On June 20, 1863, West Virginia became the 35th state admitted to the Union. The land was rugged and huge virgin timber towered over these hills and hollows. Most early settlers staked out the rich fertile bottomlands first. Along these rivers huge virgin oaks, walnuts, yellow poplars, sycamores and other hardwoods grew plentiful in the fertile river bottoms.
On the mountainsides large maples, beech and yellow birch along with thick dense growths of rhododendron dominated the forest. Some of the rhododendron thickets were said to extend for miles and game was even forced to go around them.
On the ridge tops of the higher elevations red spruce trees created a deep dark forest where the moss covered ground never saw a ray of sunlight. Wild game was prevalent and large native brook trout swam in most of the cool running mountain waters.
I often think about what it would have been like to live in these mountains during that time period when I’m walking amongst them. There is great history and stories that also come from these old mountains that fascinate me. My great-grandfather worked for Cherry River Boom and Lumber Company and would tell stories about the massive trees that came out of the South Fork of the Cherry. He would talk about one tree taking up a whole train load. As was the case in the early 1900s, logging was the cause of the destruction of West Virginia’s virgin timber forests.
For those of you who are interested in reading about living in West Virginia during the early 1900s, I recommend “Tumult on The Mountains” by Roy Clarkson, which provides accurate information about early logging operations prevalent across the state during this time period. This book also provides great pictures taken during the early part of the 19th century. “The Last Forest,” by G.D. McNeill, is another great book that talks about living in the Cranberry Wilderness area during the late 1800s and the early 1900s.
West Virginia has provided me with many outdoor adventures that I’ll never forget. Whether it be sitting in my favorite tree stand, or casting flies to rising trout on one of the many fine streams abundant in almost heaven, there is no place I’d rather call home. Sitting on the back porch swing listening to the crickets chirp and the birds sing, admiring the beautiful flowers, I know I’m right where I belong.
I just hope that as West Virginia, and most of the east coast gets built up, there will still be woods to roam and our children will have the same opportunities to chase the wild game that makes this state what it is. The George Washington and Monongahela National forests provide numerous outdoor opportunities.
After all, they claim to be, “The Land of Many Uses.” So far there are too many uses and not enough time to explore all of the country open to the public for you and me as well. It’s nice to know that there is still land that won’t be developed — set aside for future generations to enjoy.
Today, West Virginia celebrates its 149th birthday. I want to take this time and thank this great state for making it the greatest place to live in the United States. Happy birthday, West Virginia, and thank you for everything you have to offer. I just hope that I have many more years to enjoy what makes this place West “by God” Virginia.
Take time to get out and be thankful for the wild and wonderful mountains that make this place live up to its slogan. And show some respect and take care of what has been put here for us to admire. After all, land is getting sparse and the good Lord only made so much. He sure knew what he was doing when he created this place.