A West Virginia Timeline

A listing of events in West Virginia history follows. Some entries on this page were taken from "West Virginia USA: A Chronology," in West Virginia USA, published in 1976 by Seawell Multimedia Corporation, Parkersburg, W. Va. Another source is Cole, "Martial Law in West Virginia and Major Davis as 'Emperor of Tug River,'" W. Va. History 43 (Winter 1982).


  • John Lederer, German physician in the employ of colonial governor William Berkeley, and his companions reach the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains and apparently become the first Europeans to see what is now West Virginia.
  • Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, journeys down the Ohio River and lands at several places in what is now West Virginia.


  • An English expedition led by Thomas Batts and Robert Fallam reaches the New River and explores the New River valley. It descends the river to Peter's Falls on the future Virginia-West Virginia border and claim for England all the land drained by the New River and its tributaries.


  • Baron Christopher de Graffenreid visits the Eastern Panhandle looking for land for Swiss families.


  • Lt.-Gov. Alexander Spotswood and an accompanying party penetrate western Virginia to the peaks of the Alleghenies. His Golden Horseshoe expedition dramatizes the possibilities of westward expansion.


  • The first church in what would become West Virginia, the Potomoke Church, is founded by Presbyterians at Shepherdstown.


  • Virginia government allows families to live without paying rent on land owned by the state for ten years to persuade families to move into the newly-settled territories.
  • The Iroquois surrender their claims to land south of the Ohio River, which included the counties in the eastern panhandle.


  • Fur traders enter the area west of the Appalachians. John Van Nehne, an Indian trader, explores the northern part of western Virginia.


  • According to tradition, Morgan Morgan makes the first permanent settlement at Bunker Hill on Mill Creek in Berkeley County. He was born in Wales but had lived for many years in Delaware.


  • Germans from Pennsylvania establish a settlement at New Mecklenburg (now Shepherdstown.


  • The first recorded grants of land in what would become West Virginia are made to Isaac and John Van Meter.


  • The first permanent settlement in what is now West Virginia is believed to have been made in what is now Berkeley county by Morgan Morgan.


  • After 1732, Scotch-Irish, Welsh, and German pioneers begin to settle the western portions of Virginia; Harper's Ferry is settled.


  • John Howard and John Peter Salley (Salling) cross the Alleghenies, go down the New and Kanawha Rivers, and then proceed down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers to New Orleans. Salley discovers coal on a river he named the Coal River near Racine. This first written reference to the discovery of coal in what is now West Virginia is found in Salley's diary.
  • The first iron furnace west of the Blue Ridge is constructed by Thomas Mayberry at Bloomery on the Shenandoah River.


  • All territory between the Allegheny Mountains and the Ohio River is ceded to the English by Indians of the Six Nations for 400 pounds.


  • George Washington surveys land in western Virginia for Lord Fairfax and visits Bath (now Berkeley Springs). (or 1747)
  • The Harpers Ferry begins carrying passengers across the Shenandoah River.


  • The first recorded settlement west of the Alleghenies is made near Marlinton by Jacob Marlin and Stephen Sewell.
  • The Ohio Company receives a grant of 500,000 acres of land between the upper Ohio River and the Monongahela and Great Kanawha Rivers.
  • Celeron de Bienville buries lead plates along the Ohio River to affirm French claims to that valley and the interior.


  • The first frontier fort, Fort Ohio, is built at Ridgeley in what is now Mineral County.
  • Thomas Walker, on behalf of the Loyal Company, explores the Greenbrier Valley and then enters Kentucky through the Cumberland Gap.


  • By the time of the French and Indian War (1754-1763), several thousand settlers live in the eastern portion of western Virginia. The war eliminates some settlements and threatens others.
  • May 1, 1754. Hampshire county, Virginia, is formed to provide orderly government for the early pioneers along the upper Potomac. It is created from Augusta, Frederick county. [It is the oldest county in what is now West Virginia.]


  • General Braddock marches his army through Jefferson, Berkeley and Morgan counties en route to Pittsburgh where he suffered defeat by the French and Indians.
  • Fort Ashby is constructed in what is now Mineral County. It is the last standing unit in the chain of forts built under the orders of George Washington.
  • July 3. The settlement of Draper's Meadows in New River section is attacked by Shawnee Indians. Nearly all the settlers are killed or captured.


  • The first settlement at present-day Morgantown takes place.


  • Dec. 23. The governor of Virginia signs bills of incorporation establishing the towns of Romney and Mecklenburg (later Shepherdstown), the oldest towns in what is now West Virginia.


  • Harper's Ferry is incorporated.
  • The British government forbids occupation of lands west of the Alleghenies.


  • General Horatio Gates, who was second in command to George Washington, settles in Jefferson County (where he lived until 1790).


  • Clarksburg is settled.


  • Survey of Mason-Dixon Line reaches western boundary between Maryland and western Virginia.
  • After raids by Delaware and Mingo Indians destroyed it, a new community of Morgantown is founded by Zackquill Morgan (son of Morgan Morgan) in 1766-1767.


  • Ice's Ferry, Monongalia County, is settled by Frederick Ice. His son Adam, born the same year, was the first white child born in the Monongahela Valley. Andrew Ice started the first authorized ferry in western Virginia in 1785.


  • The Iroquois cede lands north of the Little Kanawha River to the British in the Treaty of Fort Stanwix. Treaties made with the Iroquois and Cherokees, who had claimed most of what is now West Virginia, make it safe for pioneers to cross the mountains.
  • The first recorded flood of the Ohio River.
  • The Vandalia Company (or Walpole Co.) is organized and includes all of present West Virginia west of the Allegheny Mountains and eastern Kentucky.
  • Isaac Williams, noted spy and hunter, founds Williamstown.


  • Hundreds of settlers begin to enter the area which would later become West Virginia.
  • Wheeling is founded by Col. Ebenezer Zane and his brother.


  • George Washington makes a note in his journal that he saw coal on a visit to his lands in the Ohio and Kanawha valleys.
  • "Harewood," the home of Colonel Samuel Washington, the brother of George Washington, was built in Jefferson County near Charles Town. James Madison later married Dolly Payne Todd there.


