Skip to main content

Waitman T. Willey Papers

Collection Number: A&M.0003

Scope and Contents

Papers of Waitman T. Willey (1811-1900), lawyer, senator, and founding father of West Virginia. A resident of Monongalia County, Willey was a delegate to the Constitutional Convention of 1850, the Secession Convention of 1861, the First Wheeling Convention of 1861, and the Constitutional Convention of 1871. He was U.S. Senator from the Restored Government of Virginia (1861-1863) and Senator from West Virginia (1863-1871). Includes several thousand pieces of incoming correspondence to Waitman T. Willey dating from 1833 to 1900 (bulk 1859-1869) concerning political, social, and economic affairs. There is much material on the temperance movement in Virginia (1845-1860), the Civil War, and the statehood movement in West Virginia. Also includes miscellaneous financial records (1837-1869) and legal papers (1820-1856); Willey's diary (entries from 1830-1899, posthumously added clippings through 1908); and other material.

Series include:

Series 1. Incoming Correspondence; 1833-1900; boxes 1-16.

Series 2. Financial Records; 1837-1869; boxes 17-18.

Series 3. Legal Papers; 1820-1856, undated; boxes 19-20.

Series 4. W.T. Willey's Diary; 1830-1908; boxes 21-22.

Series 5. Miscellaneous; 1827-1917; box 22 and oversize folder.

Series 1. Incoming Correspondence; 1833-1900; boxes 1-16. This series includes letters written to Waitman T. Willey (WTW). The letters can be divided into four major categories: politics; governmental service and the Civil War; family and church affairs; and law and business activities. Willey wrote the name of the correspondent and the date on each letter.

The letters have been previously divided into "copied" and "not copied" categories; the former refers to a select number of the letters for which transcripts were made, apparently in connection with research by Ambler for his biography of Willey. These transcripts are filed in the Charles H. Ambler Collection (A&M 122, boxes 10-12). In general, the "copied" letters are more pertinent to Willey's political career, especially his senate tenure during the Civil War, and his Methodist Church activities. Although the "not copied" letters also include material regarding his political and church activities, they are more concerned with his law and business interests, and family and friends.

"Copied" (transcribed) letters are found in boxes 1 through 4, are numbered 1 through 1181, and date from 1833 to 1898.

"Not copied" (not transcribed) letters are found in boxes 4 through 16, are numbered 1182 through 7008, and date from 1833 to 1900.

The incoming letters encompass a variety of topics: everyday life in rural United States in the 19th Century (e.g., West Virginia); life in newly developed urban centers (e.g., St. Louis, Missouri, and Washington, D.C.); political life before the Civil War in Virginia and later in West Virginia; the plight of citizens and communities resulting from war (e.g., battle casualties and damage, reparation requests, loyalty "disabilities"); new territories and foreign countries visited by Willey's correspondents (e.g., the Western Territories of the USA, China, Japan, Central America, and Australia in the 1860s); the Methodist Church, temperance movement, school activities and needs (e.g., those of his sons and of the early years of West Virginia University).

The letters represent the opinions, observations, requests, and activities of Willey's correspondents, and Willey himself is seen only through their writings. Willey's thoughts and commentaries can be found in his two-volume diary (see Series 4, W.T. Willey's Diary, boxes 21-22).

Selected correspondents include: Robert Anderson; W.W. Arnett; James Barns (WTW uncle); Gordon Battelle; Alfred Beckley; Judge Berkshire; Jacob Blair (Minister to Costa Rica); Governor Arthur I. Boreman of West Virginia; R.M. Brown (U.S. Navy); Gideon D. Camden; Archibald W. Campbell; John S. Carlile; Secretary of Treasury [Salmon P.?] Chase; Schyler Colfax; John J. Davis; Spencer Dayton; H.C. Dean; M.M. Dent; H. Dering; T.J. Evans; Harrison Hagans; J. Marshall Hagans; Granville D. Hall; Alpheus F. Haymond; T. and L. Haymond; Richard Garrett; Nathan Goff; U.S. Grant (autograph); John J. Jackson; Governor John Letcher of Virginia; Alexander Martin (West Virginia University President); John L. Pendleton; Francis H. Pierpont (governor of loyal Virginia); T.P. Ray; General Winfield Scott (copy of letter); F.W. Seward; W.M. Shinn; Edwin M. Stanton; Governor William E. Stevenson of West Virginia; David Hunter Strother; George W. Summers; Peter G. Van Winkle (U.S. Senator with Willey); Alexander L. Wade; James O. Watson; William J. Willey (regarding Virginia legislature, 1830s); Willey's sons (William, John, Ray), daughters, and wife.

