west virginia PEER REVIEWED

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west virginia PEER REVIEWED Powered By Docstoc
					Trenton Davis

English 102-601

July 30, 2009

Dr. Jun Zhao

                              “A Wild and Wonderful History”

       There are 50 states in the United States, each one with its own history. Every state is

known for at least one major event that helped contribute to the history of our nation.

California had the gold rush, Texas had the Alamo and Virginia was the headquarters of the

Confederacy during the Civil War. Several times while on vacation I’ve had conversations with

folks and naturally the conversations start with where everyone is from. When I tell them I’m

from West Virginia I often (verb) a response similar to, “Oh you mean Western Virginia.” No it’s

West Virginia, and we’ve been a state since 1863. West Virginia has a very rich and interesting

history, and I’m proud to say that’s where I call home.

       In order to fully understand the history of a state we must start at the beginning. By

1863 there were some 29 or 30 states, and West Virginia had not yet become a state. Two

years prior Virginia delegates met to discuss the future of their state due to the fast

approaching Civil War. On June 20, 1863 a boarder was drawn between the western portion of

the state and the rest of Virginia creating the new state of West Virginia. Although the US

constitution states “no new state shall be formed or erected within the jurisdiction of any other

state without the consent of the legislatures as well as the Congress,” West Virginia became a

state anyway without permission from their sister state Virginia. According to the program

officer of the West Virginia Humanities Council Mark Payne “a confluence of social, economic
and political differences fueled the state’s formation” (Fredrickson 49). Once the Civil War

broke out the northern and western counties of Virginia sided with the Union, and the rest

chose the Confederacy causing severe turmoil within the state. Virginia even took to the court

room in attempts to win back some of the land they lost to the development of this new state.

Those attempts failed ultimately making West Virginia’s statehood official.

       Considering the turmoil that the Civil War caused in West Virginia it seems only fitting

that this state’s soil gets christened with the blood of the very men who once lived peacefully

as neighbors. Although West Virginia was not one of the most popular states for battle it was

no stranger to cannon and musket fire. There were several major battles fought at Cheat

Mountain, Rich Mountain, Carnifex Ferry and Harpers Ferry. The most well known being

Harpers Ferry where abolitionist John Brown led a group of raiders throughout the town,

eventually forting themselves up the United States Armory and Arsenal. The goal of Brown and

his followers was to capture the weapons at the arsenal and retreat before Washington could

send reinforcements to the local militia who were attempting to bring the raid to a halt. Brown

was eventually convicted of treason and he was hung in Charles Town on December 2, 1859.

The battle at Rich Mountain was also a major battle, but many reports of the battle prove

untrue. Only those who stood on that mountain know the truth. One eyewitness account came

from William Ballard Bruce who served in the 20th Virginia. In a letter to his father he states “all

the accounts I have read in the papers of our defeat at Rich Mountain and retreat from that

place and Laurel Hill are so utterly untrue” (Tuck 18). All in all there were approximately fifteen

battles and maybe several more small skirmishes fought on West Virginia. I have been to
several of the battle sites such as Harper’s Ferry and Droop Mountain and they were very

interesting, and I support the preservation of battle sites such as those.

       Some twenty years after the war West Virginia had been fairly conflict free but soon a

family feud erupts and both families pay a heavy price. The two families involved were the

Hatfield’s spearheaded by William Anderson “Devil Anse” Hatfield and the McCoys lead by

Randolph “Ol Ranel” McCoy. Both families lived on the boarder of the Tug Fork River, the

Hatfields on the West Virginia side and the McCoys on the Kentucky side. Since the families

lived so close together, and each had large families of boys there was some hostility between

them. One cause of hostility was that Johnse Hatfield, son of Devil Anse, was having an affair

the daughter of Ol Ranel, Rose Ann McCoy. Another contributing factor was a lawsuit filed over

some pigs. The Hatfields eventually won the lawsuit. However, it was one fateful Election Day in

Kentucky that put the feud in motion. A quarrel flared up between several Hatfields and

McCoys and once the gun smoke settled Ellison Hatfield lay dead on the ground. The three

McCoys responsible for the killing were arrested and ordered to the Pikeville Jail. En route to

the jail The McCoy boys were captured by Devil Anse and his entourage. The boys were held

hostage only long enough for the Hatfields to plan their execution. Soon after the McCoy boys

were shot to death. Violence ensued for sometime after and only when the two “Godfathers”

were old and nearly familyless did they quit fighting.(Transititon)

       West Virginia is a large producer of coal and for that reason it has been home to many

uprisings from disgruntled miners. Miners pushed for better living conditions and increased

wages. Matewan, West Virginia was the host to a bloody gunfight between local law
enforcement, disgruntled miners and Baldwin Felts Detectives. In May 1920, miners were laid

off and then replaced with black and Italian workers. Baldwin Felts detectives were sent to

Matewan to guard company property and keep the peace at a very hostile time. The sheriff of

Matewan was Sid Hatfield who was a part of the notorious Hatfield clan. When the Baldwin

Felts agents and mine owners attempted to take control of the town Hatfield, and the

townspeople took up arms to protect their home. A gunfight erupted and at the end two

miners, the Mayor and seven Baldwin Felts agents lay dead. Sid Hatfield was a hero. After the

gunfight Hatfield is asked to appear in court on charges of murder. As Hatfield walks up the

courthouse steps, unarmed, he is gunned down. The death of Sid Hatfield was a tragedy not

only for Matewan and its residents but also for all the coal miners and residents of West

Virginia alike. (Transition)

        In addition to its bloody past West Virginia also has many tourist attractions and

beautiful scenery wherever you go. It is a culmination of many things that shaped this state into

what it is today. Through the Civil Wars, the family feuds and the mine wars West Virginians

have triumphed. We have overcome tragedy and strife and will continue to handle anything

that comes our way. West Virginia is truly wild and wonderful and we are open for

business.(add something that relates to the thesis)

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