History Of Charleston, West Virginia

Charleston, city, capital of West Virginia, U.S., seat of Kanawha county, and the largest city in the state. It is situated in the Allegheny Mountains, at the confluence of the Elk and Kanawha rivers (there bridged to South Charleston), in the south-central part of the state.

History Of Charleston, West Virginia

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. 

Things to Do In Charleston

Culture Center
#1 of 18 Sights & Landmarks in Charleston
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West Virginia Veterans Memorial
#2 of 18 Sights & Landmarks in Charleston
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State Capitol
#3 of 18 Sights & Landmarks in Charleston
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Timeline of Huntington, West Virginia

The following is a timeline of the history of the city of Charleston, West Virginia, USA.

Prior to 20th century

  • 1794 – Virginia “General Assembly designated 40-acres of George Clendenin’s land, as Charlestown.”
  • 1805 – “Salt-tub mill” begins operating.
  • 1808 – Farmers’ Repository newspaper begins publication.
  • 1815 – Ruffner Mansion built.
  • 1818
    • Charlestown renamed “Charleston.”
    • Mercer Academy established.
  • 1819 – Spectator newspaper begins publication.
  • 1841 – Kanawha Lyceum active (approximate date).
  • 1850 – Population: 1,050.
  • 1861 – Jacob Goshorn elected mayor.
  • 1862 – Battle of Charleston fought near town during the American Civil War.
  • 1863 – June 20: Charleston becomes part of new U.S. state of West Virginia.
  • 1870
  • 1872 – Kanawha Chronicle newspaper begins publication.
  • 1875 – State Capitol moves from Charleston to Wheeling.
  • 1884 – James Hall Huling becomes mayor.
  • 1885
    • State Capitol moves from Wheeling back to Charleston.
    • State Capitol building expanded.
  • 1890
    • West Virginia Historical and Antiquarian Society headquartered in Charleston.
    • Population: 6,742.
  • 1891
    • Burlew Opera House in business.
    • West Virginia Colored Institute founded near Charleston.
  • 1892 – Capitol City Commercial College founded.
  • 1897 – Sacred Heart Church built.
  • 1900 – Chamber of Commerce organized.

20th century

  • 1905 – State Bureau of Archives and History headquartered in Charleston.
  • 1906 – Mason School of Music founded.
  • 1909
    • Charleston Public Library opens.
    • Stalnaker Drugstore in business.
  • 1910 – Population: 22,996.
  • 1913 – Chemical manufactory begins operating.
  • 1916 – Libbey-Owens-Ford glass manufactory and Charleston High School built.
  • 1917 – Owens Bottle Company manufactory in business in Kanawha City.
  • 1919 – Town of South Charleston incorporated near Charleston.
  • 1920 – Charleston Daily Mail newspaper in publication.
  • 1921 – Charleston City Hall built.
  • 1922 – Kearse Theater in business.
  • 1923 – Sacred Heart High School established.
  • 1925 – West Virginia Governor’s Mansion built.
  • 1927
    • WCHS radio begins broadcasting.
    • Garnett Library (public library branch) opens.
    • Union Carbide manufacturer buys Blaine Island in South Charleston, near city of Charleston.
  • 1929 – Charleston Municipal Airport established.
  • 1930 – Population: 60,408.
  • 1932 – State Capitol building rebuilt.
  • 1934 – Kanawha County Public Library established.
  • 1935 – Morris Harvey College relocates to Charleston.
  • 1939
    • Charleston Municipal Auditorium built.
    • State Theatre in business.
  • 1940 – Stonewall Jackson High School built.
  • 1941 – Kanawha Boulevard constructed (approximate date).
  • 1947 – Kanawha Airport begins operating.
  • 1959 – Charleston Civic Center opens.
  • 1960 – Population: 85,796.
  • 1961
    • July 19: Kanawha River flood.
    • Sunrise Art Museum established.
  • 1971 – John G. Hutchinson becomes mayor.
  • 1978 – Morris Harvey College renamed University of Charleston.
  • 1983 – Charleston Town Center shopping mall in business.
  • 1998 – City website online (approximate date).

21st century

  • 2001 – Shelley Moore Capito becomes U.S. representative for West Virginia’s 2nd congressional district.
  • 2003
  • 2010 – Population: 51,400.
  • 2015
    • Charleston Gazette-Mail newspaper in publication.
    • Alex Mooney becomes U.S. representative for West Virginia’s 2nd congressional district.

A video presentation of the History of Charleston

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