The Times West Virginian

Opinion

June 20, 2013

So much to celebrate as state marks a milestone

West Virginia — a land so beautiful, roots so deep, bonds so strong that they write songs about it.

Oh, the hills, beautiful hills, How I love those West Virginia hills!

And not just one song. In fact, musicians have long sung the praises of the state of West Virginia, and three of them have been designated as the state’s official songs. And the songs don’t stop there. West Virginian musicians have been so in love with their home among the hills that they have had to express their devotion with a catchy melody.

Country roads, take me home to the place I belong.

And some of them catch on — we’ll even forgive a little issue with the geography in the lyrics because the overall message fits so well with our own love affair with the Mountain State.

Today, we celebrate the 150th anniversary of the day West Virginia officially became a state — the first and only state to be created by a presidential proclamation. When Virginia seceded from the union, our forefathers remained loyal to the United States of America. We became the Restored State of Virginia, with Gov. Francis Pierpont leading us through until the official declaration of our own statehood.

Where my roots are so deep, Where my fore-fathers sleep,

Where kin-folks and friends are staunch and true.

We’ve been preparing for this day all year — our sesquicentennial celebration. That’s an awful big word, but the meaning behind it is so much bigger. We get mired in the thought of West Virginia being last as a state in all the good statistics and first in all the bad ones.

But we are a state of so many powerful firsts, starting with our creation on June 20, 1863. The first rural free mail delivery in the nation. The first black woman to become a member of a legislative body. The first statewide 4-H camp in the U.S. Today we celebrate those “firsts” that have happened over the course of 150 years and look forward to so many more.

What’s so great about West Virginia? It didn’t take us too long to learn what you love about the state when we posed that question to our readers for a special “birthday card” inserted in today’s Times West Virginian. We were flooded with responses.

Some said West Virginia University and the Mountaineers.

Others may be black or crimson

But for us it’s Gold and Blue.

Others lauded our beautiful landscape and the four distinct seasons we get to enjoy.

There, autumn hillsides are bright with scarlet trees

and in the spring, the robins sing.

Each answer was as unique as the person giving it. In fact, you could probably find 1.8 million different reasons why people love West Virginia.

Those who move away from our hills, for work obligations or other opportunities, miss them dearly. The fast-paced, big-city life has nothing on us. The grass isn’t greener there, if there’s any grass to be found. The people don’t greet you as you walk down the street. The store clerks don’t remember your name. The neighbors don’t even make eye contact. And most of those who roamed away return at some point to their home among the hills.

Where-e’re I go she will call to me

through the world in which I roam

This is my West Virginia, my land, my home.

So today, we celebrate our 150th anniversary of statehood. And we celebrate everything that is wild and wonderful about West Virginia.

They call it “Almost Heaven” for a reason. We heard that in a song once.

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