West Virginia does, in fact, have an amazing history. Residents of Berkeley and Jefferson counties might have a unique perspective on that history though.
Many of those old Berkeley and Jefferson County families and their descendants trace their roots deep into old Virginia and those ties remain strong today. When the state was formed in 1863, the two easternmost counties were not “officially” a part of it. There was a provision for them (and other counties) to become a part of the new state, but they were not legally and undeniably within the boundaries of West Virginia until about seven years later.
Even today, the economies and the people of Berkeley and Jefferson counties are more tied to Virginia and Maryland than to West Virginia. We don’t have a local economy based on coal or reliant upon natural resources as most of the rest of the state.
Many residents work in either Virginia or Maryland, or even Pennsylvania or Washington, D.C. They are more “Atlantic” in their orientation. We are closer to at least three state capitals and our national capital than we are to Charleston.
A closer look at history may, in fact, show that for those past generations who have lived in the easternmost counties, there has long been a sense of isolation. One offer of the proof of this might be the number of Berkeley and Jefferson residents who have been elected to Congress or the U.S. Senate – or even governor of the state. It is a short list.
However, Berkeley and Jefferson counties are a part of West Virginia. We may be often referred to as the “other part” of the state, but we celebrate 150 years of statehood along with the rest of West Virginia. “Mountaineers are always free.” May they forever be.
— Don Silvius grew up in South Berkeley. He works at Shenandoah University in Winchester, Va., and volunteers as a researcher with the Berkeley County Historical