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West Virginia: A History (States and the Nation) Paperback – August 17, 1984
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From the Back Cover
John Alexander Williams's West Virginia: A History is widely considered one of the finest books ever written about our state. In his clear, eminently readable style, Williams organizes the tangled strands of West Virginia's past around a few dramatic events-the battle of Point Pleasant, John Brown's insurrection in Harper's Ferry, the Paint Creek labor movement, the Hawk's Nest and Buffalo Creek disasters, and more. Williams uses these pivotal events as introductions to the larger issues of statehood, Civil War, unionism, and industrialization. Along the way, Williams conveys a true feel for the lives of common West Virginians, the personalities of the state's memorable characters, and the powerful influence of the land itself on its own history.
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Top Customer Reviews
The Unionist sentiment in the Western part of Virginia resulted, in 1863, in the only case of succession of a portion of one state from another in American history. The Civil War in West Virginia is portrayed both in its military and political aspects.
Williams tells the story of the evolution of West Virginia from the political, economic and social perspectives. The fabled Hatfield-MCcoy feud is given ample attention, as is the Hatfield who served his state as governor and United States Senator.
In a state with an undistinguished political history, Williams introduces the reader to a series of governors, senators and political bosses who struggled with absentee landowners, rail and coal concerns and labor leaders to lead West Virginia through the 19th and 20th centuries.
The story of West Virginia is a story of hope and despair, promise and danger, fulfillment and disappointment. Through it all Williams presents its story as a drama, partly heroic and partly tragic. Not a partisan Mountaineer booster, Williams tells the good with the bad. For anyone wishing to know the history of our country, state by state, this book fills in one piece of the American mosaic in a most pleasant fashion.
I wish this had been the text we used in West Virginia history class back in junior high in the instead of that dreadful, trivia-laden textbook.
It's divided into chapters named after some of West Virginia places where major events in state history took place, (Point Pleasant, Harpers Ferry, Droop Mountain, Tug Fork, Paint Creek, Hawks Nest, Buffalo Creek) but the chapters cover far more in geography and time than the events that made the places famous. The Droop Mountain chapter, for instance covers not only that battle, but most of the Civil War and statehood period.
So it's not all-inclusive (Jim Comstock tried to do that with his West Virginia encyclopedia), but that's what makes it a pleasure to read and not a chore. One night when I couldn't sleep I picked up Williams' book and started in the middle, in the Paint Creek chapter. I was more than 30 pages into the book and into the next chapter before I could sleep.
Despite the unassuming title this talented treatment of the history of West Virginia is a most excellent read.
West Virginia, the state and the area, has long been a sort of "stepchild" that the country wasn't quite sure what to do with and, sometimes, it didn't know what to do with itself. Since even before the American Revolution, West(ern) Virginia has been something of an enigma.
Given the technologies of the 17th, 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries, West(ern) Virginia was definitely not a place for sissies. The various hardy (and hard-bitten) cultures that came and grew there were long shrouded in mystery and legend and misunderstanding just as surely as their homes were shrouded by the mountain mists.
This book is something of a "tour guide" taking the reader to unique places that figured prominently in West(ern) Virginia's rather rambunctious history. Williams visits the famous feuds (real and imaginary), the sins of the "extraction industries" and their political puppets, the hearts of the peoples and the soul of the land. It is a unique and very readable treatment that makes one wish more histories were presented so well.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is a very good read on the early history of Western Virginia, it covers some info not elsewhere found in other books on the early history of West Virginia.Published 4 months ago by Larry Bennett
Can't really recommend this as a history of West Virginia. This was a fair retelling of the creation of the state by separation from Virginia -- but not a very interesting... Read morePublished on December 29, 2013 by Arnhout Zwingley
got this as a WV history course for my daughter... she likes it and said it was an enjoyable read.Published on December 29, 2013 by Amazon Customer
This book gives a multidimensional view of several key events/situations in West Virginia's history, including socio-political and economic factors as well as the bare facts. Read morePublished on August 30, 2013 by Yvonne Anderson
This book is really good but sometimes jumps around a bit. I would like to have seen more detail on the states actual formation, but the author does a great job at describing the... Read morePublished on July 26, 2013 by jnut
West Virginia is a very unique state rich in history. This book is an easy read and gives a great overall history. It is a fun read!Published on July 22, 2013 by P. K. Cole