Arthur Ingraham (also spelled ‘‘Ingram’’) Boreman (July 24, 1823-April 19, 1896) was West Virginia’s first governor. He was was born in Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, and moved with his family to Middlebourne, Tyler County, while still an infant. Except for a brief period during which the family lived in Marshall County, he resided in Middlebourne for a decade and a half and received his schooling there. Then he studied law under the tutelage of an older brother and brother-in-law, James McNeill Stephenson, and was admitted to the bar in 1845. Shortly thereafter, Boreman moved to Parkersburg, the home of the Stephensons.
Parkersburg would remain Boreman’s hometown for the remainder of his life. From there he was first elected to public office in 1855, when he was sent as a Whig to the General Assembly in Richmond. He served until Virginia’s secession from the United States on April 17, 1861.
The decade of the 1860s was the most eventful of Boreman’s political life. After Virginia’s secession from the United States, he visited U.S. military officials in Cincinnati to seek protection for Unionists living in Parkersburg. In June 1861, he was elected president of the Second Wheeling Convention, which under his leadership voted to establish the Reorganized Government of Virginia, loyal to the Union and supplanting the secessionist government in Richmond. It was from Reorganized Virginia that Boreman and others secured the necessary constitutional approval for the creation of the state of West Virginia.
In October 1861, Boreman was elected to a circuit judgeship. On May 6–7, 1863, he attended the Constitutional Union Party Convention in Parkersburg and became its nominee to be governor of the new state. On May 28, 1863, he was elected to a two-year term without opposition. In his inaugural address in Wheeling on June 20, Governor Boreman asserted that he would assist in the founding of a system of public education throughout the state that would provide all children, regardless of economic level, schooling to prepare them for respectable positions in society. He backed his words with action during the next six years, during which he was reelected two times. A public school system was established, and with the aid of the Morrill Act, which had been enacted by the federal government in 1862, West Virginia University was created on February 7, 1867.
Boreman’s primary business during the first 22 months of his governorship was steering the infant state through the remainder of the Civil War. It was not an easy task. Not everyone living within West Virginia’s boundaries was loyal to the new state. Fifteen southern and central counties had not participated in the state’s first election, and in an effort to retain control for the Radical Republicans, Boreman secured the passage of the voters’ test oath law in February 1865. This divisive legislation denied the right to vote, to hold political office, to practice law, to teach, and to sue to those persons who could not prove their present and past loyalty to the Union. Such oaths effectively disenfranchised the many ex- Confederates in the new state, who were overwhelmingly Democrats. Thus the Republicans were assured of a majority in West Virginia in the first years after the war.
Governor Boreman found time to marry in 1864, wedding Laurane Tanner Bullock, a Wheeling widow and mother of two sons. The ceremony was performed by the Reverend Alexander Martin, who in 1867 became West Virginia University’s first president. Boreman resigned as governor on February 26, 1869, to be elected to the U.S. Senate by the state legislature.
As a senator and as a Republican, Boreman supported the ratification of the 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, guaranteeing the right to vote regardless of race. Upon receiving word of its ratification, he telegramed Robert W. Simmons, the leader of the black community in Parkersburg, and a celebration was staged in that city in 1870. Five years later, Boreman’s term as senator ended, and he returned to the private practice of law in his hometown. In 1884, he organized a relief effort to assist the victims of a devastating Ohio River flood. In 1888, he was once again elected to a circuit judgeship, a post he would hold until his death. His funeral was held in Parkersburg’s Methodist Episcopal Church, North, where he had been a lay leader in the congregation. Boreman was survived by his wife, their two daughters, and two stepsons. He was buried in the Odd Fellows Cemetery in Parkersburg.
Read Gov. Boreman’s inaugural address.
This Article was written by Bernard L. Allen
Last Revised on September 26, 2012
Ambler, Charles H. & Festus P. Summers. West Virginia: The Mountain State. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1958.
Morgan, John G. West Virginia Governors, 1863-1980. Charleston: Charleston Newspapers, 1980.
Woodward, Isaiah A. Arthur Ingraham Boreman. West Virginia History, (July & October 1970).