West Virginia at the 1893 World's Fair

Public Papers of Governor Wm. A. MacCorkle, of West Virginia,
March 4, 1893 to March 4, 1897
Charleston: Moses W. Donnally, 1897.


Mr. Chairman of the Delaware and West Virginia Commission:


Filled, as my thoughts are, with the opening of the mine, the building of the railroad and with the paramount idea of the development and advertisement of a young State, it is rightly expected that I would today discuss the Railroad and Mine.

Whilst that is true, yet, when sitting here in joint convention with the Governor of Delaware, I am reminded of the days when in the darkness of Valley Forge, Delaware and my State walked in the same bloody tracks, and did valorous battle for the Liberty that this great assemblage so magnificently celebrates.

It is fitting that we should celebrate together. It is true that the vicissitudes of politics and the exigencies of war have taken away from my State that old name of Virginia. Yet in the contest for representative government, when all seemed lost, when the last flickering ember of Liberty seemed about to die on the hearthstones of a broken people, and when it seemed that Liberty could not contend in the field with England's power and discipline, it was of my mountains, then a part of Virginia, that the Father of our Country said: "Strip me of the dejected and suffering remnant of my army; take from me all that I have left; leave me but a banner; give me but the means to plant it upon the mountains of West Augusta, and I will yet draw around me the men who will lift up their bleeding country from the dust and set her free."

Whilst the sweet aroma that clings around the Revolutionary statehood of Virginia has been taken away from us, still it was on the territory of my State of West Virginia, at Point Pleasant, on the 10th day of October, 1774, that was fought by General Lewis in Dunmore's war, the first battle of the Revolution. West Virginia, the vigorous, comely and happy daughter of the old Mother Virginia, on whose bosom was fought the first battle of the Revolution, greets Delaware, the first State in the Union to ratify the Constitution of these United States.

It would be pleasant to-day to speak of these questions of statehood, but we of our State are interested mightily in the utilitarianism of the day, and of that I must speak.

In the time allotted by the ceremonies to-day, it cannot be supposed that in a popular address, I can discuss critically and carefully, the theme which naturally arises for discussion.. That theme is WEST VIRGINIA. With the mention of that name, there arises in the minds of many, a vision of mountains, dark wilderness, murmuring streams, the beetling crag, some smiling valleys, wild deer, and the mountain people, the latter living in their one room, punch and daub log cabin, cultivating on the hillside a patch of yellow corn for food, raising the razor back hog or shooting the squirrel; or of the fox pulling down the wild grape vine and reaching the fox grape and muscadine; or the possum making his muddy foot-prints in the soft banks of the stream as he hunts for the crawfish or stains his fur with the juice of the poke-berry. It is true, that we are of the mountain and valley, but our mountains are filled with coal and clothed with timber, rich enough for a king's heritage, and our widernesses [sic] are active, with the whirr of wheels, with the thunder of the locomotive, and the stroke of the, pick and ax whilst our active, happy, and intelligent people attest our determination to more than equal the old time glory of the Mother State, in all the arts of peace.

In a great National Convention ten years ago, a newspaper reporter spoke of a recalcitrant delegate as hailing from "the little wild state of West Virginia." Would that be true today? On our country's map it has long been the custom to place our State on the map as a very small state. Let us see. The state has an area of 24,780 square miles, more than twice the size of Vermont, three times the size of Massachusetts, nearly four times the size of Connecticut, more than three times the size of Maryland, and courtesy to Delaware forbids any mention of the question of size.

