West Virginia is located entirely in the Appalachian region, hence its nickname the Mountain State. West Virginians gained statehood by declaring their independence from the Confederacy during the American Civil War. Charleston is the state capital.
The eastern and western parts of Virginia were very different in geography, economy, and way of life. Virginia joined the Confederacy in 1861, but the western part of the state remained loyal to the Union. Slave-holding plantation owners in eastern Virginia dominated the state’s economy and politics, pushing the farmers in western counties to form a state. West Virginia was admitted to the Union on the condition that it would provide for the abolition of slavery in its Constitution. The condition was met, and Congress granted statehood to West Virginia in June 1863.
West Virginia has traditionally relied on the mining, oil, and gas industry. Today, key economic drivers also include health care, manufacturing, and real estate. The healthcare and social assistance sector employs 126,502 people compared with 32,928 in the mining industry. Some of the state’s biggest private employers include West Virginia United Health System, Mountain Health Network, Walmart, Kroger, and Mylan Pharmaceuticals.
The Kanawha State Forest in Charleston offers excellent hiking, mountain biking, and cross-country skiing. The 9,300-acre forest provides a habitat for 19 species of wood warblers. Nature lovers are drawn to the forest for its diverse wildflowers and bird population, as well as its 14 hiking trails and nine mountain-biking trails. The Blennerhassett Island in Parkersburg is a unique attraction. It’s the site of a mansion built by wealthy landowners Harman and Margaret Blennerhassett. In 1806, Blennerhassett and Aaron Burr allegedly hatched a plan to separate the American West from the Union. President Thomas Jefferson accused both men of plotting treason.
West Virginia has a humid subtropical climate, with summer high temperatures in the 80s. Temperatures in the winter could be as low as 15 degrees Fahrenheit. The state gets about 44 inches of precipitation. One of the state’s worst floods happened in January 1937. Melting snow and heavy rains brought the Ohio River’s floodwater in Parkersburg to a peak of 55.4 feet. Total damage was estimated at about $500 million.
West Virginia is a more expensive place to live in than neighbor Ohio, but a lot cheaper than another neighbor, Virginia. The Mountain State levies 3% to 6.5% in income tax and 6% in statewide sales tax, but some cities charge additional sales tax of up to 1%.