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Arthur Boreman: West Virginia’s First Governor

June 6, 2013

WHEELING - Arthur Ingram Boreman served as West Virginia's first governor and a leader in the movement that led the state's western counties to separate from Virginia and form their own state.

Virginia historical archives, meanwhile, term Boreman an "uncompromising Unionist during the war, and a radical Republican immediately afterward."

Boreman served as West Virginia's governor from the first day of West Virginia's statehood - June 20, 1863 - until Feb. 26, 1869, when he resigned to be appointed to the U.S. Senate by the West Virginia Legislature.

West Virginia's first governor was born in Waynesburg, Pa., on July 24, 1823. His family soon relocated to Middlebourne in Tyler County, and Boreman would eventually move to Parkersburg as an adult to practice law.

His political career began in Virginia in 1855, when he was elected to the Virginia General Assembly in Richmond as a Whig representing Wood County. Boreman served three terms in the Virginia General Assembly until Virginia succeeded from the union on April 17, 1861.

The archives for the Library of Virginia report that Boreman sat on the Committee on Banks during his first term in the Virginia General Assembly, and on the Committee on Finance during his final two terms.

The archives describe Boreman as "an active promoter of internal improvements in his region" who found his assembly service frustrating because the General Assembly's leadership - mostly from eastern Virginia - made it difficult for western representatives to obtain charters for banks and railroads.

The West Virginia Encyclopedia notes after leaving the Virginia General Assembly, Boreman would attend the Second Wheeling Convention, which was convened in downtown Wheeling on June 11, 1861. He was named president of the convention, and presided as members determined Virginia's secession from the Union as illegal and voted to establish the Restored Government of Virginia.

In October 1861, he was elected circuit court judge in Wood County.

On May 6, 1863, Boreman attended the the Constitutional Union Party Convention in Parkersburg. The political party was made up of conservative former Whigs, and members elected Boreman as their nominee for governor of the soon-to-be new state of West Virginia. Boreman would go on to be elected to a two-year term as governor without opposition.

During his tenure as governor, he worked toward the establishment of an education system in West Virginia. He would also marry Laurane Turner Bullock of Wheeling, the widow of a Union soldier with two sons.

Boreman's pro-Union sentiment was so great that as governor he instituted the "Voter Test Law" as a condition for voter registration. Unless a man could demonstrate his commitment to the Union through military service or the paying of taxes, they could not vote, hold political office, practice law or teach in West Virginia.

The measure effectively disenfranchised many ex-confederates still living in the state, and limited voter participation in most of West Virginia's southern counties.

The Historical Records Survey reports that half of West Virginia's counties paid no income taxes in 1864, and that 14 of the counties elected no sheriffs to collect taxes.

Boreman did not seek re-election to the Senate in 1875 as the Democratic Party now controlled the West Virginia General Assembly, the Encyclopedia of West Virginia states. He returned to his law practice in Parkersburg, and was again elected a circuit court judge in 1888 - 27 years after his first term on the bench.

Boreman died in Parkersburg on April 19, 1896.

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