The letters are generally in good condition and legible. Many letters have the original franking information and/or stamps; envelopes are few in number. Many letters have embossed watermarks or printed letterheads, and typewritten letters appear during the late 1800s.

Series 2. Financial Records; 1837-1869; boxes 17-18. This series includes bills, checks, orders, and receipts.

Series 3. Legal Papers; 1820-1856, undated; boxes 19-20. This series includes uncategorized legal documents.

Series 4. W.T. Willey's Diary; 1830-1908; boxes 21-22. This series contains Waitman T. Willey's diary. Volume 1 covers the years 1830-1899. Volume 2 includes clippings added posthumously, and covers the years 1899-1908.

Series 5. Miscellaneous; 1827-1917; box 22 and oversize folder. This series includes a folder of miscellaneous material (1827-1917); and an account book for "Line Ferry," operator George Frankenberry, with entries for 1830-1856. The oversize folder includes an envelope, Willey's diploma from Madison College (1832), Willey's diploma from Augusta College (1834), and Willey's license to practice law (1832). For an inventory of the miscellaneous material, see Contents List.

Contents List:

Series 1. Incoming Correspondence -- Transcribed/Copied

Box; Folder; Item Numbers; Dates;

Contents by categories (politics, family/friends, law/business, government/war)

Box 1; Folder 1; Item Nos. 1-20; 1833-1836;

Politics: 3a, 4, 4a, 4b, 6-8, 17-19 (from Richmond regarding Virginia House of Delegates, and from Washington, D.C. regarding Congress)

Family/Friends: 1-3, 5, 9, 11,14-16, 20 (from travelers to the West, temperance, church activities)

Law/Business: 10-13 (Monongalia County Court and Clerk concerns)

Box 1; Folder 2; Item Nos. 21-40; 1836-1838;

Politics: 21, 24, 26-29, 39 (from Richmond regarding Virginia House of Delegates)

Family/Friends: 22, 30-36, 40, 41 (from travelers to the West, e.g., #35 Illinois in 1837, #36 New Orleans in 1838; church activities, #40 and #41 regard "abolitionists" in the Methodist Church)

Law/Business: 23, 25, 28, 37-38 (post office routes, roads in Virginia, Monongahela River navigation)

Box 1; Folder 3; Item Nos. 41-60; 1838-1840;

Politics: 50, 52-56, 58-60 (national election of 1840; Whig activities in elections; WTW to be elector for the Whig party in the state; rumors regarding Harrison and debtors; rallies for voters, #56, #58)

Family/Friends: 46-49, 51, 57 (temperance movement; church activities; traveler in New Orleans)

Law/Business: 45 (WTW elected Director of Discount and Deposit of the Morgantown branch of Merchants and Mechanics Bank)

Box 1; Folder 4; Item Nos. 61-80; 1840-1844;

Politics: 61-68b, 71, 73, 75, 77-78 (national election of 1840; convention of Whigs in Richmond; local politics; death of President Harrison; United States Presidential election of 1844, James K. Polk vs Henry Clay, e.g. #68)

Family/Friends: 68a and 68b (illness while traveling in 1841); 69 (F.H. Pierpont regarding Mississippi travels, church activities)

Law/Business: 74 (iron business in Monongalia County)

Box 1; Folder 5; Item Nos. 81-100; 1844-1848;

Politics: 81, 85, 88, 90, 92, 93, 95 (from Richmond regarding Virginia House of Delegates and legislation)

Family/Friends: 82, 84, 87, 94, 96, 99 (temperance and church activities; death of John H. Pleasants by duel, #87; secret writing and key, temperance, #99)

Law/Business: 83, 86, 89, 91, 98 (Monongahela River improvements; county court activities; sale of property in Wheeling; woolen factory, #86)

Box 1; Folder 6; Item Nos. 101-119; 1848-1849;

Politics: 105 (election of Zachary Taylor)

Family/Friends: 101,102,104,106-112,114,116-119 (temperance activities, including passwords and cyphers)

Law/Business: 103, 113, 115 (letters from Baltimore about legal matters)

Box 1; Folder 7; Item Nos. 120-139; 1850-1851;

