How West Virginia got its name
CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – June 20 is West Virginia Day. The day is set aside for the celebration of the state’s entry into the union in 1863. But, before becoming a state, the state wanting to break with the Confederate state, Virginia, had to stop. agreement on a name.
In December 1861, delegates working on a state constitution rose to the challenge.
“They had to have a name for the state, so the original proposal to Wheeling was Kanawha state,” says Kevin Barksdale, professor at Marshall University.
Some delegates – especially those from the Kanawha Valley argued for Kanawha – but other parts of the state were not enthusiastic.
“The classic is that it’s hard to spell and pronounce – but there are other arguments like, ‘well we already have a county and a Kanawha river, wouldn’t that be confusing? “”
Although many delegates insisted the name was irrelevant – the debate focused on more than half a dozen far-reaching options.
Some of today’s delegates had other ideas about what they would call the state.
“I would have voted for Vandalia. It’s a separate name. It would have separated us forever from our sister state which we now call “East Virginia”, that would have been my vote, ”said delegate Roger Hanshaw.
Delegate Larry Rowe said, “Delegate from Monongalia said you can’t spell or pronounce Kanawha so we shouldn’t use it, but I disagree and think Kanawha would have been a very good one. last name.
Delegate John Williams said he would have voted for Monogalia. He also added: “… this area was usually called Augusta, and that’s the name of my great ma-maw, so I have to show my great ma-maw some love and go with Augusta.”
“I would have gone with New Virginia. I mean we were a new state, there was some other ‘news’ already, I think that would make sense, ”said delegate Caleb Hanna.
Many of today’s delegates say they would have liked a name to better separate us from Virginia, but in 1861 there was a desire to maintain ties with the old state. Many delegates had strong family and business ties to the East, and others said they wanted to retain their part of Virginia’s revolutionary history.
“Essentially whether or not you think the name ‘Virginia’ should be included in the new state really reveals the split within the proposed new state on what that new state will look like?” Barksdale explained.
Part of that feeling exists today.
“They think we’re close to Richmond or we’re still part of Virginia and there is a bit of confusion, so on the list you have here, I would choose New Virginia,” said delegate John Hardy.
“If I was a delegate in 1861, I absolutely would have to choose Best Virginia,” says delegate Sean Hornbuckle.
“I would have chosen Best Virginia. I do not know. It’s just how I feel. I lived in Virginia, I grew up in Virginia and it is my determination, ”says delegate Amy Summers.
In the end, a compromise was reached on a 30-14 vote. “West Virginia” was the choice.