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Barbour County, West Virginia facts for kids

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Barbour County
Barbour County Courthousein Philippi
Map of West Virginia highlighting Barbour County
Location within the U.S. state of West Virginia
Map of the United States highlighting West Virginia
West Virginia's location within the U.S.
Country  United States
State  West Virginia
Founded March 3, 1843
Named for Philip P. Barbour
Seat Philippi
Largest city Philippi
 • Total 342.85 sq mi (888.0 km2)
 • Land 341.06 sq mi (883.3 km2)
 • Water 1.79 sq mi (4.6 km2)
 • Total 15,465
 • Density 45.34/sq mi (17.51/km2)
Time zone UTC−5 (Eastern)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−4 (EDT)
Congressional district 1st
Map of Barbour County, W.Va., 1883
"Map of Barbour County, W.Va., 1883" showing its eight magisterial districts.

Barbour County is a county in north-central West Virginia, US. At the 2020 census, the population was 15,465. The county seat is Philippi, which was chartered in 1844. Both county and city were named for Philip P. Barbour (1783–1841), a U.S. Congressman from Virginia and Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. The county was formed in 1843 when the region was still part of the state of Virginia. In 1871, a small part of Barbour County was transferred to Tucker County, West Virginia.

The Battle of Philippi, also known as the "Philippi Races", was fought in Barbour County on June 3, 1861. Although a minor action, it is generally considered the first land engagement of the American Civil War.

Alderson Broaddus University, an American Baptist institution, is in the county. The university's Physician Assistant (PA) program is one of the world's oldest and best established.


Settlement and formation

The first white settlement in present-day Barbour County was established in 1780 by Richard Talbott – along with his brother Cotteral and sister Charity – about three miles (5 km) downriver from the future site of Philippi. At this time the region was still a part of Monongalia County, Virginia. The region had had no permanent Indian settlements and so conflicts with Native Americans were relatively infrequent in the early days. Nevertheless, the Talbotts were obliged to leave their homestead several times for safety and twice found it necessary to retreat back east of the Alleghenies, returning each time. No member of this eventually large family was ever killed by Indian attacks.

Over time, parts of the future Barbour County were included in the newly created Harrison (1784), Randolph (1787), and Lewis (1816) Counties. Barbour County itself was created in 1843 and named for the late Virginia politician and jurist Philip Pendleton Barbour (1783–1841). (Barbour had served as a U.S. Congressman from Virginia, Speaker of the House, and Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court.) The settlement of Philippi – formerly "Anglin's Ford" and "Booth's Ferry" – was platted, named, and made the county seat in the same year; it was chartered in 1844. By the 1850s, when a major covered bridge was constructed at Philippi to service travellers on the Beverly-Fairmont Turnpike, the County's population was approaching 10,000 people.

Civil War

In April 1861, an Ordinance of Secession from the United States of America was approved throughout the state of Virginia in a referendum. Delegates from 25 western counties, however, assembled at Wheeling on 13 May for the first of a two meetings (see Wheeling Convention) called to repeal the Ordinance. The delegates from Barbour County for the first convention were Spencer Dayton, John H. Shuttleworth, and E.H. Manafee.

On 3 June 1861, Philippi was the scene of the first land battle of the American Civil War. The battle was later lampooned as the "Philippi Races" because of the hurried retreat by the Confederate troops encamped in the town. (The skirmish is reenacted every June during the town's "Blue and Gray Reunion".) At daylight on June 3, two columns of Union forces under the command of Col. Benjamin Franklin Kelley and Col. Ebenezer Dumont, with perhaps 3,000 men, arrived from Grafton and attacked about 800 poorly armed Confederate recruits under the command of Col. George A. Porterfield. The Union troops had marched all night through a heavy rain storm to arrive just before daylight. The surprise attack awakened the sleeping Confederates. After firing a few shots at the advancing Union troops, the Southerners broke lines and began running frantically to the south, some still in their bed clothes.

The Union victory in a relatively bloodless battle propelled the young Major General George B. McClellan into the national spotlight, and he would soon be given command of all Union armies. The battle also inspired more vocal protests in the Western part of Virginia against secession. On 11 June, the second Wheeling Convention met in that city and Barbour County was again represented by Dayton and Shuttleworth, who were this time joined by N.H. Taft. The Convention nullified the Virginia Ordinance of Secession and named Francis H. Pierpont governor. These events would eventually result in the separate statehood of West Virginia.

Later history

The economy and infrastructure in Barbour grew steadily, but slowly, through the late 19th century. Although the first railroad had reached nearby Grafton in 1852, a narrow-gauge railroad was not laid through the County until the early 1880s; a standard gauge line followed in the 1890s.

