In an earlier post on Twelve Mile Circle noted that east and west can be confused in our geographic perceptions. A similar condition exists with Los Angeles, California and Reno, Nevada. Los Angeles conjures up images of beaches, surfing and movie stars living on hillsides with expansive views of the Pacific Ocean. Most of us automatically think of the “West Coast” as being, well, west. However, due to the curvature of the California coastline, the southern portion of the state’s waterfront is actually further east than large chunks of Nevada, including the city of Reno.
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Once again, what by popular convention we think of east and west is turned on its head when natural features don’t conform to the neat lines and borders laid by humans.
West Virginia split from Virginia in 1863 during the height of the Civil War, electing to remain with the Union while the rest of the Commonwealth remained firmly entrenched within the Confederacy. Tensions based on a divergent economies, cultures and geography simmered between the western and eastern portions of Virginia for decades leading up to the war, and ensuing hostilities drove a wedge down the Appalachian ridgelines. The founders of this new state elected to name it West Virginia in commemoration of their location and their heritage. But West Virginia isn’t fully west of Virginia, it’s actually, generally northwest. This presents an interesting anomaly with one chunk of Virginia further west than any spot in West Virginia.
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The red line that runs vertically down the right side of this map shows the furthest point of western longitude for West Virginia. The shaded triangle to the left of the line marks the area of Virginia that is completely west of West Virginia. This includes the entirety of Lee County and portions of Wise and Scott Counties. Thus, in spite of West Virginia’s name, it’s “strange geography” that its eastern cousin actually extends further west.