Each week, the Sip Advisor will alphabetically travel the United States, discovering the best each state has to offer in a variety of subjects. Today, we visit West Virginia to see which of the Virginias is best. Will the Mountain State take the title? There’s only one way to find out:
Motto: “Mountaineers are always free” – Great, a prisoner once again…
Food: Pepperoni Rolls are a popular snack in West Virginia, sold at convenience and grocery stores. It is a white bread roll, with pepperoni baked inside. It should also be noted, Golden Delicious Apples (West Virginia’s State Fruit) were cultivated in the state in 1905. It is among the most popular apple types in the country, featured on a 2013 commemorative stamp.
Drink: Hatfield & McCoy Moonshine, named for the famous family feud, is made in Gilbert. The small batch liquor is made from a recipe concocted by Hatfield patriarch Devil Anse Hatfield, on land that belonged to the Hatfield family. Aptly nicknamed the ‘Drink of the Devil’, the booze can be enjoyed neat, on the rocks or in a collection of cocktails.
Site to See: The Greenbrier Hotel and Resort in White Sulphur Springs, calls itself ‘America’s Resort’. People have visited the areas springs since 1778, hoping to cure what ails them. The resort was built in 1913 and boasts that 26 presidents have stayed there. An expansive bunker exists under the hotel, which was meant to host the U.S. Congress in the event of a Cold War emergency.
Street: When the New River Gorge Bridge was completed in 1977, it was the highest bridge to support a regular road in the world. Each October, Bridge Day is celebrated, with the road being closed so thrill seekers can climb the structure and even jump off it, by rappelling or base jumping. Bungee jumping used to also occur, but was banned from 1993 onwards.
TV Show: Outcast, a horror drama, ran for two seasons and 20 episodes. The series is based on a comic book and is about a man who has been surrounded by demonic possession throughout his life – particular with his mother – in the fictional town of Rome. One of the comic’s authors, Robert Kirkham, co-created The Walking Dead franchise.
Movie: Tucker & Dale vs. Evil is a very funny movie about misunderstandings. Set in West Virginia, the plot involves a group of campers mistaking two men for being backwoods killers. The film starred Alan Tudyk and Tyler Labine as Tucker and Dale. Potential sequels have been proposed, with one described as “Good Will Hunting meets Texas Chainsaw Massacre”.
Book/Author: Pearl Buck was born in Hillsboro. Her book The Good Earth, won the Nobel Prize for Fiction in 1932 and contributed to her being awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1938. Buck was the first American female to win the latter. The Pearl S. Buck Birthplace is a museum dedicated to the writer and is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Fictional Character: Clarice Starling is as tough as they come. The FBI agent has had to deal with psychopaths such as Hannibal Lecter and Buffalo Bill, all while remaining composed and focused on her assignments. The character originated in Thomas Harris’ novels and was played by Jodie Foster in The Silence of the Lambs and Julianne Moore in Hannibal.
Fictional City: Silent Hill is the setting of a long-running popular survival horror video games series, which was also adapted into a 2006 movie, starring Radha Mitchell and Sean Bean, and 2012 sequel. I never played the games myself, but remember friends giving them glowing reviews, getting the crap scared out of them. There’s also a series of novels for the franchise.
Actor/Actress: Don Knotts enjoyed long TV and film career. After winning five Emmy Awards as Deputy Barney Fife on The Andy Griffiths Show, Knotts transitioned into movies. He returned to TV as landlord Ralph Furley on Three’s Company. He later rejoined Andy Griffiths with a recurring role on Matlock. A statue of Knotts is outside the Metropolitan Theatre in his hometown of Morgantown.
Song: Take Me Home, Country Roads by John Denver is among four State Songs for West Virginia. The song is about taking a drive through the state and includes Denver calling it “Almost Heaven”, which became a slogan for the state, appearing on license plates and in tourism marketing. The Mountain State Brewing Company has an amber ale called Almost Heaven.
Band/Musician: R&B musician Bill Withers was born in Slab Fork. He is best known for the hits Ain’t No Sunshine, Lean on Me, Lovely Day and Just the Two of Use. Withers won three Grammy Awards during his brief career, choosing to leave the music industry, unhappy with his treatment by record label executives. He was inducted into the Songwriters and Rock and Roll Hall of Fames.
People: Mathematician John Nash Jr. was born in Bluefield. He won the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences in 1994, for his work with chance and decision-making within complex systems. Nash’s battle with mental illness throughout his career was documented in the 2001 film A Beautiful Mind, which was based on the Pulitzer Prize-nominated biography of the same name.