Let us stand upon one of our grand mountains and cast the eye over the State. You will find a pleasing panorama spread before you; a view, not alone pleasing to the eye of sentiment, but touching and appealing to the highest spirit of the ulitarianism [sic] of the day. To the east flows the Potomac, with its limpid waters, wandering through the rich grain fields and meadows of Berkeley, Morgan, Hardy and Hampshire, holding in its falls and rapids and heedlessly wasting more power than is in all of New England.. On the South be will see the rushing New River, and the beautiful Kanawha, whose combined waters, with its grand water improvement, furnishes to-day the cheapest and safest water transportation in the world; and on their bosom last year was floated to market twenty-seven million bushels of West Virginia coal; whilst on the lower Western border, from Hancock to Wayne, the Ohio holds in its loving folds the whole Western portion of the State. Turning to the North, yon behold the Monongahela, carrying its burden of West Virginia, wealth to the world. To the center will be seen the Elk, watering the rich counties of Kanawha, Clay, Braxton and Webster, reaching to the central part of the State, carrying even now its magnificent commerce and only waiting the touch of the Government to aid nature's lavish hand in bearing on its beautiful bosom even a greater share of our wealth; whilst the little Kanawha passes through its rich and beautiful valley and carries its wealth of timber to the Ohio; and to the South again, the Guyandotte, the Coal, and the Big Sandy, whose waters spring from the heart of the mountains and whose fountains rest in the shade of the gigantic poplar, the oak, the walnut, the cherry and the pine. The picture presenting to the view the rare spectacle of high mountains, penetrated by deep rivers, bearing on their bosoms splendid steamers and carrying from the very mouths of the coal mines in the mountains the Argosy's of our wealth.

Not alone will you see Nature's handiwork, but looking still to the South, you will see the Southern tier of counties, pierced by the Norfolk & Western Railroad, opening the great Pocahontas coal field, easily one of the first coals of commerce, whilst, higher up, towards the center of the State, cutting in twain the great New River and Kanawha coal fields, opening to the world the splendid splint, cannel, coking and soft coals of Fayette, Raleigh and Kanawha, counties, the Kanawha., Elk and Goal River districts, the rich agricultural counties of Summers, Greenbrier, Pocahontas, Putnam, and Cabell, and flashing through the picturesque scenery, magnificent cliffs and mountain valleys of Greenbrier and New River, is seen the Chesapeake & Ohio railroad. Yet, still above this great trunk line is seen the smoke of the Baltimore & Ohio, as its engines burst through the grand pass at Harper's Ferry, rushing through the magnificently laden grain fields of the Eastern Pan Handle, of Wetzel, Doddridge, Taylor, the coal and grass and grain lands of Harrison and Marshall, the beautiful scenery, the timber lands and iron ores of Taylor, the gushing oil fields, the rich lands and the coal of Marion, the oil and rich farming lands of Wood and Ritchie, and last, through the smoke-laden atmosphere of the rich manufacturing county of Ohio.

Heading to the grand Tygart's Valley, we see the locomotives of the West Virginia Central, hurrying through the vast forests and rich coal fields of Mineral, Tucker, Randolph and Grant; whilst, on the Western border following the rich lands of the Ohio, is the Ohio River Railroad, with every rail lying on productive territory, and up and down through the center of the State, with the steel rail resting in the shadows of the gigantic forests and lying on the beds of coal, is the new Camden system.

Rare combination of beautiful valley and lordly mountain, railroad and deep river, forest and mineral, and golden laden grain fields.

Not alone is the eye attracted by the glistening steel of the great trunk lines, but West Virginia energy and pluck is driving the locomotive up the lesser valleys, opening up new avenues of commerce, and carrying, like the trickling rivulets, each its drop to the great arteries of trade.

What the eager eye, of capital has seen, and what has been done, will be understood when you know that the war left us but the silent mountains, with a scattered, sparsely settled people, with our wealth wholly unknown, and with utterly paralyzed industrial health; that in 1880 we had but 891 miles of railroad, to-day we have 1,700 miles; and last year we were the first railroad building state in the Union.

In 1880 the great Flat Top region was the abode alone of the prowling fox, and its silent mountains only echoed with the hoot of the owl; to-day, the flashing of the coke ovens shows the whole Elkhorn valley teeming with thousands of workmen engaged at happy, contented and well-paid labor, who gave to civilization last year two and a half million of tons of coal and a half million tons of coke, with which to drive the steamship, light up and heat our homes and hurry on the wheels of commerce, the arts and manufactures.

This development leads me to discuss briefly the cause of our development. I will not worry you with figures, but when we speak of coal the mind naturally flies to Pennsylvania, who sat for years the queen mistress of the coal production.

