Transforming the Appalachian Countryside: Railroads, Deforestation, and Social Change in West Virginia, 1880-1920

By Ronald L. Lewis | Go to book overview

CHAPTER EIGHT
"NEW MEN" VERSUS "OLD MEN": POLITICAL ECONOMY AND THE COUNTY SEAT WARS

Industrial development profoundly altered the determinants of the political culture in West Virginia after the Civil War and Reconstruction. On the eve of deforestation in the 1880s, political culture had been aligned for a generation along the traditional axes of Democrat-Confederate-agrarian versus Republican-Unionist-industrial sympathies. With industrialization, however, economic interests marginalized all other concerns in both political parties. This blend of economics and political organization itself was an indicator of change in West Virginia, and it mirrored a national process that dominated American industrial development during the late nineteenth century. The role of railroad is clearly revealed in the "county seat wars." The railroad annihilated spatial relationships previously based on nature, and the idea that the county seat should be at the physical center of its county was one of the casualties of the new order in mountainous West Virginia. Struggles among local elites to relocate county seats along the transportation corridors where economic development would follow reflect the contours of

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