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James McNeil Stephenson

Lawyer, politician, and banker James McNeil Stephenson (November 4, 1796-April 16, 1877) was born in Fayette County, Pennsylvania, the eldest child of Edward and Elizabeth Dils Stephenson. He came to Wood County at the age of two with an extended kinship group made up of both the Stephenson and Dils families.

In 1821, Stephenson and Henry Logan opened a tanyard at Fourth and Market streets in Parkersburg. Stephenson studied law while continuing to work as a tanner and became a successful land lawyer. He was elected as the second president of the Northwestern Bank of Virginia, forerunner of the Parkersburg National Bank, now United Bank.

In 1829, Stephenson married Agnes Miller Boreman, sister of Arthur I. Boreman, later the first governor of West Virginia. They were the parents of six children. Stephenson and Arthur Boreman shared a Parkersburg law practice for many years.

Stephenson represented Tyler, Wood, Ritchie, and Doddridge counties in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1839 to 1848. His particular interest was in improvements to benefit Western Virginia. He supported the Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike, the Northwestern Virginia Turnpike, the James River & Kanawha Canal, the Northwestern Virginia Railroad, and the Little Kanawha Navigation Company. His political influence was evidenced by the fact that the Northwestern Turnpike and the Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike converged in front of his mansion, Oakland. Stephenson helped to make Parkersburg a transportation center and regional entrepot through his tireless efforts in behalf of turnpike and railroad development and river navigation improvements.

Stephenson died at his home in Parkersburg. Oakland mansion, still a local landmark, is on the National Register of Historical Places.

Read the National Register nomination for Oakland.

Written by Philip Sturm


  1. Miller, Thomas Condit, and Hu Maxwell. West Virginia and Its People vol. 3. New York: Lewis Historical Publishing, 1913.

  2. Sturm, Philip W. A River to Cross: Bicentennial History of Wood County. State College, PA: Jostens Printing Co., 1999.