‘‘The West Virginia Hills’’ is the best-known of three official state songs. In September 1885, the Glenville Crescent 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. The music 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.
Written by H. G. Young III
Research Shows State Song 'West Virginia Hills' a Product of Gilmer County. Glenville Democrat, 1/25/1973.