West Virginia Day

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About West Virginia Day



Wheeling Convention

West Virginia Day is a state holiday celebrated every June 20 in the American state of West Virginia. The day celebrates the anniversary of the creation of the state as a result of the secession of several northwestern counties of Virginia during the American Civil War.

In 1861, as the United States itself became massively divided over regional issues, leading to the American Civil War (1861-1865), the western regions of Virginia split with the eastern portion politically. On June 20, 1863, the western region was admitted to the Union as a new separate state, initially planned to be called the State of Kanawha, but ultimately named West Virginia.

During the Civil War, the Virginia General Assembly in Richmond chose to join the Confederate States of America, much to the chagrin of most of the inhabitants in the trans-Allegheny region of the state who had long expressed their resentment toward the political elites in Richmond. Loyal unionists gradually pushed for the creation of a new state.

In Richmond on April 17, 1861, 30 delegates from the future state of West Virginia voted against the secession of Virginia from the Union. A meeting at Clarksburg recommend that each county in northwestern Virginia send delegates to a convention to meet in Wheeling on May 13, 1861.

During the Second Wheeling Convention on June 11, 1861, delegates adopted "A Declaration of the People of Virginia." The document, drafted by former state senator John S. Carlile, declared that since the Secession Convention had been called without the consent of the people, all its acts were illegal. It further declared the pro-secession government in Richmond void and called for a reorganization of the state government, taking the line that all who adhered to the Ordinance of Secession had effectively vacated their offices. An act for the reorganization of the government was passed on June 19, 1861. On the following day, Francis H. Pierpont was chosen as governor of the "Restored Government of Virginia." The legislature, composed of the members from the western counties who had been elected on May 23, 1861, met at Wheeling on July 1, 1861, filled the remainder of the state offices, completed the reorganization of the state government and elected two United States senators who were recognized by Washington. There were, therefore, two governments claiming to represent all of Virginia, one owing allegiance to the United States and one to the Confederacy.

Williams, J. (2003). West Virginia: A History. Morgantown, WV: West Virginia University Press.

WVRHC & WVU Libraries

The West Virginia and Regional History Center celebrates West Virginia Day by showcasing its collections. The theme is different every year. Depending on the theme, the celebration may include an exhibit in the Center, a commemorative poster giveaway, a reception, keynote speakers, panel discussions, book signings, readings, and viewings. Information, posters, and exhibits from selected West Virginia Day celebrations can be found on the Exhibits webpage.

For more information on West Virginia statehood and Civil War history, see this West Virginia Encyclopedia article and download the WV Commerce Civil War Brochure.