While everyone probably knows a little something about most of West Virginia’s 55 counties, we wanted to increase the type of knowledge people have about our great state. It is with that goal in mind that we present “Facts from the 55.” We hope you enjoy and learn a little something about the state we call home.
The Battle of Philippi, also known as the Philippi Races, was fought in Barbour County on June 3, 1861. Although a minor skirmish, it is generally considered the first land battle of the American Civil War.
Victoria “Vicky” Bullett, a notable resident of Berkeley County, was a former professional women’s basketball player and a member of the 1988 and 1992 U.S. Olympic teams that won gold and bronze medals respectively.
Boone County was formed in 1847 from parts of Kanawha, Cabell and Logan counties and named for Daniel Boone, the noted hunter and explorer whose home was in the Kanawha Valley from 1789-1795.
Bulltown, once known for the massacre of Delaware Indian Chief Captain Bull and his family, later developed into a local industrial center with gristmills by the 1820s and prosperous salt works by the 1830s.
Wellsburg, the county seat, was once known as The Marryin’ Town. During the 1920s and 1930s, an average of 20,000 people per year were wed there because there was no waiting period.
Huntington was the second American city, after San Francisco, to feature electric street cars in the early years. The electric cars were gradually replaced with gasoline-powered buses. Some of the old trolley tracks can still be seen.
Calhoun County is home to one of the last 500 drive-in theaters in the nation, Mt. Zion Drive In.
The Golden Delicious Apple was discovered by Anderson Mullins near Porters Creek.
Native J.H. Diss DeBar designed the Great Seal and Coat of Arms of West Virginia.
The New River, the oldest stream on the continent, flows north from North Carolina to West Virginia. The river has 21 major rapids in one 15-mile stretch in Fayette County, making it the most concentrated span of whitewater in the United States.
West Virginia’s state song, “The West Virginia Hills,” was written by Ellen Ruddell King while visiting relatives in Glenville. Her poem was put to music by Henry Everett Engle in 1885 at Engle’s farm near Tanner.
The Petersburg Wave, a powerful updraft that is strongest in early spring, attracts glider pilots from all over the country every March.
A vast system of limestone caves, totaling 1,199 caves of all sizes, lies beneath Greenbrier County, including 412 caves over 33 feet in length.
The oldest county in West Virginia was created in 1754 from parts of Frederick and Augusta counties and named for the English shire of the same name.
Originally part of Brooke County, Hancock County was named for John Hancock, the first signer of the Declaration of Independence.
Near Wardensville, the Lost River disappears under Sandy Ridge and reappears over four miles away at the headwaters of the Cacapon River.
The roots of Shinnston date back to 1778 when Levi Shinn constructed his log home. The log house, located along Route 19, is the oldest standing structure in North Central West Virginia.
Ripley was the site of the last public hanging in West Virginia in 1897 when John F. Morgan was hanged for the murder of three members of the Pfost‑Greene family on December 16.
John Brown was tried in Harpers Ferry in October 1859 after his raid on the federal armory. Brown was sentenced to death, and on December 2, 1859, he was hanged. John Wilkes Booth was among those who attended the Brown execution.
The town of Nitro was established by the federal government and selected in 1914 for the site of the world’s largest gun powder plant. Ground for the plant was broken in December 1917, but World War I ended before any gun powder was ever shipped.
Weston is home to what was once the state’s oldest and largest mental institution, the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum. The asylum, which opened in 1864, is the largest hand-cut stone building in the United States.
Lincoln County is the birthplace of General Charles “Chuck” Yeager, the first man to break the sound barrier.
In 1921, Logan was the location of the Battle of Blair Mountain, the most spectacular confrontation in West Virginia labor history and the culminating event in the era known as the Mine Wars. It’s estimated that anywhere from 7,000-20,000 miners marched, and the arrival of 2,500 federal troops brought the conflict to an end.
The main line of the Baltimore & Ohio Railway traversed Marion County in the early 1850s. The arrival of the railroad transformed the region, making it a place of strategic importance during the Civil War and preparing the way for the exploitation of the county’s natural resources in the post-war period.
Moundsville, the county seat, is home to the Grave Creek Indian Mound, believed to be the largest in the world at 69 feet high and 900 feet in circumference.
Paranormal enthusiasts flock to Point Pleasant in search of the Mothman, a creature said to be a harbinger of imminent disaster that inhabits an abandoned TNT factory from World War II.
Coalwood was the hometown of Homer Hickam, a NASA engineer whose life, starting from his teenage years, was documented in “Rocket Boys,” a novel later made into the film “October Sky.”
Bramwell was considered the richest town in the United States in the early 20th century. More than 14 millionaires once occupied the town.
Nancy Hanks, mother of Abraham Lincoln, was born on the eastern slope of Saddle Mountain where her family settled in the early 1780s.
The town of Matewan is the area in which the Hatfields of West Virginia and the McCoys of Kentucky engaged in their infamous war.
Morgantown, the county seat, is home to West Virginia University’s (WVU) Personal Rapid Transit System, the world’s first totally automated transportation system, which connects WVU’s campuses with the downtown area.
