1863 map reveals change in the West Virginia landscape

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Historic map showing West Virginia 1864
West Virginia, 1864. Click to view enlarged versions.

How has West Virginia changed over the last 150 years? Three counties in the southern state had yet to be created and two had yet to be added to the Eastern Panhandle when Augustus Mitchell produced this 1863 map of Virginia and West Virginia. But far more change comes to light when one examines the map in detail.

The Industrial Revolution was only just dawning on the New World in 1863, and so only the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad appears on this map as it courses through the northern counties. The maps reveals through a lack in placenames the population explosion that the state would witness through the turn of the 20th century.

In Raleigh County, for instance, only three communities are marked on the map — Beckley, Peak Hill, and the “Marshes of Coal River.” With the exception of Beckley, none of the other municipalities that are now a part of the landscape existed. Lester, Sophia, Rhodell, and Mabscott are now incorporated towns, populated by the advance of coal mining and railroads.

What other clues demonstrate differences in the Mountain State of yesteryear? The location of mountain ranges. The thin, curving lines that represent old roads and turnpikes, some of which later became U.S. Highways. What other changes can you spy?