Bob Powell Published

February 7, 1867: West Virginia University Founded

Woodburn Hall, WVU

The state legislature established West Virginia University on February 7, 1867. Morgantown was selected as the site for the federal land-grant institution.

The land-grant movement originated in Civil War-era legislation to support an agriculture college in each state. For a brief time in its beginning, WVU was officially named the Agricultural College of West Virginia.

Land-grant colleges had to emphasize agriculture and the mechanic arts but included other subjects as well.  The college opened its doors in September 1867. Its first class totaled 124, although all but six were at the preparatory level—essentially like a high school.

The school faced many early challenges. There was interference from the state legislature, and faculty turnover was high due to poor pay.

In addition, the university lacked statewide support, particularly from legislators from the southern part of the state, who felt Morgantown was too far north to benefit most West Virginians.

Over time, though, WVU became a statewide institution and much more. It is West Virginia’s leading research institution and helps bond together West Virginians, past and present, around a common identity: that of the self-reliant Mountaineer.