Happy Birthday, West Virginia!

What a wonderful childhood I had growing up in West Virginia in spite of the chemical plants that kept our Kanawha Valley stinky year round (they are now gone). West Virginia became a state on June 20, 1863. My graduate school transcript from Michigan State University still lists my home state as Virginia. I shake my head in amazement that 158 years later many people still do not know there is a state called WEST Virginia.

West Virginia was the only state to form by separating from a Confederate state to become one of the Union states. It and Nevada were the only two states admitted to the Union during the Civil War. West Virginia finally abolished slavery in February 1865. The main sources of income for the first 150 years were coal mining and chemical plants. With the closure of most of those, a variety of other jobs has kept older people in the state. Among the 50 states, West Virginia now has the highest number of retired residents.

West Virginia has over 1000 named mountains of which the most popular are the Alleghany, the Appalachian (of which the Blue Ridge Mountains are a part), and the Cumberland. To WV natives, they are referred to as hills since the highest point in the state is Spruce Knob at an elevation of a mere 4,863 feet.

This beautiful state is also known for a wide range of outdoor recreational opportunities. Tourists visit popular spots to enjoy whitewater rafting, fishing, hiking, backpacking, mountain biking, rock climbing, hunting, the popular SnowShoe Resort for skiing, the New River Gorge, and the beautiful state parks and forests, rivers and falls.

Prior to writing the song, “Country Roads,” Bill Danoff and his wife, Taffy Nivert had never been in West Virginia, but when playing it later for John Denver, together they changed the lyrics to fit.  The song was an immediate hit for West Virginians and has been played at every West Virginia University Football game since 1972 as their theme song. In 2017, the West Virginia Tourism Office even obtained the rights to the song to boost their marketing. Listen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oTeUdJky9rY

On this birthday of my home state, I remember well the words of our state song. They are even more meaningful to me since I’ve lived away from there for more than 57 years.  Check them out:

West Virginia Hills

1. Oh, the West Virginia hills! How majestic and how grand with their summits bathed in glory like our Prince Immanuel’s Land! Is it any wonder then that my heart with rapture thrills as I stand once more with loved ones on those West Virginia hills?


Oh, the hills, beautiful hills! How I love those West Virginia hills! If o’er sea o’er land I roam, still I’ll think of happy home and my friends among the West Virginia hills.

2. Oh, the West Virginia hills where my childhood hours were passed. Where I often wandered lonely, and the future tried to cast. Many are our visions bright, which the future ne’er fulfills; but how sunny were my daydreams on those West Virginia hills!

3. Oh, the West Virginia hills! How unchang’d they seem to stand with their summits pointed skyward to the Great Almighty’s Land! Many changes I can see which my heart with sadness fills; but no changes can be noticed In those West Virginia hills.

4. Oh, the West Virginia hills! I must bid you now adieu. In my home beyond the mountains I shall ever dream of you. In the evening time of life, if my Father only wills, I shall still behold the vision of those West Virginia hills. (Words by Mrs. Ellen King; Music by H. E. Engle) Listen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7QG2yMkFlSo

Happy Birthday to my beautiful home state… and to my first cousin James “Jim” Hively, who was born on WV Day in 1941.

P.S. Wondering about the three crosses you see along the highway in WV and surrounding states? Read the history here: https://activerain.com/blogsview/66512/three-crosses-along-the-highway

updated June 2021