WHEELING, W.Va. — It could have been called Kanawha, Augusta, Allegheny or Vandalia.
But all of those names were rejected in favor of West Virginia, the state that officially marks its 150th birthday Thursday.
Those who created West Virginia out of the western part of Virginia debated the name of the new state, its shape and its rules for governance on the third floor of the federal customs house in Wheeling, a building that later became known as Independence Hall.
On Wednesday night, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, members of the Legislature, Wheeling Mayor Andy McKenzie and other state and local leaders returned to the same spot on the eve of West Virginia’s Sesquicentennial.
“It kind of gives you a little chill,” Tomblin told MetroNews of the experience.
In a re-enactment, Travis Henline, Independence Hall’s site manager, portrayed Gov. Francis Pierpont who led the Restored Government of Virginia that was formed in 1861 after Virginia voters ratified secession.
Jeremy Richter, a Wheeling actor, played West Virginia’s first governor, Arthur Boreman, who officially took office on June 20, 1863.
To mark the sesquicentennial, they delivered the speeches Pierpont and Boreman gave when West Virginia first became the 35th state.
“(I’ve been) thinking back how it must have been 150 years ago when we were going on a new adventure in a state, in the mountains here, not knowing whether we could make it or not,” said Tomblin, West Virginia’s 35th governor.
“But I think it was just that will of the people, the strong belief they had in our state that’s made us what we are today.”
A similar ceremony was held at Wheeling’s Independence Hall for the centennial in 1963.