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About Morgantown

Morgantown, West Virginia

Morgantown is a city in Monongalia County,GR6 West Virginia, on the banks of the Monongahela River. Part of the Pittsburgh Tri-State, Morgantown is the largest city in North-Central West Virginia and is the principal city of and is included in the Morgantown, West Virginia Metropolitan Statistical Area. The county seat, it is best known as the home both of West Virginia University and of a one-of-a-kind, experimental personal rapid transit system. The city was founded by Zackquill Morgan in 1772.

Of the ten largest cities in West Virginia, only Morgantown and Martinsburg have a positive population growth since the last census. As of July 2005, the MSA had an estimated population of 114,501. Morgantown itself had a population 26,809 at the 2000 census (2005 estimate: 28,292)[1]. West Virginia University constitutes 913 acres (3.7 km²) of the city and vicinity, and with the fall 2005 enrollment added an additional population of 27,115 students from every state, the District of Columbia, and 91 nations.

During the 1970s, the U.S. Department of Transportation built an experimental personal rapid transit system in the city, citing the area's variety of seasonal climates and geographic elevations as factors in testing the technology's viability. The Morgantown Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) has been in use since 1975.


Walnut St. PRT station and part of downtown
Walnut St. PRT station and part of downtown

As of the censusGR2 of 2000, there were 26,809 people, 10,782 households, and 4,183 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,056.2/km² (2,736.0/mi²). There were 11,721 housing units at an average density of 461.8/km² (1,196.2/mi²). The racial makeup of the city was 89.48% White, 4.15% African American, 0.17% Native American, 4.15% Asian, 0.05% Pacific Islander, 0.51% from other races, and 1.48% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.54% of the population.

There were 10,782 households out of which 15.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 29.1% were married couples living together, 7.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 61.2% were non-families. 37.3% of all households were made up of individuals and 9.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.08 and the average family size was 2.76.

Morgantown's age distribution, which is heavily influenced by the presence of West Virginia University, is: 11.1% under the age of 18, 44.7% from 18 to 24, 20.4% from 25 to 44, 13.5% from 45 to 64, and 10.4% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 23 years. For every 100 females there were 104.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 105.0 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $20,649, and the median income for a family was $44,622. Males had a median income of $33,268 versus $24,944 for females. The per capita income for the city was $14,459. About 15.0% of families and 38.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 23.3% of those under age 18 and 8.3% of those age 65 or over.

Following Census 2000, Monongalia County (with county seat Morgantown) and neighboring Preston County were acknowledged as a metropolitan statistical area (MSA) by the United States government. Estimates from 2004 put the metropolitan population at 113,500.


Morgantown is closely tied to the Anglo-French struggle for this territory. Until the Treaty of Paris in 1763, what is now known as Morgantown was greatly contested among settlers and Native Americans, as well as the English and the French. The treaty decided the issue in favor of the English, but Indian fighting continued almost to the beginning of the American Revolution.

Several forts were built in the area after this conflict. Fort Pierpont was constructed towards the Cheat River, in 1769. Fort Coburn was built in 1770, near Dorsey's Knob. Fort Morgan was established in 1772 at the present site of Morgantown. Fort Dinwiddle, north several miles at Stewartstown was built in 1772. Fort Martin was established in 1773, several miles north on the Monongahela River. Fort Burris was erected in 1774 in the Suncrest area of Morgantown. Fort Kern was built in the Greenmont area of Morgantown in 1774, as well as other small forts that served the purpose at the time.

Historic warehouse in Wharf District, converted to restaurant during late-1990s/early-2000s riverfront refurbishing.
Historic warehouse in Wharf District, converted to restaurant during late-1990s/early-2000s riverfront refurbishing.

Morgantown was settled in 1772 by Zackquill Morgan. The Virginia General Assembly chartered the territory in 1785, and the first lot sale was held. Morgan received the charter for the establishment of Morgan's Town, Virginia, the future Morgantown. The town became part of the newly created state of West Virginia following the 1863 secession of slave-free counties from the slave state of Virginia.

Notable early structures still standing in Morgantown in the mid-2000s include The Old Stone House, built in 1795 by Jacob Nuce on Long Alley, the modern-day Chestnut Street; and the John Rogers family home on Foundry Street, built in 1840 and is now occupied by the Dering Funeral Home.


The city is served by Monongalia County Schools. Public elementary schools in Morgantown and its surrounding area include Cheat Lake, North, Brookhaven, Ridgedale, and Mountainview. There are four middle schools: Cheat Lake, South, Westwood, and Suncrest. The city's two high schools are University High School, the mascot of which is the Hawks, and Morgantown High School, whose mascot is the Mohigans. The latter's name is that of a non-existent Native American tribe whose name is a combination of the words Morgantown (MO) High (HIG) Annual (AN), which was the school's yearbook. The Native American mascot and logo were adopted because of the close relation to the name Mohican, a real Native American tribe.[2] Notable Morgantown High School alumni include screenwriter-film director Lawrence Kasdan (class of 1966), actor Don Knotts (class of 1942), college football coach Tommy Bowden (class of 1972), and TV college football analyst Terry Bowden (class of 1974).

