John Heaton (jheaton) wrote,
John Heaton
jheaton

Sesquicentennial

Hay, it's the sesquicentennial of West Virginia becoming a state! On June 20, 1863, West Virginia was admitted to the Union: the first (or possibly second; see below) and probably last time a new state was created from territory that was already a state. Indeed, under ordinary circumstances, it's unconstitutional for a state to be "formed or erected within the Jurisdiction of any other State ... without the Consent of the Legislatures of the States concerned as well as of the Congress." But when Virginia seceded from the Union in 1861, the counties in the strongly pro-Union northwestern corner of the state voted to form a rival government, which President Lincoln immediately recognized as the legitimate government of Virginia. It was that legislature that consented to the formation of the new state two years later.

I visited West Virginia fairly frequently when I lived in Virginia. Most all my visits were to Harper's Ferry or Charles Town, both in Jefferson County, just across the state line from Loudoun County, where I lived. I also passed through Wheeling once or twice driving from Illinois to the DC area, but never bothered to stop. My one other trip to West Virginia was to Fayetteville, down in the south-central part of the state. Why? To see this:

New River Gorge Bridge
Photo via Wikimedia Commons

That's the New River Gorge Bridge, the longest arch bridge and third highest bridge of any type in the U.S. (fourth-longest, 14th highest worldwide) and site of Bridge Day, an annual festival commemorating the opening of the bridge in 1977. Ever year, they close the bridge to vehicles and allow people to BASE jump and rappel from the bridge down to the New River, 876 feet below. I, of course, did neither of those things; I walked across the bridge and admired the scenery and watched people parachuting down to the river and checked out the vendors. It would have been a great way to spend a lovely September day if it hadn't taken eight hours to get there and back. But at least now I can say, "hey, I've been there!" when I get a West Virginia quarter.

ETA: Bruce N. points out below that Maine was part of Massachusetts when the United States was formed. But it's not clear to me whether what's now Maine was officially part of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts the way the Upper Peninsula is officially part of the State of Michigan, or if it was more akin to a territory or administrative district of Massachusetts. Old maps of Massachusetts and Maine suggest the latter, but who knows? Regardless, the Massachusetts legislature had to grant the residents of Maine permission to hold a statehood vote, so the distinction is academic.
 
Tags: history, travel, virginia: loudoun county, west virginia
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