Unusual Facts about the Mountain State

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The border of the state of West Virginia is 1,365 miles flat (as the crow flies).
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West Virginia’s Memorial Tunnel was the first in the nation to be monitored by television. It opened November 8, 1954.
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The first rural free mail delivery was started in Charles Town on October 6, 1896, and then spread throughout the United States.
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West Virginia is considered the southern most northern state and the northern most southern state.
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West Virginia was the first state to have a sales tax. It became effective July 1, 1921.
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West Virginia covers about 24,000 square miles and has a population of about 1.8 million.
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Some famous individuals from West Virginia include: Pearl Buck (author), Peter Marshall (television host), Chuck Yeager (test pilot /Air Force General), Don Knotts (actor), Mary Lou Retton (Olympic gold medallist for gymnastics), and Kathy Mattea (country music singer).
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The first major land battle fought between Union and Confederate soldiers in the Civil War was the Battle of Philippi on June 3, 1861.
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On June 20, 1863, West Virginia became the 35th state in the union, the only state born out of the cauldron of the Civil War. Declared a state by President Abraham Lincoln, West Virginia is the only state to be designated by Presidential Proclamation.
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The first steamboat was launched by James Rumsey in the Potomac River at New Mecklensburg (Shepherdstown) on December 3, 1787.
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Bailey Brown, while scouting for the Union, was the first enlisted solider killed in the Civil War. He died on May 22, 1861, at Fetterman, Taylor County.
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A naval battle was fought in West Virginia waters during the Civil War. United States Navy armored steamers were actively engaged in the Battle of Buffington Island near Ravenswood on July 19, 1863.
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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.
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Harpers Ferry National Historical Park is the site where, on October 16, 1859, John Brown attempted to capture the U.S. Army armory and arsenal and to mount a rebellion by the slaves.
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Organ Cave, near Ronceverte, is the third largest cave in the United States and the largest in the state.
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Chuck Yeager of Hamlin became the first human to travel faster than the speed of sound. He set airplane flight records for speed on 1948; however his record would later fall to another state native Frank Everest of Marion County.
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The first Federal Prison exclusively for women in the United States was opened in 1926 in West Virginia.
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The battle of Point Pleasant, where General Andrew Lewis defeated Chief Corn-stalk in 1774, is considered by many to be the first battle of the Revolutionary War. The last battle of this war was fought in 1872 at Fort Henry in Wheeling.
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Jackson's Mill is the site of the first 4-H Camp in the United States.
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A variety of the yellow apple, the Golden Delicious, was first produced in Clay County in 1912. The original Grimes Golden Apple Tree was discovered in 1775 near Wellsburg.
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The world's largest sycamore tree is located on the Back Fork of the Elk River in Webster Springs.
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Marlinton in Pocahontas County has the distinction of having the highest average altitude of any county seat east of the Mississippi.
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The first iron furnace west of the Alleghenies was built by Peter Tarr on Kings Creek in 1794.
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One of the first suspension bridges in the world was completed in Wheeling in November 1849.
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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." This type of advertising is still used today.
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One of the nation's oldest and largest Indian burial grounds is located in Moundsville. Its 69 feet high, 900 feet in circumference, and 50 feet high and was opened on March 19, 1838.. An inscribed stone was removed from the vault and is on display at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C.
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The first electric railroad in the world, built as a commercial enterprise, was constructed between Huntington and Guyandotte.
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The first memorial building to honor World War I veterans was dedicated on May 30, 1923, in Welch.
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On January 26, 1960 Danny Heater, a student from Burnsville, scored 135 points in a high school basketball game earning him a place in the Guinness Book of World Records.
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On September 10, 1938, the Mingo Oak, largest and oldest white oak tree in the United States, was declared dead and felled with ceremony.
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Coal 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.
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"Paws-Paws," nicknamed the "West Virginia banana," originated in the state and took their name from Paw Paw, Morgan County.
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The 1500 block of Virginia Street in Charleston is considered the longest city block in the world.
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The first steel cut nails were manufactured in West Virginia in 1883.
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West Virginia has the oldest population of any state. The median age is 40.
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In West Virginia, 99% of the electricity comes from coal.
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In 1825, the first drug store west of the Allegheny Mountains was established at Charleston, West Virginia.
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15% of the nation's total coal production comes from West Virginia.
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The world’s largest shipment of matches (20 carloads or 210,000,000 matches) was shipped from Wheeling to Memphis, Tennessee, on August 26, 1933.
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Daniel Boone made his last survey of Charleston on September 8, 1798. He left the state in 1799.
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The first white people to go through the New River Gorge and reach the head of Kanawha Falls were Thomas Batts and Robert Fallam on September 17, 1671.
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William Tompkins used natural gas to evaporate salt brine in 1841, thus becoming the first person in the United States to use natural gas for industrial purposes.
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The last public hanging in West Virginia was held in Jackson County in December 1897.
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The first glass plant in West Virginia was at Wellsburg in 1815. The first pottery plant was in Morgantown in 1785.
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In May 1860, the first well in the state for producing crude oil was drilled at Burning Springs.
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Stone that was quarried near Hinton was contributed by West Virginia for the Washington Monument and arrived in Washington in February 1885.
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Coal was first discovered in land that would become West Virginia, by Peter Salley in 1742. By 1927, West Virginia ranked first among bituminous coal producing states. At its peak, the coal industry employed more than 120,000 miners.
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Of the 55 counties in West Virginia, only Jefferson and Hardy County have no coal.
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West Virginia University was established on February 7, 1867 under the name of "Agricultural College of West Virginia."
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On May 31, 1910, the Supreme Court held that the Maryland-West Virginia boundary was the low-water mark of the south bank of the Potomac River.
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The first post office in West Virginia was established on June 30, 1792, at Martinsburg.
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Mother’s Day was first observed at Andrews Church in Grafton on May 10, 1908 by M. Anna Jarvis. In 1914 President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed it as a national holiday to be celebrated on the second Sunday in May.
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The New River Gorge Bridge near Fayetteville is the second highest steel arch bridge in the United States. The bridge is also the longest steel arch bridge (1,700 feet) in the world. Every October on Bridge Day, the road is closed and individuals parachute and bungee cord jump 876 feet off the bridge. Its West Virginia's largest single day event and attracts about 100,000 people each year.
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The Kelly Axe Factory once located in Charleston was the largest axe factory in the world. It covered 50 acres (larger than all other axe factories in the world combined) and produced 48,000 implements a day.
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The first patent for a soda fountain was granted in 1833 to George Dulty of Wheeling, West Virginia.
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The first spa open to the public was at Berkeley Springs, West Virginia, in 1756 (then, Bath, Virginia).
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The Christian Church was begun in West Virginia by Alexander Campbell in Bethany.
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The first free school for African Americans in the entire south opened in Parkersburg in 1862.
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Mrs. Minnie Buckingham Harper, a member of the House of Delegates by appointment in 1928, was the first African American woman to become a member of a legislative body in the United States.
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Chester Merriman of Romney was the youngest soldier of World War I, having enlisted at the age of 14.
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White Sulphur Springs, Greenbrier County, was the first "summer White House."
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The first brick street in the world was laid in Charleston, West Virginia, on October 23, 1870, on Summers Street, between Kanawha and Virginia Streets.
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Nearly 80% of West Virginia is covered with forests.
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Because of its mountains, West Virginia is sometimes referred to as "the Switzerland of the United States".
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West Virginia is the second-largest coal producing state in the country.
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West Virginia has long been famous for its manufacture of fine glass.