As of April 2005, Monongalia County Schools employs 897 professional personnel and 490 service personnel, and carries an enrollment of 10,076 students, including 156 adult students at the Monongalia County Technical Education Center. Three of Monongalia County's 23 schools have earned Exemplary Achievement status, according to the West Virginia Office of Educational Performance Audits' (OEPA) report issued November 2004. In 2004, Suncrest Middle became a National Blue Ribbon School for the No Child Left Behind Act.

Other private schools include Alliance Christian School, Covenant Christian School, Maranatha Christian Academy, Morgantown Christian Academy, Trinity High School, and the alternative, non-religious Morgantown Learning Academy.


While informal schools existed from Morgantown's earliest days [3], the town established a one-story, coeducational, Virginia common school in July 1803, that students attended on a tuition basis.[4].On Nov. 29, 1814, the Virginia General Assembly incorporated Monongalia Academy, the county's first public school.[5] Supported by obligatory surveyors' fees, the male-only institution was the equivalent of a modern-day high school.[6] The Academy moved to a new two-story building in 1830, with principal Jonathan Haddock offering courses in geography, surveying, and navigation in addition to traditional subjects. Presbyterian minister Reverend James Robertson Moore was principal during the Academy's 1852-1864 heyday, when its enrollment included students from 14 states.[7] In 1867, the Academy closed, and donated its land toward the establishment of West Virginia University.

The Virginia Assembly in March 1831 authorized the creation of the Morgantown Female Academy. Proceeds from the sale of the original Monongalia Academy building funded construction of a two-story school at Bumbo Lane (the modern-day Fayette Street) and Long Alley (the modern-day Chestnut Street). This school opened April 1, 1834.[8] After the Assembly approved a charter change in 1838, the school became known as the Methodist Academy.[9] This prompted local Presbyterians to create the Woodburn Female Seminary, for which the Monongalia Academy's Rev. Moore also served as principal. The seminary closed in 1866, and its assets, like those of the Monongalia Academy, were donated toward the future university.

Following the 1863 creation of West Virginia, the new state's first legislature created a public-school system. The act provided for the education of "free colored children", and was adapted three years later to mandate education for all African-American children. However, a two-tier system was created: White children attended a regular term (at the second former Monongalia Academy building, purchased in 1867 from West Virginia Agricultural College, the future WVU), only a short term was provided for African-Americans, who met at St. Paul's African Methodist Episcopal Church, on Beechurst Avenue.[10]

Catholic schools

St. Francis High School building, 2006
St. Francis High School building, 2006

A Catholic elementary school, Saint Francis de Sales, began sometime prior to 1915 as a two-room school in a house on McLane Avenue in the Seneca neighborhood, and run by lay teacher Miss Sterbutsal, who became Sister M. Isabelle of the Sisters of St. Joseph. In October 1915, the pastorate of Father Peter Flynn arranged for Ursuline nuns from Louisville, Kentucky, and in 1918, under principal Sister M. Isadore, the school moved to a new building on Beechurst Avenue, adjacent to St. Theresa's Church. On June 9, 1990, the grade school moved into the former St. Francis Central High School building, and eventually into newly built facility at 41 Guthrie Lane.[11] Its mascot is the Falcon. The Beechurst Avenuie building was demolished in the mid-2000s.

St. Francis Central High School had existed for several decades into the 1990s, located between WVU's Towers dormitory complex and Patteson Drive in the Evansdale neighborhood. Its mascot was the Trojans. The high school's football field was named for Father Flynn. The West Virginia University Foundation purchased its building and land in July 2003, formally selling it to WVU for $11 million in August 2004, with the university then announcing it intended to use the football and adjacent baseball fields as intramural recreation area.[12]

West Virginia University (WVU)

This is a public, land-grant institution, founded in 1867. With an operating budget of approximately $654 million as of the mid-2000s, it also has $150 million annually in sponsored contracts and research grants conducted by faculty members.

Fall 2007 enrollment was 27,500, with students from all 55 state counties, 50 states plus the District of Columbia, and 89 other nations. Basic figures regarding the student body:

  • 59% residents, 41% nonresidents
  • 19,510 undergraduates
  • 6,541 graduate and professional students
  • 51% male, 49% female
  • 7% minorities
  • Students residing in University housing: approximately 5,535

The 2007-08 curriculum is supported by 14 colleges and schools offering 179 bachelor's, master's, doctoral, and professional degree programs in the arts and sciences; business and economics; creative arts; engineering and mineral resources; human resources and education; journalism; law; agriculture, forestry, and consumer sciences; dentistry; medicine; nursing; pharmacy; physical education; plus programs at Potomac State College.

Points of interest

Caperton Trail
Decker's Creek Trail

External links

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