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· African American · Carpatho-Russian · Carpatho-Ruthenian · Greek · Italian · Japanese · Jewish · Middle Eastern · Native American ·

Map of the region

Approximately 270,000 people live in the Mountaineer Country region, in seven counties: Barbour, Doddridge, Harrison, Marion, Monongalia, Preston, and Taylor. This area has an extremely diverse ethnic composition representing many nations from around the world. Mountaineer Country has several large metropolitan areas, including Morgantown, Clarksburg, and Fairmont. Today, these cities remain the main locations for diverse communities and activities which maintain ethnic heritage. Coal mines originally attracted immigrants into areas like Fairmont and Clarksburg from as early as the 1880's into the 1920's. There were also numerous mills in the area that provided employment for the large and growing population of new Americans in the first quarter of the twentieth century. These industries brought numerous immigrant families to this part of the state, particularly from Eastern Europe. Slovak, Polish, Hungarian, Lithuanian, Austrian, Serbian, French, and Belgian roots are common in this region although for many of these, we have been unable to locate a contemporary community, suggesting they have become an indistinguishable part of the West Virginian and American fabric. This region also had several Irish communities dating to the mid-1800's. Many Irish families remain in these communities today. This region is also home to the state's largest Hispanic population. One older Hispanic community was associated with a zinc-smelting company near Clarksburg, which recruited zinc workers from Asturias and Galicia in Northern Spain; as a result, there was a small Spanish-speaking community of Spelter, in Harrison County, called "Zeising" by the Spanish speaking inhabitants. In Mountaineer Country, there are also significant populations representing the nations of India, China, the Phillipines, and Korea that have come in the past 30 years. Further research will seek to identify contact persons for the many other ethnic communities in this region. See end of this section for additional contacts.


General Description

Approximately 5,000 African Americans live in Mountaineer Country which represents approximately 9% of the population of African Americans in West Virginia. The larger communities are in the vicinity of Morgantown, Fairmont, and Clarksburg.

Community Activities

Morgantown has a strong African American community, including numerous churches, community organizations, and activities associated with West Virginia University. The Center for Black Culture and Research is at West Virginia University. Morgantown is also home to numerous individuals who promote African American activities throughout the state. The Clarksburg-area community consists of approximately 900 families. The church is a central part of these communities both as a source of unity and heritage. Numerous social activities through the church bring the communities together. Social days at the church, like Men's Days and Women's Days, are an important part of the black community here and throughout the state. There are several community clubs in this region which serve as both service and social organizations. During special annual events, such as Martin Luther King Day, Black History Month, and Kwanzaa, the communities organize numerous presentations that are attended by the general public.

One of the larger activities for the community is the West Virginia Black Heritage Festival in Clarksburg, an annual event promoting black culture in the region. Held the second weekend of September, it features artists and musicians, a gospel sing, a soul food dinner, and speakers on subjects of special interest to the African American community. The festival organizers make an effort to provide good role models for the local youth, and they include numerous activities for the younger members of the community, including a youth showcase on the first night of the festival.

Recommended Contacts

Ed Cabbell
John Henry Museum
58 High Street
Morgantown, WV 26507

Katherine Bankole, Director
W.V.U. Center for Black Culture and Research
590 Spruce Street
Morgantown, WV 26506-6417
293-7029 ext. 130

Allen Lee
West Virginia Black Heritage Festival
916 W. Pike Street, Apt. 910
Clarksburg, WV 26301


General Description

In Mountaineer Country, approximately 350 individuals claim Russian as their sole ancestry, and 850 individuals of multiple ancestry claim Russian as their primary heritage. 20% of the West Virginia Russian population is in Mountaineer Country region, 12% in Monongalia County in the vicinity of Morgantown. There is also a smaller community in Fairmont. Many of people with Russian ancestry in this region are Carpatho-Russians from the Carpathian Mountains spanning several countries near the Ukraine on the former Soviet border. Most Carpatho-Russians in West Virginia came here between the 1880's to 1920's, for work in mining communities. When the mines closed, some moved north to work in steel mills in Wheeling, and further north in Pennsylvania. The population of Carpatho-Russians in West Virginia was much larger in the early twentieth century. Most of the larger regional communities today are in Pennsylvania.

