Although southern West Virginia was spared the devastation wrought in the main theaters of the Civil War, the war had other profound implications for the area. First of all, the war provided a timely opportunity for western Virginia political leaders to successfully aspire toward independent statehood, and in the process to establish a political system that facilitated the wholesale invasion of the state by metropolitan-based extractive industries. Yet another consequence of the war was the discovery of the vast timber and mineral resources of West Virginia. Numerous military scouts and surveyors, both Union and Confederate, entered the region during the war and made covetous note of seemingly endless stands of virgin timber, and ubiquitous outcroppings of superior quality coal. Many of these men forged ties with out-of-state financiers to whom they disclosed their wartime discoveries. Turning their attention to West Virginia, these early tycoons found a political system that they could shape in their own image, and mineral-rich lands with tenuous ownership titles ripe for the picking.
This chapter examines the processes by which timber and mineral development was inhibited, but slowly came to dominate the Wyoming County economy as an inevitable consequence of the larger state political system. Wyoming County was anomalous insofar as