  • John Floyd discovers natural gas in the Kanawha Valley.


  • George R. Clark explores Ohio and Kanawha rivers.
  • Berkeley county is created from Frederick county.
  • Simon Kenton, adventurer and border scout, and two companions spend the winter in camp on the Elk River near Charleston. They were the first white men to live there.


  • William Morris, Sr., becomes the first permanent English settler in Kanawha county, building a cabin at Cedar Grove at the mouth of Kelly's Creek. [Walter Kelly had arrived in 1773 but was killed by Indians for trespassing on their hunting grounds. Morris bought the land abandoned by Kelly.]
  • Fort Fincastle (renamed Henry, in 1776) built at Wheeling.
  • Prickett's Fort built near Fairmont.
  • Oct. 10. The Battle of Point Pleasant between Virginia settlers and militia and a confederacy of Shawnee, Delaware, Wyandot, Cayuga, and other Indian tribes led by Cornstalk. The Virginians win the battle, concluding the campaign known a Lord Dumnore's War, and extract a treaty from the Indians that forces them to give up much of the disputed land.


  • Gas discovered near Charleston.


  • The residents of western Virginia petition the Continental Congress to establish a separate government for their region.
  • A church is established on what is now the Meadowbrook Road, on Rt. 24 in Harrison County. The present building at that site, Smith Chapel, was constructed in 1905-1906. [Karen (Smith) Pennebaker, who supplied this information, believes it is the oldest continuous Methodist congregation in what is now West Virginia.]
  • Oct. The Virginia General Assembly establishes the town of Bath (later called Berkeley Springs).
  • County government west of the Alleghenies begins as Ohio and Monongalia counties are formed from the district of West Augusta.


  • Indian warfare resumes, and continues throughout the American Revolution.
  • Sept. Indians unsuccessfully besiege Fort Henry.
  • November 10. Indian chieftain Cornstalk, his son, and Chief Red Hawk are murdered by whites at Fort Randolph.


  • Greenbrier county is created from Botetourt, Montgomery county.
  • Martinsburg is laid out by Adam Stephen, an American Revolutionary military leader.


  • A Revolutionary War battle is fought at Wheeling; British and Indians attack Fort Henry.
  • Sept. 10. Second siege of Fort Henry. This is considered by many the last battle of the Revolution.


  • Settlers west of the Allegheny Mountains attempt to create a new state called "Westsylvania."


  • Mason and Dixon's line accepted as Virginia-Pennsylvania border.
  • Harrison county is created from Monongalia county.


  • The Rehoboth Church, said to be the first Protestant church west of the Alleghenies, is built near Union in Monroe County. (However, see an entry in 1776.)


  • Hardy county is created from Hampshire county.
  • Oct. Charles Town is chartered by the Virginia General Assembly, laid out on 80 acres of land owned by Charles Washington, the youngest brother of George Washington. The town's name was originally Charlestown.


  • Randolph county is created from Harrison county.
  • Apparently the first publication printed within the state is a pamphlet by James Rumsey, A Short Treatise on the Application of Steam, which may have been printed in Shepherdstown.


  • Virginia ratifies the federal Constitution.
  • Kanawha county is created from Greenbrier and Montgomery county; Pendleton county is created from Augusta, Hardy, Rockingham county.
  • The first permanent white settlement is built at what is now Charleston. The settlement occurred around Fort Lee, at the present intersection of Brooks Street and Kanawha Boulevard.


  • Daniel Boone is commissioned lieutenant colonel of the Kanawha Militia.
  • The road from Winchester reaches Clarksburg.


  • The Potomak Guardian and Berkeley Advertiser, western Virginia's first newspaper, is published in Shepherdstown, by Nathaniel Willis. In 1791 the newspaper was moved to Martinsburg. In 1799, Nathaniel Willis moved to Martinsburg and began the Martinsburg Gazette.
  • First U. S. census shows population of 55,873 in the part of Virginia that would later become West Virginia.


  • Daniel Boone is elected as a delegate to the Virginia Assembly. He walked the entire way to Richmond to take his seat.


  • June 30. The first post office in what is now West Virginia is established at Martinsburg.


  • Peter Tarr constructs the first iron furnace west of the Alleghenies at King's Creek, in the northern panhandle.
  • "Mad Anthony" Wayne's victory at Fallen Timbers (Ohio) halts Indian attacks in what is now West Virginia.
  • December 19. Charlestown (Charleston) is established by the Virginia General Assembly. The total population was 35 people living in seven houses.


  • Daniel Boone and family leave Kanawha Valley.


  • Brooke county is created from Ohio county.
  • The second newspaper in what would become West Virginia, the Impartial Observer, is established at Shepherdstown. The same press printed the first book printed in what is now West Virginia, The Christian Panoply, in the same year.
  • Harman Blennerhassett purchases an island in the Ohio River near Parkersburg, where he built his famous mansion.


  • Wood county is created from Harrison county.
  • Mecklenburg is renamed Shepherdstown by the Virginia Assembly.


  • Monroe county is created from Greenbrier county.


  • By 1800 there are 78,000 people in what is now West Virginia, with 35,000 west of the Alleghenies. There are 13 counties, 8 post offices, and at least 19 incorporated towns.


  • Jefferson county is created from Berkeley county.


  • The Monongalia Gazette and Morgantown Advertiser becomes the first newspaper west of the Alleghenies.


  • Mason county is created from Kanawha county.
  • Jan. The Monongalia Gazette and Morgantown Advertiser is published at Morgantown.


  • Harman Blennerhassett and Aaron Burr are said to have plotted to conquer territory of the U. S. south of the Ohio River on an island in the Ohio River (now Blennerhasset Island).


  • First salt well is drilled in Great Kanawha Valley, increasing production from 150 to 1250 pounds a day by 1808.


  • Wheeling's first newspaper, the Repository, is published.


