August 5, 1863: Berkeley Co. Admitted to New State of WV

Berkeley County, West Virginia

On August 5, 1863, the West Virginia Legislature voted to admit Berkeley County officially into West Virginia. Three months later, the legislature also admitted Berkeley’s neighbor, Jefferson County.

Earlier in 1863, residents of the two counties had voted to join the new state. The vote was curious, though—to say the least—because Berkeley and Jefferson had been decidedly pro-Southern in their political leanings, with closer ties to the Shenandoah Valley and Virginia.

However, at the time of the vote, the United States Army was in control of both Berkeley and Jefferson. These Union soldiers helped ensure that mostly pro-West Virginia voters went to the polls and intimidated most pro-Virginians from voting.

After the Civil War ended, the Virginia General Assembly passed an act that claimed Berkeley and Jefferson back from West Virginia. But Congress sided with West Virginia and ruled that Berkeley and Jefferson were part of the 35th state. Virginia argued the case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which, in 1871, also took West Virginia’s side, ruling that Berkeley and Jefferson counties are permanent parts of the Mountain State.