West Virginia History Timeline

By | May 12, 2022

The area of ​​North America was originally inhabited by the Adena Culture, or (Bund Builders.) They have lived here for thousands of years, and remnants of their fascinating culture remain to this day.
Beginning in the 1670s, European adventurers crossed the Appalachians into what was then the western province of the Virginia Colony ; land originally granted (or given) by the King of England to a series of his friends.

By the mid-1740s, this undeveloped land (across the mountains) was being leased to European immigrants, and in some cases, sold. German settlers (settlers)from Pennsylvania began to live along the southern branch of the Potomac River – and although the Native Americans and the French resisted – the pioneers continued to approach.

During this general period of time, Britain and France continued their struggle for dominance across North America. The resulting French and Indian War (1754-1763) caused the first settlements in West Virginia to be abandoned and destroyed as the British dealt heavy blows to the French and their Indian allies.

Although victorious against the French, the British were plunged into war debt. King of England, in a creative way to pay off that debt, decided to raise tax monies from his new colonies, and that decision was the origin of the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783).

During that war, the small number of remaining settlers in West Virginia were generally active patriots, and many served in the Continental Army.

As England and the American colonists clashed over ownership of what would become the United States of America, the Native Americans joined the British side. Nearly a year after the main British army surrendered at Yorktown, Virginia, in 1781, bloody battles with the Indians continued in West Virginia, including a major conflict at Fort Henry (modern Wheeling).

After the American Revolution, aggressive settlement began on the frontier lands west of Allegan. At first, the pioneers settled along major rivers before moving further west, and by the turn of the century there were almost 60,000 in the territory.

As West Virginia continued to develop, divisions increased, and tensions between the western and eastern provinces of Virginia reached fever pitch, especially over such issues as slavery, taxation, and equal government representation in Richmond.

Opposition to southern slavery in West Virginia was made famous by the raid on the federal arsenal at Harper’s Ferry, led by abolitionist John Brown. Slavery and the Rights of the States fueled the desire for independence across the South, and those issues were the primary catalyst for America’s bloody Civil War (1861–1865). When Virginia seceded from the Union in early 1861 and joined the Confederacy, most West Virginia citizens chose to stay with the Union, thus declaring their own independence.

Because of this brave and controversial decision, the two were never reconciled as the only state again. The Western Region, after its refusal to secede was finally approved by the Supreme Court of the United States, was subsequently admitted to the Union on June 20, 1863, as a separate state. Officially named West Virginia, the 35th State’s chosen motto – “Climbers Always Free” – certainly says it all.

Timeline of West Virginia

1600s

  • (1607) Colony of Virginia established by England
  • (1669) German John Lederer and companions reached the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains, became the first Europeans to see (current) West Virginia; French explorer, Robert de la Salle, explored the Ohio River made by landings at sites in (current) West Virginia
  • (1671) Thomas Batts and Robert Fallam led an English expedition, claiming land for England

1700s

  • (1712) Baron Christopher Degreffenreid sought land for Swiss families in East Panhandle
  • (1722) Families were allowed to live without rent for ten years on land owned by the state; Iroquois Indians surrendered claims to lands south of the Ohio River, included areas in East Panhandle
  • (1725) Fur traders explored the western Appalachians; northern West Virginia explored by trader John Van Nen
  • (1730) Land grants in West Virginia made to Isaac and John Van Meter
  • (1731) Welshman Morgan Morgan established the first settlement in West Virginia near Bunker Hill
  • (1732) German, Welsh, Scotch-Irish pioneers settled in West Virginia
  • (1742) Coal discovered in Coal River; first iron furnace built on the Shenandoah River
  • (1744) Indians of the Six Countries ceded territory to the English between the Ohio River and the Alleghenies
  • (1748) George Washington considered land in west Virginia for Lord Fairfax; Harpers Ferry began passenger service across the Shenandoah River
  • (1754 – 1763) French and Indian War took place
  • (1755) General Braddock led an army through the counties of West Virginia enroute to Pittsburgh, defeated by the French and Indians; settlement of Draper Meadows in New River area attacked by Shawnee Indians, nearly all settlers killed or captured
  • (1763) British government banned occupation of land west of Allegan
  • (1768) Iroquois ceded lands north of the Little Canoha River to the British in the Treaty of Stanwix; first flood of the Ohio River recorded
  • (1771) Natural gas discovered in Kanawha Valley
  • (1772) George Clark explored Ohio, Kanawha rivers
  • (1774) William Morris Sr. became first a permanent English settler in the parish of Kanauha; The Battle of Point Pleasant between Virginia settlers, militia and Indian tribes took place, the Virginians won, the Indians abandoned most of the disputed territory
  • (1776) West Virginians petitioned Continental Congress for separate government
  • (1777) Indian military summary; Chief Cornstalk, his son Chief Red Hawk killed by whites at Fort Randolph
  • (1782) Battle of Fort Henry at Wheeling called “the last battle of the Revolutionary War”; Fort Henry attacked by Indians and British
  • (1784) Mason Dixon Line settled on as border of Virginia, Pennsylvania
  • (1791) Daniel Boone chose a delegate to the Virginia Assembly
  • (1794) Indian attacks stopped at Fallen Timbers by Wayne’s “Mad Anthony”

1800s

  • (1806) First salt well drilled in the Great Kanawha Valley
  • (1810) West Virginia objected to unequal representation in the Virginia legislature; oil discovered
  • (1815) National first national gas well discovered in Charlestown by James Wilson
  • (1818) Cumberland (National) Road, completed from Cumberland, Maryland to Wheeling; first commercial coal mine near Fairmont opened
  • (1829) Counties west of Allegan objected to constitution that approved slave-holding counties
  • (1830) The Wheeling Gazette proposed splitting west Virginia from east Virginia
  • (1831) Slavery debate increased political divisions
  • (1833) 23 killed in one day by a cholera epidemic
  • (1835) John Templeton, John Moore, Stanley Cuthbert, Ellen Ritchie accused of teaching blacks
  • (1836) First railroad reached Harpers Ferry
  • (1847) First telegraph line in the state reached Wheeling
  • (1849) Wheeling Bridge finished
  • (1852) B&O Railroad from Baltimore to Wheeling completed (was the longest railroad in the world – 370 miles)
  • (1854) Wheeling Bridge destroyed by high winds
  • (1859) Abolitionist John Brown conducted raids on the federal arsenal at Harper’s Ferry to end slavery; John Brown hung in Charleston
  • (1861 – 1865) civil war started
  • (1861) West Virginia refused to secede from Union separated from Virginia; West Virginia sent 32,000 Union Army soldiers, 10,000 to the Allies; first a civil war land battle was fought in Philippi; The Wheeling convention met, called the western part of Virginia Kanohi; Allied troops burned the town of Guyandotte; Wheeling Agreement reopened, named new state of West Virginia
  • (1862) Voters approved new constitution for West Virginia; a new legislature petitioned the US Congress for admission of statehood; Allied troops defeated Allies at Lewisburg; a law passed by the West Virginia Senate allowed for the gradual emancipation of slaves; Battle of Charleston took place, city occupied by Allied troops

West Virginia History