20 Facts You Didn’t Know About West Virginia

West Virginia is known for its scenic mountain beauty, unmatched outdoor recreation opportunities and the friendliest folks in the country. But did you know that nearly 80% of the state is covered by forests? Or that the state’s youngest & oldest governor are the same person? Here are 20 facts you may not have known about this slice of heaven:

  1. Let’s start with the fact that it almost wasn’t named West Virginia. The state was originally going to be named “Kanawha” to honor a Native American tribe; however,  after its succession from the Commonwealth of Virginia, officials still wanted Virginia to be part of its name.
  2. West Virginia is the only state completely within the Appalachian Mountain range, aptly given the nickname the Mountain State.
  3. North America’s largest alluvial diamond was found in Peterstown. It is known as the Punch Jones Diamond after William “Punch” Jones and his father Grover found the diamond in 1928.
  4. Outdoor advertising got its start in Wheeling when the Bloch Brothers Tobacco Company painted bridges and barns with “Treat Yourself to the Best, Chew Mail Pouch.”
  5. The first rural free delivery mail service took place in 1896 in Charles Town through the Post Office Department’s pilot program to determine the feasibility for rural delivery for the rest of the country.
  6. Harrisville is home to America’s oldest dime store, Berdine’s Five and Dime, which has been continuously operating since 1908.
  7. Cecil Underwood made history in 1956 when he became the state’s youngest governor at 34 – then again in 1996 when he became the state’s oldest governor after being reelected at 74.
  8. West Virginia is the third most forested state. In fact, the Monongahela National Forest covers nearly a million acres of land and spans across 10 counties.
  9. West Virginia is comparable in size to both Latvia and Lithuania.
  10. Contrary to its name, the New River is actually one of the oldest in the world and unusually flows south to north because it was formed before the mountains.
  11. Standing tall at 292 feet, the State Capitol dome is higher than the dome at the nation’s capital.
  12. West Virginia is located within a day’s drive from 75% of the U.S. population, yet remains an untouched gem among outdoor enthusiasts.
  13. The Golden Delicious Apple originated in Clay County in 1905.
  14. The USS West Virginia was hit during the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 – a date which will live in infamy. The mast from the ship now lives on West Virginia University’s campus, in front of Oglebay Hall.
  15. The first brick street in the world was laid in Charleston on Summers Street.
  16. The Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, a National Historic Landmark, is the largest hand-cut stone masonry building in North America and second in the world to the Kremlin.
  17. The largest sycamore tree in the world was located in Webster Springs until it fell in 2010 when it was estimated to be over 500 years old!
  18. The Phil G. McDonald Bridge in Beckley is the highest truss bridge in the world at 700 feet tall, although it’s often overshadowed by the famous New River Gorge Bridge.
  19. West Virginia was home to the first land battle of the Civil War at the Battle of Philippi in 1861.
  20. You don’t have to travel far to see the world – West Virginia holds the record for having the most towns named after cities in other countries, including Athens, Berlin, Cairo, Calcutta, Geneva and Shanghai.

This post was last updated on April 9, 2020