In 1990, private developers offered Barbour County citizens $4M to $6M annually in host fees to accept out-of-state garbage into a County landfill over the following three decades. Up to 200,000 tons of garbage per month would be delivered. (At the time, the County's annual budget was only about $1M.) County voters rejected the offer.

Registered Historic Places


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 343 square miles (890 km2), of which 341 square miles (880 km2) is land and 1.8 square miles (4.7 km2) (0.5%) is water.

Barbour County is situated on the Allegheny Plateau at the western edge of the Allegheny Mountains (represented by Laurel Mountain at the County's eastern boundary). Most of the County is drained by the Tygart Valley River which traverses it from south to north and on which its three largest settlements – Philippi, Belington, and Junior – are sited. Tributaries of the Tygart in the County include Teter Creek, Laurel Creek, Hacker's Creek, the Buckhannon River and the West Fork River. A portion of the County in the west drains into the Middle Fork River, principally through Elk Creek. Audra State Park – the County's only state park – is situated on the Middle Fork in the southwest corner. Teter Creek Lake Wildlife Management Area – the County's only WMA – is located on that stream and lake in the eastern portion. All of the mentioned streams are part of the greater Monongahela River watershed.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1850 9,005
1860 8,958 −0.5%
1870 10,312 15.1%
1880 11,870 15.1%
1890 12,702 7.0%
1900 14,198 11.8%
1910 15,858 11.7%
1920 18,028 13.7%
1930 18,628 3.3%
1940 19,869 6.7%
1950 19,745 −0.6%
1960 15,474 −21.6%
1970 14,030 −9.3%
1980 16,639 18.6%
1990 15,699 −5.6%
2000 15,557 −0.9%
2010 16,589 6.6%
2020 15,465 −6.8%
U.S. Decennial Census
1790–1960 1900–1990
1990–2000 2010–2020

2010 census

As of the 2010 United States Census, there were 16,589 people, 6,548 households, and 4,643 families residing in the county. The population density was 48.6 inhabitants per square mile (18.8/km2). There were 7,849 housing units at an average density of 23.0 per square mile (8.9/km2). The racial makeup of the county was 96.8% white, 0.7% black or African American, 0.6% American Indian, 0.2% Asian, 0.2% from other races, and 1.5% from two or more races. Those of Hispanic or Latino origin made up 0.6% of the population. In terms of ancestry, 23.4% were German, 22.3% were American, 13.6% were Irish, and 11.0% were English.

Of the 6,548 households, 30.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 54.8% were married couples living together, 10.9% had a female householder with no husband present, 29.1% were non-families, and 24.2% of all households were made up of individuals. The average household size was 2.46 and the average family size was 2.89. The median age was 41.5 years.

The median income for a household in the county was $31,212 and the median income for a family was $39,434. Males had a median income of $34,573 versus $21,797 for females. The per capita income for the county was $17,304. About 14.3% of families and 18.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 27.5% of those under age 18 and 13.6% of those age 65 or over.


View of Philippi, county seat of Barbour County. Visible are the historic Philippi Covered Bridge spanning the Tygart Valley River and the main administrative building and chapel of Alderson Broaddus University atop "Battle Hill" (upper left) overlooking the town.



Census-designated places

Unincorporated communities

Minor civil divisions

Barbour County is divided into eight magisterial districts: Barker, Cove, Elk, Glade, Philippi, Pleasant, Union and Valley. Philippi District is sub-divided into that city's four wards. The town of Belington, however, has its Wards 1 and 2 in Valley District and Wards 3 and 4 in Barker District.


Major employment in Barbour County is provided by health care and social service sectors, retail, education, accommodation and food services, logging and wood product manufacturing, trucking and construction. The largest employers are Alderson Broaddus University and Broaddus Hospital.

Bituminous coal mining has been significant in Barbour; seven times as much tonnage has been produced from underground as by surface mining. Natural gas and oil wells provide a modest amount of employment. Wholesale lumber production (wood and wood products) is also present. (The county is a member of the West Virginia Hardwood Alliance Zone.) There is notable production of eggs and horse raising, but the major agricultural products are livestock, forage, dairy foods and orchard fruits.

Notable natives and residents

  • Ann Maria Reeves Jarvis (1832–1905), social activist who – along with her daughter Anna Marie Jarvis (1864–1948) – is credited with founding Mother's Day, lived in the county for several years
  • William Smith O'Brien (Congressman) (1862–1948), born at Audra
  • Ida Lilliard Reed (1865–1951), hymn writer
  • Ted Cassidy (1932–79), actor who played Lurch and "Thing" on the 1960s TV show The Addams Family
  • Larry Groce (b. 1948), noted singer and songwriter, lived near Galloway in the late 1980s
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