Happy 149th Birthday West Virginia!

As West Virginia celebrates its 149th birthday today, we thought we would take a closer look at the Mountain State and some of the symbols that represent it. West Virginia’s state flag was adopted in 1929, and the images on it frame the culture of the state very well. The flag features two men, a miner and a farmer, representing the flat farmlands located on the east and west sides of the state and the mountainous mining areas that make up the middle.  Below the men are two rifles, a symbol of our mountain heritage. The flag features the WV state motto, “MONTANI SEMPER LIBERI”,which translates to “Mountaineers Are Always Free”.

State Symbols

Every state has its symbols, and West Virginia is no different.

The WV State Animal is the black bear (scientifically known as Ursus americanus). Black bears are found all over the state, but due to their solitary nature they like remote areas like those you’ll find in and around the New River Gorge. They are omnivores and will eat some meat, but prefer berries, fruits, nuts, roots, insects and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, so don't leave your picnic basket unattended.

The WV State Bird is the cardinal, an easily identifiable bird due to its deep red color and bright red pointed crest on its head. The cardinal is found throughout the eastern US. It got its name from early American settlers who were reminded of the bright red robes worn by Catholic cardinals. These birds do not migrate, so they can be seen in West Virginia all year long.

The WV State Flower is the rhododendron. It is a genus of woody plants, containing over 1,000 species. Rhododendron catawbiense is the species found in the Mountain State; it is the most widespread species of rhododendron found in the Appalachians.  Its flower is a beautiful purplish pink, and you’ll find it in abundance in the New River Gorge. Grandview Parkis a great place to visit when the rhododendron are in bloom.

The WV State Tree is the sugar maple, or “Acer saccharum” for you scientific types. This deciduous tree is native to the hardwood forests of northeastern North America. It is one of the most shade tolerant of the large deciduous trees. That’s why it prospers here in WV under our dense hardwood canopy. The sugar maple gives our fall forests that bright yellow color.

West Virginia Firsts 

Yes, West Virginia was the 35th state to be admitted to the Union, but that doesn't mean that we haven't had some “firsts” in our history. Here's some WV firsts you may not have known about:

  • The first and only state created by seceding from a Confederate state.
  • The first and only state in the Union to have acquired its sovereignty by proclamation of the President of the United States.
  • The first 4-H camp in the US was at Jackson's Mill.
  • The first state sales tax in the US went into effect in West Virginia, July 1, 1921.
  • The first Mother's Day was observed at Andrews Church in Grafton on May 10, 1908.
  • The first federal prison exclusively for women in the United States was opened in 1926 in West Virginia
  • The first brick street in the world was laid in Charleston, West Virginia, on October 23, 1870.
  • The first major land battle fought between Union and Confederate soldiers in the Civil War was the Battle of Philippi on June 3, 1861.
  • The first rural free mail delivery was started in Charles Town on October 6, 1896, and then spread throughout the United States.

So Happy Birthday West Virginia! You look pretty good for 149 years old.

How did you celebrate West Virginia Day?