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Tarr: One of Earliest State Leaders

June 20, 2013
By WARREN SCOTT - Staff Writer , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

Campbell Tarr played many roles leading up to West Virginia statehood, beginning as a member of the body voting on whether Virginia should secede from the Union to eventually becoming the new state's first treasurer.

A Wellsburg resident, Tarr was born in Wheeling on Jan. 8, 1819, the son of William Tarr, a merchant and river trader. He would later become a dry goods merchant himself.

He represented Brooke County at the Richmond Convention held by the Virginia General Assembly on April 13, 1861, to consider the commonwealth's secession.

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Several southern states already had seceded, and whether Virginia's secession should be put to a public vote led to a heated debate among representatives on both sides of the issue, according to various sources.

According to "Prominent Men of West Virginia," a volume edited by George W. Atkinson and Alvaro Gibbens and published in 1884, Tarr didn't support secession, and, believing it was inevitable, left with several others before the convention ended.

Once home, Tarr recruited 150 men in six weeks for a Union militia. A local merchant, he supplied the new troops with large amounts of clothing and provisions from his store. He secured firearms for the troops with the help of Edwin Stanton of Steubenville, who was then practicing law in Washington, D.C., and serving as advisor to the Secretary of War. Stanton himself would become Secretary of War under President Abraham Lincoln in January 1862.

According to Atkinson and Gibbens, Tarr was known for giving his own money to Union soldiers in financial distress.

When Virginia seceded, a pro-Union government, known as the Restored Government of Virginia, was formed and recognized by Washington, D.C. as the state's official governing body.

From 1861-63, Tarr served as state treasurer for that body, which met first in Alexandria and later in Wheeling, before serving as West Virginia's first state treasurer from 1863-67.

Later, Tarr, whose grandfather, Peter, had established a successful iron foundry at Kings Creek, Weirton, invested money in the establishment of the town of Sebetha, Kan., and development elsewhere in the midwest.

He was married three times - to Mary Hammond, daughter of a prominent Brooke County farmer, from 1848 until her death the following year; her sister Nancy from 1851 until her death in 1863; and Mary Beninghaus, a widow from Ohio, in 1864. Between the three, he had five children.

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