West Virginia was part of Virginia until 1863. Although Virginia’s revised charter of 1609 from the king of England left its boundaries open on the west, the mountain ranges—the Blue Ridge and, west of them, the Alleghenies—made an effective barrier to expansion. No concerted effort was made to cross them for more than 60 years.
The first European to see West Virginia may have been John Lederer, a German physician commissioned by Virginia’s governor, Sir William Berkeley, to explore beyond the mountains. He made three trips in 1669 and 1670, at least two of which carried him to the top of the Blue Ridge. English explorers were the first to penetrate the area. Thomas Batts and Robert Fallam were sent by Colonel Abraham Wood, a fur trader, to find out whether the waters of western Virginia drained into the Pacific Ocean. They crossed the Alleghenies in 1671 and found a river that flowed into the Ohio River. This was probably New River, or it may have been Tug Fork. This discovery of waters flowing into the Ohio provided a basis for England’s claim to the Ohio Valley.
In 1716 Governor Alexander Spotswood of Virginia led an expedition over the Blue Ridge to determine the feasibility of crossing and settling beyond the mountains. Spotswood’s party brought back glowing reports of the fertile valleys that inspired people to cross the mountains. The first settlements in West Virginia were connected with Virginia’s desire to establish a buffer colony between its plantations and the French and Native Americans to the west. Virginia began about 1730 to grant tracts of land to speculators on the condition that they bring in one family for each 1,000 acres (equivalent to 405 hectares) granted.
Immigrants were promised religious tolerance and other advantages. Among the settlers were large numbers of Germans and Scots-Irish, many of them from the Pennsylvania and New Jersey colonies.
According to tradition, the first permanent settler in West Virginia was Morgan Morgan, originally from Wales, who moved from Delaware to Bunker Hill, Berkeley County, in 1730 or 1731. However, a German settlement at Mecklenburg (now Shepherdstown) had apparently already existed for several years. At the outbreak of the French and Indian War (1754-1763) between France and the United Kingdom of Great Britain (a union of England, Scotland, and Wales), about 8,000 settlers lived along the Shenandoah, Potomac, and other streams of the Eastern Panhandle. Many of them lived on lands of Lord Thomas Fairfax, whose estate of about 2.14 million hectares (5.28 million acres) was one of the largest in Virginia.
Although the Blue Ridge barrier was broken, no settler crossed the formidable Alleghenies until 1749, when two New Englanders, Jacob Marlin and Stephen Sewell, settled in Pocahontas County. By 1755 the Greenbrier Company had settled about 200 families along the Greenbrier River. "West Virginia" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.
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