  • Lewisburg Academy (later the Greenbrier Military School) opens its doors to boys, according to West Virginia Yesterday and Today by Conley and Stutler. [A footnote implies the 1808 date comes from the West Virginia Encyclopedia. The 1956 West Virginia Blue Book states the school was founded as Lewisburg Academy "in 1808 or 1809" and the school was chartered by the Virginia Assembly in 1812. According to a historical booklet on the 160th anniversary of Greenbrier county, "Tradition has it that the Old Lewisburg Academy was founded in 1810, but there is no record of the exact time."]


  • Cabell county is created from Kanawha county.


  • Western Virginia protests unequal representation in Virginia legislature.
  • Oil is discovered.
  • Parkersburg is adopted as the new name for the town previously known as Newport and Stokeleyville.
  • Clarksburg's first newspaper, the Bye-Stander, is published.


  • Tyler county is created from Ohio county.
  • Linsly Institute is established at Wheeling. (The building was used as the first capitol building of West Virginia.)
  • The Monongalia Academy is established at Morgantown.


  • [Or 1816] James Wilson discovers the nation's first natural gas well at Charleston, in a site near the present Capitol complex.


  • Lewis county is created from Harrison county.


  • Kanawha Salt Company, first trust in United States, organized.
  • The first bank in what is now West Virginia, the Northwestern Bank of Virginia, opens.


  • The Cumberland Road (or National Road) is completed from Cumberland, Maryland, to Wheeling.
  • Nicholas county is created from Greenbrier, Kanawha, Randolph county; Preston county is created from Monongalia county.
  • Charles Town is renamed Charleston.
  • The first commercial coal mine near Fairmont is opened.


  • Morgan county is created from Berkeley, Hampshire county.
  • Charleston's first newspaper, the Kenawha Spectator, is published.


  • Pocahontas county is created from Bath, Pendleton, Randolph county.


  • The Christian Baptist begins publication. It is the first religious newspaper in what would become West Virginia.


  • Logan county is created from Cabell, Giles, Kanawha, Tazewell county.


  • Marquis de Lafayette and his son arrive in Wheeling on a tour of the U. S.


  • Controversy between eastern and western sections of Virginia flares up in constitutional convention; Virginia counties west of the Allegheny Mountains protest when the state convention draws up a constitution that favors the slave-holding counties in representation.


  • The Wheeling Gazette proposes separation of western Virginia from eastern Virginia.


  • Slavery debates magnify divisions in Virginia's political and social thought.
  • Fayette county is created from Greenbrier, Kanawha, Logan and Nicholas county; Jackson county is created from Kanawha, Mason, Wood county.


  • A cholera epidemic strikes the Wheeling district, killing 23 in one day.


  • The Ohio Mining Company, the first commercial coal company in the Kanawha Valley, is incorporated.


  • Marshall county is created from Ohio county.
  • Oct. 14. John Templeton, John Moore, Stanley Cuthbert, and Ellen Ritchie are charged with illegally teaching blacks to read in Wheeling. This incident was among twelve such cases in Wheeling. [Sheeler, The Negro in West Virginia Before 1900, page 126]


  • The first railroad reached the state at Harpers Ferry.
  • Wheeling is incorporated as a city.
  • Braxton county is created from Kanawha, Lewis, Nicholas county.
  • June. Railroad bridge into Harpers Ferry from Maryland is completed.


  • Mercer county is created from Giles, Tazewell county.
  • Marshall Academy (later Marshall University) is established in Guyandotte (later named Huntington).


  • Apr. 4. Virginia Assembly creates Town of Beckley.


  • Bethany College, the oldest degree-granting college in what is now West Virginia, is founded by Alexander Campbell, under the control of the Christian church.


  • The Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike is completed, extending from Staunton, Virginia, to Parkersburg.


  • Wayne county is created from Cabell county; Marion county is created from Harrison, Monongalia county.


  • Barbour county is created from Harrison, Lewis, Randolph county; Ritchie county is created from Harrison, Lewis, Wood county.
  • Fairmont is so named.


  • Taylor county is created from Barbour, Harrison, Marion county.


  • Doddridge county is created from Harrison, Lewis Ritchie, Tyler county; Gilmer county is created from Kanawha, Lewis county.


  • Wetzel county is created from Tyler county.


  • Boone county is created from Cabell, Kanawha, Logan county.
  • The first telegraph line reaches what is now West Virginia, when a tap wire from a main line on the western side of the Ohio River is put into use at Wheeling.


  • Hancock county is created from Brooke county; Putnam county is created from Cabell, Kanawha, Mason county; Wirt county is created from Jackson, Wood county.


  • Oct. 30. The 1010-foot Wheeling Bridge is completed. From 1849 until 1851 it was the longest bridge in the world; it was blown down in 1854.


  • Raleigh county is created from Fayette county; Wyoming county is created from Logan county.


  • Joseph Johnson of Bridgeport is elected Governor, the only governor of Virginia to come from the western sector and the first to be chosen by popular vote.
  • A new constitution grants concessions to the west.
  • Upshur county is created from Barbour, Lewis, Randolph county; Pleasants county is created from Ritchie, Tyler, Wood county.


  • The Intelligencer, the oldest daily newspaper in what is now West Virginia, is established in Wheeling.
  • Dec. 24. Completion of the B&O Railroad to Wheeling. Work on the line had begun in 1828. When it was completed, it stretched 370 miles from Baltimore to Wheeling and was the longest railroad in the world.


  • The Wheeling Bridge is blown down by high winds. (A new span was completed in 1856.)


  • Calhoun county is created from Gilmer county; Roane county is created from Gilmer, Jackson, Kanawha county; Tucker county is created from Randolph county.


  • The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad reaches Parkersburg.


  • Clay county is created from Braxton, Nicholas county; McDowell county is created from Tazewell county.
  • The Woodburn Female Seminary is located in Morgantown.


  • The Rathbone Well, the first successful well drilled purposefully for oil in what would become West Virginia, was drilled on Burning Springs Run in Wirt County.
  • Martinsburg is incorporated as a city.
  • October 16. John Brown and his followers raid the Federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry.
  • Dec. 2. John Brown is hanged in Charles Town.


