Wirt County, one of the state's smallest in area, was created in 1848 and named for William Wirt, noted Virginia jurist and U.S. Attorney General. The county enjoyed its highest population count in 1900, when most of its 10,284 inhabitants were engaged in, or dependent on, the oil or timber industries. The 2000 census counted a population of 5,873, giving Wirt the distinction of currently having the smallest population of all West Virginia's fifty-five counties. Little now remains to mark the site of Burning Springs, center of the oil boom of the 1860s and said to have once had several thousand inhabitants.
Seemingly removed from the rapid pace of progress, the county contains significant examples of building types that reflect West Virginia's preindustrial age. Timber is still an important part of the economy, and paper products manufacturer Westvaco is one of the county's largest landowners.
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