Community Activities

The church is one of the strongest sources of community ties for the Carpatho-Russian community in West Virginia. The community surrounding St. Mary Orthodox Church in Westover, near Morgantown, maintains its cultural ties through the full cycle of services in the Orthodox Christian church. The church has ethnic bake sales, featuring traditional poppy seed nut rolls, a popular item in the area. The church community also has ethnic dinners called Holupki (after the traditional cabbage rolls which are common at the dinners). These also feature Haluski, a noodle and cabbage dish, and other ethnic foods. In Fairmont, there is a Carpatho-Russian Ethnic Research Center focused on research related to history of the Carpathian Mountain people and region.

Recommended Contacts

Father James Gleason
St. Mary Orthodox Church
19 West Park Avenue,
Westover, WV 26501


General Description

Another group of people who migrated to West Virginia in the early 1900's came from the region known as the Carpatho-Ruthenian Mountains. Their homeland, known as Carpathian Rus’, is situated at the crossroads where the borders of Ukraine, Slovakia, and Poland meet. The Carpatho-Ruthenian people, Byzantine Catholics, are in communion with the Pope of Rome, while maintaining Eastern tradition, liturgy, and theology. The Byzantine-Ruthenian Church, a self-governing church, consists of four eparchies in the United States and is headed by the Metropolitan Archbishop of Pittsburgh. St. Mary Byzantine Catholic Church in Sabraton is the spiritual home for Morgantown Byzantine Catholics.

Community Activities

Activities and events in the Carpatho-Ruthenian community primarily occur at St. Mary Byzantine Catholic Church. The traditions are reflected in liturgical services, featuring the blessing of paschal foods at Easter, the traditional Christmas Eve Supper, and the Sanctification of Water on January 6. On the social side, St. Mary sponsors a public summer festival in August with ethnic foods, bake sales throughout the year, and parish spring and summertime picnics. The parish celebrates its feast day on October 1. It will celebrate its 90th anniversary in 2008.

Recommended Contacts

Rev. Kevin E. Marks
St. Mary Byzantine Catholic Church
2115 Listravia Avenue
Morgantown, WV, 26505


General Description

In Mountaineer Country, approximately 350 individuals claim Greek as their sole ancestry, and 600 individuals of multiple ancestry claim Greek as their primary heritage. The Greek communities are in Clarksburg and Morgantown. First-generation Greek immigrants originally came to West Virginia around the turn of the century. Many came to Clarksburg to work for Weirton Steel. Saint Spyridon Greek Orthodox Church was established in 1918 to serve the growing Greek community in Clarksburg. When Weirton Steel left Clarksburg in 1937, many of the families remained, some having started their own businesses, including grocery stores, barbershops, and bakeries. The Clarksburg community currently has approximately 60 families. In the Morgantown area, the first Greek community was in Sabraton, and it was associated with the tin mills as early as the 1920's. When the mills closed in the 1950's, much of the community relocated to Morgantown, and in 1955 Assumption Greek Orthodox Church was established. The Morgantown area currently has a Greek community of approximately 30 families.

Community Activities

Strong Greek communities can be found in both Morgantown and Clarksburg, in which second- and third-generation families are actively preserving ethnic traditions. Church is an important part of the Greek community and family. Activities associated with Greek heritage and traditions include weekly worship service, some of which is in the Greek language. Choirs at both churches sing primarily in Greek. Once a month, there it is a luncheon following church services and an annual picnic every summer. Every few years, the Morgantown community holds a traditional Greek dance to live Greek music. In both communities, there are bake sales of traditional Greek pastries each December and a Greek Easter bread sale each spring. The Ladies Philoptochos Society provides homemade Greek foods for special occasions.

