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West Virginia Univeristy

Guide to Archives & Manuscripts

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The West Virginia and Regional History Center preserves the finest gathering of archives and manuscripts pertaining to the history of West Virginia and the central Appalachian region in existence. The collection dates back to 1930 when the University Library accepted the responsibility of preserving the papers of U.S. Senator Waitman T. Willey, a founding father of West Virginia. The papers of other key political and industrial leaders soon followed, including those of Francis H. Pierpont, governor of the Reorganized Government of Virginia (1861-1863), and industrialist titans Henry Gassaway Davis and Johnson Newlon Camden.

The West Virginia University Board of Governors formally authorized the Library's growing "Division of Documents," as the collection was initially known, in 1933. Designated as an official depository for public records by an act of the state legislature the following year, the Division became a center for preserving the court records of many of West Virginia's oldest counties during the Works Progress Administration period.

During the 1950s, the collection's scope was expanded to embrace archival resources relevant to all subjects and fields in West Virginia history. Today, the Archives and Manuscripts division of the West Virginia and Regional History Center contains more than 3,900 collections consuming nearly 20,000 linear feet of shelf space. In addition to unmatched holdings regarding West Virginia's founding and political development, the collection preserves outstanding primary information resources regarding virtually all aspects of the state's economic, cultural, and social history from early settlement to the present.

Archives & Manuscripts collections include:

  • Political papers of 32 West Virginia Governors, 23 United States Senators, 24 United States Representatives, and numerous elected officials of state and county governments.
  • Records of the statehood movement and the constitutional conventions.
  • Archives of 28 of West Virginia's 55 county courts, which include deeds, bonds, licenses, surveys, elections, tax records, road records, court orders, and court cases.
  • Civil War documents, including correspondence, diaries, muster rolls, etc.
  • Transcriptions of births, marriages, deaths, wills and estate settlements, and other vital records from the late 18th to early 20th century for all 55 counties.
  • Family papers, unpublished family histories, genealogies, compiled genealogical data.
  • Art, music, and literary manuscripts created by West Virginians.
  • Papers of labor leaders and labor organizations, businesses, educators, writers, artists, industrialists, churches, ministers, civic organizations, ethnic groups, schools, political parties, physicians.

Consult the Guide to Manuscripts and Archives in the West Virginia Collection (1974, 1965, and 1958 editions) and the Parkinson Guide, all available at the WVRHC's reference desk, for descriptions of the archives and manuscripts holdings. Searchable descriptions of the archives and manuscripts collections are also accessible through the WVRHC's web site at


Access: Access is unrestricted.