The state of West Virginia, which once formed a unit with Virginia, is now best known for its mining, labor disputes and comparative poverty.

West Virginia, popularly known as “The Mountain State”, is a state in the eastern United States. The capital and largest city is Charleston.

Geographical location and population of West Virginia

West Virginia borders the states of Virginia, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Maryland. The state in its entirety lies in the middle of the Appalachian mountain system, which is what earned it its nickname. Around 1,800,000 people live here on an area of around 63,000 km² (as of 2016). Around 94% of the population are white (as of 2019). Traditionally, the state’s population is one of the poorest in the United States. Only Mississippi is still behind West Virginia (as of 2015).

The history of West Virginia

West Virginia was a part of Virginia until the American Civil War from 1861 to 1865. Long-smoldering political differences between the rich, politically dominant plantation owners and the poor small farmers broke out with the outbreak of the Civil War. When Virginia separated from the Union, the western counties took the opportunity to break away from their mother state in April 1861. Coal mining was and is an important industry in the region. For many years, however, the profits from the rich coal and wood deposits bypassed the population and only benefited individual monopoly trusts. Growing exploitation and oppression of the workers led to the “mining wars”, heavy labor struggles,

West Virginia in Modern Times

Through its strong trade unions, West Virginia was actually traditionally politically linked to the democratic camp. The U-turn came in the 2012 elections, when over 60% of the population voted Republican. In the presidential elections in November 2016, 68% supported the Republican candidate. This meant the highest percentage of votes for Donald Trump in the country. In his famous song “Take Me Home, Country Roads”, the folk singer John Denver set a musical memorial to the state with the bad image. Since March 2014, the song has been the official anthem of West Virginia.

West Virginia State Bird and Flower

Largest Counties in West Virginia by Area

According to Countryaah, the biggest counties in West Virginia are listed as below:

Ranking County Area
1 Randolph County 2,694 km2
2 Greenbrier County 2,644 km2
3 Pocahontas County 2,435 km2
4 Kanawha County 2,339 km2
5 Pendleton County 1,808 km2
6 Fayette County 1,720 km2
7 Nicholas County 1,681 km2
8 Preston County 1,678 km2
9 Hampshire County 1,663 km2
10 Raleigh County 1,572 km2
11 Hardy County 1,510 km2
12 Webster County 1,440 km2
13 McDowell County 1,386 km2
14 Braxton County 1,331 km2
15 Wayne County 1,311 km2
16 Boone County 1,303 km2
17 Wyoming County 1,298 km2
18 Roane County 1,254 km2
19 Grant County 1,235 km2
20 Monroe County 1,225 km2
21 Jackson County 1,207 km2
22 Logan County 1,176 km2
23 Ritchie County 1,176 km2
24 Lincoln County 1,134 km2
25 Mason County 1,119 km2
26 Mingo County 1,096 km2
27 Mercer County 1,088 km2
28 Tucker County 1,085 km2
29 Harrison County 1,077 km2
30 Lewis County 1,008 km2
31 Wood County 951 km2
32 Monongalia County 935 km2
33 Summers County 935 km2
34 Wetzel County 930 km2
35 Upshur County 919 km2
36 Putnam County 896 km2
37 Clay County 886 km2
38 Barbour County 883 km2
39 Gilmer County 881 km2
40 Mineral County 850 km2
41 Berkeley County 831 km2
42 Doddridge County 829 km2
43 Marion County 803 km2
44 Marshall County 795 km2
45 Cabell County 730 km2
46 Calhoun County 728 km2
47 Tyler County 668 km2
48 Wirt County 603 km2
49 Morgan County 593 km2
50 Jefferson County 544 km2
51 Taylor County 448 km2
52 Pleasants County 339 km2
53 Ohio County 275 km2
54 Brooke County 231 km2
55 Hancock County 215 km2


Charleston has been the capital of the US state West Virginia since 1885 and not only impresses with its beautiful nature. As the largest city in the state, Charleston is also the economic, political and cultural center of West Virginia.

Fast facts

The city of Charleston is located in southwest West Virginia at the confluence of the Elk and Kanawha Rivers. It extends over a total area of ​​84.7 km² and is the largest city in West Virginia with around 50,000 residents, but still has the charm of a small town.


Charleston’s history dates back to the 18th century. In 1773 the Bullitt family acquired 505 acres of land at the mouth of the Elk River. In 1787 they sold it to Colonel George Clendenin, who built the first permanent settlement there called Fort Lee. Six years later, in 1794, the place Charles Town was officially founded, which was named after Clendenin’s father Charles. At that time the place had around 35 residents. Thanks to many raw materials and mineral resources, the region around Charleston was particularly valuable.

During the Civil War, the western counties of Virginia remained loyal to the Union and separated from the rest of Virginia in 1863, making West Virginia the 35th state to join the United States. At first, West Virginia could not agree on a capital city. So Charleston and Wheeling alternated again and again. It was not until 1885 that Charleston became a permanent capital.


Charleston’s economic boom began in the early 19th century with the discovery of brine on the Kanawha River. This is how the Kanawha Salines near Charleston became the world’s leading salt producer. In 1815 natural gas was also added. Two years later, coal was also discovered for the first time.

Today the city is the economic, political and cultural center of West Virginia. The economy is mainly characterized by the chemical and glass industries. However, the electricity industry, printing plants and tourism also play an important role for the region.

Tourist Attractions

Due to the idyllic location on the river and its surrounding hilly landscape, Charleston offers something for every outdoor fan, from skiing to white water rafting to climbing. Visitors with a less adventurous spirit can also admire numerous historical buildings here. Special sights of the city are:

  • West Virginia State Capitol
  • West Virginia State Museum
  • Town Center Mall
  • Clay Center for the Arts & Sciences
  • Downtown Charleston Historical District
  • Kanawha State Forest