Monroe County was the site of the 1928 discovery of the 34.48 carat Jones Diamond by Grover C. Jones and his son, William “Punch” Jones.
Paw Paw is home to the West Virginia Open Disc Golf Championship, which takes place on two private, 18-hole courses called The Woodshed and The Whipping Post.
Richwood calls itself the Ramp Capital of the World and hosts a large festival every April in honor of the pungent wild leek.
Wheeling, the birthplace of West Virginia, was the location of the last battle of the American Revolution, fought at Fort Henry in September 1782.
Spruce Knob, the highest point in West Virginia at an elevation of 4,861 feet, is located at Seneca Rocks.
The county seat of St. Marys rests on the banks of the Ohio River. Alexander H. Creel named the town in 1849 in honor of the Virgin Mary, who Creel claimed appeared to him in a vision while he was aboard a steamer passing the area.
Known as the Birthplace of Rivers, eight rivers have their source in this county: Cherry, Cranberry, Elk, Gauley, Greenbrier, Shavers Fork of the Cheat, Tygart Valley and Williams.
The incorporated area of Arthurdale was built through the federal homestead program of the early 1930s. Eleanor Roosevelt took a special interest in this area, and it became known as Eleanor’s New Deal Dream Community.
Buffalo may be one of the oldest, continuously-inhabited communities in North America. Settled relatively early by Native Americans, it was still inhabited when European settlers arrived. Excavations in the 1960s uncovered a central plaza surrounded by ceremonial buildings and a semi-circle of houses, enclosed in a stockade.
Astronaut Jon Andrew McBride was born August 14, 1943 in Charleston and grew up in Beckley. He became an astronaut in 1979, piloted the space shuttle Challenger on an eight-day mission in 1984. He was scheduled to pilot a mission that was grounded after the Challenger accident in January 1986.
In 1869, a group of Swiss and German immigrants from Bern, Switzerland settled in the area of the county where the mountains reminded them of home. They named their town Helvetia, and their traditions and customs are carried out today by the current residents.
A rarity of nature was discovered in 1852 near Macfarlan Creek by pioneer oilman Frederick Lemon. Embedded in the hills was a vein of natural asphalt, or grahamite, which could be mined like coal. The crystallized petroleum melted easily and yielded about 150 gallons of oil per ton.
The creation of one of the state’s best-attended festivals, the Black Walnut Festival, began in 1954 when Henry Young sold 2 million pounds of black walnuts. Young’s sale gave a member of the Little Kanawha Regional Council the idea to develop black walnuts into a cash crop for local farmers, and the first festival was held on November 5, 1955.
According to legend, John Henry competed against a steam drill in Talcott in 1873 with a hammer in each hand. Henry won the race but died in his sleep that night, though others claim he was killed later by a rock blast. In 1932, the hammer and steel supposedly used by Henry were found discarded because superstition prevented anyone from using the hammer again.
Mother’s Day originated in Grafton at Andrews Methodist Church on May 10, 1908 when Anna Jarvis planned the service in honor of her mother, Anna Reeves Jarvis. Jarvis was responsible for the proclamation of Mother’s Day as a national holiday in 1914, and the church is now known as the International Mother’s Day Shrine.
Blackwater Falls State Park is named for the falls of the Blackwater River, whose amber-colored waters plunge five stories then twist and tumble through an eight-mile-long gorge. The “black” water is a result of tannic acid from fallen hemlock and red spruce needles.
The world’s greatest gas well, “Big Moses,” was drilled here in 1894 and produces 100 million cubic feet of gas per day.
In the 1760s, John and Samuel Pringle, deserters from the British army at Fort Pitt, made their way into the area and, for about three years, lived in a hollow sycamore tree on the banks of the Buckhannon River.
One of the first settlers in Ceredo, abolitionist Z.D. Ramsdell built a home in 1858 that served as a final stop on the Underground Railroad.
Since Webster County was created just before the outbreak of the Civil War, organization of the county government did not occur until 1865. During this time, there was no government, and no taxes were collected. This gave birth to the so-called Independent State of Webster, with its own governor, George Sawyer.
In the mid to late 19th century, a number of robberies and murders were attributed to the Jennings Gang, a gang similar to that of Jesse James’ gang. Their home was found to have a tunnel used to escape capture. A local group of citizens known as the Redmen ultimately cornered the gang and killed a number of them.
The oil and gas industry in West Virginia originated at Burning Springs, located in Wirt County on the Little Kanawha River, upstream from Elizabeth. The community’s name was derived from two springs from which natural gas escaped and sometimes burned.
Parkersburg, which was known as Newport until 1810, is now known as the The Savings Bond Capital of America because every savings bond bought or redeemed has passed through Parkersburg since August 1957.
North Spring is home to one of the oldest buildings in West Virginia, a one-room church that sits on the hill at the confluence of Trace Fork Creek and Little Cub Creek. It is also home to the oldest post office in the state, although it has been closed since the flood of 2009.
The 55 facts in this story are a compilation of information from a variety of sources. In the interest of space, we were not able to include all of the sources. If you would like more information or the source for one of these facts, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.