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West Virginia: A Timeline

June 4, 2013

The following is a timeline of the formation of West Virginia as the 35th state.

Chronology of the Formation of the 35th State
November 6Abraham Lincoln elected as the 16 President, gaining only 39.8% of the popular vote.
December 20A South Carolina Convention voted 169-0 to dissolve the state’s ties with the United States
January 7Virginia’s Governor John Letcher called a special session of the Virginia General Assembly to consider secession.
January 14The General Assembly called a state convention to be held in February for Virginians to vote on the issue of secession
February 13Virginia Secession Convention convenes
April 12Confederate troops fired on Union-held Fort Sumter in the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina, beginning the Civil War
April 17The Virginia State Convention voted to secede and approved a secession referendum for May 23. Western delegates fled home, as they believed their lives were in danger.
The First Wheeling Convention
May 13-15Four-hundred thirty-six elected delegates from 17 Virginia counties met in Wheeling at Washington Hall. Several delegates had attended the General Assembly at Richmond.
John S. Carlile of Harrison County insisted that the convention had the authority to take action on separation. Delegates formed a Committee on Credentials and a Committee on State and Federal Relations.
Calling for the state of “New Virginia,” Carlile argued that Virginia must consent to the separation before it seceded from the Union. He felt that this was the only way to comply with Section Three of Article Four of the U.S. Constitution, which outlines the procedure by which one state is created from another.
The Committee on State and Federal Relations recommended that a new state not be formed at this time and advised waiting for the results of the May 23 referendum
The State Referendum on Secession
May 23An overwhelming majority of Virginians voted for secession, but the majority of those in the northwestern counties voted against it.
The Second Wheeling Convention
June 11One hundred and five delegates from thirty-eight counties attended
June 12Delegates selected Arthur I. Boreman as convention president.
June 13The convention moved to the U.S. Custom House. For the committee on Business, Carlile presented “A Declaration of the Rights of the People of Virginia,” declaring the Richmond government illegal.
June 19Delegates created the Restored Government of Virginia and adopted the “Declaration of Rights of the People of Virginia.”
June 20Convention delegates signed the “Declaration of Rights of the People of Virginia” and elected Francis H. Pierpont Governor of the Restored Government of Virginia.
July 1The General Assembly of the Restored Government of Virginia convened at the U.S. Custom House.
August 20-21The Committee of the Division of the State proposed a 39-county state known as “Kanawha.” The convention adjourned August 21.
October 24Thirty-eight percent of voters in affected counties ratified an ordinance for the formation of the new state and selected delegates for the constitutional convention.
The First Constitutional Convention, Wheeling
November 26At the U.S. Custom House, the first constitutional convention assembled with 61 delegates present.
December 3The name “Kanawha” was withdrawn from consideration and “West Virginia” was chosen as the name for the new state
February 18Delegates unanimously approved the new constitution for West Virginia.
April 4Voters ratified the constitution.
May 6Governor Pierpont convened the General Assembly of the Restored Government of Virginia.
May 13The assembly approved the creation of West Virginia with 48 counties.
May 29Senator Waitman T. Willey submitted the application by West Virginia for admission to the Union to the U.S. Senate. Senator John S. Carlile drafted the Senate bill but waited until the end of the congressional session to submit it. His bill called for the addition of 15 counties, which supported the confederacy, a new constitutional convention to approve this revision, and the emancipation of slave children born after 1863.
June 26Abolitionist Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts tried but failed to amend Carlile’s bill with a motion for emancipation of all slaves on July 4, 1863.
July 1Waitman T. Willey proposed an amendment to the statehood bill providing for the gradual emancipation of slaves.
July 14The amended statehood bill passed the U.S. Senate by a vote of 23 to 17.
December 21President Lincoln received the bill and asked his cabinet for advice. Half the cabinet favored the admission of West Virginia, and half opposed it.
December 31President Lincoln signed the bill with these remarks: “The division of the State is dreaded as a precedent. But a measure made expedient by war is no precedent for times of peace. It is said that the admission of West Virginia is secession and tolerated only because it is our secession. Well, if we call it by that name there is still difference enough between secession against the Constitution and secession in favor of theConstitution. I believe the admission of West Virginia into the Union is expedient.
February 12The West Virginia Constitutional Convention reconvened.
February 18The convention unanimously adopted the Willey Amendment.
March 26Voters approved the constitution with the emancipation amendment.
April 20President Lincoln announced that the act of Congress admitting West Virginia into the Union would take effect in sixty days.
May 28Voters of the new state elect Arthur I. Boreman from Parkersburg as West Virginia's first governor.
June 20West Virginia became America's 35th state.

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