  • The 1860 census shows Charleston's population is 1,520.
  • A commercial oil well is drilled at Burning Springs.
  • Webster county is created from Braxton, Nicholas, Randolph county.


  • During the Civil War the part of Virginia which would become West Virginia contributes about 32,000 soldiers to the Union Army and about 10,000 to the Confederate cause.
  • Union victories drive the Confederate forces out of the Monongahela and Kanawha valleys, and throughout the remainder of the war the Union holds the region west of the Alleghenies and controls the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad in the north.
  • Apr. 17. The Virginia state convention votes to secede from the Union, contingent on approval by popular vote.
  • May 13-15. Delegates from 25 counties meet at the First Wheeling Convention, repudiating the secession from the Union.
  • May 23. Virginia's ordinance for secession is ratified, but a large majority of voters in the western counties voice their opposition.
  • June 3. The first land battle of the Civil War is fought at Philippi, according to one accounting.
  • June 11-25. The second Wheeling convention formally restores the government of Virginia on a loyal basis and chooses Francis H. Pierpont of Fairmont as governor. (After two senators, selected by this government to represent the Unionists of Virginia, had been accepted by Congress the new statehood movement formally began.)
  • Aug. 6. Second Wheeling convention reconvenes.
  • Aug. 20. Second Wheeling convention adopts a dismemberment ordinance that provides for the formation of a new state to be called Kanawha.
  • Oct. 24. In a public referendum, voters overwhelmingly support creation of a new state, to be called Kanawha.
  • Nov. 11. Union troops burn the town of Guyandotte in Cabell County in retaliation for a raid the previous day by the Confederate cavalry.
  • Nov. 26. Second Wheeling convention reconvenes, changes name of new state to West Virginia, begins to draft a constitution, and extends the boundaries of the new state.


  • Jan. Seven men meeting in Parkersburg form the Colored School Board of Parkersburg and organize a day school for black children, the first public school for blacks in what is now West Virginia [Wood County, W. Va., in Civil War Times by H. C. Matheny and Historical Hand Atlas...and Histories of Wood and Pleasants Counties, West Virginia (1882)]. A newspaper article in 1888 stated, "In effect, it was a free school, and the only one manned by colored men in the United States, except the Gaines High School in Cincinnati, O., at that time, and the first school established for colored youth south of the 'Mason and Dixon' line." The newspaper article gives the date as Dec. 1862 but two other sources give Jan. 1862.
  • Apr. Voters approve the new Constitution for West Virginia.
  • May 13. The legislature of the "Restored Government of Virginia" petitions the U. S. Congress for admission.
  • May 23. Union troops defeat Confederates at Lewisburg.
  • July 14. The West Virginia Statehood bill is passed by the Senate, changing the slavery provision of the West Virginia Constitution to allow for the gradual emancipation of slavery.
  • Sept. 13. The Battle of Charleston takes place, after which the city is occupied by Union troops.
  • Dec. 31. President Lincoln approves the act of admission to the Union, to take effect upon the insertion into the State constitution of a clause that would provide for the gradual emancipation of slaves.


  • Parkersburg is incorporated.
  • April 20. President Lincoln issues a proclamation admitting West Virginia to the Union after a 60-day waiting period.
  • April 27. Confederate General William Jones attempts to burn the suspension bridge over the Monongahela River.
  • April 29. Jones defeats Union troops at Fairmont and burns the library of Francis H. Pierpont.
  • June 20. West Virginia is admitted to the Union as 35th state. The new state begins to function as Arthur I. Boreman of Parkersburg is inaugurated at Wheeling as the first governor.
  • July 15. The governor approves an act giving blacks the same rights to criminal trial as whites, but denying them the right to serve on a jury.


  • The first West Virginia popular vote for President: Lincoln, 23,152; McClellan, 10,438


  • First free public school in state opens in Charleston.
  • Feb. 3. The governor approves an act abolishing slavery, providing for the immediate emancipation of all slaves.
  • April 9. The Civil War ends.


  • The state constitution is amended to deny citizenship and suffrage to all persons who had supported the Confederacy.
  • Moundsville is selected as the site for the state penitentiary.
  • Mineral county is created from Hampshire county; Grant county is created from Hardy county.
  • A hospital for the insane is completed at Weston, the first public institution in the state.
  • May 24. Voters ratify constitutional amendment denying citizenship to all who aided the Confederacy.
  • June 9. The Monongalia Academy and the Woodburn Female Seminary are offered to the Legislature for use as a college. (In the following year, the Legislature accepts the offer, establishing the Agricultural College of West Virginia.)


  • The legislature establishes the Agricultural College of West Virginia in Morgantown.
  • Lincoln county is created from Boone, Cabell, Kanawha, Putnam county.
  • Fairmont State College is established. (It developed from the Fairmont Academy, which was founded in 1852.)
  • Storer College is established at Harpers Ferry to educate former slaves. It remained in operation until 1955.
  • Jan. 16. The state Legislature ratifies the Fourteenth Amendment to the U. S. Constitution.


  • The Agricultural College of West Virginia is renamed West Virginia University.


  • Feb. 10. Charleston is named the seat of government "on and after April 1, 1870." (The seat is shifted to Wheeling in 1875 but restored to Charleston permanently in 1885.)
  • March. The Preston County Courthouse burns; all records are destroyed.
  • March 23. The West Virginia State Senate ratifies the Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution by a vote of 10 to 6, with 6 either absent or abstaining. (The previous day, the House of Delegates ratified the amendment by a vote of 22 to 19.)


  • Charleston is incorporated.
  • 1870 census: West Virginia's population is 442,014.
  • School for the Deaf and Blind established at Romney.
  • Huntington is founded as the western terminus of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad by Collis P. Huntington, president of the railroad.
  • The Legislature establishes West Liberty State College.
  • Apr. 1. The state capitol is moved from Wheeling to Charleston.
  • Oct. 3. The first brick street in the world is laid in Charleston, according to an Internet source.


  • The Flick Amendment to the state constitution is adopted, granting suffrage to all male citizens regardless of race.
  • Summers county is created from Fayette, Greenbrier, Mercer, Monroe county.
  • April 27. All persons stripped of their voting privileges in 1866 have their citizenship restored.