Politics: 121, 127, 129, 130, 132, 138, 139 (Virginia legislation; election of delegates to Virginia convention; defeat of WTW in local election; slavery in northwestern Virginia, #139)

Family/Friends: 120, 122-126, 128, 131, 133-136 (Sons of Temperance convention)

Law/Business: 137 (suspension bridge for Morgantown by engineer who built Fairmont bridge and mill; Cheat River bridge to be built)

Box 1; Folder 8; Item Nos. 140-160; 1851-1852;

Politics: 141, 144-147, 150-160 (Virginia legislature and convention; slavery; splitting the state; Whig politics; Millard Fillmore; Winfield Scott; from Iowa, about Iowa politics, #151)

Family/Friends: 140, 141, 143, 148-149 (news of Morgantown, the Morgantown Female Academy, Temperance)

Law/Business: 142 (J. Gould regarding a road to be built in Morgantown known as the Decker's Creek or Northern route)

Box 1; Folder 9; Item Nos. 161-179; 1852-1853;

Politics: 163-170 (WTW as candidate for Congress, Whig politics, legislative bill for railroad from Morgantown to Baltimore)

Family/Friends: 161-162, 171, 173-174, 176-179 (temperance, the Morgantown Female Academy, Methodist Church evangelical work in Wisconsin)

Law/Business: 172, 175 (Ray property in Wheeling and documents)

Box 1; Folder 10; Item Nos. 180-199; 1853-1854;

Politics: 183, 188 (requests for WTW to speak at Madison College and Charlottesville)

Family/Friends: 180-182, 184-187, 189-192, 197-199 (requests for speeches, temperance, Monongalia Literary Society, Iowa and Northwestern lands, train travel to Wheeling, household servants)

Law/Business: 193 (lawyer looking to settle in Morgantown)

Box 1; Folder 11; Item Nos. 200-219; 1855;

Politics: 201-203, 207, 212, 216, 219 (American Party convention wants WTW to speak, Henry Clay Dean elected Senate Chaplain over Henry Ward Beecher, WTW as elector in 1856, Buchanan politics)

Family/Friends: 200, 205-206, 208, 210-211, 213, 215, 218 (temperance, diseases of the day including cholera in Pittsburgh, Literary Society, Morgantown Female Academy)

Law/Business: 204, 209, 214, 217 (patent information for a seed spreader, burning of a newspaper thought to be abolitionist in Gilmer County, post office refuses to deliver newspaper in Glenville, man indicted over newspaper in Glenville)

Box 1; Folder 12; Item Nos. 220-239; 1856-1857;

Politics: 220-224, 226 227 (information regarding American Party, Congress)

Family/Friends: 225, 229-230, 232, 233, 237 (property in Iowa and missions)

Law/Business: 231, 234-236, 238-239 (applications for the Morgantown Female Academy, one man refuses a job because he was told "Northern men not wanted in the state", #238)

Box 1; Folder 13; Item Nos. 240-259; 1858-1859;

Politics: 248-250, 252-259 (Virginia election of 1859, WTW nominated for Lt. Governor of Virginia, Letcher for Governor wants taxes on slaves)

Family/Friends: 242, 244, 246-247, 251 (son writes from Meadville College)

Law/Business: 240, 243, 245: (court in Harrison County, navigation on the Monongahela River, election to a literary society)

Box 1; Folder 14; Item Nos. 260-280; 1859-1860;

Politics: 260-267, 269, 279-280 (Virginia election of 1859; invitations to speak about the election; WTW's views on dividing Virginia with free state in the west, #261; invitation to Henry Clay birthday party in Alexandria, #280)

Family/Friends: 268, 273, 275-277 (temperance; church; son's suspension from college, #273, #275)

Law/Business: 270-272, 274, 278 (how to build a telegraph line, railroad land obtained by condemnation of land)

Box 1; Folder 15; Item Nos. 281-300; 1860;

Politics: 281, 286-288, 290, 292-298, 300 (invitations to speak for Bell and Everett, and their success in Virginia; newspapers in Virginia)

Family/Friends: 282, 299 (son and Francis H. Pierpont)

Law/Business: 283-285, 289, 291 (legal matters with clients)

Box 1; Folder 16; Item Nos. 301-320; 1861;

Politics: 302, 303, 305, 307-312, 314-315, 317, 318, 320 (the Virginia convention for secession in Richmond, #303, #307, #317a; sentiment in Morgantown regarding Lincoln and the Union; WTW for the Union) Family/Friends: 304, 306, 313, 316 (son in college writes about the war to come; Morgantown activities and gossip)

