WHEELING, W.Va. – It happened in Wheeling on June 20, 1863. West Virginia officially became the nation’s 35th state.
“You can celebrate West Virginia’s birthday anywhere. You don’t even have to celebrate in West Virginia,” said Wheeling Mayor Andy McKenzie. “But you can only celebrate where it all happened in one place and that’s in Wheeling.”
The first of the state’s Sesquicentennial events will take place in Wheeling Wednesday evening with a reenactment of what happened at Independence Hall 150 years ago.
“To have the sitting governor and the sitting Legislature in this building [Wednesday] night, that is a historical, significant event,” stressed McKenzie during an appearance on MetroNews Talkline Wednesday live from Independence Hall. “It happened in 1963 [the state's 100th birthday].”
McKenzie said it’s a tradition the city wants to continue in 2063 for the state’s Bicentennial.
“Without Wheeling and the actions that happened there 150 years ago, we wouldn’t have a state of West Virginia or clearly not the state we have today,” said McKenzie.
In fact, in 1863, Wheeling was the second largest city in Virginia, coming in behind Richmond. Wheeling was a hub of the industrial revolution with one of the most important rivers, the Ohio, flowing through.
Even though times have changed and Wheeling is no longer the capital of West Virginia, McKenzie says it is important to celebrate the city and what it means to West Virginia and U.S. history.
“We’re the only state in the nation that came from another state. We were the only city in the country that served as the capitol of two states,” said McKenzie. “Those are historical significance that young people are not learning today. Many people who live in our own state, people who live right here in Wheeling, don’t know that.”
McKenzie invited all West Virginians to come celebrate with Wheeling on this Sesquicentennial weekend. He promised a warm welcome and a treasure trove of history just waiting for you to discover.