1866: It had been three years since Francis Harrison Pierpont had served as the provisional Governor in Wheeling. Having lived in what is now Marion County, he had been honored to be selected. He grew up near Morgantown and was related to its founder, Zackquill Morgan, so it was an easy decision in uneasy times.
Francis was Republican and strongly supported Abraham Lincoln’s desire to keep the Union together. He was angered when Virginia succeeded. Along with his fellow county leaders, Francis declared those elected officials had abandoned their posts — and stepped up to serve when they had failed to do so.
But that was in the past.
Politics weren’t all Francis cared about. Before the war he taught school and studied law – eventually being admitted to the bar in 1841. He also helped found Fairmont Male and Female Seminary (later to become Fairmont State University).
The Civil War ended in 1865, and Arthur Boreman was elected as the first Governor of the newly christened, “West Virginia”. Francis and his wife, Julia, moved back to Richmond where he became governor of the “restored” state of Virginia. However, Francis would always be remembered as, “The Father of West Virgina”.
Even after his President was murdered, Francis was determined to do his part to mend the nation. Francis practiced a policy of forgiveness to politicians who served in the Confederacy. Under his leadership, the Virginia government passed laws restoring ex-Confederates to their lost privileges — angering his fellow Union Republicans.
Francis’ wife, Julia Pierpont, who had encouraged and supported her husband’s efforts during and after the war, shared her husbands desire to heal the country after the bloody conflict. While his efforts focused on restoring honor to the living, Julian felt those who died on the field of battle deserved no less.
In May of 1866, exactly one year after President Andrew Johnson officially declared an end to the insurrection, Julia began decorating the graves of Civil War soldiers, no matter which side they fought for.
To this day, Julia is considered by most historians as the Founder of Decoration Day. It was a day to repair and decorate the graves of the soldiers who gave their lives for their country. In 1882, it would come to be known as “Memorial Day” – a day to honor all who had given all in service of the United States of America and her people.
Many Americans now use it as a day to remember and celebrate lost loved ones, to visit their graves and decorate them as Julia Pierpont did so many years ago.
The Liar’s Lair remembers both Julia Pierpont and her husband, Francis H. Pierpont, who exhibited wisdom and brave compassion during a troubling time in American History. Happy Memorial Day to you all. May our nation find a new day of healing, soon.
[Editor’s Note: This article is true and was sourced from our defunct sister site, The Diggerer.]