West Virginia was transformed in the late 19th century by a great industrial expansion. An increased demand for its natural resources attracted outside capital and led to large-scale development. Locks and dams were constructed on the major rivers. Improvements in the Kanawha River gave it a navigable depth of 1.8 m (6 ft) from Point Pleasant to Deepwater, 145 km (90 mi) upstream. Many new railroads were built into nearly every part of the state, tapping the timber areas and previously untouched and fabulously rich coal fields. A spiral of prosperity began as the railroads stimulated industries that, in turn, increased the need for coal.
Steam power replaced waterpower in the sawmills in 1881, and by 1909, West Virginia was the largest lumber-producing state in the Union. New and more scientific methods of drilling, introduced about 1890, started a new oil boom, and West Virginia soon became one of the most important oil-producing regions in the world, reaching a peak in 1900 with 16 million barrels. The industrial use of natural gas rapidly increased, and by 1906 West Virginia ranked first among all states in gas production. West Virginia industries required thousands of laborers. Large numbers of immigrants arrived from southern and eastern Europe, especially Italy, Austria, Hungary, Poland, and Russia, and black workers moved in from the Southern states. "West Virginia" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.
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