Box 1; Folder 17; Item Nos. 321-341; 1861;

Politics: 321-324, 326, 328-329, 331-334, 336-341 (Richmond convention for secession; Union sentiment in western Virginia; confusion in several areas; upcoming Wheeling convention)

Family/Friends: 325, 327, 330, 335 (son in Carlisle, PA, writes of Southern students expelled from Dickinson College, the activities of the Army, riots in Carlisle, and Union sentiments)

Box 1; Folder 18; Item Nos. 342-361; 1861;

Politics: 342, 343-347, 349, 351, 353, 356 (Wheeling convention, slavery and future of USA, slavery)

Government/War: 348, 350, 354-355, 357-361 (Union; battle at Manassas; capture of rebel equipment; Dakota Territory Union men; Camp Chase, Ohio prisoner from Beverley, Virginia, #361)

Family/Friends: 352, 355 (Morgantown events; battle at Laurel Hill)

Box 2; Folder 1; Item Nos. 362-381; 1861;

Politics: 362-369, 371-379, 381 (lists of Union men from counties in western Virginia; state convention in Wheeling; politics in Illinois; a citizen objects to the Navy's ship purchases; slavery issues)

Family/Friends: 370, 380-381 (son in Camp Keys, Hampshire County; Morgantown events; thoughts regarding the South)

Box 2; Folder 2; Item Nos. 382-401; 1862;

Politics: 382, 384, 387, 389-400 (new state constitution, slavery issues, politics in Iowa)

Government/War: 390, 393, 394, 397 (Congressional action on a commission; destruction of property by rebels, David Hunter Strother, #393; pay for volunteers)

Family/Friends: 383, 401 (Farmington newspaper and copies of WTW speeches)

Law/Business: 385-386, 388 (licenses, arrest, government claims)

Box 2; Folder 3; Item Nos. 402-420; 1862;

Politics: 403-406, 408-410, 412-418, 420 (government appointments; new state, slavery, and constitution; Union supporter in Dakota Territory)

Government/War: 407, 419 (memorial for the Army, reparations for stolen property)

Family/Friends: 402, 408, 410 (smallpox epidemic at Dickinson College town, problems with war rumors in Morgantown)

Law/Business: 411 (Morgantown business)

Box 2; Folder 4; Item Nos. 421-440; 1862;

Politics: 421-422, 424-426, 428, 435-440 (new state and emancipation, speeches)

Government/War: 433-434 (reparations for stolen horses and harness)

Family/Friends: 423, 427, 429-432, 434, 439 (genealogy from a relative, speeches, war at home, Camp Chase prisoner, bills in Congress)

Box 2; Folder 5; Item Nos. 441-460; 1862;

Politics: 441-447, 449-457 (emancipation in the new state and Congressional bill, state boundaries, speech given by Carlisle)

Family/Friends: 448, 451, 456, 458-460 (son's graduation from Dickinson College, army concerns at home, speeches, death in Morgantown)

Box 2; Folder 6; Item Nos. 461-484; 1862-1863;

Politics: 461, 463-470, 472-475, 479-484 (new state, its announcement; the US government and war; a feud in the military)

Government/ War: 462, 476, 477, 481, 482, 484 (death of a man on B&O train, Camp Chase prisoner, redress for loss of slaves to US Army, "colored colonization" law, citizen prisoners)

Family/Friends: 471, 472, 476a, 478 (church activities, Morgantown news)

Box 2; Folder 7; Item Nos. 485-497; 1863;

Politics: 485, 487-490, 492-494, 497 (WTW running for Senate again, state politics, exchange of prisoners, military arrest, prisoners in Camp Chase)

Government/War: 486, 491, 495-496 (money spent to raise troops, money for guards in Wheeling)

Family/Friends: 489 (news of Morgantown)

Law/Business: 485, 495 (US Mail in West Virginia, bill in Congress)

Box 2; Folder 8; Item Nos. 498-517; 1863;

Politics: 499, 501-513, 515 (#514 is missing, state convention, speeches by WTW, applications for jobs, slavery, property)

Government/War: 500, 507, 508, 517 (Union Army in West Virginia, battles in Monongalia County)

Family/Friends: 502, 504, 506, 517 (Morgantown news and battles in Monongalia County, smallpox outbreak in Morgantown)

