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Gov. Justice unveils statue honoring first governor, Arthur I. Boreman in Wheeling

WHEELING, W.Va. — Those traveling through downtown Wheeling will now get to behold a statue honoring West Virginia’s very first governor Arthur I. Boreman.

Governor Jim Justice joined state Department of Arts, Culture, and History Secretary Randall Reid-Smith among other community members and representatives Thursday on West Virginia Day and the state’s 161st birthday to unveil and dedicate the 8-foot-tall, 2,000 pound statue. It now sits at West Virginia Independence Hall museum.

Boreman took up the state’s first chief executive position on June 20, 1863 when we first became a state.

He became governor of the newly-formed state just before the battle at Gettysburg when the outcome of the Civil War was still unclear historians tell us.

Despite the many challenges that came with breaking away from Virginia and forming a separate state, Justice said Boreman proved to be the right man for the job.

“There was a time during the middle, toward the end of the Civil War when really and truly, somebody had to step up,” Justice said at Thursday’s unveiling ceremony.

Boreman was born on July 24, 1823 in Waynesburg, Pennsylvania as one of 10 children to Sarah and Kenner Boreman.

He eventually studied to become a lawyer in the footsteps of his brother, William. After being admitted to the bar, he and his brother-in-law opened a legal office in Parkersburg.

Boreman also served on the Virginia Legislature from 1855-61.

At the age of 38 he was named president of the Second Wheeling Convention in what is now the Independence Hall. At that time it was known as the Customs House.

Boreman was 40 when he became governor of the new state of West Virginia following President Abraham Lincolns’ signing of the bill admitting West Virginia to the Union and later proclaiming it officially as its own state.

Justice said if it were not for the two men, West Virginia may have never had the chance to form its own state.

“This man had it right a long, long time ago that West Virginia needed to be a state, and absolutely, can we imagine Abraham Lincoln, I mean Abraham Lincoln making this all become a reality,” he said.

The statue depicts Boreman during his June 20, 1863 inauguration speech.

A Lincoln re-enactor at Thursday’s ceremony was going to read Proclamation 100, declaring West Virginia to the Union as the 35th state.

Justice said every West Virginian embodies the persistent spirit that Boreman held in wanting a place to cherish and call their very own.

“You’re our treasure beyond belief, all you had to do was have a leader of the band that told you to believe in yourself, for god sakes a living, believe in how good you really are, because you’re the best of the best,” he said referring to all West Virginians.

The museum hosts a West Virginia Day celebration every year with the new statue only expected to add to the tradition.

Much like the way Boreman must have felt when he became governor in 1863, Justice said he is proud to have been able to serve and lead the state as his time in doing so will soon be coming to an end.

“I’m on a short fuse, I got six months left as your governor,” Justice said. “But I want to tell you this, it has been an honor beyond belief for me, absolutely keep doing the great stuff.”

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