First Wheeling Convention

WV statehood
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

On June 20, 1863, West Virginia entered the Union as the nation’s 35th state. It was the end of an unprecedented ladder to statehood that began with the outbreak of the Civil War.

Although some Western Virginians had been frustrated with the Virginia state government in Richmond for decades, it took Virginia’s secession from the Union in April 1861 to get the West Virginia statehood process moving.

Crafty politicians—now remembered as our founders—used Virginia’s secession as an excuse to create a separate government of Virginia—one that remained loyal to the Union.

Waitman T. Willey
e-WV Encyclopedia / WV State Archives (WVSA)

On May 13, 1861, political leaders, mostly from northwestern Virginia, gathered in Wheeling to address Virginia’s recent secession from the Union. At the start of the Civil War in April, delegates to the Virginia secession convention in Richmond had voted to leave the Union and join the Confederacy. However, the measure wouldn’t become official until voters approved it later in May.