe everything you hear.) Oh, and don't get Foster mixed up with Fosterville. Try not to confuse Frame with Frametown and don't think you're losing your mind if you drive through four different Stringtowns.
    • Dan Light, West - By God - Virginia: Appalachia Reflections (2019), p. 7
  • Except for christening a few such projects with the names of U.S. presidents, dams are customarily titled after the closest municipality. This, however, did not turn out to be the case with the dam and lake in question. What was dedicated on the spot by President Lyndon Johnson on September 3, 1966 as "Summersville Lake and Dam," did not comply with the usual procedure of labeling such structures... I have imagined being a fly on the wall when officials of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers met to discuss the naming of the big dam in Nicholas County because a rather serious back and forth erupted in the discussion of the proper naming of the dam. A few members of the brain-trust took the side of the small community closest to the project rather than favoring Summersville, the larger more prestigious county seat nearby. Since the byways and buildings of the little hamlet would end up being permanently immersed at the bottom of the lake, it would be most fitting to honor the doomed community by naming the lake and dam after it. The committee's pro-Summersville majority won the final decision largely on the strength of a public relations argument that would protect the future tourist and recreation site from being giggled at by some and abused by ridicule from others. It would also avoid predictable jibs and jeering in the media. The community closest to the project, you see, was the unincorporated town of Gad. Today, there exists only in imaginative speculation what might have resulted if the widely known magnificent structure had been named "Gad Dam".
    • Dan Light, West - By God - Virginia: Appalachia Reflections (2019), p. 36
  • Mountain Mama provides lakes and streams that yield water for drinking and home use, as well as hydroelectric power to light the lights and run the industries. Her waters invite her family to swim, fish, and go boating in hundreds of locations. She makes education available through every kind of school you can think of, from K-12 to colleges and universities- forty-seven of them. Her maternal instinct spoils us with the gorgeous green of summer, the dazzling colors of autumn, and the fresh pastels of spring, but disciplines us with occasional hard winter storms that snow us in and remind us how vulnerable we are. She indulges us with dozens of parks and campgrounds, outdoor festivals of you-name-it, and my goodness, gracious, don't forget the ramp feeds. Last but best, the "mountain" part of her name, rises up out of the deep valleys "with summits bathed in glory like the Prince Emmanuel's land" as the old song puts it. When I stand with others at the foot of the hills in the shadows of an evening and look up at the peaks and pinnacles or hike the summits and gaze out some early morning at the layers of drifting fog caressing the slopes, that is when Mountain Mama really shows her stuff. "Take me home, country roads."
    • Dan Light, West - By God - Virginia: Appalachia Reflections (2019), p. 99
  • One of the most devastating chapters in the chronicles of Appalachian history reveals that it was not only states that were divided by the sword, but families in the border states were also split down the middle between the Blue and Gray. A study by James Carter Linger estimates that nearly 22,000 recruits from what is now West Virginia fought for the Confederacy. If we accept the generally quoted figure that 32,000 men from West Virginia fought for the Union, this ratio of 32,000 to 22,000 shows plainly that loyalties of the Mountain State counties were not as unbalanced in favor of the Union as was once thought. West Virginia is the only state born out of the Civil War, but its allegiances were severely divided by the conflict.
    • Dan Light, West - By God - Virginia: Appalachia Reflections (2019), p. 149-150
  • By the way, as a matter of courteous correction, everybody in or near the Blue Ridge mountain chain knows the that the word "Appalachia" ought to be pronounced as Appa-latch-ia. To say "Appa-late-chia" automatically reveals that you- say it with me- "ain't from around here." Join me, now, as I take a crack at illustrating some, but nowhere near all, of West Virginia Appalachian dialect, arguably the best language in the world. If someone says to you, "Y'all come see me now, hyear. My place is up the holler on a crick close to my kin," they could very well be neighbors of mine in Boone County. They might say, "heerd" for heard, "a-feared" for afraid, or "cheer" for chair. "Pull up a 'cheer' and rest yer bones." "I reckon" would probably be used instead of "I suppose", and if you ask them "How are you feeling?", they might answer, "Tahlable", meaning fairly good but not great. If you sit down with them for a meal, they might serve you such "fixins" as "biled taters", "fraish tomaters", and "leather britches", which are not motorcycle pants but cooked-up half-runner beans dried in the hull. If it's breakfast, you get "sarsage" and "aigs" with "cathead biskits" and "sawmill gravy", and if you're lucky, some "lasses" thrown in (not girls but sorghum molasses). If some other guest shows up during the meal and is invited to pull up a "cheer" and have a bite with us, they might respond, "I ain't hongry, I've done et", or if they "put on the fed bag" and eat all they can eat, they got "plumb full." The cook might ask one of the other guests if he would like more coffee. When he says, "Don't care if I do." That's a yes, and she pours the brew.
