West Virginia: From Secret Bunkers to B.A.S.E. Jumpers

Esurance is now available in West Virginia. To celebrate, we’re giving you the lowdown on the Mountain State.

Take me home, country roads, to the place I belong…

West Virginia!

Esurance car coverage is now available in West Virginia and we’re very pleased to be there. You may not know much about this mountain momma (other than the words to the John Denver song) — so read on for some fascinating facts.

West Virginians are an independent breed

The state motto of West Virginia is Montani Semper Liberi (“Mountaineers Are Always Free”) — and they mean it. The mountainous western counties were initially part of Virginia, but broke away when the Civil War began in 1861 and Virginia joined the Confederacy. West Virginia chose to stay loyal to the Union, thus becoming the thirty-fifth state in 1863 by proclamation of President Lincoln.

But that wasn’t the first time the self-reliant westerners tried to split from the east. In 1775, 2,000 residents of the west petitioned for the formation of a separate fourteenth colony. Then, in 1783, they made a similar plea to form a fourteenth state. (The Continental Congress ignored both attempts.)

They were almost called Kanawhans

When delegates from western Virginia gathered to form a new state in 1861, they initially proposed to call it “Kanawha,” after a local Native American tribe. A major river already bore that name (and still does), but West Virginia won out as the name of the state.

They know how to keep a secret

One of West Virginia’s most celebrated places is the Greenbrier Hotel and Resort near White Sulphur Springs. Famous for the curative powers of its waters, it was also an Army Hospital during World War II — and, for 30 years, it was the home of a massive, top-secret bunker constructed 720 feet beneath the resort. Built between 1958 and 1961, during the height of the Cold War, the bunker was meant as an emergency relocation site for the U.S. Congress in the event of a nuclear attack. After its existence was revealed in 1992, it was decommissioned and is now open for public tours.

They love their mothers

Mother’s Day was founded by West Virginia native Anna Jarvis. On May 10, 1908, Jarvis arranged the first official Mother’s Day service in Grafton, WV to honor her mother (a well-known women’s activist). She began a tireless campaign to make the day a national holiday and the practice soon spread to 45 states. In 1914, President Wilson officially declared the second Sunday of May as “Mother’s Day.”

They (apparently) lack a fear of heights

Every year on the third Saturday of October, hundreds of B.A.S.E. jumpers plunge from the 876-foot-high New River Gorge Bridge near Fayetteville. This was was the world’s longest steel arch bridge when it was completed in 1978, and though it was surpassed by Shanghai’s Lupu Bridge in 2003, it’s still impressive at 3,030 feet long. The annual Bridge Day festival has been held since 1980 and currently attracts some 80,000 people.

Other interesting West Virginia firsts and facts

  • The world’s first brick street was laid in Charleston, WV on October 23, 1870
  • On July 1, 1921, West Virginia became the first state to institute a sales tax
  • In 1928, Minnie Buckingham Harper of McDowell County was appointed to the House of Delegates, making her the first female African-American legislator in the U.S.
  • In 1947, West Virginia native and Air Force pilot Chuck Yeager became the first human to break the sound barrier (aka Mach 1)
  • Weirton, in West Virginia’s panhandle, is the only city in the U.S. that touches the borders of 2 other states

For more info about the Mountain State, check out these West Virginia car insurance facts. And be sure to let your West Virginian friends and family know we’re there.

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