Law/Business: 516

Box 2; Folder 9; Item Nos. 518-541; 1863;

Politics: 519-527, 529-530, 532-534, 536, 539, 541 (WTW elected to Senate, applications for government jobs)

Government/War: 528, 535, 540 (Governor Boreman on lack of government funds, #528; plea for a soldier to be allowed to go home; court martial of a writer who was critical of a Union general)

Family/Friends: 518, 531, 537, 538 (Jones Imboden raid on the Morgantown and Fairmont area, #518; relative in Ohio talks of the Copperheads; church matters)

Box 2; Folder 10; Item Nos. 542-561; 1864;

Politics: 544-547, 549, 552-553, 555 (political patronage; need for agricultural college in West Virginia; Secretary of the Treasury regarding the number of counties in West Virginia; petition for postmaster in Jimtown, West Virginia)

Government/War: 543, 550-551, 554, 558, 561 (Army chaplain dismissed from Army wants reinstatement, #540, #543, #551; prisoner in Libby Prison needs WTW's help for release; General Crooke in Kanawha County; exchange of prisoners from Richmond prison; story of a Camp Chase prisoner)

Family/Friends: 548, 557, 559, 560 (church matters, friend requests seeds from Patent Office, Morgantown news)

Box 2; Folder 11; Item Nos. 562-581; 1864;

Politics: 565-568, 570-572, 574, 576, 580-581 (Governor Pierpont regarding a Senate bill, application for job, local politics, appointment request, list of Union men from Point Pleasant)

Government/War: 564, 569, 573, 577, 579, 581 (raids by "rebels"; redress for loss of cattle and horses requested; General Kelley; Camp Chase prisoner's story; Fort Delaware prisoner's story; battle in Greenbrier County and drunkenness of an officer, #577, #581)

Family/Friends: 562, 563 (WTW elected to Literary Society at University of Illinois, Morgantown news)

Law/Business: 578 (white pine timber land in West Virginia for sale)

Box 2; Folder 12; Item Nos. 582-601; 1864;

Politics: 583-587, 590-592, 594-596, 598-601 (opening of lands in the West; state constitution to abolish slavery; list of "loyal" citizens in Hancock County; bill for new judicial district in West Virginia; local politics; Governor Pierpont writes of his glove business; list of mail recipients in Jackson County; praise for Congress; appointment request to West Point; appointment in the Army; WTW's slavery speech; influence needed to get a prisoner released; requests for money for a lost ship)

Family/Friends: 588-589, 593, 597 ("rebels" in Morgantown carry off a prisoner from the town jail, local politics, local farming)

Law/Business: 582 (new state laws)

Box 2; Folder 13; Item Nos. 602-621; 1864;

Politics: 602-612, 614-620 (government and slavery, appointment request, elections)

Government/War: 621 (request for exchange of a prisoner)

Box 2; Folder 14; Item Nos. 622-642; 1865;

Politics: 623-625, 627, 629-641 (oil craze in Morgantown, activities of legislature, legal position of Virginia)

Family/Friends: 622 (books sent)

Law/Business: 626, 628, 636 (sale of Dorsey estate in Morgantown, suit against Judge Berkshire, railroad in Iowa and land)

Box 2; Folder 15; Item Nos. 642-661; 1865;

Politics: 642-645, 647-650, 652-657, 661 (WTW elected to Senate; Congressional bills discussed; state legislature and election discussed; requests for jobs and money from government; Governor Boreman on loyalty and visit to the President regarding West Virginia; death of Lincoln reported by Van Winkle, #656)

Government/War: 659, 660 (widow requests pension from the government, list of officers petitioning for release from Fort Delaware)

Law/Business: 646, 651 (publication of Alexander Hamilton's papers by his son; a lawyer wants to locate to West Virginia)

Box 2; Folder 16; Item Nos. 662-680; 1865-1866;

Politics: 662-665, 668, 670, 678 (West Virginia banks and the government, West Virginia boundaries, losses in the Valley of Virginia, Van Winkle on war and Congress, job requests, a citizen in Virginia tells of conditions in the Valley)

Law/Business: 666, 669, 679 (a Virginia man wants help in combating extortion; business in post-war Morgantown; library wanted for Weston State Hospital)

Box 3; Folder 1; Item Nos. 681-701; 1866;