But today, West Virginia, with giant strides, is overtaking her in the market of commercial greatness; and where, ten years ago, our State was seventh in coal production, to-day she is the fourth, and is boldly contesting with Pennsylvania for the absolute control of the southern and western coal trade. We are three hundred miles nearer the market with our lands purchasable at from ten to fifty dollars an acre, as against the one hundred to five hundred dollars in Pennsylvania. With our cheap mining, perfect river transportation, splendid railroad transportation no state can compete with West Virginia in the western and southwestern coal trade. It is only by comparison that we can understand a State's greatness of natural resources. England with her commercial greatness largely founded on coal, whose smoke pouring from the funnels of her steamships darken every sea, has only about seventy-five hundred square miles of coal, as compared with West Virginia's sixteen thousand square miles; Pennsylvania, the head of coal production, has 12,700, Ohio 10,000, Kentucky 8,900.

West Virginia out of fifty-four counties, has only three counties in which coal has not been found, and such coals, the very best cannel, superior to English for domestic purposes, splints with which you can bake irons without cooking them, gas, steam and domestic coals, and coking coals whose product out-sells Connelsville in this magnificent City of the Northwest.

Another comparison, the Connelsville coke region, the great Pennsylvania region, is only about 30 miles long by about 12 miles in width and largely exhausted; while the New River District, one of its most powerful West Virginia rivals is 100 miles long by 60 miles wide and virtually untouched; and the Flat Top and Monongalia coal regions are boundless in extent and inexhaustible in product.

It has only been since 1876 that the State has come into commercial prominence. In 1880 we were seventh in coal production; to-day we are fourth. In 1880 we worked 2500 miners, last year 10,000. In 1880 we produced only 1,404,000 tons of coal; in 1892 we produced 8,777,888 tons of coal. In 1880 we produced 131,715 tons of coke; last year we produced 313,000 tons of coke, making West Virginia the second coke producing State, and this with only two hundred mines in operation and the coking fields only scratched. The mines need no shafting, but the horizontal and drift is in almost universal use. Sitting calmly midst her mountains and knowing well that the hand of the Almighty has builded them strong and rich for commercial and manufacturing supremacy, West Virginia looks to the time when, before another decade, she will easily be first in the production of coal among her sister states.

The great development of our State has been wrought not by immigration agents and railroads flooding the State with a heterogenous, mixed, population from every quarter of the earth not knowing or caring for our statutes and institutions, mixed in religion and social habits and customs, but by our own people aided by a very small number of intelligent foreigners, who unaided cast their lot with us and are of us and with us. To-day, our own homogenous people is reaping the reward of its intelligent labor. The splendid development, the happy homes of the Blue Creek Valley in my own county show our welcome and respect for the citizenship of the unaided and intelligent foreign immigrant.

Three great commercial reasons will absolutely control West Virginia's destiny, and in the near future absolutely establish her supremacy in the production of coal and coke.

I. The State is part of the future great iron producing and iron manufacturing and fuel consuming section, to-wit: The Virginias, Kentucky, Alabama. and Tennessee.

II. The State is nearer the great West and Southwest than any other good coal producing State.

III. The State, through the opening of the Nicaraguan Canal, will be nearer the Gulf Inter-continental trade, and Pacific coast, than any other good coal producing State.

(1.) The hand of fate points unmistakably to the fact that the center of iron and steel industries will be in the Virginias, Alabama, Kentucky and Tennessee. Their coal and limestone can be taken from the same hill; ores splendid in quality and inexhaustible in quantity lie with only the valley between them and the finest cokes in the world, and connecting them is to-day what yesterday we lacked, splendid means of transportation.

You will remember that to manufacture a ton of iron, the coal on an average must be brought four hundred miles and the ore two hundred miles. Over a large portion of West Virginia there are good iron ores, whilst along the Eastern portion of the State, lying on Pott's creek, practically, in West Virginia, are deep and continuous beds of Oriskany iron ores, which the eminent Geologist, Prof. Orton, says will certainly give a larger yield of iron than any of the Oriskany ores in West Virginia.

In the great contest surely coming, with a cent of cost in production absolutely making success or failure, West Virginia, from these reasons, must become a great factor in the manufacture as well as in the production of the raw material. With this iron center developed, no state can compete therein with West Virginia. That it will be developed, a production of two million tons of pig iron last year and none in 1880, significantly shows.

(2.) Within a. few decades the seat of population, as well as the grand center of commerce, will be in the great Mississippi Valley. Its population is to-day largely manufacturing and agricultural, and year by year will become less and less dependent upon the East for the working up of the raw materials, and will for that reason more largely embark in manufacturing.

This section will demand the cheapest, nearest and best fuel; and in the fierce competition of the age will purchase the nearer and cheaper coals of West Virginia in preference to those of Pennsylvania.

