West Virginia State Study

West Virginia state studyCome with us on a West Virginia state study.  West Virginia is located entirely within the Appalachian Mountains.  It is known for mining, timber, and recreation.

A Little History

West Virginia was part of Virginia until 1861 when the western, mostly non-slave portion, of Virginia voted to secede from the eastern slave portion of Virginia upon the outbreak of the Civil War. In 1862 West Virginia had organized a new government and applied for statehood in the Union. They were admitted by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863 and became the 38th state. The secession was contested by Virginia and finally decided by the Supreme Court in favor of West Virginia in 1870.

This is German Valley in West Virginia. Photo by Wyatt Greene, CC license, Wikimedia.

By the late 1800s West Virginia had begun exploiting her coal deposits, fueling the Industrial Revolution in America. By the 1920s West Virginia was at the center of the labor struggles to ensure fair wages, and safe conditions for miners and to outlaw children working in the mines. The mineral resources of West Virginia have brought prosperity to the state, but environmentalist regulations have destroyed or greatly handicapped energy industries in West Virginia in recent years.

This is a West Virginia coal tipple, which was used to load coal into train cars. Until recent regulations destroyed the coal industry, West Virginia was known for coal mining. The mountains there are still rich in coal resources. Photo from the US federal government, public domain.

Fabulous Facts

  • The New River Gorge Bridge is the longest steel arch bridge in the world.  It is also extremely high at 876 feet.  Once each year the bridge is closed and people bungee jump and parachute from the bridge, drawing big crowds.
  • About 75% of West Virginia is covered by forests.
  • The largest employer in West Virginia is WalMart.
  • First the State capital was Wheeling, then it was moved to Charleston, then back to Wheeling.  When the capitol building in Wheeling burned in 1885 it was once more moved to Charleston and there it has remained ever since.
  • The West Virginia state motto is Montani semper liberi, Mountaineers are always free.
  • The state bird is the Northern Cardinal and the state tree is the Sugar Maple.
  • The John Denver song “Take Me Home Country Roads” is about West Virginia.
  • 15% of the nations coal production is from West Virginia, but the single highest producer of coal is actually Wyoming.
  • Today West Virginia’s leading industry is tourism.

Map of West Virginia Exploration

Print and color this West Virginia Map.  Label the cities, rivers, and draw in and label the mountains.


 Additional Layers

  • Find out why coal is no longer the leading industry in West Virginia.  Are they running out?  Do people no longer need as much coal?  Are people no longer willing to mine for coal?  Did the government create regulations that hurt the coal industry?  Or is it a combination of these things?
  • West Virginia is known for its coal.  How does coal form and why would it be found in West Virginia in such abundance?
  • West Virginia is known for its mountains.  Learn which ranges within the Appalachians are in West Virginia.
  • One of the greatest rocket scientists to work for NASA, Homer Hickam, wrote a book about growing up in West Virginia.  It is called Rocket Boys.  There is a movie based on the book called October Sky.  October Sky is most excellent.
  • Check out more books about West Virginia.  These are some of our favorites.


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