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June 20, 1863 a ‘Coquettish’ Day, Says Daily Intelligencer

June 20, 2013
The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

On June 20, 1863, the Daily Intelligencer of Wheeling called the day "coquettish" - less so because the region changed its allegiance from Virginia to the "35th star to the constellation of the American Union," but simply because the sun only came out occasionally from behind gray clouds.

But, in a possible sign for the new state's future, the rain never came that day.

While the state of West Virginia originated 150 years ago in Wheeling at what has become known as West Virginia Independence Hall, then known as the Custom House, the birth of the new state on June 20 arrived with very little hoopla, at least according to accounts from the Daily Intelligencer at the time.

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Of more importance that day, the news reports indicate, was the survival of the region's people.

While the newspaper's announcement of the new state's formation reveals the event as a "fortuitous and joyful occasion," concerns of the defense of West Virginia or Pennsylvania apparently were the overriding factor for local residents.

As the Daily Intelligencer notes, West Virginia "starts upon its career in the midst of turbulence and danger."

An article in the June 20, 1863 Daily Intelligencer reprinted from the Pittsburgh Gazette tells about that city's preparations for defending itself against a possible rebel invasion.

Another tells about an urgent meeting of Wheeling's citizens concerned about the city's defense.

But the state's birth was well heralded during the inauguration of Gov. Arthur I. Boreman, recounted in the June 22, 1863 edition.

Thousands of people were on hand at the ceremony, according to the newspaper, which took place at what then was the Linsly school in downtown Wheeling. Flags that day were as "thick as locusts," the paper reported; parades formed, brigades marched and bunting flew. A man was seriously wounded during a 35-gun salute. Fireworks over the river capped the evening.

Boreman's speech, reprinted in the Daily Intelligencer, considered the war but also set forth a platform to improve agriculture, mining, manufacturing and commercial interests.

When Gov. Francis Pierpont, who was governor of the Restored Government of Virginia, called for three cheers for the U.S.A., the paper said the crowd responded with "the most vociferous enthusiasm."

On June 22, 1863, the Daily Intelligencer's editors had one important puzzle to solve: how to abbreviate the new state. They observed that West Va. was commonly in use, but recommended W.V. over W.Va.

Accounts from that day continued to show that local defense measures remained the overriding concern. Leaders in Richmond, Va., were rattling their sabers and vowing the war would be fought in the North. From their writings, it was clear the Daily Intelligencer's editors didn't approve of those in power in Richmond.

Much of the focus during the remainder of statehood week centered around the region's defense. An article from Harper's Weekly reprinted by the Daily Intelligencer stated the following: "It is a very simple matter and one which should admit of no debate. If we cannot keep the rebels out of Pennsylvania, there must be no talk of foreign wars for neither could we prevent the English from landing on our coast."

It warned that the prediction that the war would be fought on Northern soil was no idle threat. This was something local residents understood all too well. "Let us not forget that our new state which we inaugurate today amid happy auspices will be destroyed, the liberty it protects overthrown and the hopes it inspires blasted, if the federal government is not able to sustain itself and enforce its authority," the Daily Intelligencer wrote.

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