Appalachia, Kanawha, Vandalia, The Mountain State...the list of names used to describe West Virginia, and the various regions within the state is seemingly endless. Still whether you come from Mon County, the Northern or Eastern Panhandle, The Kanawha Valley, the Southern Coalfields or somewhere in between, we're all West Virginians. But we almost weren't!
Rick Steelhammer from the Charleston Gazette Mail used his column earlier last month to give his readers an entertaining history lesson on our state's name.
On this day in 1861, delegates gathered in Wheeling where they would convene a Constitutional Convention the following day and, in short order, reject some truly bad choices for the name of what would become the nation’s 35th state.
One of the first orders of business facing delegates to the November gathering was voting on Section One of the Committee on Fundamental and General Provisions, spawned several months earlier at the second session of the Second Wheeling Convention. Section One stated that “The State of Kanawha Shall be and remain one of the United States of America. The Constitution of the United States and the laws and treaties made in pursuance thereof, shall be supreme laws of the land” in the new state of Kanawha as well.
Voters had earlier approved the name “Kanawha” and the delegates meeting in November were charged solely with voting on whether or not the new state with the strange sounding name should be formed from the western counties of Virginia. But they apparently could not resist getting involved in a name game of their own for the new state before getting down to the business of authorizing its creation.
When the matter came up for a vote on Dec. 3, Delegate Harmon Sinsel of Taylor County immediately moved to strike “Kanawha” as the name for the new state. When Delegate P.G. Van Winkle of Wood County asked to hear “some reason, if any, why this name is not a good one,” he got an earful.