    • Dan Light, West - By God - Virginia: Appalachia Reflections (2019), p. 122-123
  • Ask anyone who's been there about West Virginia. It just takes one visit to fall in love with this wild and wonderful state. I fell in love with West Virginia on my first visit and I've been back more than a hundred times. If I don't end up moving there, I'll get back there as often as possible. My father's side of the family has West Virginia roots and I can feel it in my blood every time I cross the state border from my home in Virginia. The West Virginia mountains and the proud people get in your blood and it's a very warm feeling. The number of West Virginia lovers is growing quickly as word spreads about what the state has to offer. Visitors are drawn to incredible natural beauty, a wealth of outdoor recreation opportunities, many historical attractions, an excellent state park system, friendly people, and a simpler and slower-paced way of life.
    • Lynn Seldon, Country Roads of West Virginia: Drives, Day Trips, and Weekend Excursions (1998), p. vii
  • Coal may have once been king in the Mountaineer State, but tourists are now treated like royalty in West Virginia. Tourism is the second largest industry (behind chemicals) and the fastest-growing segment, as new and old visitors explore the state. Convenient interstate routes in West Virginia make access easier than many driver assume. The exploration possibilities are extensive, but all are within a one-day drive of half the population in the United States. The state's beauty is definitely worth the drive. From friendly cities to rugged mountains, West Virginia is a welcome change. Each region offers its own outdoor and indoor pleasures, but the entire state definitely deserves the nickname, "Almost Heaven."
    • Lynn Seldon, Country Roads of West Virginia: Drives, Day Trips, and Weekend Excursions (1998), p. vii
  • Coal- called by ancient Greeks "the rock that burns"- powered the modernization of America. Rich coal-bearing regions like southern West Virginia were transformed in the late nineteenth century into teeming industrial civilizations. The completion of the Chesapeake & Ohio in 1873 and the Norfolk & Western in 1883 opened up the southern West Virginia coalfields. Soon, thousands of coal miners and their families crowded into the rugged river valleys where independent coal operators boldly opened mining ventures. West Virginia's sturdy coal miners came from all over the world. Black Americans from the Deep South joined Eastern European immigrants seeking a better life and poured into the sprawling coal camps which housed the workers. More than 100,000 miners toiled underground in the industry's glory years, laboriously hand loading the "black diamonds" that transformed the United States from a rural nation into an international industrial power. Five billion tons of the world's finest industrial fuel flowed out along the smoothly grated roadbeds of the N&W and the C&O, hauled by the most powerful steam locomotives ever designed.
    • Lynn Seldon, Country Roads of West Virginia: Drives, Day Trips, and Weekend Excursions (1998), p. 59
  • Although coal mining was dark, dirty, and dangerous work, many miners enjoyed the unique chore. Some old-timers still reminisce about the close sense of community which united the inhabitants of more than 500 small company towns that were once situated along the Coal Heritage Trail. The road winds past company stores, miners' houses, massive railroad yards, and company towns. Visitors can experience the coal society and heritage that still exists and gain remarkable insight into a unique part of American history.
    • Lynn Seldon, Country Roads of West Virginia: Drives, Day Trips, and Weekend Excursions (1998), p. 59
  • We caught a B&O train out of St. Louis for Philadelphia, and it was just our luck that it ran five and a half hours late before we got to Philadelphia. The scenery on our trip was lost to us, because we were covered with dust and roasted too. However I did enjoy winding in and out among the mountains of West Virginia.
    • James McBrayer Sellers, C'est La Guerre: The Memoir of Capt. James McBrayer Sellers, USMC (2020), edited by William W. Sellers, James Gregory, Steven Girard, p. 5
  • West Virginia is the only state spawned by the Civil War, thanks to the efforts of political leaders in the northern and western counties who took issue with Virginia's vote to secede from the Union. Overall, only public sentiment in the land that was to become the thirty-fifth state only slightly favored the federal cause, and a number of counties were decidedly pro-Confederate. Battles, skirmishes, and raids reached every corner of the state, often putting those who were friends, neighbors, and relatives before the war on opposite sides of the killing fields.