  • Victorious Democrats formulate a new constitution at Charleston; it is ratified by the voters.
  • An act of the Legislature establishes a branch normal school at Concord for the training of teachers. [The school later became Concord College and, in 2004, Concord University.]
  • A hotel is constructed in Charleston for those doing government business.


  • The Chesapeake and Ohio Railway completes its line across the state, from White Sulphur Springs to Huntington.
  • The Kanawha Chronicle (now the Charleston Gazette) is established. The paper was also known as the Kanawha Gazette and the Daily Gazette before the name was officially changed to the Charleston Gazette in 1907.
  • Joseph Harvey Long purchases the Huntington Herald. He installed and operated the first sterotype and linotype in West Virginia.
  • March 12. The governor approves acts authorizing that only white males over the age of 21 could serve on juries.
  • June 11. Charleston Mayor Snyder and the city council appoint Ernest Porterfield as a police officer, the first black to receive a public job in Kanawha County and possibly West Virginia. Within one hour, the remainder of the white police force, including Chief Rand, resigned. Rather than ask for Porterfield's resignation, Snyder hired a new force. [Sheeler, The Negro in West Virginia Before 1900, page 202.]


  • State capital moved to Wheeling.


  • Broaddus College moves from Winchester, Virginia, to Clarksburg. (In 1909 the college moved to Philippi. It was later combined with Alderson Junior College to become Alderson-Broaddus College.)


  • July. Governor Mathews sends the state militia to Martinsburg, where Baltimore and Ohio Railroad workers had been stopping trains to protest wage cuts. When many militia members sympathized with the strikers, President Rutherford B. Hayes dispatched federal troops to break the first national labor strike. The strike spread to Maryland, Missouri, Pennsylvania, and New York.
  • Aug. 7. In a public referendum, state residents decide whether Charleston, Clarksburg, or Martinsburg is to become the permanent site of the capital. [Thirty days after the election, Gov. Henry M. Mathews proclaimed that after eight years, Charleston would be the government's permanent seat.]


  • The first oil pipeline in West Virginia is completed, running 15 miles from Volcano to Parkersburg. Later in 1879 the town and the oil field at Volcano were burned.
  • The Bloch brothers begin the manufacture of Mail Pouch tobacco at Wheeling.
  • In Wheeling, a telephone line is installed between the two Behrens grocery stores, apparently the first telephone connection in West Virginia.


  • Governor Mathews sends militia to Hawks Nest to stop the state's first major coal strike.
  • 1880 census: West Virginia's population is 618,457.
  • A telephone exchange is installed in Wheeling, the first in the state.
  • June 22. Beckley's first newspaper, the Raleigh County Index (later the Raleigh Register), begins publishing (or possibly June 15).


  • Feb. 3. The governor approves a bill allowing all eligible voting citizens, including blacks, to be jurors. (In their October 1879 Taylor Strauder decision, the U.S. Supreme Court had found the West Virginia law forbidding blacks from serving on juries to be unconstitutional.) [Sheeler, The Negro in West Virginia Before 1900, page 206]


  • The Wheeling electric light plant begins operation.
  • A telephone exchange is installed in Parkersburg.
  • Twenty-year-long Hatfield-McCoy feud erupts.


  • The building of the Norfolk and Western Railroad brings railway service to McDowell, Mercer, and other counties in southern West Virginia.
  • The first long distance line in the state is constructed, to connect Wheeling to Pittsburgh.
  • A telephone exchange is installed in Charleston.


  • The Ohio River floods Huntington.
  • Telephone exchanges are installed in Huntington and Moundsville.


  • Charleston becomes the permanent state capital.
  • The National Gas Co. of West Virginia is established, producing gas from northern panhandle wells.


  • The Mountain Brook mine disaster at Newburg takes 39 lives.
  • Nov. 12. Electric lights first shine on Huntington's streets.


  • Huntington replaces Barboursville as the Cabell county seat.


  • Aretas Brooks Fleming, who appears to have lost the election for Governor by 130 votes to Nathan Goff Jr., contests the election, disputing the vote counts in several counties and appealing to the legislature to choose him as the rightful winner. [The legislature failed to act by the end of Wilson's term on March 4, 1889, and both Goff and Fleming were sworn in as governor. As president of the state senate, Robert S. Carr also claimed the governorship. The state Supreme Court decided Wilson should remain governor until the matter was settled. In January 1890, the legislature, controlled by Democrats, declared Fleming to be Governor.]
  • Barboursville Seminary is established at Barboursville. (This college later was renamed Barboursville College, Morris Harvey College, and the University of Charleston.)
  • Salem Academy (later Salem College) is established at Salem.
  • The Logan Banner is founded. It was first published and edited by Henry Clay Ragland. [Information from the newspaper web site.]


  • The faculty of West Virginia University votes to allow admission of women. (The state Legislature had earlier rejected legislation to make WVU a coeducational institution.)
  • Drilling operations near Mannington initiate an oil boom on a modern scale.
  • The Huntington Advertiser begins publication.


  • United Mine Workers of America is formed.
  • West Virginia Wesleyan College is established at Buckhannon.
  • The Office of the Inspector of Mines for the coal industry is created.
  • Joseph Harvey Long starts the Wheeling News.
  • 1890 census: West Virginia's population is 762,704. The largest cities are Wheeling, 34,522; Huntington, 10,108; Parkersburg, 8408; Martinsburg, 7226; and Charleston, 6742.


  • Mar. 4. The state Legislature passed an act establishing the West Virginia Colored Institute at Institute (later West Virginia State College). The act is approved by the Governor on March 17.
  • Nov. 28. The first intercollegiate football game at WVU is played, against Washington & Jefferson College.


  • The Huntington Herald, later the Herald-Dispatch, begins publication.


  • Mingo county is created from Logan county.
  • Feb. 21. The state Legislature passes an act establishing the Bluefield Colored Institute, later Bluefield State College. (The act became law without the approval of the governor on February 28.)


