CLARKSBURG, W.Va. – West Virginia’s statehood is a more unique tale than most, which can be emphasized by the legislative talents of its first governor.
Arthur Ingraham Boreman was born on July 24, 1823 in Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, later moving to Middlebourne in modern-day West Virginia, according to wvencyclopedia.org. Growing up, he studied law under his brother-in-law, James McNeill Stephenson, eventually being admitted to the bar in 1845 and moving to Parkersburg for his practice, where he would live for the rest of his life.
Beginning in 1855, he served three consecutive terms representing Wood County as a Whig to the General Assembly in Richmond until Virginia’s secession on April 17, 1861, according nga.org and wvstatemuseumed.wv.gov. After this secession, he helped protect Unionists and supplanted the Richmond government after being elected president of the Second Wheeling Convention and founding the Reorganized Government of Virginia in June 1861. Through this group, Boreman was able to secure approval for the creation of West Virginia.
After serving a circuit judgeship since October 1861, Boreman was nominated to become the governor of the new state by the Constitutional Union Party Convention in Parkersburg on May 6-7, 1863, later winning a two-year term without opposition on May 28, 1863.
During his inaugural address, “Boreman asserted that he would assist in the founding of a system of public education throughout the state that would provide all children, regardless of economic level, schooling to prepare them for respectable positions in society,” according to wvencyclopedia.org.
In 1864, Governor Boreman married Laurane Tanner Bullock, the ceremony of which was performed by the Reverend Alexander Martin, who would later become West Virginia University’s first president.
Over the course of his governorship, which he was reelected to two times, he established a public school system and created West Virginia University on February 7, 1867.
However, Boreman’s biggest obstacle was leading West Virginia through the Civil War. One of the things he did to ensure stability in his new state was to enact the voters’ test oath law in February 1865, which “denied the right to vote, to hold political office, to practice law, to teach, and to sue to those persons who could not prove their present and past loyalty to the Union,” according to wvencyclopedia.org. This effectively disenfranchised many ex-Confederate Democrats and secured power for the Radical Republicans.
In order to move on to the U.S. Senate, Governor Boreman resigned on February 26, 1869, six days before the end of his term. During his time in the senate, he helped ratify the 15th Amendment. In 1875, Boreman’s term ended and he once again began to practice law in Parkersburg until 1888, where he would once again be elected to a circuit judgeship, which he would hold until his death on April 19, 1896, being buried in the Odd Fellows Cemetery in Parkersburg.
The State Journal (Parkersburg) wrote on April 23, 1896, “Of all the states loyal to the Federal government during the four years’ strife, none had a war governor confronted with complications and perplexities such as beset Gov. Boreman, who became the chief executive of a State of disputed legality, brought into being during those throes of turmoil, its territory a battle ground, and its people embittered because of their divided allegiance and stung by frequent retaliatory acts of violence.
“Public history must do full justice to a man who in public life consecrated his every gift and energy to the discharge of whatever burdens were laid upon him.”