CHARLESTON, W.Va. --West Virginia's first gubernatorial inauguration was also perhaps its warmest and showiest -- warm because it was the only inaugural ceremony to take place in June, and showy because it involved two regiments of militiamen, a march through downtown Wheeling, a 35-gun salute and a riverfront fireworks display.
At 9 a.m. on June 20, 1863 -- West Virginia's first day as the 35th state -- Governor-elect Arthur I. Boreman, accompanied by members of the new state's Senate and House of Delegates, gathered at the entrance to the McClure House hotel.
There, fully armed and equipped members of the 4th and 5th regiments of the West Virginia Militia formed ranks around them and marched the inaugural party, to music provided by a regimental band, to the Linsly Institute, the boarding school that served as the new state's temporary capitol building.
"The Institute was already filled with people; the street outside was packed with men, women and children, and the windows, roofs and yards of the surrounding houses were filled with eager faces," according to a Wheeling Intelligencer account of the ceremony. As Boreman ascended a speaker's platform that had been built at the entrance to the school, 35 young girls, representing the number of states in the union with West Virginia's addition, sang the Star Spangled Banner.
"We pray thee, Almighty God, that this state, born amidst tears and blood and fire and desolation, may long be preserved," said the Rev. J.T. McClure, who delivered the prayer opening the ceremony. "From its little beginning, may it grow to become a might and a power that shall make those who come after us look upon it with joy and gladness and pride of heart."
After Francis Pierpont of Fairmont, governor of the pro-Union Restored State of Virginia, introduced the governor of the newest state to the crowd, Boreman thanked its citizens for allowing him to accept their gift of its highest office. The new governor said that in the years to follow, he would remember "the ceremonies of this day with pride and pleasure, not only for the part I have taken in them, but as celebrating the most auspicious event in the history of this people."
To celebrate 150 years of West Virginia governors and their inaugurals in conjunction with Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's inauguration ceremonies on Monday, the State Archives library is hosting an exhibit covering Boreman, Tomblin and all governors who served between them.
The exhibit will be on display through Jan. 18 during Archives library hours, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursdays.
"We're displaying things like proclamations and official papers dealing with the day-to-day work of the governors, and as many inaugural pieces as possible, including tickets, dance cards and programs," said archivist Debra Basham.
Photos of all governors will be on display, and a collection of inaugural addresses will be posted online at http://www.wvculture.org/history/govinaugural.html.
Tomblin's inauguration, to be held on the south steps of the Capitol, will take place on the state's official inauguration date -- the first Monday following the second Wednesday of the January following a gubernatorial election.
In recent years, special circumstances have moved the inaugural date. After winning a 2011 special election to complete the term of then-Gov. Joe Manchin, who resigned his post as the state's chief executive to take the U.S. Senate seat of the late Robert C. Byrd, Tomblin was sworn in as governor on Nov. 13 of that year. On Nov. 17 of 2010, Tomblin, the former state Senate president, was sworn in as acting governor to temporarily fill Manchin's slot until an election could be held.
From 1869 through 1937, inauguration ceremonies for West Virginia governors were held on March 4. Homer Holt was the first governor sworn in under the current law that calls for January inaugurations.
Inaugural ceremonies were held in Wheeling, which served as the state's capital city until 1885, when the seat of government was moved to Charleston, and was housed in three buildings until the current Cass Gilbert-designed structure opened in 1932.
Swearing-in ceremonies took place in or on the grounds of the state's Capitol building until 1921, when fire destroyed Charleston's second Capitol, located on a downtown block bordered by Washington, Lee, Capitol and Dickinson streets. Then-Gov. Ephraim Morgan, who was sworn in three months after the fire, held his inaugural ceremony in the Charleston Armory building, a few blocks away.
While the current Capitol building was being designed and built, Gov. Howard Mason Gore's 1925 inauguration was held at the Capitol Annex Building at Hale and Lee streets, which survived the fire. In 1929, William G. Conley was sworn in at the Charleston Armory.
In 1933, Herman Guy Kump became the first governor to be sworn in at the new State Capitol, and the last governor to use March 4 as an inauguration date.
Arch Moore and Cecil Underwood served terms as governor separated by intervening periods in which the state's chief executive was someone else. Thus, the two men were each counted twice as governor -- Moore as the 28th and 30th governor, and Underwood as the 25th and 32nd.
No inaugural ceremony was held for Daniel Farnsworth, who served a seven-day term as interim governor in 1869 after Boreman resigned his post a week before his term ended to become a U.S. senator. Farnsworth, who succeeded Boreman due to his position as state senate president, may have had the fewest days in office as governor, but he holds the gubernatorial record for fathering the most children -- 16.
Two men, Aretas Fleming and Nathan Goff Jr., were simultaneously sworn in as governor in 1888, while the state Legislature disputed the outcome of the election for which both men claimed a victory. As the election dispute dragged on, the state Supreme Court ruled that outgoing Gov. Emmanuel Wilson should remain in office until a final decision was reached. Wilson stayed on an additional 11 months, during which time the governor's post was also claimed by state Senate President Robert Carr
"So at one time, we had four people saying they were governor at the same time," Basham said.
Fleming was eventually named the victor in the dispute and was inaugurated in 1890, two years behind schedule.
Items in the Archives' inaugural display include a May 11, 1863 letter from Ellery R. Hall, secretary of West Virginia's first constitutional convention, to Boreman.
Dear sir," the letter began. "I have the honor to inform you that the convention which assembled at Parkersburg, Va., on this last instant nominated you for the office of Governor of West Virginia. I trust you will accept the nomination."
Also included is a letter to Boreman from James Wheat, attorney general for Pierpont's Restored Government of Virginia, sent June 13, 1863 -- a week before Boreman was sworn in as governor.
"I have the honor to enclose to you a report of the proceedings of a committee appointed by his excellency, Gov. Pierpont, to make arrangements for the inauguration of the State of West Virginia. We hope these arrangements will meet with your approval and concurrence. "
Other items on display include a program for the 2009 inaugural mass for Gov. Joe Manchin, West Virginia's first Catholic governor, a West Virginia Army National Guard ledger showing that $46.50 was paid to the more than 30 soldiers who took part in Gov. William Glasscock's 1909 inauguration, and a photo of Gov. Homer Holt and his wife, Isabel, decked out in ballroom finery during their 1937 inauguration ball.
To read inaugural addresses of West Virginia governors, visit www.wvculture.org/history/govinaugural.html.
Reach Rick Steelhammer at rsteelham...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5169.