Recommended Contacts

Father Leonidas Drakopoulos
Saint Spyridon Greek Orthodox Church
1010 Factory St.
Clarksburg, WV 26301
624-5331 (church)

Father Christopher Bender
Assumption Greek Orthodox Church
447 Spruce Street
Morgantown, WV 26505
292-9048 (church)
292-8670 (h)


General Description

Italian heritage is especially strong in Mountaineer Country, where approximately 12,040 individuals claim Italian as their sole ancestry, and 17,855 individuals of multiple ancestry claim Italian as their primary heritage. Thus, at least 11% of the population of the Mountaineer Country has Italian ancestry. The larger communities are in Harrison, Marion, and Monongalia counties in the vicinity of Clarksburg, Fairmont, and Morgantown respectively. Many Italians originally immigrated to West Virginia in the early twentieth century to work in the coal mines throughout the state. Wyatt, Harrison County, was one such coal town that was a first home for many Italian immigrants to West Virginia. Specialty glass factories in this region were largely an Italian immigrant industry with factories in Fairmont, Mannington, and Clarksburg. Italian stonemasons were also common in the early communities. In the past, there were numerous predominantly Italian neighborhoods. Currently, Fairmont, Clarksburg, and Morgantown form a tri-city area with a strong Italian American network.

Community Activities

Today, the community members maintain extended families which often include distant relatives, godparents, and family friends. Families keep in contact by gathering at significant life events, such as weddings, anniversaries, and funerals. The Italian community played an important role in establishing the Catholic churches in the region, including St. Teresa Catholic Church in Morgantown and St. John's Catholic Church in Clarksburg. Nowadays, these churches serve a mixed population rather than a predominantly ethnic one, although elements of the Italian traditions are still present in most Catholic services and organizations in the area. Local organizations, like the Sons of Italy in Morgantown, provide an important meeting place for the Italian American community. These organizations promote various cultural programs. The Sons of Italy, for example, organizes an Italian language course at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Morgantown. Morgantown is also home to the recently formed Committee for the Preservation of Italian History and Culture. This group raises money for local cultural events and sponsors historical programs of special interest to the Italian community. One of the outstanding events of the year in the region is the large West Virginia Italian Heritage Festival in Clarksburg. Held in September each year, this event features traditional and contemporary Italian music and dance, traditional bocci and chess tournaments, homemade wine contests, and Italian food. The event is a focal point for the statewide Italian American community.

Recommended Contacts

Michael A. Oliverio
453 Hillview Dr.
Morgantown, WV 26505
291-7230 (w)
599-1184 (h)

Rachel Torchia
West Virginia Italian Heritage Festival
P.O. Box 1632
Clarksburg, WV 26302


General Description

Many Japanese industries have recently come to West Virginia, bringing with them a transient community of Japanese nationals who are here on temporary work visas. There is also a large Japanese population of over 400 students at West Virginia University and Salem International University, and these communities, though temporary, leave a positive mark on the local landscape.

Community Activities

In Morgantown, there are several Japanese restaurants, as well as cultural clubs and performance groups associated with the university and representing Japanese traditions. In Morgantown, there is a permanent community of approximately 10 families, who maintain ties through frequent get-togethers, picnics, and other social events.

Recommended Contact

Kazunari Koiku
744 Augusta Ave.
Morgantown, WV 26501


General Description

The Morgantown area has a thriving Jewish community associated with the Tree of Life Congregation, established over 75 years ago. The congregation is currently home to approximately 100 families, ranging from as far away as Keyser and Fairmont. Until recently, Fairmont also had a congregation and synagogue. The Morgantown community grows significantly during the school year because much of the community is associated with West Virginia University. Clarksburg has a smaller but active community with approximately 22 families, including a few from nearby towns, like Elkins in Randolph County. The communities in Morgantown, Fairmont, and Clarksburg have rich histories dating to the late 1800's. While some of these communities were larger in the past, they remain very active today.

Community Activities

Jewish cultural activities in the Mountaineer Country region revolve primarily around the religious services in the congregation, social, and family activities. Both congregations in the region have numerous activities which bring their local community together, including religious services, dinners, and picnics. Holidays are particularly important for these communities as a time of meeting for local families. These include Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashanah, Purim, and Passover. A community seder is held in the Morgantown area each spring to celebrate Passover. The Clarksburg community meets weekly at the synagogue for traditional services. Once a month, they also have services with a student rabbi. The Morgantown community is affiliated with the Union for Reform Judaism and employs a full-time rabbi. Each Shabbat morning, the congregation combines worship with Torah stories. In addition to standard Friday evening services, the congregation also offers monthly vegetarian potluck dinners followed by family services and Tot Shabbats, special services for families with very young children. The Morgantown congregation is the home of the area’s only Jewish religious school for young people, and also offers a variety of adult education opportunities. The Morgantown community has a Holocaust Commission, providing information and education about the Holocaust for the general community.

