Jeremy T.K. Farley, founder of Appalachian Magazine and West Virginia history author, has released his latest book, West Virginia: The Illegal State.
As the title suggests, the 220-page manuscript takes a hard look at how the Mountain State was created during the American Civil, an event Farley alleges was illegal, against the will of the people, and one that has produced a century and a half of hardship for the people of Southern West Virginia.
“Perhaps the most heartbreaking element regarding the creation of the State of West Virginia,” Farley said, “is that while the rest of the nation was casting off the evil chains of slavery in the closing days of the nineteenth century, the groundwork was being laid in the Appalachian Mountains of West Virginia for a new people to be enchained – the working men and women of the West Virginia coalfields.”
According to the book, Southern West Virginia’s allegiances during the American Civil War were solidly to Virginia and the South; however, the state was created by political trickery led by politicians from the Northern Panhandle – many of whom feared the consequences of being caught on a tiny stretch of land between Ohio and Pennsylvania at the outbreak of war.
“The narrative so many people recite about how or why West Virginia became a state is patently false,” said Farley, whose 3x-great-grandfather, Logan County native Thomas Benton Farley, was a member of the Confederate military force known as the Logan Wild Cats.
“Most are shocked to learn that Wheeling had a thriving slave market in the days leading up to the American Civil War or that West Virginia was the last slave-state admitted into the Union.”
The controversial book is already drawing the ire of some state leaders, Mark Zatezalo, the Ohio-born West Virginia delegate who represents the state’s northernmost district denounced the premise, stating, “There was already a split between Virginia and West Virginia. It would have gotten worse as the people west of the mountains were taken advantage of by their fellow ‘Virginians.’”
Farley counters the Northern Panhandle delegate’s claim by stating, “Of course there was a split, but the split between Northern West Virginia and Southern West Virginia during this time was equal to or greater than the split between eastern and western Virginia… unfortunately, few West Virginians are aware of this great division and the lasting affects this disunion has had on the working men and women of the state have been disastrous.”
“The people of Southern West Virginia have historically been suppressed by the northern ruling elite – it is no coincidence that West Virginia University is hundreds of miles from McDowell County and roughly five miles from Pennsylvania, or that it took the people of Mingo County an entire generation longer to earn the right to unionize than their counterparts in the northern part of the state” contends the Logan County-born author.
“I love West Virginia, it is the one place I call home, but until we get honest about where we came from and recognize some of the lasting affects our ill-advised creation has spurned, we will never be able to rise above many of the problems still plaguing us today in the Mountain State.”
Farley said he knows that the book’s topic may seem a bit controversial, but the book, he says, is written from the perspective of someone who loves West Virginia and simply wishes to shed light on the state’s true origins.
“Our state has an incredible history and for too long we’ve overlooked the full story of our creation,” he contends.
The book is available online through Amazon.com (search “West Virginia: The Illegal State”) and will soon be available wherever books are sold.
For more information about this book, or to schedule an interview with author Jeremy T.K. Farley, please call (276) 389-7996