June 20, 1863: West Virginia Enters the Union
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.
They elected their own representatives and senators to Congress and established their own state government of Virginia, with its capital in Wheeling. It was this Restored, or Reorganized, Government of Virginia that gave its constitutional consent for West Virginia to break from Virginia and form a new state.
When Arthur Boreman became West Virginia’s first governor on June 20, 1863, he referred to our state as a “child of the rebellion.” When the Civil War ended nearly two years later, West Virginia was the only permanent change in territory resulting directly from the war.