  • George W. Atkinson is elected Governor, the first Republican governor since the Reconstruction period.
  • Voters elect the first black to the state legislature, Christopher Payne of Fayette County. [Sheeler, The Negro in West Virginia Before 1900, page 211]
  • Oct. 6. Rural free mail delivery begins in Charles Town, first in United States. [or October 1]


  • Mary Harris "Mother" Jones is sent into West Virginia for the first time to organize miners, and delivers speeches in Monongah and Flemington.
  • Aug. 3. "The Great Lewisburg Fire" causes significant damage in the Greenbrier county town.
  • Dec. 16. A notorious public hanging at Ripley takes place, prompting the legislature to turn over the responsibility for executions to the state government. The hanging of John Morgan is the last public hanging in West Virginia. Sources also give March 18, 1897, or sometime in 1896 for the hanging. [Tom T. Hall has written a song about this event, The Last Public Hanging in Ripley, West Virginia.]


  • In the Spanish American War West Virginia furnishes two regiments of volunteer infantry.
  • Nov. 16. The trial of Williams v. Board of Education of Tucker County began. (Carrie Williams was a black teacher in the segregated school system of Tucker County. The board of education tried to save money by cutting the black school term from eight to five months. Williams taught for the entire eight-month term and sued the board for the extra three-months' pay. Williams' lawyer J. R. Clifford argued that black schools should receive the same funding and have the same rights as white schools. Williams' court victory was the first in the nation to determine discrimination on the basis of color to be illegal.) [Trotter, Honoring Our Past, pages 184-186]


  • Fairmont is incorporated as a city.
  • Oct. 10. The first state-sponsored execution in West Virginia takes place, at the state penitentiary in Moundsville.


  • June 8. The Raleigh Herald (later the Beckley Post-Herald) begins publishing.


  • Governor George W. Atkinson requests the Legislature to name a state flower. (The state superintendent of free schools asked children to select the flower, and the rhododendron was chosen.)
  • Fayette County citizen Morris Harvey makes large gifts to Barboursville College, which changes its name to Morris Harvey College.


  • Mother Jones campaigns to unionize 7,000 miners in Kanawha Valley.


  • A pavilion is built in Huntington for picnics, square dancing, and family reunions. It eventually became Camden Park.


  • Davis and Elkins College is established at Elkins.


  • Morgantown is incorporated as a city.


  • Jan. 4. 22 are killed at Coaldale mine in Mercer County.
  • Jan. 18. 18 are killed at Detroit mine in Kanawha County.
  • Feb. 8. 23 are killed at Parral mine in Fayette County.
  • Mar. 22. 23 are killed at Century mine in Barbour County.


  • Jan. 29. Mine disaster at Stuart in Fayette County kills 84 (or 88).
  • Feb. 4. 25 are killed at Thomas mine in Tucker county.
  • Dec. 6. Explosions at a coal mine at Monongah kill 362 men and boys in the worst mine disaster in U. S. history.


  • May 10. According to one accounting, the first Mother's Day service is held at St. Andrews Methodist Church in Grafton.


  • White Sulphur Springs is incorporated.
  • Beckley newspaper, The Messenger, is established.
  • Jan. 12. Mine disaster at Switchback kills 67.


  • Weirton Steel Company buys some farms in Hancock county and begins to build one of the most modern steel plants in the world.
  • Mar. 24. Mount Hope destroyed by fire.



  • Paint Creek-Cabin Creek miners strike to gain recognition of the United Mine Workers of America. On three separate occasions, Governor Glasscock declares martial law and sends in troops. Martial law was imposed until January 1913.
  • State prohibition becomes effective.
  • Mar. 26. Mine disaster at Jed kills 83.
  • Apr. 13. Fire damages many businesses in Beckley.
  • Sept. 21. Mary Harris "Mother" Jones leads a march of miners' children through the streets of Charleston.


  • The first units of the Greenbrier resort are built.
  • Feb. 12. Mary Harris "Mother" Jones leads a protest of conditions in the West Virginia mines and is arrested. (On May 8, newly-elected Governor Hatfield released her from jail.)
  • Mar. 27-30. Huntington and Parkersburg are flooded by the Ohio River. Thousands were left homeless.


  • April 28. Mine disaster at Eccles kills 192.
  • Oct. 14. A glass manufacturing plant, later part of the Owens-Illinois Company, begins operations in Huntington.


  • The Supreme Court of the United States rules that West Virginia owes Virginia more than $12.3 million as part of the state debt at the time of separation.
  • Mar. 2. Mine disaster at Layland kills 112.


  • November. A proposed amendment to the state Constitution allowing suffrage for women is rejected by voters.


  • U. S. enters World War I. West Virginia Selective Service registrants number nearly 325,000. Over 45,000 see active service and 624 are killed in action.
  • Natural gas production in West Virginia reaches its peak.
  • May 26. Governor Cornwell signs bill creating the Department of Special Deputy Police, a wartime internal security force serving in the absence of the federalized West Virginia National Guard. Major Thomas B. Davis, acting Adjutant General, is named superintendent. The department is the direct lineal predecessor of the West Virginia State Police. [Cole, "Department of Special Deputy Police, 1917-1919," W. Va. History 44 (Summer 1983), pages 321-333]
  • Dec. 30. Coldest temperature ever in West Virginia: minus 37 in Lewisburg.


  • Fire destroys the Charleston Gazette building at 909 Virginia St. The newspaper was moved to 227 Hale St., where it remained for 42 years.


  • Governor Cornwell discourages an armed miners' march by promising to address the miners' grievances.
  • Mar. 31. Following a bitter legislative battle, Governor Cornwell signs bill creating the Department of Public Safety (West Virginia State Police). The WVSP is the fourth oldest state police agency in the United States, following Pennsylvania, New York and Michigan. [Cole, "Birth of the West Virginia State Police, 1919-1921," W. Va. History 43 (Fall 1981), pages 1-20]
  • Sept. Miners march on Logan county to unseat Sheriff Don Chafin whose deputies assaulted and evicted union organizers who entered the county. The march was ended after federal military forces were activated at the request of Governor John J. Cornwell.
  • November. A nationwide coal strike occurs.


