Disenfranchised voters over 200 years ago – West Virginia State Quarter

Today, the West Virginia State Quarter tells the early story of the western portion of Virginia and how on October 24, 1861, 39 counties chose to become a separate state.

As early as 1776, the people of the mountainous western portion of Virginia became concerned about their status under the new Virginia State Constitution.

To be able to vote under the new government, a man had to own a minimum of 25 acres of developed land or 50 acres of undeveloped land.

Many of the people living in the western areas of Virginia did not meet the requirements, and their interests were not represented in the predominantly eastern government.

Through the early 1800s, people of the western area came east to attend political conventions and introduce their concerns, but the eastern stronghold did not provide solutions.

In 1829, the eastern and western Virginians met in Richmond to develop a new constitution. Once again, the concerns of the west were overridden especially the one about allowing all men to vote.

The eastern Virginians handily approved the new constitution; however, the western voters overwhelmingly rejected the modified document.

Since their votes were much less, the new constitution passed.

Over the next few years, the eastern and western portions of Virginia began disagreeing regarding abolitionism.

With the rising tensions of the North and South, along with the disagreements between eastern and western Virginians, in 1850, they met once again in Richmond to discuss the west’s concerns from 1829.

Finally, the eastern Virginians agreed to allow men, especially western Virginians, the opportunity to vote whether they owned land or not.

Over the next decade, the Virginia government made improvements toward the western counties, however inequalities remained an issue between the eastern and western portions of the state.

After Lincoln became president and the Civil War began, Virginians decided to secede from the Union.

However, the western counties wanted to form a new state and remain with the Union.

However, the Union soldiers that prevented Confederate sympathizers from voting may have influenced that decision.

Regardless, on October 24, 1861, the western Virginians in 39 counties voted to form a new state.

After the approval, the Constitutional Convention that met in Wheeling had the difficult task of determining the counties and the boundaries to be included in the new state.

When finished, the Convention chose fifty counties even including several that did not support becoming a new state.

With several attempts, the Union Congress approved the statehood proposal. Lincoln also signed the bill for the new state.

In March 1863, the citizens of West Virginia voted to approve their new statehood.

On June 20, 1863, the new state of West Virginia became official as a new state in the Union.

The West Virginia State Quarter shows against a West Virginia canal.

West Virginia State Quarter