Western Virginia Takes an Early Stand

Monday, November 12, 1860

West Virginia wouldn’t become its own state (and then part of the Union) until the summer of 1863, however, its stripes were already showing.

Preston County, just across the border of the Maryland panhandle, was in a quandary over where their allegiance should lie. Would they go with Virginia, should she secede? Or would they remain with the Union? Virginia was not like South Carolina or Georgia. The secession fever had not yet taken the cities by storm. Still, there were some who were calling for it and eventually it would have to be dealt with.

Preston County was the first county to address it. Before Virginia held their conventions – before they even thought to hold them, Preston County gathered to decide what to do.

And with speed it was settled. During a court session in Kingwood, the county seat, a large crowd had gathered. Speeches were made and opinions fervently expressed. By the end of the meeting, the group unanimously agreed that no matter how the rest of their state would go, they would take an uncompromising and aggressive stand for the Union. Even one of the largest slaveholders in the county, William Zinn, stood firm against secession.1

Thus, the first cracks of disunion were forming, not only in the country, but in the states themselves.

  1. From History of West Virginia: In Two Parts By Virgil Anson Lewis, Hubbard Brothers, 1889. []
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5 thoughts on “Western Virginia Takes an Early Stand

  1. This has always fascinated me. WV is such an odd place in so many ways, I never understood the thinking behind the people who refused to secede. Having grown up and lived so long in WV you’d think I’d get the general cultural feeling– but that place is a mystery.

      1. No, just that I would imagine many would have wanted to. I imagine, as much as I can put myself in such a different place, that I would have been pro-union, but I don’t know. I can imagine being anti-slavery and not pro-union, but again it was such a different time I don’t know.

        It does seem like 1860s WV would have been very Southern, and it’s funny how unique it was.

        1. What became West Virginia did produce some rebels, of course. But, in the “just leave us alone” tradition of West By God, I think the secessionists in eastern Virginia were trying to change things too much for their liking.

          1. I can imagine that the long tradition of “just leave me alone” probably contributed a good bit to this as well. WV has never been a huge proponent of any kind of central power (be it the county seat, Charleston, or even the courthouse in the town) forcing the citizenry to do things they don’t want to do.

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