(3.) Again, the great bulk of trade with South America must be through the Gulf ports. With the opening of the Nicaraguan Canal we will be right on one of the great lines of European and American commerce. We can ship our coal from the Capital of my State to the mouth of the Mississippi River, 1,800 miles, for one-fourteeenth [sic] of a cent per mile. Through the Gulf will pass the commerce of the East, and the ships of America and Europe engaged in that commerce will pass by the mouth of the Mississippi. The people of my State, nearer to that market than any other, will pass down the river and from its mouth give West Virginia coal to the ships of every clime and country. By ship also will go our coals to the Pacific coast almost one-half cheaper than the mines of Pennsylvania can ship to-day by rail.

The valley of the Mississippi, and the states nearest thereto, instead of the coal mines of England and Pennsylvania, will supply the vast trade of the Pacific Ocean, and the people of the Pacific Coast and parts of South America must depend on my State for coal, and down the Mississippi into the Gulf to the Ocean, must, by the decrees of commerce, pass our coals and cokes, opening up for us new markets and new peoples and furnishing new development.

When one sees West Virginia's magnificent display of timber here, it would be superfluous for me to say anything of her timber. The Government census shows that the State has the largest body of hard wood timber in the United States. About three- fourths of the entire area of the State is covered with forests. The grand forests of the State are almost untouched with the ax; one forest alone of black spruce one hundred miles in length and from ten to twenty miles in width, has just felt the stroke of the ax. On our mountains are forests of cherry, walnut, white pine, magnificent white oak, poplar and maple, whilst amidst these great woods are all the smaller kinds common to this latitude. Already the Germans are drinking beer from West Virginia oak, the French and English wine from our wine casks, and almost every European nation is using furniture and machines made from sound and tough West Virginia timber.

My time is too limited here to more than advert to the fact that West Virginia has the largest oil producing field in the world, and that to West Virginia has come the Standard Oil Company and other magnates of oil, who look to our State as the great oil producer of this country. Prof. I. C. White, the greatest living authority on oil and gas, says that the oil belt extends two hundred miles through the State, from Hancock to Logan county. This has been verified. The Big Injun sands are untouched, whilst the rich Gordon sands are only pierced in a few places. Our output of oil is 615,000 barrels per month.

I will not more than mention our magnificent building stone, our vast deposits of salt, gas, and our magnificent mineral springs, in which we easily stand first among our sister states. I do not more than advert to the fact that our educational system is one of the best in the country, and with a population of less than a million, we spent last year more than two millions four hundred thousand dollars for education. We have not alone given our attention to the mere utilitarianism of the state and day, but, by the time the mining town has been roofed, and the coal shaft opened, the school master is there with a warrant of the State to teach the miners' children that there is a higher reward for their labor in the higher and better elements of an easier and better existence. Our state taxes are only three and a half mills on the dollar for state purposes, and we have not a dollar of debt.

What is the conclusion of the whole matter? The State is filled with coal and timber and oil, and has vast quantities of iron ore. It is an axiom of political economy that the coal, iron and heavier products will attract the lighter products, cotton, wheat and wool and each of their products and manufactures. The hand of Providence has placed us at the gateway of the rich Mississippi Valley, with which we are connected by river and rail, and to which region we are nearer than any other good coal and coke producing State. We lie contiguous to the great ore producing regions of the lakes; they must have and are now taking all of the coal and coke we can produce. We are less than twenty-four hours travel of the manufactories of New York, Philadelphia,, and the East. The State is not alone confined to the West and the East, and our own Southern country, but the great wharves at Norfolk and Newport News, have been constructed primarily to send abroad by steam and sail, West Virginia's coal and coke. The Nicaraguan Canal will witness a great epoch in West Virginia's development, for not another State in the Union has the combination of nearness to the Pacific coast and gulf trade and such a fine quality of coal and coke.

With no drouths, nor cyclones, with a climate that the workman can labor outside twelve months in the year, with cheap lands, with coal inexhaustible in extent and perfect in quality, with no racial question nor sectional feeling, with the markets at our doors, with timber and iron and oils, with a liberty-loving and conservative people, with a hearty welcome to the intelligent stranger who will come among us, West Virginia is confidently marching onward to commercial greatness and power.