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Father of West Virginia died on this date in 1899

Francis Pierpont
Francis Pierpont

On March 24, 1899, Francis Pierpont, the man called “the Father of West Virginia” died in Pittsburgh, PA at the age of 85.

Pierpont, who was born in Morgantown, VA (now West Virginia) in 1814, is one of only two West Virginians who has a statue in Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC.

Readers might be surprised to hear, that in spite of his nickname, Pierpont never served as governor of West Virginia – though he did serve as the Governor of Virginia from 1861 to 1868. At the time Virginia actually had two governors – Pierpont serving as Governor of the Restored and Reorganized Government of Virginia while at the same time John Letcher and William Smith (known as Extra Billy Smith) served as governors of the recently seceded Commonwealth of Virginia. While governor, Pierpont’s office was in Alexandria, VA.

Pierpont, however, was a moving force in the splitting off of western Virginia to become the new state of West Virginia. That process started as soon as Virginia seceded from the Union in April 1861 and culminated in statehood being officially completed on June 20, 1863. During that time Pierpont worked tirelessly to obtain Union soldiers to support the war, raise money for the newly established government and to support President Abraham Lincoln.

Of interest, the governor sometimes also spelled his name Peirpoint on official documents of Virginia after the spelling used by his ancestors.

Pierpont helped found Fairmont State University and the West Virginia Historical Society.

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