West Virginia: A State of Change

The Mountaineer State is one of America's most misunderstood places. Mention West Virginia and most people flash to visions of coal mines and poverty. However, modern West Virginia is a mecca for outdoors tourists, history buffs, artists and photographers.

From the Panhandle area in the northeast part of the state where Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia come together, to the mountainous center, to the northwestern finger that points up between Pennsylvania and Ohio, the state offers a huge topographic and cultural variety.

Although the state's major cities are Wheeling, Huntington, Charleston and Martinsburg, one of its best-known communities is Harper's Ferry (shown above), on the Potomac River, site of the infamous John Brown incident in 1859.

At the time, West Virginia still was part of Virginia. It broke away and became a separate state rather than side with the Confederacy during the Civil War.

It was at Harper's Ferry that Brown, a participant in the Underground Railroad that helped escaped slaves flee to the North and a fiery abolitionist who believed in armed action against slavery, and a band of his followers occupied a military aresenal on Oct. 16 and took control of the small town.

Brown hoped to initiate the spread of armed insurrection against slavery throughout the South. However, Col. Robert E. Lee and a group of U.S. Marines arrived that night, retook the town, killed 10 of Brown's 21 men, and took him prisoner. He was tried and found guilty of treason and hanged in nearby Charles Town on Dec. 2.

Today's West Virginia has evolved from a mining-dependent state to a more diversified one. It has used its low cost-of-living, inexpensive energy rates, improving public educational system and low violent-crime rate to attract more industry and commercial transportation. Its long-time senior U.S. senator, Robert Byrd, has been instrumental in moving numerous federal offices and thousands of jobs to the state. And, its varied geography is being used to promote tourism and retirement communities throughout the state.


• Whitewater activity
• Whitewater rafting
• Hiking, biking, skiing, horseback riding trails
• Golfing around the state
• Mountain Bike Association
• Bicycling the state
• West Virginia Bass Federation
• Trout fishing

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