    • Rick Steelhammer, It Happened In West Virginia: Remarkable Events That Shaped History (2013), p. ix
  • By the early twentieth century, explosions caused by gas and dust accumulations in underground coal mines boomed across the mountains of West Virginia, causing hundreds of deaths. An explosion that shot through the connected Monongah No. 6 and No. 8 mines near Fairmont in 1907 left more than 360 miners dead and rbought about the nation's first federal mine safety regulations. The Monongah blast remains the biggest mine disaster in United States history. Coal miners seeking better pay and safer working conditions through unionization clashed frequently with coal operators during the early 1900s. While union miners relied mainly on work stoppages and intimidation of strikebreakers to boost their cause, coal operators turned to strong-arm detective agencies, hired guns, machine gun-equipped locomotives, and even bomb-dropping aircraft to enforce their will. Coalfield hostilities reached the boiling point in August of 1921, when thousands of well-armed miners marched from Kanawha County to Blair Mountain on the Boone-Logan County line, where an army of mercenaries hired by coal operators awaited them in trenches fortified with machine gun nests. The ensuing Battle of Blair Mountain is considered the largest civil insurrection since the Civil War.
    • Rick Steelhammer, It Happened In West Virginia: Remarkable Events That Shaped History (2013), ix-ix
  • Had West Virginia been nothing more than a mountainous bulwark around which rushed the main currents of American life, its fate would probably have resembled that of Vermont. In fact, Rutherford B. Hayes made this comparison and concluded that there was "Nothing finer in Vermont or New Hampshire" than the western Virginia scenery he enjoyed. If the resemblance had continued to hold, West Virginia would have remained a backwater during the agricultural and industrial revolutions of the nineteenth century but still would have enjoyed two compensating mid-twentieth-century trends: the federal policies and programs that have worked to iron out differences in material standards of living among the various states, and the rise of tourist and recreational industries. Even today, notwithstanding all the violence that has been visited on the landscape, West Virginia's scenery and the recreational potential of its mountains, forests, and streams have proved its most enduring economic resources. Thus for states like Vermont and for those small portions of eastern West Virginia that have nothing but scenery to depend on, modern affluence and aesthetic values may finally break down the barriers that once separated mountain regions from full participation in the nation's economic life.
    • John Alexander Williams, West Virginia: A History (1976), p. 200
  • Persons who have studied the impact of coal mining on different societies from Silesia to northern Japan have usually concluded that coal has been a curse upon the land that yielded it. West Virginia is no exception. In its repetitive cycle of boom and bust, its savage exploitations of men and nature, the coal industry has brought grief and hardship to all but a small proportion of the people whose lives it touched. There has been, of course, a tiny elite of smaller producers and middlemen who grew rich from coal exploitation though not so rich as the nonresident owners in whose shadow the local elite worked. For those West Virginians who lived at a remove from the industry, its impact has been more ambiguous. Certainly coal created opportunities that were not there in the agricultural era, especially as the owners of the industry have always tried and have usually succeeded in passing off the external or social costs of coal production to the public at large. Moreover, the industry called into being a larger population than West Virginia's other economic resources can support so that, even after the great migration of the postwar years, the position of the state is like that of an addict. West Virginia is "hooked" on coal, for better or for worse. In the past it has generally been for the worst.
    • John Alexander Williams, West Virginia: A History (1976), p. 200-201
  • West Virginians have hidden their weak sense of community behind a particularly strident form of state patriotism, but the disguise is very thin. The characteristic expressions are boasts, slogans, and distortions of historical fact. Traditionally schoolbooks adopted what might be called the "Soviet Encyclopedia" approach to local history, recalling the Stalinist propaganda that sought to establish a Russian inventor or setting for every important development of the modern world. West Virginia's boosters have not gone quite so far, but West Virginia children are still expected to believe that James Rumsey, not Robert Fulton, invented the steamboat; that Amos Dolbear, not Alexander Graham Bell, invented the telephone; that Point Pleasant, not Lexington, was the first battle of the American Revolution, and so on. They are also taught to memorize the West Virginia locations of such items as the world's largest clothespin factory, the world's largest ashtray, and to make an inordinate fuss about West Virginia natives who have become prominent nationally.
    • John Alexander Williams, West Virginia: A History (1976), p. 204-205
  • With a background like this, "Almost Heaven" bumper stickers represent a great leap forward. The point is not the merits of specific boasts but their cumulative psychological effect. Perceptive visitors usually see through the disguise right away and conclude, as with defensive individuals who seek to mask a sense of inferiority by boastfulness, that there is something about West Virginia that its citizens are ashamed of. As for West Virginians themselves, this form of indoctrination manages only to persuade most people that there is something phony about history, that it has nothing to do with the reality of their own lives, whereas the opposite is true. In West Virginia history often repeats itself. Perhaps the fact that our history is so painful explains why it is so poorly understood.
    • John Alexander Williams, West Virginia: A History (1976), p. 205

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