March 24, 1899: Statehood Leader Francis Pierpont Dies at 85
Statehood leader Francis Pierpont died on March 24, 1899, at age 85. He was born near Morgantown in 1814 and raised for part of his childhood in Marion County. As a young adult, he was as an attorney for the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad and a pioneer coal operator.
When the Civil War began, he helped form the pro-Union Reorganized Government of Virginia with its capital in Wheeling. In June 1861, he was unanimously elected the first and only governor of this government.
He dedicated much of his early time in office to obtaining funds for the government, keeping western Virginia in Northern military hands, and creating the new state of West Virginia.
When West Virginia entered the Union in 1863, Pierpont moved with the Reorganized Government to its new capital in Alexandria and then on to Richmond at the end of the war. He served as Virginia’s governor until 1868.
Francis Pierpont played such an important role in the state’s founding that he’s often called the “Father of West Virginia.” He’s one of only two West Virginians honored with a statue in the U.S. Capitol’s statuary hall.