Today is West Virginia Day (we thought you might want to know). What does that mean? Well, for starters, WV is 149 years old. And though our wild and wonderful state was born in the middle of the Civil War, the actual celebration of such a momentous occasion wasn’t formally recognized until 1927. Rest assured, June 20th has been a day of pride for West Virginians for a near century and a half. Believe it or not, that puts The Mountain State in a pretty exclusive group. Only eight other states legally celebrate their existence with an annual day.
Anyone from West Virginia likely understands something about this state that outsiders will simply never appreciate. Sure, we’ve heard all of the jokes, the cliches, the stereotypes, but unless you’ve spent quality time hear, you really don’t have a clue. West Virginia means something different to any person who’s ever called her home. There’s just something about this place. She gets in your blood, your bones. No matter where you end up, there’s still a piece of her inside of you.
West Virginia also houses an impressive inventory of interesting facts and trivia—certainly too many for this post. But we couldn’t deny you at least some of these gems (as well as some quality photos). After all, it is West Virginia Day. Enjoy.
— Tourism has replaced coal as West Virginia’s leading industry.
— The New River Gorge Bridge, in Fayetteville, is the longest steel-arch bridge in the U.S., spanning 1,815 feet across the New River Canyon.
— West Virginia University played Pitt in the first football game ever broadcast on the radio, in 1921, on KDKA.
— On January 26, 1960, Danny Heater, of Burnsville High School, scored 135 points in a high school basketball game, earning him an entry in the Guinness Book of World Records.
— On May 31, 1992, with the Cold War apparently over, the Washington Post revealed a fact that a small number of West Virginians had largely kept secret for thirty years: Beneath The Greenbrier Resort, at White Sulphur Springs, existed a huge, two-story bunker designed to house the entire United States Congress, and support staff, for forty days in the event of a nuclear attack on the country.
— Towns in West Virginia named after cities in other countries include: Athens, Berlin, Cairo, Calcutta, Geneva, Ghent, Glasgow, Killarney, Lima, London, Moscow, Odessa, Ottawa, Palermo, Rangoon, Santiago, Shanghai, Vienna, and Wellington.
— On September 10, 1938, the Mingo Oak, the largest and oldest White Oak tree in the United States, was declared dead and felled with ceremony. Its age was estimated at 582 years. Additionally, the world’s largest Sycamore tree is located on the Back Fork of the Elk River, in Webster Springs.
— On December 21, 1984, West Virginia University player Georgeann Wells became the first woman to dunk a basketball in a college game. The ball is now in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, MA.
— Chester Merriman, of Romney, is said to have been the youngest soldier of World War I, having enlisted at the age of fourteen.
— Hank Williams, the legendary country music entertainer, apparently died in the back seat of a car traveling the roads of southern West Virginia on New Year’s Day 1953. His chauffeur, unable to rouse him, stopped to get assistance at a Pure Oil Station, at Oak Hill. In 2006, the gas station was demolished, although local residents had hoped to establish a museum in the building that would honor Williams.
— The Lilly Family Reunion, held each year at Flat Top, in Merer County, is said to be the largest family reunion in the United States. It attracts 10,000 guests each summer.
— West Virginia’s state apple is the golden delicious. The state insect is the honeybee. The state butterfly is the Monarch. The state bird is the cardinal. The state animal is the black bear. The state tree is the sugar maple. And the state flower? The rhododendron.
— West Virginia is considered the southern most northern state and the northern most southern state.
— The first federal prison exclusively for women in the United States was opened in 1926 in West Virginia. It boasted a bevy of noteworthy names over the decades, including Martha Stewart in 2004 and 2005.
— One of the nation’s oldest and largest Native American burial grounds is located in Moundsville. It’s sixty-nine feet high and nine hundred feet in circumference at the base.
— The state motto is: “Mountaineers are Always Free.”
— Nearly seventy-five percent of West Virginia is covered by forest, and nearly fifteen percent of the nation’s coal comes out of The Mountain State.
— The first electric railroad in the world, built as a commercial enterprise, was constructed between Huntington and Guyandotte.
— Coal House, the only residence in the world built entirely of coal, is located in White Sulphur Springs. The house was occupied on June 1, 1961.
— The world’s largest shipment of matches (20 carloads, or 210,000,000 matches) was shipped from Wheeling to Memphis, TN, on August 26, 1933.
— The first brick street in the world was laid in Charleston on October 23, 1870, on Summers Street, between Kanawha and Virginia Streets.
Have a great West Virginia Day.