April 17, 1861: The Day West Virginia’s Statehood was Assured


CLARKSBURG, W.Va. – On April 17, 1861, the Virginia Convention voted to secede from the Union. It was that day that West Virginia’s statehood was assured. All that remained was parceling out rebellious counties along the borders of the Old Dominion and the new Mountain State following the South’s defeat in the Civil War.

While counties in the what is now the southeastern portion of West Virginia had a larger number of Confederate sympathizers in 1861, it was in the far reaches of northwest Virginia that supporters of the Union were starting newspapers and planning the region’s secession from Virginia. Leaders such as Francis Harrison Pierpont and others in northern Virginia immediately took the initiative and established the “Reorganized State of Virginia.”

The map of the slave population in Virginia in 1860 reveals the primary reason for the divorce. Counties in what is now Virginia were far more dependent upon slavery. Counties in what is now West Virginia were far less so.

Slave population per county in Virginia, based upon the 1860 census. Public Domain.

For many reasons, numerous Confederates, such as General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson of Clarksburg and Allen Taylor Caperton of Monroe County, who was a member of the Confederate Senate, were on the side of the Lost Cause. It was leaders like Pierpont that chose the right side of history.

© Michael M. Barrick, 2023. Note: all links and photos (except the map) are from e-WV, The online West Virginia Encyclopedia. State seal from Wikipedia.


  1. Hello Michael, I was driving around with a local Bridgeport historian the other day. The goal is offering a historical tour of Bridgeport. I was totally dumbfounded when he said that there were 4-5 unmarked graves of Black persons living here. They had been slaves at one time, as emancipated persons they continued to work with their previous homes. Wonder if there are other unmarked or desecrated black areas in the state! Anyway, enjoying your work. Looking forward to seeing you in Elkins at the Herb Association Spring Gathering! Blessings, Theresa

    “May Light always surround you; Hope kindle and rebound you. May your Hurts turn to Healing; Your Heart embrace Feeling. May Wounds become Wisdom; Every Kindness a Prism. May Laughter infect you; Your Passion resurrect you. May Goodness inspire your Deepest Desires. Through all that you Reach For, May your arms Never Tire.” ― D. Simone ________________________________

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