The settlement developed on land purchased by Colonel George Clendenin in 1787; the patent for the land was signed by then governor Thomas Jefferson. Clendenin built Fort Lee there in 1788, and the town was chartered in 1794; first named Charles Town, for Clendenin’s father, it was renamed Charleston in 1819. Because it lay on the migration route to the Ohio River valley, the settlement soon became a transshipment point and attracted such frontier figures as Daniel Boone, Simon Kenton, and Ann Bailey. The town utilized local brine wells as early as 1795 and was an important centre of salt production in 1824, when the first steamboat arrived.
During the American Civil War, Union general Joseph A.J. Lightburn was forced back to Charleston from Fayetteville to the southeast on September 11, 1862. Two days later Confederate general William Loring defeated Lightburn there and occupied Charleston for almost two months. Confederate forces took salt supplies and other goods from the Kanawha River valley, destroying most of the saltworks as they departed. Charleston was nominated as the state capital in 1870, but it took seven years and a popular vote before the capital moved there permanently.
Charleston, county seat of Kanawha County and capital of West Virginia, is located about 255 miles west of Washington, D.C. on the Kanawha River, a tributary of the Ohio River. The Kanawha is navigable and is joined by the Elk River near the center of the city. Until the Civil War, West Virginia was part of the state of Virginia. Col. George Clendenin built Fort Lee on the present site of Charleston in 1788. The name honored Governor Henry Lee of Virginia. The fort served as protection for the settlers, whose encroachments on Indian hunting areas provoked stiff resistance. When Kanawha County was formed in 1791, the citizens sent Daniel Boone, who fished and trapped in the Kanawha Valley, to the Virginia Legislature to represent them. The legislature granted a charter to the community in 1794 under the name Charles Town, after Col. Clendenin’s father, but that was shortened to Charleston in 1818.
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