In 1897, the legislature established the West Virginia Geological and Economic Survey to study and map the state’s geology and natural resources. The agency’s director, also named the state geologist, was appointed by a commission made up of the governor, state treasurer, president of West Virginia University, commissioner of agriculture, and director of WVU’s Agricultural Experiment Station. The survey was based at WVU.
The first director, the pioneering geologist Israel Charles White, served from 1897 to 1927. During his tenure the survey mapped the state’s topography, set up gauges on the principal rivers, charted the soils of 48 counties, and published maps and books about West Virginia geology.
In 1934, Paul H. Price was appointed director and state geologist. Under his direction, the survey began more extensive studies of the state’s coal, oil, and gas reserves, and groundwater. This information was used primarily for the exploitation of mineral resources.
By 1969, when Robert B. Erwin was named director and state geologist, the agency was using computers and other high technology tools to collect and analyze data. Erwin’s most important projects included a comprehensive study of the state’s 117 coal seams, research on acid mine drainage, transfer of agency data onto computer programs, and publication of the West Virginia Gazetteer of Physical and Cultural Place Names and the 50th anniversary edition of Springs of West Virginia. In 1978, the survey moved its office from WVU to the Mont Chateau Research Center east of Morgantown.
In 1981, the legislature gave to the governor the authority to appoint the agency’s director. The current director is Michael E. Hohn. The West Virginia Geological and Economic Survey continues to do research for its mapping projects and provide educational programs for schools and the public.
Last Revised on November 12, 2010
Davis, William M. West Virginia Commission on the Arts: 30 Years of Leadership and Service. Artworks, (Fall 1997).