Saturday, August 27, 2016

Wheeling, West Virginia: West Virginia Independence Hall

The road to statehood for West Virginia more or less began here, at a former customs house in downtown Wheeling.

When the Civil War was about to get started, those in the eastern part of Virginia were ready to leave the Union in order to keep slavery going in their part of the world. But some people in the western part of the state didn't particularly like that idea. Therefore, they called a meeting in his particular building. It authorized the counties to start the process to form a new state.

Based on the information passed along here, it sounds like the idea was more or less railroaded through by all concerned. Votes weren't taken in public, and that probably depressed the vote of the losing side. Once the idea was passed along to Washington, President Lincoln was rather anxious to figure out a way to get West Virginia into the union and weaken the South. There were all sorts of Constitutional issues involved, but they were overlooked under the circumstances. Thus, West Virginia became a new state.

The front of the meeting hall is shown here. The second floor has a Governor's office as well as a large collection of flags from the Civil War. The floor has more displays to go with some post office boxes (one of many former uses of the building) and some souvenirs. A statue of Francis Pierpont, who is called "the father of West Virginia" because he led the initial "rebellion," is right outside. Next door has a mural of the June 20, 1861 meeting. 

Admission is free, and the staff member there seemed quite happy to see us. Based on the guestbook, I'm not sure how much company she's had lately. I don't think a lot of people know the story about West Virginia's birth, so this is worth a stop for history buffs.

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