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West-virginia-encyclopedia-text

SharePrint Media File

Type: Video


Series Title West Virginia: A Film History

Filmmaker Mark Samels

Company West Virginia Humanities Council

Format DVD

Transcript

As Davis went to Washington, West Virginia began a campaign to attract industry and new residents to the state.

Commissioner of Immigration Joseph Diss Debar, a French-born artist, designed the state seal showing a farmer and a miner with the motto “Montani Semper Liberi,” “Mountaineers are always free.” Debar posted advertisements in Europe promoting West Virginia as the Switzerland of America, a place, he promised, where industry and independence would co-exist.

“That such a country, so full of the varied treasures of the forest, the mine, should lack inhabitants with the hum of industry or a show of wealth is an absurdity in the present and an impossibility in the future.” Joseph Diss Debar

Yet, when Debar greeted boatloads of Europeans in New York, he discovered that immigration officials described West Virginia as a wasteland where prices were high and foreigners unwelcome.
Debar did manage to attract a group of Swiss immigrants who founded the community of Helvetia and joined other self-sufficient farmers in the sparsely settled mountains.

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