I’ve lived in Illinois for decades. And one thing that is often commented on by all of us who live outside of Chicago, whose population is nearing three million, is it could be its own state. Those who live outside of the Cook County area say in jest—or sometimes when political rants get heated and taxes are raised—that the city should become a state. In their opinion, the views and values of the rest of Illinois would be better represented without Chicago. Whether or not that is true, I can’t say, but the lifestyle chasm between rural versus urban culture and political opinions widens greatly the further south you live in the state. As a historical romance writer, I set my stories in post-Civil War settings.
And my research reveals some interesting facts. And my comments about Chicago remind me of brave West Virginia. It is nestled in the Appalachian Mountains and the borders of Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and Kentucky.
It was a key border state during the Civil War. Also, the second state to separate from an existing state. The first was Maine, separating from Massachusetts in 1820. West Virginia is also the second state to become part of the Union, along with Nevada during the Civil War.
West Virginia had been a contested area by many trading companies and the British crown before the Revolutionary War. Some considered it part of Kentucky, others Pennsylvania, but Virginia managed to hold the strongest claim until 1863, when it became its own state. West Virginia was populated with Scots-Irish and German farmers. Because the terrain was too hilly for plantations, few people owned slaves. Most of the citizens in those four counties were opposed to slavery. Like my peers in Illinois today, the Virginians in the western part of the state felt underrepresented.
The Virginia constitution allowed for slaves to be counted as part of the population. The votes of those four counties were often overruled by the rest of the state because of the added, non-eligible voters to their population.
When Virginia seceded from the Union, Francis Pierpont led these counties to set up a separate government referred to as the Restored Government in 1861.
It took until 1863 for the US congress to admit West Virginia as a new state. West Virginia had to amend its constitution to allow for gradual freeing of slaves in order to be part of the Union. The new government would not allow men who were loyal to the confederacy to hold political positions. Those who served in the confederate army were not allowed to vote. There were equal numbers of men who served in both armies. Once they were able to put the war behind them, the laws were changed, allowing confederate veterans to vote.
On March 8, 1866, the United States Congress passed a joint resolution recognizing the rights of the state. Even so, once the war was over, the Supreme Court had to rule on the case of West Virginia vs Virginia. Virginia wanted West Virginia’s statehood declared illegal and the area restored to Virginia.
In 1870, the court ruled in favor of West Virginia. Several decades after Reconstruction, the two states argued in court regarding how much West Virginia should pay toward the pre-war Virginia debt.
In 1915 the Supreme Court ruled West Virginia was to pay $12,393,929. 50 to Virginia. It took until 1939 for the final installment to be paid.
During the Reconstruction, West Virginia’s natural resources were developed. Various minerals were mined, including saltpeter and limestone. In the latter half of the 19th century, coal was a central commodity. West Virginia is called the Mountain State because of its geology. And its motto is Mountaineers are always free. The desire for freedom and the need to govern themselves drove the citizens of West Virginia to claim their statehood.
West Virginia is a great example of the spirit of freedom that was in the heart of the founding fathers. I’ve driven through the Appalachians Mountains of West Virginia and wondered how the early settlers managed the steep hills on horseback and wagons. Surviving the rough terrain must have been what made them strong. Strong enough to stand up against the state of Virginia and declare themselves a sovereign state.
Are any of you from West Virginia or have visited there?
Cindy Ervin Huff is an Award-winning author of Historical and Contemporary Romance. She loves infusing hope into her stories of broken people. She addicted to reading and chocolate. Her idea of a vacation is visiting historical sites and an ideal date with her hubby of almost fifty years would be live theater. Visit her website www.cindyervinhuff.com
Angelina’s Resolve: Book 1 of Village of Women
Proving her skills are equal to a man’s may cost her more than she ever imagined.
Modern-thinking Angelina DuBois is determined to prove her cousin Hiram wrong. He fired her from the architect firm she helped grow when her father’s will left the business to Hiram. Using her large inheritance and architectural degree, she sets out to create a village run by women—Resolve, Kansas.
Carpenter and Civil War veteran Edward Pritchard’s dream of building homes for Chicago’s elite must be put on hold until he gains references. Serving as a contractor under Angelina’s well-known DuBois name provides that opportunity. But can Angelina trust her handsome new carpenter to respect her as his boss? Will the project take Edward one step closer to his goals, or will it make him a laughingstock? Can these two strong-willed people find love amid such an unconventional experiment?