  • UMWA membership booms in Mingo County following the "Matewan Massacre."
  • John L. Lewis becomes President of the United Mine Workers of America.
  • Jan. UMW moves its unionization campaign from Logan to Mingo County. Mother Jones delivers a speech of support.
  • May 19. Matewan Chief of Police Sid Hatfield attempts to arrest detectives hired by coal operators to evict families of fired union miners from company housing. In the shootout that followed, ten people died including Matewan Mayor Cable C. Testerman. The "Matewan Massacre" makes Sid Hatfield a folk hero to miners throughout the state and a national celebrity.
  • August 28. Governor Cornwell requests federal troops to guard the mines of southern West Virginia. They arrive in Williamson the next day.
  • Sept. Rioting in Williamson follows attempts of local coal operators to import strikebreakers into the area.
  • Nov. 27. Following strike-related violence and the killing of a state trooper, Governor Cornwell proclaims martial law in Mingo County. (The state had no military force, the National Guard not having been reorganized after service in World War I.)


  • West Virginia miners fight with mine guards, police, and federal troops in a dispute over organizing unions.
  • The first football game ever broadcast on radio is heard on KDKA, Pittsburgh. West Virginia University vs the University of Pittsburgh.
  • Jan. 3. State capitol at Charleston is destroyed by fire. (A new capitol was built in the early 1930s along the Kanawha River.)
  • May 12. "Three Day's Battle" begins along both shores of the Tug River, with sniping by strikers at state police, deputies and coal company officials.
  • May 18. Mingo County sheriff authorizes State Police Captain Brockus to assume responsibility for law enforcement in the county. "Volunteer state police" organized.
  • May 19. Governor Morgan proclaims martial law in Mingo County. Major Thomas B. Davis, acting Adjutant General, named executive agent to administer the proclamation.
  • June 14. Davis and Brockus lead state police and vigilantes in a raid on the Lick Creek tent colony, in retaliation for further sniping incidents. 47 strikers arrested and locked in the Williamson jail. (State supreme court invalidates martial law proclamation, citing complete absence of military forces in Mingo County. Governor Morgan issues second proclamation on June 27, directing sheriff to enroll 2 companies of militia for 60-days service; volunteer state police disbanded.)
  • July 1. West Virginia's sales tax becomes effective. West Virginia becomes the first state to have a sales tax, according to an Internet source.
  • July 14. U. S. Senate Committee on Education and Labor begins a three-month investigation of the crises in West Virginia's coal mining industry.
  • August 1. Matewan Chief of Police Sid Hatfield is shot and killed on the steps of the McDowell County Courthouse in Welch, in revenge for the Matewan Massacre of the previous year.
  • August 7. One thousand miners present Governor Morgan with a resolution calling for an end to martial law in Mingo County.
  • August 21. First unit of West Virginia National Guard--Company I, 150th Infantry--reactivated at Williamson. By the end of the year, 11 National Guard companies were organized--all but one situated in or near the nonunion coal fields.
  • August 23. John H. Charnock appointed Adjutant General, replacing Major Davis.
  • August 25. Governor Morgan asks President Harding for federal troops and military aircraft, saying miners have been inflamed and infuriated by radical officers and leaders.
  • Sept. 3. A cease fire ends the Battle of Blair Mountain.
  • Sept. 4. Federal troops march up Hewitt Creek in Logan County. Efforts to unionize the southern West Virginia coal fields are ended with the arrival of the 10th U. S. Infantry.


  • Radio station WHD is licensed to West Virginia University, becoming West Virginia's first radio station. The license was deleted in 1923.
  • May. International Nickel Company plant begins operation in Huntington.
  • May. "Treason Trial" at Charles Town, Jefferson County, of union members accused of participating in the march on Logan and Battle of Blair Mountain.
  • Sept. 22. Martial law rescinded in Mingo County.


  • The state's oldest surviving radio station - WSAZ - begins broadcasting at Pomeroy, Ohio. It later moved to Huntington.


  • Apr. 28. Mine disaster at Benwood kills 119.
  • Feb. 12. Beckley's first daily newspaper, the Evening Post, begins publication.
  • April 1. A strike begins against the coal operators in the north. The bitter struggle goes on for three years.


  • Governor Morgan and his wife become the first residents of the present Governor's Mansion one week before leaving office.
  • Late March. Black leaders protest the showing of D. W. Griffith's Birth of a Nation, scheduled to open at the Rialto Theatre in Charleston on April 1, on the grounds it violated a 1919 state law prohibiting any entertainment which demeaned another race. Mayor W. W. Wertz and the West Virginia Supreme Court supported their argument and prevented the showing of the film. [Posey, The Negro Citizen of West Virginia, pages 70-71]
  • The west wing of the present state capitol is completed.


  • Huntington's first span across the Ohio River, the Sixth Street Bridge, opens.
  • Dec. 6. Wheeling radio station WWVA signs on the air.


  • Fire destroys the temporary "pasteboard capitol," built after the old capitol burned in 1921.
  • Apr. 30. Mine disaster at Everettville kills 97.
  • Oct. 12. Charleston radio station WOBU (later WCHS) signs on the air.


  • Jan. 10. Minnie Buckingham Harper is appointed a member of the House of Delegates by Governor Howard Gore, becoming the first black woman state legislator in the U. S. She was appointed to fill the vacancy caused by the death of her husband, E. Howard Harper, of Welch
  • April. 34 inches of snow fall in a 24-hour period in Bayard, Grant County, setting a state record
  • May. The Keith-Albee Theater, one of the largest in the nation, opens in Huntington.


  • The state flag is adopted.


  • Mar. 30. The New-Kanawha Power Company breaks ground on the Hawks Nest Tunnel and Dam, part of the New River power project, with an estimated 800 men employed. Over the next five years, at least 476 workers, mostly migrant blacks from the South, died from silicosis. Some of the dead were buried in a mass grave to hide the actual number of casualties. Fifty years later, one study placed the death toll as high as 764, making it the worst industrial disaster in U. S. history. [Martin Cherniack, Hawks Nest Incident: America's Worst Industrial Disaster, and Tim McKinney, Elkem Metals: Ninety Years of Progress in the Kanawha Valley.]


