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Philippi, West Virginia

Philippi (pronounced 'FILL-uh-pea') is a city in and the county seat of Barbour County, West Virginia, United States. The population was 2,870 at the 2000 census. In 1861, the city was the site of the Battle of Philippi, known as "The Philippi Races". Although a minor skirmish, this is considered the earliest notable land action of the American Civil War.

Philippi is the home of Alderson-Broaddus College, a four-year liberal-arts college affiliated with the American Baptist Churches.

The city has a weekly newspaper, The Barbour Democrat.


Philippi is located along the Tygart Valley River at (39.151569, -80.043472).

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 2.9 square miles (7.6 km²), of which, 2.8 square miles (7.4 km²) of it is land and 0.1 square miles (0.3 km²) of it (3.40%) is water.

Most of the town is located in the Valley, but part of it, including the college campus, is on "Battle Hill" overlooking the Valley.

A railroad line runs through Philippi, but is now used only by freight trains, passenger rail service having been discontinued in 1957 (the old passenger-rail station has been turned into a museum). The town also has a private airport.


As of the census of 2000, there were 2,870 people, 1,119 households, and 668 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,010.6 people per square mile (390.2/km²). There were 1,260 housing units at an average density of 443.7/sq mi (171.3/km²).

The racial makeup of the city was 94.77% White, 1.11% African American, 1.05% Native American, 0.87% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 0.42% from other races, and 1.74% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.80% of the population. In addition, the area has a significant population of racially mixed (though often light-skinned and blue-eyed) people, known locally as 'the Chestnut Ridge people', whose specific origins are uncertain. They are categorized by many scholars among the Melungeons found scattered throughout Appalachia.

There were 1,119 households out of which 27.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 44.7% were married couples living together, 11.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 40.3% were non-families. 36.9% of all households were made up of individuals and 19.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.25 and the average family size was 2.92.

In the city the population was spread out with 20.9% under the age of 18, 18.0% from 18 to 24, 22.7% from 25 to 44, 19.8% from 45 to 64, and 18.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 34 years. For every 100 females there were 78.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 74.2 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $21,528, and the median income for a family was $31,473. Males had a median income of $27,262 versus $20,579 for females. The per capita income for the city was $12,176. About 21.9% of families and 30.7% of the population were below the poverty line, including 39.0% of those under age 18 and 24.5% of those age 65 or over. Residents tend to be slower than average to adopt modern conveniences; for example, some households did not have telephones installed until the 1990s.


Founding and naming

The first white settlement in present-day Barbour County was established about 2 miles upriver from the future site of Philippi in 1780, at which time the area was still part of western Virginia.

In 1899, Hu Maxwell described the 1843 founding and naming of the town itself:

"The county seat of Barbour was located at the place where Philippi now stands before there was a town and before the place was named. It was then a farm belonging to William F. Wilson, and the locality had long been known as Booth's Ferry. The land was first the property of William Anglin, and in succession was owned by John Wilson, Daniel Booth, Ely Butcher, Elmore Hart, Thomas H. Hite and William F. Wilson, who divided it into lots and disposed of the most of it within a few years of the establishing of the county seat. The county was named after [the Virginia lawyer and jurist] Philip Pendleton Barbour, and it was the intention of the county court when it selected a name for the town to honor the given name of Mr. Barbour; giving it the feminine form, however, in conformity with the Latin language. The feminine of Philip is Philippa, and it was meant that such should be the name of the town. But because of misspellings and a misunderstanding of the origin of the name (confounding it with Philippi, an ancient city) the name finally took the form which it now has. On April 5, 1843, the third day of the first county court, it is 'ordered that the county seat of this county be known and called PHILLIPPA'. Except that the name has too many 'L's' the form was proper, according to what was originially intended. Later the name became Philippi, but even then it was oftener misspelled than spelled correctly.
As Maxwell implies, St Paul's Epistle to the Philippians was no doubt influential in the final form of the name. Philippi was established by charter in 1844.

In 1852 Lemuel Chenoweth, a well-known Appalachian architect and carpenter, built a covered bridge in Philippi to provide a link on the turnpike running between Beverly and Fairmont. The Philippi Covered Bridge continues to be the town's prominent landmark.

Philippi in the Civil War

Philippi was the scene of the first land battle of the American Civil War, on June 3, 1861. The battle was later lampooned as the "Philippi Races" because of the hurried retreat by the Confederate troops encamped in the town. The battle is reenacted every June during the town's 'Blue and Gray Reunion.'

At daylight on June 3, two columns of Union forces under the command of Col. Benjamin Franklin Kelley and Col. Ebenezer Dumont, with perhaps 3,000 men, arrived from Grafton and attacked about 800 poorly-armed Confederate recruits under the command of Col. George A. Porterfield. The Union troops had marched all night through a heavy rain storm to arrive just before daylight. The surprise attack awakened the sleeping Confederates. After firing a few shots at the advancing Union troops, the Southerners broke lines and began running frantically to the south, some still in their bed clothes.

The Union victory in a relatively bloodless battle propelled the young Major General George B. McClellan into the national spotlight, and he would soon be given command of all Union armies. The battle also inspired more vocal protests in the Western part of Virginia against secession. A few days later in Wheeling, the Wheeling Convention nullified the Virginia ordinance of secession and named Francis H. Pierpont governor. These events would eventually result in the separate statehood of West Virginia.

Later history

In 1901, Broaddus College (founded in 1871 in Clarksburg, West Virginia) relocated to "Battle Hill", overlooking Philippi. In 1932, Broaddus merged with Alderson Academy (itself founded in 1901 in Alderson, West Virginia), whereupon these two Baptist institutions became the present "Alderson-Broaddus College".

Throughout its history, Philippi has suffered from floods because of its nearness to the river and the relatively low elevation of most of the town. The most damaging of these came in November 1985. The town has since adopted a flood plain management plan.

Four miners from Barbour County were killed in the 2006 Sago mine disaster, three of whom were from Philippi.


Name Party Term
Doris Mundy Democrat 2004-present -
Cayton Hill Democrat 1992-2004
Donald Baughman Democrat 1980-1992
Ronald Lindsey Republican ????-1980


Philippi's economy was originally based on coal mining and the railroad industry, but both have declined severely since the mid-20th century. The town's major employers now include Alderson-Broaddus College and Broaddus Hospital. Many inhabitants work in the service industry, education, and family farming.

Notable residents

Sites of interest

  • The Philippi Covered Bridge, located at the junction of US routes 250 and 119 in downtown Philippi. Notable for its use during the first land battle of the Civil War. This is the only "twin-barreled" covered bridge located on a federal highway in the United States. It is also the one of the longest covered bridges in the country.
  • The Barbour County Historical Museum, located in the former railway station, displays artifacts from throughout the region's history, with a particular focus on the 19th century. By far the most famous of these are the Philippi mummies, the bodies of two female asylum inmates that were artificially preserved in 1888 by local doctor Graham Hamrick, who was interested in mummification techniques.
  • Other local attractions are Adaland Mansion, the home of a nineteenth-century lawyer that has been restored to its historic state, and a one-room school that is preserved on the Alderson-Broaddus campus.
  • Unusually for a town of its size and location, Philippi is home to a Maronite hermitage, Our Lady of Solitude.

Sister cities


External links

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