By Emily Gallagher
Times West Virginian
Before West Virginia became a state on June 20, 1863, picking the right name was a challenge, and leaders naming the state in 1861 considered many options.
According to information from the West Virginia Division of Culture and History, in January 1861 Virginia passed a bill providing for a convention to pass on the question of whether the state should secede from the Union. The convention was held in February that year, and it passed an ordinance declaring that Virginia was no longer part of the Union.
The state had two functioning governments with headquarters in Richmond and Wheeling.
In August 1861, a second convention was held in Wheeling that passed an ordinance providing for the formation of a new state out of part of Virginia. For the time, the new state was called Kanawha.
In October 1861, the boundaries of the new state were defined and submitted to a vote of the people and ratified. However, the new state did not exist because there was no favorable action by Congress.
A third convention was held Dec. 3, 1861 in Wheeling where the debate for a new name of the state decided the outcome.
According to historic accounts, Delegate Harmon Sinsel suggested the name Kanawha should be stricken when considering the name of the new state.
Peter Van Winkle, of Wood County, asked why, and Sinsel, who was raised in Virginia, said he wanted to keep Virginia in the name.
“It always makes me think of the Virgin Mary, the mother of our blessed redeemer,” he reportedly said.
Granville Parker agreed with Sinsel on striking the name Kanawha. His reason was because there was already a county with the same name.