Appalachia in West Virginia has an interesting history. In the 1920s, low wages for coal miners led to many strikes and even armed battles. Deputies killed some striking coal miners at the Matewan Massacre. The striking workers were charged with treason or conspiracy. The workers were successfully organized within the United Mine Workers of America in the 1930s.
The coal miners remained in poverty, however, because the demand for coal declined and more and more of the mining was being done by machines. This led to one of the highest unemployment rates in the country. Many people left the state. New uses for coal revived the industry during the 1970s, but there were job cutbacks in the 1980s. This led to more poverty in the region.
West Virginia was once part of Virginia. Rather than join the Confederacy in 1861, the state separated from Virginia and became the 35th state in 1863. John Brown, a Civil War abolitionist, made Harpers Ferry famous. In 1859, Brown raided the village, which was the home of a United States arsenal, and planned to encourage slaves to rebel.
Pearl Buck, a famous Nobel Prize-winning American author, was born in West Virginia. However, most of her childhood was spent in China, which was the setting for many of her novels. Charleston is the state's capital and largest city. Go there and see the beautiful hand-cut Bohemian crystal chandelier that dominates the dome of the state's capitol building. The abbreviation for West Virginia is WV.
West Virginia is a Mid-Atlantic state bordered by Pennsylvania to the north, Maryland and Virginia to the east, and Kentucky and Ohio to the west. The state has a northern panhandle between Pennsylvania and Ohio and an eastern panhandle between Maryland and Virginia. Even though it is considered a Mid-Atlantic state, West Virginia doesn't border the Atlantic Ocean. In fact, it is the only landlocked South Atlantic state. West Virginia is a small state with an irregular oval shape; it ranks 41st in size. Rivers and mountains form the state's irregularly shaped borders.
With an average elevation of 1,500 feet, West Virginia has the highest mean elevation of any state east of the Mississippi River. The state also has an extremely rugged terrain. West Virginia's landscape includes rivers, mountain ridges, picturesque scenery, and steep and rolling hills. The Appalachian Mountains cover the entire state. Go to West Virginia to visit the heart of the Appalachian Highlands. In fact, the state is nicknamed the "Mountain State" because of it mountainous landscape. West Virginia's motto is "Mountaineers Are Always Free."
West Virginia is not a leading agricultural state because its rugged terrain and mountainous landscape have made farming difficult. The state does have a large manufacturing industry because of its rich mineral deposits and natural resources. Chemical production, centered in the Charleston area, is West Virginia's most important industry. West Virginia's mineral deposits and natural resources include oil, natural gas, timber, clay, limestone, salt, and sand. The state is known for its production of fine glass and its northern panhandle has an important steel industry.
Coal deposits can be found under about two-thirds of West Virginia's land, making it one of the leading producers of soft coal in the country. The soft coal mined from the Appalachian Mountain hillsides is the state's most important natural resource. Coal production has historically been very important to the state's economy. It provides fuel for the state's steel mills and chemical industries.
Even though West Virginia is rich in coal deposits, it is the poorest South Atlantic state and it ranked 48th out of the 50 states in family income in 1989. This is in spite of the state's many attempts to diversify its industries. Appalachia is centered in West Virginia and eastern Kentucky. The area stretches over 13 states and has much rural poverty. In fact, the region has become a symbol of hopeless poverty.
Today, West Virginia's economy is more like that of the rest of the country. The state plans to drastically increase service industry jobs. Software valley, a 35-mile stretch between Clarksburg and Morgantown, could be the future of West Virginia's economy. Recently, $1 billion in major federal facilities has been directed towards the state. Federal government jobs have declined nationally, but have grown by 20 percent in West Virginia.