  • Dec. 10. Two blacks accused of killing two white constables are forcibly removed from the Greenbrier County jail and lynched by a mob of white men.


  • The Democratic candidate for Governor, Herman G. Kump, is elected in a political landslide brought about by the Great Depression.
  • The present state capitol is dedicated.
  • Mar. 18. Mass murderer Harry Powers is hanged. His case had attracted national attention.
  • Fall. Voters approve an amendment to the state Constitution to limit property taxes.


  • June 20. The new state capitol is dedicated.
  • July 1. An act of the state legislature abolishes the magisterial and independent school districts, merging them into 55 county school boards.


  • State prohibition law is repealed.
  • The first of more than 150 New Deal homestead communities is established in Arthurdale, Preston County, by the Roosevelt Administration. [Arthurdale was considered a favorite project of Eleanor Roosevelt and she visited often, the last time in September 1960 for the dedication of the Arthurdale Community Presbyterian Church. See www.arthurdaleheritage.org]



  • Morris Harvey College moves from Barboursville to Charleston.
  • July 10. Martinsburg temperature reaches 112, the highest temperature ever in West Virginia.
  • The state Constitution is amended to allow home rule for cities with populations over 2,000.


  • Jan. 26-27. Huntington's worst flood paralyzes the entire city and leaves 6000 homeless. Parkersburg is also flooded.


  • The Tygart Dam on the Tygart River completed.
  • The Mingo Oak, largest and oldest white oak tree in the U. S., is declared dead and felled with ceremony.


  • West Virginia makes the final payment of its debt to Virginia.


  • Jan. 10. A mine explosion at Bartley in McDowell County kills 91.
  • Dec. 17. 9 killed in a mine disaster in Raleigh.


  • U. S. enters World War II. During the war, the first and largest synthetic rubber plant in the U. S. opens near Charleston. West Virginia industries furnish many chemical products.
  • Dec. 19. The first German and Hungarian diplomats arrive at The Greenbrier. During the war, 1700 persons from foreign countries were imprisoned there.


  • February 6. Governor Neely orders activation of West Virginia State Guard, an internal security force serving in the absence of the federalized National Guard. At maximum strength, the State Guard consisted of two regiments, a separate battalion, and small special units. The last unit was disbanded June 30, 1947. [Cole, "Organizational Development of the West Virginia State Guard, 1942-1947," W. Va. History 46 (1985-86), pages 73-88; Cole, "West Virginia's State Defense Forces," Trading Post 66 (April-June 1987), pages 30-33].


  • U. S. Supreme Court rules, in West Virginia State Board of Education vs Barnett, that schools cannot require students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.
  • Vast salt deposits are discovered in the northwestern part of West Virginia.


  • June 23. North-central West Virginia is battered by the Shinnston Tornado, perhaps the most powerful tornado ever to enter the state. According to a 1999 article in the Charleston Daily Mail, there were 152 deaths, 116 of which were in West Virginia. About 60 people were killed in and near Shinnston. A listing of the deadliest tornadoes in U. S. history shows 100 deaths and ranks it as the fourteenth deadliest tornado.



  • Major chemical industries begin operating in the Ohio River valley.
  • Aug. 15. West Virginia's first FM station, WCFC in Beckley, begins broadcasting.


  • The state's coal production reaches 173.7 million tons, more than any previous year. More than 167,000 miners are employed.



  • Oct. 24. WSAZ-TV in Huntington begins regular programming. It is the first television station in the state, originally operating on channel 5.


  • Elizabeth Simpson Drewry of McDowell County becomes the first black woman elected to the House of Delegates. She served until 1964. [West Virginia Blue Book]
  • November. Heavy snow, up to 30 inches or more, falls on parts of West Virginia. Lumberport, 12 miles north of Clarksburg, had a 42-inch snowfall, according to the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad.


  • July 17. Elizabeth Kee of Bluefield is elected to complete the unexpired term of her husband, Rep. John Kee, who had died in May. She became the first woman in West Virginia history to serve in Congress.


  • The Bluestone Dam on the New River is completed.
  • Construction begins on the West Virginia Turnpike.


  • Jan. 1. Country music star Hank Williams, age 29, is found to have died in the back seat of a car by his driver after he stopped at a Pure Oil service station in Oak Hill.


  • State legislature passes a law allowing blacks to attend state colleges and universities.
  • Wheeling College is founded.
  • Aug. 15. Charleston television station WCHS-TV signs on the air.
  • Nov. 8. The entire 88 miles of the West Virginia Turnpike from Charleston to Princeton is opened to the public.



  • New aluminum plant opens at Ravenswood.
  • Nov. 6. Voters approve jury service for women. (West Virginia became the last state to allow women to serve on juries.) A Republican, Cecil H. Underwood, is elected Governor; Democrats had controlled state politics since 1933.


  • George Howard Mitchell is appointed the first black Assistant Attorney General in West Virginia.


  • Dec. Former Garnet High School coach James R. Jarrett is named head basketball coach at Charleston High School, the first black in the state to be appointed head coach at a previously all-white public school. [Johnson, Integration in West Virginia Since 1954, page 44.]


  • Operations begin at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory at Green Bank.
  • March 1. 101st Special Forces Operational Detachment FC formed from existing units in the West Virginia Army National Guard. Reorganized as Headquarters and Companies A and B, 16th Special Forces Group (Airborne) in 1961. Redesignated 19th Special Forces Group in 1966, then as 2d Special Forces Battalion, 19th Group in 1972. Units currently active in Ceredo and Kingwood. [Cole, "Mountaineer Green Berets: Special Forces Units in the West Virginia Army National Guard," Journal of the W. Va. Historical Assn. 9 (Spring 1985), pages 26-60].
  • On May 30,Charleston Catholic High School graduates the finest group of students in the history of the state.


  • Charleston Catholic High School graduates the second finest group of students in the history of the state.