The Times West Virginian

February 11, 2013

Dueling songs

State’s musical compositions mark different eras of history

By Emily Gallagher
Times West Virginian

FAIRMONT — Six out of the 50 states in America have more than one official state song, including West Virginia.

Tennessee has the most state songs with six, and West Virginia has the second most official state songs with three, “The West Virginia Hills,” “This Is My West Virginia” and “West Virginia, My Home Sweet Home.”

Bob Taylor, library manager at the West Virginia Archives and History Library, said “The West Virginia Hills” is the more well-known song of the three.

“It’s sung quite often,” he said.

In 1947, “West Virginia, My Home Sweet Home” was declared the first official state song of West Virginia. Taylor said the words and music to the song were written by Col. Julian G. Hearne Jr.

Hearne was from Wheeling and a colonel in the U.S. Army. He wrote “West Virginia, My Home Sweet Home” after serving during World War II.

Hearne was identified as a native and resident of the state who brought honor to West Virginia by accepting the first surrender of a Japanese garrison at Aka Shima on Aug. 22, 1945.

“West Virginia, My Home Sweet Home” has two verses. One of the best-known parts of the song is:

“There I work, and I play, and I worship Sunday, in that land where the mountaineers are free.”

In 1961, the song “The West Virginia Hills” was made an official state song along with “West Virginia, My Home Sweet Home.”

“The West Virginia Hills” is a four-verse poem credited to Ellen Ruddell King and music by Henry Everett Engle from Gilmer County. The completion of the song was in 1885.

 

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