Recommended Contacts

Howard Mall, President
Tree of Life Synagogue
P.O. Box 1871
Clarksburg, WV 26302
622-3453 (synagogue)
623-6065 (h)

Linda Jacknowitz, Board President
Tree of Life Congregation
242 S. High St.
Morgantown, WV 26507-0791
292-7029 (temple)

James Friedberg
Hillel WVU
215 Law Center PO Box 6130
Morgantown, WV 26506


General Description

The recent immigrants from the Middle East are a large and diverse group, and it is only because of the current limits of the scope of this project that they are placed under a single heading. In Mountaineer Country, approximately 540 individuals claim Arabic as their sole ancestry, and 900 individuals of multiple ancestry claim Arabic as their primary heritage. Monongalia and Harrison counties are the main population centers. Throughout West Virginia, there is an older Middle Eastern community, mostly Orthodox Christian from Lebanon and Syria. In this part of the state, there is a also a large and ethnically diverse Islamic community. The Islamic community is a religious one rather than an ethnic or nationality-based community, but it currently provides a meeting place for the community of individuals from various Middle Eastern nations. In this region, the majority of families are from Syria and Egypt. There are a few families from the many other countries in the Middle East including Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.

Community Activities

Throughout the state, the Islam Centers provide a place for worship and also serve as community centers. The community meets for daily prayer meetings. Every Friday night, there is a community meeting, or Halaga, for discussions, problem solving, and socializing. West Virginia University has a Muslim Student Association, and they conduct a variety of activities which involve the local community, including Islam Awareness Week. Each year, there are community celebrations marking the end of the two major Muslim holidays: Ramadan and Al'Adha. The Morgantown Islamic Association will be building a new Islamic Center soon, which will include a larger building to accommodate the growing community.

Recommended Contacts

Khalid Elsherbini
Islamic Center of Morgantown
411 Harding Ave.
Morgantown, WV 26505-3420
598-7396 (Islamic Center)
293-4918 (h)


General Description

In Mountaineer Country, there are approximately 834 Native Americans, which represents approximately 17% of the population of Native Americans in West Virginia.

See the General Description of the Statewide Native American Community

Recommended Contacts

Betty Baird
1902 Range Road
Wadestown, WV 26590

Linda Karus
P.O. Box 62
Fairview, WV 26570


Chestnut Ridge

The Chestnut Ridge community in Barbour County remains one of the most distinct and fragile pockets of ethnicity in the state. There are many among this community who consider themselves to be Native American and have supported their claim with extensive genealogical research. Others consider the Chestnut Ridge people to have descended from a more diverse ethnic background. It appears likely that both understandings are valid, depending on which particular family is being considered. Church and family are at the center of community life on Chestnut Ridge. Okey's Gospel Chapel and People's Chapel are two important religious centers. A new community center called World Servants has recently been established.

Chestnut Ridge contacts

Doug Fisher
Appalachian Community Care
P.O. Box 634
Philippi, WV 26416
457-4575 ext. 58

Ruston Seaman
People’s Chapel
P.O. Box 162
Philippi, WV 26416
457-5270 ext. 24

Rita Mayle
P.O. Box 634
Philippi, WV 26416

Additional regional contacts

Father Ridney Tobbie
Holy Trinity Serbian Orthodox Mission
408 Morgantown Avenue
Fairmont, WV 26554

Father Sasa Nedic
Holy Trinity Serbian Orthodox Mission
c/o Wayne Kirby
408 morgantown Ave
Fairmont, WV 26554

Kevin Anderson, President
Scottish Heritage Society
P.O. Box 2511
Clarksburg, WV 26302

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New River/Greenbrier Valley