On October 17, 1785, the Virginia General Assembly established Morgan’s Town. It was named for Zackquill Morgan, the son of pioneer Morgan Morgan. Zackquill had settled in the area in 1771 and laid out the town in 1783.
In the early days, Morgantown, as it became known, consisted primarily of what is now the city’s downtown. It featured a few water-powered businesses and was a jumping-off point for boat builders heading north to Pittsburgh. The town began to take off with the founding of the West Virginia Agricultural College in 1867. Renamed West Virginia University the following year, the school would become the centerpiece of Morgantown.
In 1886, the arrival of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad sparked a regional boom in coal, oil, and gas. It also gave rise to Morgantown’s glass industry and the American Sheet and Tin Plate Company, both of which attracted an influx of immigrants.
Today, thanks in large part to the university, Morgantown is one of the state’s fastest-growing cities. In 2012, it had about 31,000 residents, placing it in a virtual tie with Parkersburg as West Virginia’s third-largest city.