West Virginia 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.

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.

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.

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.

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)

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.

Patterns of Community Growth in West Virginia

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

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 .

Communities News

Families are touring outdoor heritage areas in West Virginia in increasing numbers.

Applications for Outdoor Heritage Conservation grants due April 28

SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The West Virginia Outdoor Heritage Conservation Fund is accepting applications through April 28 for large and small grants for projects that...
Crowds gather at a community concert in downtown Oak Hill.

Oak Hill, West Virginia, ranked among safest cities in U.S.

OAK HILL, W.Va. — Overlooking the New River Gorge in southern West Virginia, this up-and-coming community adjoining America's newest national park has been ranked...
A farmer plants in a West Virginia garden

W.Va. expands branding to include agricultural supporters

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — With supply-chain faults apparent nationally, the West Virginia Department of Agriculture is working to bolster agricultural products by expanding the "West...
Moss grows thick on the north side of a tree in Wyoming County, West Virginia.

Does moss grow only on the north sides of forest trees?

BARKERS RIDGE, W.Va. — You might have heard that moss grows only on the north sides of trees. That bit of lore originated as...
Ramps in West Virginia

Commercial ramp harvest prohibited in Monongahela National Forest

Digging and eating ramps in the spring is a traditional activity throughout West Virginia, notably within the Monongahela National Forest in its eastern mountains. While...