West Virginia governor John Jacob died in Wheeling on November 24, 1893, at age 63. The Hampshire County native was the first governor born within the borders of what would become West Virginia and, in 1870, became the state’s first Democratic governor.
During Jacob’s first term, Democratic lawmakers rewrote the state constitution, restoring full political rights to West Virginians who had fought for the South during the Civil War. The new constitution also lengthened the gubernatorial term from two years to four and prohibited governors from serving two consecutive terms. This latter change didn’t apply to Jacob.
In 1872, he won re-election, though as an Independent rather than a Democrat. That year, the Democratic Party nominated industrialist Johnson Camden instead of Jacob. Some Democrats, however, joined forces with Republicans, who backed Jacob rather than nominate their own candidate. After a bitter campaign, voters preferred Jacob’s reputation for protecting the state’s interests over Camden’s connections to big business. Jacob’s six full years in office made him the state’s longest-serving governor until Arch Moore served eight years a century later. Jacob is also the only governor elected as an Independent.