“split, crippled, and dismember’d”

--Walt Whitman, Specimen days, 1882

Virginia old and new


William H. Gamble, County map of Virginia and West Virginia. Philadelphia: [S. A. Mitchell?, 1866?]
(G3881 .F7 1866 .M57)

When Gamble updated this map in 1866, Berkeley and Jefferson Counties in the eastern panhandle were shown as part of West Virginia. However, Virginia contested the status of the two counties in 1866, and it was not until 1871 that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in West Virginia’s favor. The border between the two states was not definitively established until 1997 when the boundary between Loudoun County, Va., and Jefferson County, W. Va., was accurately surveyed; West Virginia gained approximately 800 feet of Virginia territory.

Arthur Ingram Boreman, Letter to Alexander H. H. Stuart, 21 March 1866.
(MSS 8409-a)  not pictured

Nicholas K. Trout, Letter to Alexander H. H. Stuart, 20 January 1867.
Gift of the Hon. George M. Cochran (MSS 228-a)

At the war’s end, Virginia lay in impoverished ruin. In 1866 the General Assembly appointed commissioners to the state of West Virginia to propose reunification and, failing that, a resolution to the issue of the state’s pre-war debt.

Boreman, the governor of West Virginia, responds to the three resolutions—a “reunion” of the two states, settlement of the public debt, and division of the public property—passed by Virginia’s General Assembly and transmitted through Stuart, one of the commissioners. Because the resolutions were presented after the close of West Virginia’s legislative session, the Virginia commissioners received no response. Boreman states that the legislature would have willingly worked on the latter two resolutions, but that “a proposition for a reunion of the states would not have been entertained for a moment, [and] would have been rejected by the unanimous vote of both houses.”

In his letter, Trout, a Virginia state senator, replies to Stuart’s request for copies of resolutions concerning West Virginia matters and says “it is of the first importance that early action should be had in regard to the public debt.”

Parker Granville, The formation of the state of West Virginia, and other incidents of the late civil war: with remarks on subjects of public interest, arising since the war closed. Wellsburg, W.Va.: Glass & Son, 1875.
Elizabeth Cocke Coles Fund (F241 .P23 1875)

This early history of West Virginia features documents pertaining to key events in the state’s formation. “The Debt of Virginia—Who Should Pay It?”—originally published in 1866 as a newspaper letter to the editor—takes issue with Virginia’s claims that West Virginia broke away illegally. Its author rejoins, “Old Virginia ‘seceded’ and left West Virginia exactly where Washington and his associates placed her in 1789 ….”



Speech concerning the settlement of West Virginia’s debt to Virginia, [1919?]
Gift of Samuel H. Williams (MSS 7974)

Over 50 years after the start of the Civil War, Virginia and West Virginia were still settling details related to the split between the states. The Commonwealth of Virginia sued West Virginia in 1911 to recover one-third of the value of its 1861 public debt. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Virginia’s favor in 1915. This speech, possibly by Randolph Harrison (in whose papers it resides), comments on the West Virginia General Assembly’s passage of a bill in 1919 to pay its obligation by creating a sinking fund. The debt then stood at approximately $45 million, of which West Virginia’s share was $15 million. West Virginia made final payment to Virginia in 1939.