The settlement developed on land purchased by Colonel George Clendenin in 1787; the patent for the land was signed by then governor Thomas Jefferson. Clendenin built Fort Lee there in 1788, and the town was chartered in 1794; first named Charles Town, for Clendenin’s father, it was renamed Charleston in 1819. Because it lay on the migration route to the Ohio River valley, the settlement soon became a transshipment point and attracted such frontier figures as Daniel Boone, Simon Kenton, and Ann Bailey. The town utilized local brine wells as early as 1795 and was an important centre of saltproduction in 1824, when the first steamboat arrived. Charleston was nominated as the state capital in 1870, but it took seven years and a popular vote before the capital moved there permanently.
Since 1929, the chemical industry has been an economic force in the valley, providing a large, stable employment base for many years. Union Carbide Corporation, Monsanto, E. I. du Pont de Nemours, Clearon Corp., and FMC are among the companies with chemical-connected facilities in the Charleston area. Union Carbide also has its headquarters for research and development in the Tech Center complex in South Charleston. Valley residents have been very supportive of the chemical industry, acknowledging that the indus-try’s first priority has always been safety. Likewise, local governments have been involved and have participated in safety and emergency planning. Other Kanawha Valley industries include heavy steel fabricating, glass manufacturing, and energy development. Columbia Gas Transmission Corporation, headquartered in Charleston, employs almost one-third of its workforce in the Charleston headquarters.
Today, Charleston enjoys a diverse economy. An abundant and well-educated workforce is employed in thriving chemical, automotive, telecommunications, healthcare, and professional services sectors. Retail trade and tourism are also thriving economic sectors.
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