Francis H. Pierpont Statue
Francis H. Pierpont was an American lawyer who was born in Morgantown, WV. Pierpont gained recognition during the Civil War as an active supporter of Abraham Lincoln and the Union. He adamantly opposed Virginia’s secession from the Union, and would lead the effort of some Virginia counties to secede from Virginia and create their own pro-Union state. As a result, Pierpont is often referred to as the “Father of West Virginia.”
Backstory and Context
Pierpont grew up in Fairmont, which is in Marion County, WV and graduated from Allegheny College. While studying to become a lawyer he was a teacher in Virginia. His first appointment as an attorney after passing the bar was for the B&O Railroad. He eventually became more involved with politics around 1840 as a supporter of the Whig party. He was a heavy supporter of Abraham Lincoln, when Virginia seceded from the Union and entered the Confederacy. Working in support of Lincoln’s administration, he focused on raising support for the Union, promoted “free schools”, and focused on extending constitutional rights to the freed men which would come about with the abolition of slavery from the Emancipation Proclamation.
Pierpont and other politicians from the thirty-two northwest Virginia counties would met at the Wheeling Convention, in which he became the provisional governor, to discuss a repeal of Virginia’s secession from the United States. The first meeting in May of 1861 would establish a portion of northwest Virginia as the Restored government of Virginia and draft a new Virginia Constitution. When the Second Wheeling Convention came to order, Pierpont was unanimously elected governor on June 20, 1861. He would eventually be reelected for a second term on May 28, 1963. During his second term, the Wheeling government submitted by popular vote for the creation of a new and separate state. Pierpont was one who fought hard during this time for a separation of North and South.
West Virginia would be the name of the new state and became part of the Union on June 20, 1863. With a new state created, Arthur Boreman would become the first governor. Pierpont became the governor of the Restored government of Virginia once again. He would eventually become the Governor of Virginia during the Reconstruction period after the Civil War. In 1868 was relieved by Henry H. Wells as governor and he returned back to his law practice in West Virginia.