The Allegheny frontier, comprising the mountainous area of present-day West Virginia and bordering states, is studied here in a broad context of frontier history and national development. The region was significant in the great American westward movement, but Otis K. Rice seeks also to call attention to the impact of the frontier experience upon the later history of the Allegheny Highlands. He sees a relationship between its prolonged frontier experience and the problems of Appalachia in the twentieth century.
Through an intensive study of the social, economic, and political developments in pioneer West Virginia, Rice shows that during the period 1730--1830 some of the most significant features of West Virginia life and thought were established. There also appeared evidences of arrested development, which contrasted sharply with the expansiveness, ebullience, and optimism commonly associated with the American frontier. In this period customs, manners, and folkways associated with the conquest of the wilderness to root and became characteristic of the mountainous region well into the twentieth century. During this pioneer period, problems also took root that continue to be associated with the region, such as poverty, poor infrastructure, lack of economic development, and problematic education.
Since the West Virginia frontier played an important role in the westward thrust of migration through the Alleghenies, Rice also provides some account of the role of West Virginia in the French and Indian War, eighteenth-century land speculations, the Revolutionary War, and national events after the establishment of the federal government in 1789.