Animal: A new species was discovered in West Virginia in 1796, when soldiers came across the bones of what they thought were of a lion. Thomas Jefferson examined the skeleton, determining it belonged to a giant sloth, which he dubbed Megalonyx (aka Large Claw). Scientists named the species Megalonyx Jeffersonii and the remains became the State Fossil of West Virginia.
Invention: While in West Virginia in the late 1870’s, dentist and inventor Mahlon Loomis developed theories that would eventually lead to wireless communication, including radio and telegraphs. His experiments involved using kites as antennas from high hills and mountains, further stretching how far communication could occur without physical connections.
Crime: In July 2012, teenager Skylar Neese went missing from her home in Star City. Her friends Rachel Shoaf and Shelia Eddy were later convicted of killing Neese, who had been stabbed more than 50 times and her body disposed of. Shoaf confessed to the crime, resulting in Neese’s body being found in January 2013. Both girls are now serving jail sentences in West Virginia.
Law: In West Virginia, fines can be doled out for public swearing and drunkenness. Looks like the Sip Advisor will be short some singles if I’m ever able to get to the state!
Sports Team: The West Virginia University Mountaineers and Marshall University Thundering Herd sports programs play in Division I of the NCAA. Marshall University may best be known for the 1970 plane crash that claimed the lives of 37 football team members, which was documented in the 2006 film We Are Marshall, starring Matthew McConaughey.
Athlete: Fairmont’s Mary Lou Retton became one of the most popular U.S. Olympians of all-time, when she won the all-around gymnastics competition at the 1984 Summer Olympics, making her the first American woman to do so. She was only 16 at the time and performing just weeks after knee surgery. Retton was the first female athlete to be featured on the cover of Wheaties cereal boxes.
Famous Home: Blennerhassett Mansion was used by a group led by former U.S. Vice President Aaron Burr, as they planned an unknown military mission, for which Burr, owner Harman Blennerhassett and others were arrested on suspicion of treason. The estate, resembling George Washington’s Mount Vernon home, burned down in 1811 and was reconstructed in the 1980’s.
Urban Legend: A major figure in West Virginia folklore is the Mothman, a half-man, half-moth creature. It was first seen in Point Pleasant, which now hosts an annual Mothman Festival, as well as having a Mothman Museum, marked outside by a statue of the being. The Mothman gained notoriety from the book The Mothman Prophecies, which was adapted into a 2002 movie, starring Richard Gere.
Museum: Two West Virginia museums that also offer haunted tours are the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum and West Virginia Penitentiary. The Asylum operated from 1864 to 1994, often overrun with patients, who were receiving experimental treatments such as labotomies. The Penitentiary was the site of 94 executions, from 1899 to 1959 and also experienced notable jail breaks and riots.
Firsts: The first modern Mother’s Day was celebrated in 1908 in West Virginia. It was achieved through the efforts of Anne Jarvis, whose mother desired such a holiday. Jarvis later took offence to the commercialization of Mother’s Day and tried to have it ended. The greeting card and flower industries paid for her care in her final years. The International Mother’s Day Shrine can be found in Grafton.
Company: I didn’t find much to go on for this category, but there is the Gesundheit! Institute in Pocahontas County. The Institute was created by Hunter ‘Patch’ Adams, the doctor who inspired the Robin Williams movie Patch Adams, and blends traditional hospital protocols with alternative medicine treatments. Gesundheit! offers free care to patients.
Events: Leading up to the Civil War, Virginia seceded from the Union, choosing to be a Confederate state. Those who opposed this decision, namely those in northwest corner of the state, separated from the rest of Virginia, forming what would become West Virginia (although the name Kanawha was considered). West Virginia was granted Union statehood in 1863.
Miscellaneous: The largest family reunion in the world, as recorded by the Guinness Book of World Records in 2009, takes place annually (except for 2020) in West Virginia. Members of the Lilly family have been gathering in Flat Top since 1929. The now three-day event includes live entertainment, loads of food and other activities, with tens of thousands guests attending.
- 2 oz Vodka
- Top with Ginger Ale
- Garnish with a Lime Wedge
Copperheads, also known as Peace Democrats, were people who opposed the Civil War and wanted a quick settlement with the Confederates. The Copperheadism movement was strongest in the Ohio River area, which includes West Virginia. The drink, similar to a Moscow Mule, may be simple, but it’s delicious.