Politics: 681-684, 686, 689, 691-693, 695-701 (Iowa correspondent on politics, war, slavery; job requests; Frederick County, Virginia and the possibility of its joining West Virginia; West Virginia laws to prohibit former rebels from voting; loyalty oaths in Virginia; Pierpont on the Virginia Governor's office; Boreman on the need for Congress to pass bill regarding Jefferson and Berkeley Counties; Pierpont on President Johnson's oath of allegiance; a bill in Congress regarding steamboat inspections; an appointment to the Sandwich Islands wanted; Morgantown view of Johnson's Reconstruction plans; the Presidential veto of the Freedmen's Bureau Bill; appointment to Ecuador wanted; IRS office politics)

Family/Friends: 685, 687 (lost baggage, news of Morgantown)

Law/Business: 688, 690, 694 (letter from Alfred Beckley, Sr., founder of Raleigh County, about the County's resources; Boreman on business; Logan County resources)

Box 3; Folder 2; Item Nos. 702-720; 1866;

Politics: 702-705, 707-720 (Pierpont on President Johnson and freed slaves; upcoming election; Civil Rights bill in Congress; inability of Winchester, Virginia to pay its taxes; Civil Rights bill veto by President Johnson; northern officeholders in Virginia; former rebels holding office in Virginia; Pierpont on news articles regarding WTW's voting against the Civil Rights bill; WTW's bill for reparations for loyal suppliers to the Army; Union men in Randolph County; Boreman on Copperheads)

Family/Friends: 706 (WTW told of the acquittal of his brother and his need for money)

Box 3; Folder 3; Item Nos. 721-740; 1866;

Politics: 722, 725-727, 731-732, 734-740 (Morgantown town meeting; Jefferson and Berkeley Counties and Congress; rebel activities in Richmond, Union men in Virginia; postmaster in Parkersburg opposes the President, Governor Boreman's brother is the postmaster in Parkersburg who is being removed from office; bankruptcy bill in Congress discussed)

Family/Friends: 724 (from WTW's son concerning law practice in Morgantown)

Law/Business: 723, 728-729, 733 (law practice in Morgantown, railroad routes in West Virginia, production of soda ash in West Virginia, land for sale in Grafton)

Box 3; Folder 4; Item Nos. 741-763; 1866;

Politics: 741-754, 756-763 (requests for speeches, bills in Congress and Constitutional Amendments, the question of whether or not medals for soldiers to be mailed free, opposition to the postmaster of Wheeling, Civil Rights bill in Congress, WTW elected to Senate)

Family/Friends: 755 (from son, William, on the future of West Virginia)

Box 3; Folder 5; Item Nos. 764-783; 1867;

Politics: 764, 766, 769-770, 772, 775-783 (regarding the tariff bill in Congress; state politics; lists of Union men and rebels from post offices; President Johnson and the Senate, #775; appointments wanted; slavery; oath of allegiance and constitution; invitation to dine in Richmond with Pierponts)

Government/War: 765, 767-768, 779 (artificial limbs for soldiers and iron crosses for cemetery plots; soldiers accidently sent from West Virginia to Louisiana; letter from Richard Garrett requesting compensation for his barn burned by US soldiers to get John Wilkes Booth out of it, and the story of Booth and Herold at the barn, #779)

Family/Friends: 783 (church activities)

Law/Business: 771, 773-774, 782 (government compensation for war damage, state public education, sale of armory at Harpers Ferry)

Box 3; Folder 6; Item Nos. 784-803; 1867;

Politics: 784-785, 787-799, 802 (bills in Congress, government of Virginia, West Virginia woman asks about pension for a family with ancestors in Revolution and War of 1812, complaints that government is treating all Southerners the same, West Virginia complaints about Congress and freed slaves, WTW objects to calling Major Doddridge and his son "rebels")

Family/Friends: 786, 800, 803 (Morgantown news, the high price of horses)

Law/Business 801 (West Virginia coal)

Box 3; Folder 7; Item Nos. 804-822; 1867;

Politics: 808, 810-812, 814-819, 821 (rebels in Virginia; a bill to make all Confederacy governors declared rebels will destroy Pierpont who is pro-Union, #810; satirical letter by Mrs. Pierpont regarding the oath; President Johnson activities; letter from Melbourne, Australia about the government and times, #817; activities of the Bureau of Indian Affairs)

Family/Friends: 813, 820 (Montana Territory and its rebel population; report card for John Byrne Willey from West Virginia Agricultural College, #820)

