Author: Kevin T. Barksdale

an assistant professor of history at Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia. He is the author of The Lost State of Franklin: America's First Secession (2009)

The Creation of West Virginia

West Virginia was recognized by the U.S. government as the thirty-fifth state on June 20, 1863, an event that was the culmination of more than sixty years of heated sectional politics and legislative maneuverings. From the first political rumblings of new-state advocates at the turn of the nineteenth century through the formative sessions of the Wheeling conventions held from 1861 until 1863, the creation of West Virginia was a complex and contentious process that divided the residents, communities, and political leaders of Virginia. Spearheaded by northwestern Virginians, the statehood movement began as an effort to expand western political influence and the region’s growing industrial economy. Final approval of West Virginia’s statehood was forged amid the chaos and divisiveness of the secession debate and the bloodshed of the American Civil War (1861–1865).


Francis Harrison Pierpont (1814–1899)

Francis Harrison Pierpont was a lawyer, early coal industrialist, governor of the Restored government of Virginia during the American Civil War (1861–1865), governor of Virginia (1865–1868) during the first years of Reconstruction (1865–1877), and a state senator representing Marion County in West Virginia (1869–1870). Pierpont was an antislavery member of the Whig Party and delegate to the First and Second Wheeling Conventions in 1861, during which Unionist politicians in western Virginia resisted the state’s vote to secede by establishing the Restored government of Virginia. The second convention unanimously elected him governor. Although never actually governor of West Virginia, he is still remembered as one of the state’s founding fathers.