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John S. Gallaher


Journalist and politician John S. Gallaher (December 1, 1797-February 4, 1877) was born in Martinsburg. He was apprenticed to local newspaperman John Arbutis and then worked for Niles’ Register in Baltimore and the National Intelligencer in Washington. Returning to Harpers Ferry in 1821, Gallaher established the Harpers Ferry Free Press. (In 1831 it became the Virginia Free Press.) Gallaher also published The Ladies’ Garland (1824) from Harpers Ferry, one of the earliest literary magazines in the United States devoted to the interests of women.

Gallaher was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates in 1830, playing a prominent role in Whig politics at both the state and national level. He became a state senator in 1842 and also served additional terms in the house. During this period he owned or managed several Whig newspapers and was instrumental in establishing the free school system in Virginia. He played a prominent role in having early railroads routed through the Eastern Panhandle, one of the factors that eventually led to the area’s incorporation into the state of West Virginia.

In 1849, President Zachary Taylor named Gallaher auditor for the U.S. Treasury, and he served in that capacity in the Millard Fillmore administration as well. He resigned when Franklin Pierce became president but obtained a position in the quartermaster general’s office until shortly before his death.

Written by William D. Theriault


  1. Spirit of Jefferson, 10/17/1957.

  2. Virginia Free Press, 1/14/1869 & 2/10/1877.