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‘‘The West Virginia Hills’’ is the oldest of West Virginia’s four official state songs. In September 1885, the Glenville Crescent newspaper published the four-verse poem, credited to Ellen Ruddell King. One account suggests that the beauty of her native hills inspired Mrs. King to write it, while another hints that the poem was actually written by her husband, Rev. David H. King; a third implies that she wrote it, and he polished it. Also and notably, Daniel Boardman Purinton, professor and later president of West Virginia University, had previously published words and music to a somewhat shorter song called “West Virginia Hills.” Purinton’s song, published in 1877, has the same opening line, the same first line of the chorus, and essentially the same title as the version attributed to King.

The music to the standard Ellen Ruddell King version of “The West Virginia Hills” was composed by Henry Everett Engle of Gilmer County who also added the words for the chorus. Engle copyrighted the music in 1886 and included it in a collection, The West Virginia Singer, which was published in 1913.

The movement to adopt ‘‘The West Virginia Hills’’ as the official state song began with the West Virginia Music Educators Association in 1960. C. Buell Agey of West Virginia Wesleyan College prepared a definitive edition which was approved by the association’s executive board and the state music consultant. This version lowered the key one step to F major and changed the word ‘‘girlhood’’ to ‘‘childhood’’ in verse two. A resolution to officially adopt the song passed the West Virginia legislature on February 3, 1961. During the year of the state’s centennial, ‘‘West Virginia, My Home Sweet Home,’’ by Col. Julian G. Hearne Jr. of Wheeling, and ‘‘This is My West Virginia’’ by Iris Bell of Charleston joined ‘‘The West Virginia Hills’’ as official state songs on February 28, 1963. On March 7, 2014, the legislature approved a resolution naming “Take Me Home, Country Roads” as the state’s fourth state song.

This Article was written by H. G. Young III

Last Revised on June 12, 2017


Research Shows State Song 'West Virginia Hills' a Product of Gilmer County. Glenville Democrat, 1/25/1973.

Cite This Article

Young III, H. G. "‘‘The West Virginia Hills’’." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 12 June 2017. Web. 20 July 2024.


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