Gilmer County was formed in 1845 and named for Thomas Walker Gilmer, a governor of Virginia. Farming and lumbering were the economic mainstays until oil and gas were discovered in the 1890s. Coal production became important in the early twentieth century, but is now of little consequence. Gilmer County's population peaked in 1940 at 12,046. The 2000 figure was 7,160.
In 1885 the topography of her native county inspired Mrs. D. H. King to compose West Virginia's unofficial state song, “The West Virginia Hills.” Figuratively the heart of West Virginia, Gilmer County hosts the State Folk Festival in Glenville each summer.
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