Governor and state founder Daniel Duane Tompkins Farnsworth (December 23, 1819-December 5, 1892) was West Virginia’s second chief executive and the one to serve the shortest term (February 26 to March 4, 1869).
Born on Staten Island, New York, Farnsworth came to what is now Upshur County in June 1821 with his parents and grandparents. His grandfather, also named Daniel, contracted Joel Westfall to build the first house in Buckhannon, a two-story, hewnlog structure on lot no. 27. When he was 15, the future governor went to Clarksburg to learn the tailor’s trade, a profession he followed for 13 years. He then carried on a mercantile business in Buckhannon for another 13 years before he turned to farming. Farnsworth owned stock in several ventures, including a large flour mill on the island in Buckhannon, a railroad that ran from Clarksburg to Buckhannon, and the Buckhannon bank.
Farnsworth was one of the early magistrates of the new county of Upshur (1851) and, in later life, was an advocate of equal rights and the protection of labor. In 1860, he was elected to an abortive term in the House of Delegates of the Virginia General Assembly. As Virginia moved to secede from the Union, Farnsworth chose to serve during the summer of 1861 in the Second Wheeling Convention and there helped to create the loyal Reorganized Government of Virginia and later the new state of West Virginia. As an elected member of the General Assembly, he was seated as an ex-officio member at Wheeling. During the August session of the Second Wheeling Convention, Farnsworth served on a committee to establish the boundaries of the new state. The committee made its proposal on August 20, and the convention adopted the recommendations with a vote of 50 to 28.
Farnsworth was a fiery Unionist. Once, while speaking in Philippi, he defied the rebel soldiers who threatened to shoot him if he persisted. He declared that he would never be silent while he could speak for his country and its flag. Farnsworth was elected to the first House of Delegates of the new state of West Virginia, and later to the state senate. As state senate president, Farnsworth succeeded Governor Arthur Boreman, who resigned in the last days of his term after being elected as a U.S. senator by the state legislature. Farnsworth served seven days, until March 4, 1869, when William E. Stevenson, the third governor, began the term to which he had been elected the previous fall. Farnsworth was 49 at the time. Upon completion of his short term, Farnsworth, a Republican, returned to his state senate seat, where he served a total of seven years. Farnsworth also participated in the Constitutional Convention of 1872, during which he helped debar railroad company officers from serving in the state legislature. Farnsworth feared that if the railroad companies grew too powerful, it would be detrimental for the development of the state.
Farnsworth was twice married, first to Ann M. Gibson (1824–52) of Harrison County, and then to Mary J. Ireland (1830–1923). Six children were born of the first marriage and 10 of the second.
Farnsworth was in his 73rd year when he died at his home on Main Avenue, Buckhannon. He was interred in the Heavener Cemetery. Numerous progeny reside in the central West Virginia area, including his great-greatgrandson, Daniel D. T. Farnsworth IV, a Weston optometrist. The governor’s home has been restored and is operated as a bed and breakfast.
This Article was written by Joy Gregoire Gilchrist-Stalnaker
Last Revised on October 18, 2012
Comstock, Jim, ed. West Virginia Heritage Encyclopedia vol. 7. Richwood: Jim Comstock, 1976.
Bailey, Guy F. Central West Virginia Genealogy & History Library, Horner