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Boreman leads new state

By Staff | Jun 18, 2014

Arthur I. Boreman, long time Tyler County resident and first elected Governor of West Virginia

(Editor’s note: This is the latest installment from the Tyler County Planning Commission in conjunction with the Tyler County Bicentennial.)

Within the western counties of Virginia, political and emotional turmoil swirled around the efforts to reestablish a government loyal to the United States, following the Commonwealth of Virginia’s succession from the Union. The majority of the residents of Virginia’s western counties, including Tyler County, had long been dissatisfied with the level of representation provided to them in the Virginia Legislature. The statewide referendum, which determined Virginia’s decision to stay, or leave the United States, received very little support in the counties west of the Allegheny Mountains.

Efforts to establish “the Reorganized Government of Virginia,” which was the predecessor of West Virginia’s governmental entity, needed intelligent, determined, and courageous leadership. The delegates at the Wheeling Convention found such a man in Tyler County-raised and educated attorney Arthur Ingram Boreman, the new state’s first elected governor.

Arthur Boreman was born in Waynesburg, Pa., the son of a town merchant. At the age of four, he and his family moved to Middlebourne. While the majority of Boreman’s years were spent in Wood County, for 19 years Boreman was raised and educated in Tyler County, where he obviously learned the value of service to one’s fellow citizens.

In 1845, Boreman was admitted to the bar and established a law practice at Parkersburg the following year. He represented Wood County as a Whig delegate in the Virginia General Assembly from 1855 to 1861, then served as a circuit judge under the Reorganized Government of Virginia.

A member of the Constitutional Union party, Boreman was elected West Virginia’s first governor in 1863. He contributed effectively to the government of the new state, supporting legislation which instituted the West Virginia Code, Board of Public Works, and the public school system.

During the Civil War, Boreman organized state militia units to combat Confederate guerrillas in the southern part of the new state. In 1865, he encouraged legislation which prohibited former Confederates from voting or holding public office, guaranteeing Republican control of the state for five years. In 1869, Boreman resigned from office to join the United States Senate six days prior to the end of his term. After one six-year term in the Senate, he returned to Parkersburg to practice law. In 1888, Boreman was again elected as a circuit judge, serving until his death in 1896.

Much of what our first governor believed and worked to address is reflected in the following quotes from his Inaugural Address:

“West Virginia should long since have had a separate State existence. The East has always looked upon that portion of the State west of the mountains, as a sort of outside appendage-a territory in a state of pupillage. The unfairness and inequality of legislation is manifest on every page of the statute book

“Our State is the child of the rebellion; yet our peace, prosperity and happiness, and, not only ours, but that of the whole country, depends on the speedy suppression of this attempt to overthrow the Government of our fathers; and it is my duty, as soon as these ceremonies are closed, to proceed at once to aid the Federal authorities in their efforts to stay its (the Confederacy’s) destructive hand.

“Our State (West Virginia) has been invaded by traitors in arms against the best government that a kind and beneficent God ever inspired man to make; they have applied the torch to public and private property; they have murdered our friends; they have robbed and plundered our people; our country is laid waste, and, today, gaunt hunger stares many families of helpless women and children in the face. This picture is not overdrawn. It is a simple statement of facts. Yet, notwithstanding all this, the Union men of West Virginia have not looked to the right or the left, but through all these difficulties and dangers they have stood by the Government.

“it shall be my especial pride and pleasure to assist in the establishment of a system of education throughout the State that may give to every child among us, whether rich or poor, an education that may fit them for respectable positions in society.”

Governor Boreman’s pledge to establish a system of free public education to all the children of West Virginia’s citizens makes it particularly appropriate the one of Tyler County’s two elementary schools is named in his honor.

See coming editions of the Tyler Star News for more installments of historical facts.

Acknowledgments: West Virginia Division of Culture and History.