The Virginia General Assembly created Monongalia County from portions of the district of West Augusta in October 1776, the first year of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Like Ohio County, which was established by the same act, the county was named for the river that flows through it. In this instance, however, a variant spelling was used. Although the river is the Monongahela, the county is Monongalia.
By 1840 Monongalia had a population of 17,368, of whom only 260 were slaves. The county did not sustain its first flush of growth in subsequent decades, and sixty years later, the 1900 census counted a population of only 19,049. The county's coal reserves had long been known, but they were not extensively developed until World War I created a sudden and insatiable demand. As miners and their families arrived, the population soared, reaching a figure of 33,618 by 1920. Coal still plays a major role in the county's economy, and in 1980 Monongalia County ranked first in the state in production. In 2000, with 81,866 inhabitants, Monongalia was West Virginia's fourth most populous county.
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