West Virginia Communities

Harpers Ferry, WV, communities,
Harpers Ferry from Maryland Heights

West Virginia is unique among states in its patterns of community development -- patterns largely determined by terrain and the availability of resources such as oil, gas, salt, coal, and timber. In the early 1900s, railroads penetrated deep into its interior in search of extractible wealth, though by the turn of the 21st century the tide of industrialism had ebbed, leaving behind a landscape of small communities in a singular rural environment.

Cities & Towns

The smallest unit of local government recognized in West Virginia is the incorporated community or municipality, also known as a town or city. Towns and cities operate independently of the counties in which they are located and maintain their own governments.

Counties

West Virginia is divided into 55 counties, most of which were established before West Virginia was created in 1863. Most county bounds encircle a territory principally defined by ridges and river drainage areas. Most counties in West Virginia are relatively rural.

Regions

West Virginia has been divided into many complex regions over time and by different agencies. Our editorial department has arranged the state into 12 regions based on cultural patterns and geographic determinants.

West Virginia

Though diverse, the State of West Virginia itself may be approached as a distinct community as a result of its controversial creation during a period of political upheaval and its condition as the only state located wholly within the Appalachian region of the eastern U.S.


Convention & Visitors Bureaus (CVBs)

WV CVB (Convention and Visitors Bureau) agents are available to help plan travel statewide.
Convention & Visitors Bureaus

Are you searching for travel information specific to a West Virginia region? The friendly folks at West Virginia's convention-and-visitors bureaus are available to help arrange vacations specific to our various communities, whether you're planning a short trip for yourself or an extended stay for a large group. Find a CVB now to help you plan your trip.


Patterns of Community Growth in West Virginia

Jefferson Bridge into Fairmont, WV, Marion County, Monongahela Valley Region
Jefferson Bridge into Fairmont

As might be expected, the most populous communities in West Virginia -- Wheeling, Charleston, Huntington, Parkersburg, and Morgantown -- developed along rivers, which accommodated transportation and water power. Extractive industries, such as mining and timbering, saw the birth of communities that quickly waxed and waned, most particularly in rugged mountain regions. Many of these latter communities are now ghost towns, and others have entirely disappeared.

Two official forms of community that are recognized by West Virginia law are counties and incorporated communities, also known as towns or cities.

Ethnic Communities in West Virginia

Orthodox Church at Weirton, WV, Hancock County, Northern Panhandle Region
Steel Church at Weirton, WV

The first European settlers in West Virginia were most usually of Scots, English, and Scots-Irish descent. Many retreated far back into the highland forest and became a mountain people, braving harsh conditions in virtual isolation. Others farmed the fertile valleys. During the American Industrial Revolution, African-Americans and European-Americans of many ethnic origins arrived to work in mines and factories in and near its northern and southern coalfields and in forests throughout the state. In the late 1900s, many International residents moved to the state, settling especially in its largest cities. As a result, West Virginia is home to many diverse ethnic communities.

Communities News

Tim Mathis and son make syrup in West Virginia.

Institute infuses W.Va. syrup-making with innovation

Making maple syrup used to be fairly common in West Virginia, though as more people began buying sugar and other syrups at the store,...
Even the pronunciation of the word "Appalachia" is subject to debate.

WVU researchers want respect for Appalachian speech

Language has partly defined the way people in Appalachia are perceived in other regions of the U.S., according to two researchers at West Virginia...
West Virginia officials unveiled collectible travel guides at the lodge at Hawks Nest State Park.

State unveils travel guides, Hawks Nest improvements

West Virginia officials this week unveiled the state's new 2022 vacation guide and highway map during a ribbon-cutting at Hawks Nest State Park on...
“Our days of being 50th in every category coming and going are over," Justice said of the announcement.

West Virginia reaches nation's second highest export growth rate

Gov. Jim Justice announced today that West Virginia had reached the second-highest export growth rate of any state in the nation in 2021. He...
A farmer stands in a West Virginia garden.

W.Va. Dept. of Agriculture announces veteran's grant program

The West Virginia Department of Agriculture has announced a request for applications for its 2022 Veterans and Heroes to Agriculture Grant Program, according to...