Bishop George William Peterkin (March 21, 1841-September 28, 1916) was born in Washington County, Maryland, and attended the University of Virginia. He was preparing to enter the Episcopal priesthood when the Civil War interrupted his studies. At the age of 20, he joined the Confederate 21st Virginia Infantry, June 28, 1861, and served under Robert E. Lee in present West Virginia. He was a lieutenant for the duration of the war and was present at Appomattox, as an aide to Gen. W. H. Pendleton, during the surrender ceremonies.
After the war, Peterkin graduated from the Theological Seminary of Virginia in 1868. After being ordained as an Episcopal priest in 1869, he served in churches in Virginia and Maryland until 1878. Following the creation of the Diocese of West Virginia in late 1877, Peterkin, then minister of Memorial Church in Baltimore, was elected bishop for West Virginia and consecrated at Wheeling, May 30, 1878.
Peterkin established his residence in Parkersburg. During his 24 years as bishop, 1878–1902, he visited every county in West Virginia, expanding the influence of the church throughout the state. He consecrated 37 new churches, conducted 49 ordinations of priests in West Virginia and four in Brazil, confirmed 5,078 communicants in West Virginia, and traveled to other states and foreign lands to preside over 1,376 confirmations. In 1887, he founded Sheltering Arms Hospital in Hansford, pioneering in the medical care of coal miners. In 1892, he published Records of the Protestant Episcopal Church in West Virginia, one of many church-related treatises prepared by him.
Peterkin helped erect a monument in 1901 on Valley Mountain, the first of two monuments to memorialize the deaths of the Confederate soldiers who had died there in 1861. He died in Parkersburg. The church’s Peterkin Center retreat near Romney is named for Bishop Peterkin.
This Article was written by Donald L. Rice
Last Revised on August 26, 2016
Comstock, Jim, ed. West Virginia Heritage Encyclopedia vol.17. Richwood: Jim Comstock, 1976.
Peterkin, George W. A History and Record of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of West Virginia. Charleston: Tribune Co. Printers, 1902.
Carnes, Eva M. George W. (Bishop) Peterkin at Valley Mountain. Magazine of History & Biography, 1961.
Cite This Article
Rice, Donald L. "George William Peterkin." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 26 August 2016. Web. 30 April 2017.