On April 22, 1861, some 1,200 protesters gathered at the Harrison County Courthouse in Clarksburg to vent their anger about Virginia seceding from the Union. Five days earlier, Virginia delegates had adopted an Ordinance of Secession, just days after the start of the Civil War.
The Clarksburg convention was the brainchild of John Carlile, who emerged as the early leader of the West Virginia statehood movement. Following the Clarksburg protest, Carlile helped organized the first statehood convention in Wheeling. A month later, at the Second Wheeling Convention, delegates adopted Carlile’s “Declaration of the People of Virginia,” which called for creating a pro-Union government of Virginia. Once established, the so-called Restored Government of Virginia selected Carlile as one of its two U.S. senators.
Despite his early leadership in the movement, Carlile seemingly flipped views. He eventually opposed West Virginia statehood under the terms dictated by Congress. Many of his former friends came to view him as a traitor to the statehood cause. After completing his senate term in 1865, his once promising political career came to an abrupt end. Carlile died in Clarksburg in 1878 at age 60.