Law/Business: 804-807, 809, 822 (water and rail transportation in West Virginia and Morgantown; financing of West Virginia Agricultural College; Union Pacific Railroad seeking government money to complete line to the west coast)

Box 3; Folder 8; Item Nos. 823-843; 1867-1868;

Politics: 823-827, 829-832, 834, 835, 837-843 (patent office activities; Naval Academy graduates as ensigns promoted; a suit for property in Harpers Ferry worth millions of dollars; exclusion of Negroes from governments in the South; whiskey tax; war damage compensation request; petition for the removal of "disabilities"; move of state capitol to Charleston, #832; request for money for the railroads; impeachment of President Johnson, #839, #841-843; possibility of getting money for state college from sale of Harpers Ferry property, #840)

Family/Friends: 836 (streetcars should not run on Sunday in D.C.)

Law/Business: 828, 833 (WTW's land in Illinois, sale of Morgantown college property)

Box 3; Folder 9; Item Nos. 844-864; 1868;

Politics: 845-863 (impeachment of President Andrew Johnson in Congress and Copperheads in West Virginia; failure of the Freedman Bureau bill in Congress; President Johnson's impeachment and trial, #849, #857-858, #862-863; problems of Governor Pierpont in Virginia; West Virginia politics; opposition to statehood for Colorado, #859)

Family/Friends: 844, 864 (request for seeds, request for money)

Box 3; Folder 10; Item Nos. 865-884; 1868;

Politics: 865-881, 883-884 (Mexico and religious freedom, #865, #876; the impeachment and trial of President Johnson, #866-867, #869-871, #873; tariffs on foreign sumac; local politics and West Virginia legislature; Virginia politics and the removal of Governor Pierpont, #878, #881, #883)

Family/Friends: 882 (Methodist Church activities)

Box 3; Folder 11; Item Nos. 885-902; 1868;

Politics: 885-894, 897-898, 901-902 (requests for WTW to speak at rallies; disabilities; Pierpont on racism in judgeships in West Virginia; voting for Texas constitution)

Law/Business: 895-896, 899 (West Virginia court holidays; loss of the Doddridge library; Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad activities)

Box 3; Folder 12; Item Nos. 903-922; 1869;

Politics: 905-910, 913, 915-922 (requests for removal of "disabilities"; bills in Congress; government in Richmond; a glimpse of Costa Rica, #913; "WVU" used instead of "WV Agricultural College" by Professor Martin in a letter to WTW regarding using military as faculty; reparations and jobs; a request from a woman of a distinguished naval family, Perry and Rodgers, for money)

Law/Business: 903-904, 911-912, 914 (a company requests money from the government to build monitors; WTW thanked for making a pro-railroad speech)

Box 3; Folder 13; Item Nos. 923-942; 1869;

Politics: 923-933, 935-942 (Blair, Minister to Costa Rica, wants bill defeated that would group all Central American countries together with one minister, or else he wants the job since he has lucrative concessions for a railroad in Costa Rica, #925; Governor Boreman elected to Senate; President Grant to be inaugurated; military faculty at WVU; more about "disabilities")

Family/Friends: 929 (church activities)

Law/Business: 934 (grounds and buildings of Morgantown Female Collegiate Institute sold to Mrs. E. J. Moore for $5000)

Box 3; Folder 14; Item Nos. 943-962; 1869;

Politics: 943-945, 947-962 (racial problems in the government of Pennsylvania; request for job; local politics; more about "disabilities"; whiskey tax; slavery; Carlisle and the Republican Party; jobs and appointments)

Family/Friends: 946 (Van Winkle letter about his retirement)

Box 3; Folder 15; Item Nos. 963-982; 1869;

Politics: 963-972, 974, 976, 978-982 (requests for jobs, Grant appointees, #965; sale of Harpers Ferry property; taxes and bills in Congress; the Minister to Singapore has no money and wants WTW to help him to get some from the government--he is from Mississippi and has no senators to help him, #974; letter from a naval officer about Cuba; Marshall College thanks WTW for documents for its library, #981)

Family/Friends: 973 (more on Van Winkle's retirement)

Law/Business: 975, 977 (use of coal and resources of West Virginia)

Box 4; Folder 1; Item Nos. 983-1002; 1869-1870;

Politics: 987-992, 994-1002 (requests for jobs; more on "disabilities"; Republican Party platform; West Virginia Supreme Court; 1861 Harpers Ferry raid; Virginia state government)

