Secretaries of State 1863-1900
Jacob Edgar Boyers (R) 1863-1865
Jacob Boyers served as the first Secretary of State from 1863-1865.
Graville D. Hall (R) 1865-1867
Granville Hall served as the second Secretary of State from 1865-1867.
John S. Witcher (R) 1867-1869
John Seashoal Witcher was born in Cabell County on July 15, 1839. Witcher attended common public schools and had no formal higher education.
From early in his life Witcher was a popular figure. Witcher was elected to as Circuit Clerk in Cabell County in 1861 at the age of 22. After the start of the Civil War, Witcher enrolled in the Union Army as a first lieutenant and went up through the ranks to lieutenant colonel before the end of the war.
Right after the closing of the war, he was elected to the House of Delegates in 1865. He became the third Secretary of State and served for two years until 1869 when he was elected to the United States House of Representatives where he served until 1871.
John Witcher was appointed collector of internal revenue for the third district of West Virginia by President Ulysses S. Grant and served in that roll from 1871-1876. He also served as a United States pension agent in Washington D.C from 1878-1880 and was a major and paymaster of the United States Army from 1880 until his retirement in 1899.
Witcher moved to Salt Lake City, Utah and remained there until his death on July 8th, 1906.
James M. Pipes (R) 1869-1871
James Pipes served as the fourth Secretary of State from 1869-1871.
John M. Phelps (R) 1871-1873
John M. Phelps was born in 1821. In 1861, Phelps became a delegate to the First Wheeling Convention from Mason County. The purpose of the convention was to separate and vote to succeed from the state of Virginia.
Phelps was a captain of the "E" 9th West Virginia Infantry company during the Civil War. He was in the military for approximately two years then resigned on account of business and family affairs.
He was elected as the first President of the West Virginia State Senate which first convened in Wheeling on June 20, 1863. The session lasted for six months. He served in the State Senate until 1865 and again from 1869-1870. On February 4th, 1865 he voted for the abolishment of slavery in West Virginia. In 1870, Phelps was elected as the fifth Secretary of State and served until 1873.
Phelps died on August 26, 1884 in Point Pleasant, West Virginia. He is buried in the Lone Oak Cemetery in Point Pleasant.
Charles Hedrick (D) 1873-1877
Charles Hedrick served as the sixth Secretary of State from 1873-1877.
Sobieski Brady (D) 1877-1881
Sobieski Brady was born in 1816 in the state of Pennsylvania. Brady received only the simplest of educations. As early as 1832 at the age of 16 he was appointed Teller to a bank in Carlisle, PA. In 1835 he became the corresponding clerk in the Farmer's & Merchant's Bank in Philadelphia, PA. From an early age he showed great skill and knowledge in banking and finance. He worked in the early financial industry for many years holding numerous prestigious positions of the time.
In 1837 he was duly appointed cashier of the Merchant & Merchant's Bank in Wheeling, WV. His appointment to such a high position at the time came with the highest of compliments from individuals such as Chief Justice Gibson, Judge Reed, Judge Watts and many other influential people.
Brady was appointed to State Treasurer on June 30th, 1876 in Wheeling by Governor Jacob. He replaced John Burdett who was impeached and filled the duties of the office until the close of term in 1877. In 1877, Brady was appointed by Governor Henery M. Matthews as the seventh Secretary of State. He occupied the office until expiration of Governor Matthew's term in 1881.
Sobeiski Brady was also very active in local government. He spent many years serving the city of Wheeling as a councilman and mayor. After leaving public office, Brady's health quickly declined and he died in 1888.
Randolph Stalnaker (D) 1881-1885
Randolph Stalnaker was born in what is known today as Greenbrier County in 1847. He was educated in Monroe County. He left home in 1861 to join the Confederate Army, but his time was short when he was sent home for being too young. After remaining at home for more than a year, General A.W. Reynolds appointed Stalnaker as an aide to his staff and he served in that capacity until 1864 as he was made an adjutant of Hounsell's Calvary and served in that capacity until the end of the war.
After the war, Stalnaker went to Wirt County and became interested in the rich oil industry of the area. He returned to Lewisburg and embarked in the mercantile business shortly after. While a resident of Lewisburg he was appointed as private secretary to Governor Matthews in 1876. In 1880, Governor Jackson appointed Randolph Stalnaker as the eighth Secretary of State. Stalnaker held the position for four years.
At the close of his public life, Stalnaker made Wheeling his permanent home. He engaged in numerous business activities from the manufacture of hardwood to being the founder of the West Virginia China Company. Stalnaker was very active the early days of the Chamber of Commerce as was a member of the Masonic Order.
Henry S. Walker (D) 1885-1890
Henry Walker served as the ninth Secretary of State from 1885-1890.
William A. Ohley (D) 1890-1893
William Ohley served as the tenth Secretary of State from 1890-1893.
William E. Chilton (D) 1893-1897
William Chilton was born in what was formerly known as Colesmouth, Virginia or better known today as St. Albans, West Virginia. He graduated from the former Shelton College in St. Albans.
Before becoming the eleventh Secretary of State he taught school ad studied law. He was admitted to the state bar in 1880 and practiced law in Charleston. In 1882 he was selected as the chairman of the state Democratic Party executive committee. In 1883 he became the prosecuting attorney for Kanawha County.
Chilton also became involved in the newspaper business and was a very big part of what is today's Charleston Gazette. Descendants of the family still have ownership of the Gazette.
Chilton was elected to Secretary of State in 1893 and served until 1897. A lot is not known about Chilton between the years of 1897 and 1911 when he ran for the United State Senate. He was elected to the United States Senate and served one term before being defeated by Howard Sutherland in 1916. During his time in the Senate he served as the Chairman of the Committees of Census and Printing and also served on the Judiciary Committee.
Upon the completion of his Senate term he returned to Charleston and began practicing law and once again became involved in the newspaper business. He made unsuccessful bids for the U.S. Senate in 1924 and 1934. He died in Charleston in 1939 and is buried in St. Albans.
William M.O. Dawson (R) 1897-1905
William Dawson was born in Bloomington, Maryland. Before becoming Secretary of State and a politician he served as editor of West Virginia's Preston County Journal. He soon purchased the paper and ran it for twenty years.
Dawson was active with his local Republican executive committee and was elected to the State Senate in 1881 and served until 1889. He was the Clerk of the House of Delegates in 1894 and served as the Mayor of Kingwood in 1895. He was elected as the twelfth Secretary of State in 1897 and served two terms until 1905.
Dawson became the twelfth Governor of West Virginia in 1905 and served until 1909. Upon his gubernatorial term he practiced law in Charleston until his death in 1916.
Camp Dawson Military Base in Preston County was named after William Dawson. It was established in 1909 when the West Virginia legislature authorized a purchase of 196.5 acres of land. The camp was used as a military training camp until the start of World War II when it was then used as a Prisoner of War camp. Six more tracts of land have been added to the camp since the founding and currently sit on over 4,000 acres. The camp is currently used or various training and operations for active and reserve members of the military.
*If you have historical information regarding any past West Virginia Secretary of State and would like to share it with our office please contact our office at 304-558-6000.*