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West Virginia Colleges

West Virginia Colleges


West Virginia was a part of the Commonwealth of Virginia until the outbreak of the Civil War.  The forty western counties that opposed secession formed their own government and were granted statehood in 1863.  West Virginia is an extremely mountainous state resting almost entirely on the Appalachian plateau.  It has the highest mean altitude (1500 feet) of any state east of the Mississippi.  The state is seventy five percent covered with hardwood forest, which has been an important economic resource for them.  More important in their economic history, however, has been coal. 


It was first discovered in the West Virginia mountains in 1742 and has been a contributor to the economy since the state was formed.  At one time it was the primary state export and there is a long history of labor strife in the state’s mines.  It is still an important resource, accounting for fifteen percent of the nation’s coal.  Today however the economy is greatly diversified and the state is pumping oil as well as shoveling coal.  Steel, glass, aluminum and chemicals are among their other industrial products.


Charleston is the state’s capital and the largest city with a population of 60,000.  It is the commercial hub of the heavily industrialized Kanawha Valley where chemicals, steel pipe and plating, machinery and concrete are moved through the city and out of the area.  Huntington is the second largest city with a population of 55,000 people.  It was founded as the western terminus of the Chesapeake & Ohio RR and named for the C&O's president. It is a commercial center and a river port that ships bituminous coal as well as rail yards for coal and other products.  Marshall University is located in Huntington.


The mountains and forests of West Virginia have served to help develop a tourist industry.  More than a million acres have been set aside in 37 state parks and recreation areas and in 9 state forests and 2 national forests.  The natural beauty of the area is augmented by a number of historical sites within the state. 


As a part of Virginia for one hundred fifty years or more, there are historical elements to the area that are important.  In 1818 it became the western terminus for the National Road.  Wheeling West Virginia was the site of one of the final battles in the Revolutionary War, when a raiding party of British troops and Native American warriors was driven off. 


Harper’s Ferry played a number of historical roles preceding and during the Civil War.  Antislavery zealot John Brown was captured there.  It was the U.S. Arsenal in the early 19th century; Stonewall Jackson’s corps overran it when Lee’s Army of the Potomac crossed the river there, making its way into Maryland and ultimately to face McClellan’s Union Army at Antietam in the Civil War’s most bloody single day.  Today it is but one of West Virginia’s parks.


West Virginia University is in Morgantown.  Tuition there is reasonable for residents and about $14,000 per year for non-resident undergraduates. There are not a lot of higher education institutions to choose from in the Mountain State; your computer might be the best school you can find depending on your needs.

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