Granville Davisson Hall Highway Historical Marker
Backstory and Context
Granville Davisson Hall was born near the town of New Salem (now Salem) in Harrison County, Virginia (now West Virginia) on September 17, 1837. As a boy, he received some formal education at a local school. During his teenage years, Hall learned stenography, the practice of writing in shorthand, a skill that would one day provide him with a front-row seat to the West Virginia statehood process.
At the age of seventeen, he became a school teacher in Harrison County. A handful of years later, in 1859, Hall left his home county and moved north to Wheeling, where he took a job in the printing office of the Wheeling Intelligencer. His time in Wheeling, however, proved brief. After only a few months, he moved away. In February 1861, however, he returned to the city and once again found employment with the Wheeling Intelligencer, this time as a reporter. In the spring and summer of that year, using his stenographic skill, he recorded the proceedings of the Wheeling Conventions, which paved the way for West Virginia statehood.
When West Virginia officially became the thirty-fifth state in the Union on June 20, 1863, Hall was elected the first clerk of the West Virginia House of Delegates. The following year, the Republican Party nominated him as their candidate for secretary of state of West Virginia. Hall won the election and took office in March 1865. Before taking office, he served as Governor Arthur Boreman’s private secretary. Hall served his term of two years as secretary of state, but declined re-nomination. He then turned his attention to the newspaper business. Hall purchased a half-interest in the Wheeling Intelligencer and served as its chief editor until September 1873.
That year, Hall left West Virginia and moved west to Chicago. Over the course of the next sixty-one years, he served as a railroad executive (becoming president of the Louisville & Nashville Railroad) and wrote several fiction and non-fiction books. His most important non-fiction work was The Rending of Virginia (1902). Based in part on his notes from the Wheeling Conventions, the book explored the causes and justifications of the West Virginia statehood movement. In the work, Hall excoriated the Old Dominion’s political leadership, arguing that between the American Revolution and the Civil War they purposely suppressed western Virginia’s economic development and political power in an attempt to preserve the institution of slavery. In the spring of 1861, the state’s political leaders once again acted to preserve slavery when it seceded from the Union. To remove the yoke of economic and political oppression, then, western Virginians had no choice but to break away from Virginia and form a new state. Notably, the work placed the issue of slavery at the center of secession and thus went against the myth of the Lost Cause, which held that the South seceded not because of slavery, but rather states’ rights.
On June 24, 1934, he died at his home in Glencoe, Illinois at the age of ninety-six from injuries sustained in a fall.
In 2017, as part of its Civil War sesquicentennial project, the West Virginia Highway Historical Marker Program of the West Virginia Archives and History installed a marker dedicated to Granville Davisson Hall. It stands along U.S. 19 near Big Elm Elementary School just north of Shinnston in Harrison County.
Atkinson, George Wesley and Alvaro Franklin Gibbens. Prominent Men of West Virginia. Wheeling, WV: W.L. Callin: 1890.
"Granville D. Hall, Second State Secretary, Stricken at Age of 96," The Wheeling Intelligencer, June 26, 1934.
Stealey III, John Edmund "The Rending of Virginia." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 02 November 2012. Web. 06 October 2020 <https://www.wvencyclopedia.org/articles/58>.
Venham, Christy. "Granville Davisson Hall." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. Web. 06 October 2020 <https://www.wvencyclopedia.org/print/Article/123>.