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

The Devil's Backbone in Pocahontas County rises along Knapp Creek near Marlinton, West Virginia.

Devil's Backbone continues to intrigue travelers in W.Va.

Pioneers called it The Devil's Backbone, as most believed such an unnatural thing could only be the work of the Devil. In the 1740s when...
Maple syrup production in West Virginia continues to grow.

Despite a warm winter, the W.Va. syrup industry grows

A warm winter led to a decline in syrup production in West Virginia in 2021, though state Commissioner of Agriculture Kent Leonhardt said the...
The tower on Stewart Hall overlooks the downtown campus at West Virginia University at Morgantown, WV.

WVU to fully reopen campuses for fall 2021 semester

West Virginia University plans to fully reopen its campuses this fall, according to school officials who attribute the decision to continued decreases in cases...
Gov. Justice announces 2021 Community Development Block Grant awards

Justice announces more than $13 million for community projects

Gov. Jim Justice today awarded 19 grants worth $13,734,817 for parks, broadband, demolition, and water-sewer to communities in 14 counties across the state. The Federal...
Brian Fanary believes Sophia can benefit greatly from regional growth.

Historic Sophia poised for growth, mayoral candidate says

Adjoining a newly completed expressway, Sophia in southern West Virginia has the potential to grow significantly over the next several decades, according to a...