Skip Navigation

Sign In or Register


SharePrint Media File

Type: Video

Series Title West Virginia: A Film History

Filmmaker Mark Samels

Company West Virginia Humanities Council

Format DVD


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.

West Virginia Humanities Council | 1310 Kanawha Blvd E | Charleston, WV 25301 Ph. 304-346-8500 | © 2024 All Rights Reserved

About e-WV | Our Sponsors | Help & Support | Contact Us The essential guide to the Mountain State can be yours today! Click here to order.