This story is reprinted from the April 27, 1990, edition of The Charleston Gazette.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- About 330 million years ago, as the ocean began to recede from the eastern portion of the land mass that makes up present-day West Virginia, limestone began to form around sections of coral reefs, protecting them from exposure to the elements during the millennia to follow.
These days, while most West Virginians do their beachcombing in Myrtle Beach, mementoes of the Mountain State's oceanic prehistory can still be found in portions of Greenbrier and Pocahontas counties.
There, the Hillsdale limestone formation preserves ancient reefs of West Virginia coral -- or Lithostrotionella, in the nomenclature of geology -- for generations to come.
This year , after a struggle that supporters were beginning to fear would stretch into the next geological era, the Legislature passed a concurrent resolution adopting West Virginia fossil coral as the official state gem.
"For 10 years, we've been trying to get it named the official state mineral," said James Guthrie, of St. Albans, a member of the Kanawha Rock & Gem Club. "We'd make it through the House, but until this year, we'd never make it through the Senate."
The problem, Guthrie said, was that members of the Senate "never seem to take the proposal seriously."
"But if it wasn't for rocks, people couldn't live," he said.