 

*Governors of West Virginia

  • From the Birth of the State in 1863, West Virginia has had 33 governors.
  • All but one were Democrats or Republicans. All were male, white and Christian, with western European surnames. All but one were church members.  All but one were married, and all but one were fathers.
  • Democrats outnumbered Republicans 18-15. The Exception was Jacob, an Independent for four years after serving as a Democrat for two years. Among the church members were 12 Presbyterians, 11 Methodists, 5 Episcopalians, and 2 Baptists. Stevenson, the exception, never joined a church but was raised as a Calvinist.
  • Farnsworth, with 15 children by two wives, led the list of fathers. Collectively, he and the other governors fathered 107 children. Gore, the childless exception, became a widower about five months after his only marriage. Caperton became the state's first divorced governor during his first year in office. He remarried the following year and was divorced again after completing two terms.
  • With nine exceptions, the governors were born within the state or in the area that was to become West Virginia. Boreman and Stevenson were born in Pennsylvania, Farnsworth and Rockefeller in New York, MacCorkle in Virginia, Dawson in Maryland, White in Ohio, Marland in Illinois, and Wise in Washington D.C. Six governors were born south of Charleston, in West Virginia, three in the Eastern Panhandle and one in the Northern Panhandle. A majority were born north of Elkins.
  • Seven of the first 12 governors lacked college degrees. All the other had a college or university education. Hatfield had two medical degrees. Twenty-one governors were lawyers.
  • The governors took office at an average age of about 47. Remarkably, Underwood was both the youngest and the oldest. He began his first term in 1957 at age 34, and his second term 40 years later at age 74. Moore served the longest time, 12 years, and Farnsworth the shortest, six days.
  • As of 2001, there were six living former governors (Barron, Smith, Moore, Rockefeller, Caperton and Underwood). Two of the 33 governors, Moore and Underwood, are officially counted twice because of intervening terms. Thus, Underwood served as the 25th governor and ultimately returned as the 32nd. Similarly, Moore was the 28th and 30th.
  • Two former governors were found guilty of major crimes, Barron for bribing a juror and Moore for extortion, obstruction of justice, mail fraud and tax evasion. Both served prison terms.
  • The 24 governors who died prior to 2001 reached an average age of just under 72. Patterson was the oldest at 90 and Marland the youngest at 47. Pneumonia, with four victims, was the leading cause of death. Three or possibly four died of cancer and three of heart ailments. Other causes included tuberculosis, stroke, old age, Parkinson's disease, breakdown of health, persistent illness, and "total collapse of the energies."
  • During the 138 years since statehood, governors have dealt with the problems of roads, schools, welfare, the mine wars, the great depression, the civil rights movement, legislation, politics, scandals, strikes, floods, fires, water and air pollution, strip mining by mountaintop removal and many other issues.

                                                        John G. Morgan

                                                        Charleston

                                       * An excerpt from the West Virginia Encyclopedia

 

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