Law/Business: 983-985, 993 ("disabilities"; and bill in Congress; publishing in West Virginia; reparations for war damage)

Box 4; Folder 2; Item Nos. 1003-1022; 1870;

Politics: 1004-1020 ("disabilities" and pardons, #1004, #1008, #1017, #1005-1007, the latter letters are from David Hunter Strother about a Winchester man; franking privileges for Congress; money needed for cemetery in Harpers Ferry; politics in Texas; Reconstruction; a man in New York City requests information about land in West Virginia where a "colony of men" could be established, #1018; Australia and the US consul)

Family/Friends: 1021 (son, John, about home and family)

Law/Business: 1022 (the railroads need money from the government)

Box 4; Folder 3; Item Nos. 1023-1042; 1870;

Politics: 1023-1031, 1033-1037, 1039-1042 (about the 15th amendment and opposition in West Virginia; state politics; more "disabilities"; requests for WTW to speak; reparations for a destroyed church; job requests; steel companies want tariff bill or they will go out of business #1036); the "coal fight"; and WTW #1040)

Family/Friends: 1038 (WTW's wife complains that he gives away money to "worthless people")

Box 4; Folder 4; Item Nos. 1043-1062; 1870-1871;

Politics: 1043-1046, 1048, 1051-1058, 1061-1062 (Republican slate for election; jailing of election officials in southern West Virginia by "rebels", #1048; Pierpont requests a position; more "disabilities"; a position as consul requested; a bank application for Mason County with list of stockholders; request for reparations for government service; Congress, and state politics)

Family/Friends: 1047, 1059-1060 (description of the Far East by a naval officer aboard the USS Alaska, #1047; Van Winkle illness; life after Congress, #1060)

Law/Business: 1049, 1052 (railroads in West Virginia; WTW bank account)

Box 4; Folder 5; Item Nos. 1063-1082; 1871-1873;

Politics: 1063, 1065-1067, 1069-1075 (recommendations for a professor to receive LLD degree; invitation to speak; constitutional convention; need to change county seat of Ritchie County to attain access to railroad; trial for fraud against P.G. Van Winkle, now deceased, #1070-1071; Republican politics in West Virginia; a political colleague reminisces)

Family/Friends: 1068, 1076-1080, 1082 (church activities; WTW's son, William, moved to St. Louis and writes about life and the practice of law there)

Law/Business: 1081 (Southern Law Review)

Box 4; Folder 6; Item Nos. 1083-1102; 1873-1876;

Politics: 1084, 1088-1090, 1092, 1102 (West Virginia politics, WTW elected to convention, the Centennial celebration of 1876)

Family/Friends: 1083, 1085, 1087, 1091, 1094-1101 (son, William, writes regarding law practice, business, life in St. Louis, and move to Baltimore; whiskey as beneficial medicine for all ailments, #1094; temperance in Preston County; inquiry about the invention of the steam engine)

Law/Business: 1086, 1093 (investing in railroads)

Box 4; Folder 7; Item Nos. 1103-1122; 1876-1877;

Politics: 1105, 1107, 1109-1110, 1112-1113, 1115-1116, 1118, 1120-1122 (church position and convention held in Cincinnati; West Virginia politics; money for river locks and dams; location of state capitol)

Family/Friends: 1106, 1108, 1111, 1117, 1119 (WTW appointed to National Historical Convention; church convention; letter from a cousin)

Law/Business: 1104, 1114 (landowner's estate, Wall Street brokers and stock sales)

Box 4; Folder 8; Item Nos. 1123-1142; 1878-1880;

Politics: 1128-1129, 1132, 1139-1142 (Republican Party in the Eastern panhandle of West Virginia, #1128 and #1129 from David Hunter Strother; requests for speeches)

Family/Friends: 1123-1127, 1130, 1133, 1135-1138 (requests for speeches, genealogy of the family, request for WTW's book, church matters)

Law/Business: 1131, 1134 (railroad business; WTW became President of the Pittsburgh, Southern, and West Virginia Railroad in 1879, and the first train to reach Morgantown arrived in 1886; see "Waitman Thomas Willey" by Charles Ambler)

Box 4; Folder 9; Item Nos. 1143-1160; 1880-1886;

Politics: 1144, 1146-1147, 1149, 1151, 1153-1154 (invitation to a reception for Hon. A.N. Campbell and a painting of him; positions for F.H. Pierpont and Hagans; aid to the public schools; Virginia's debt and West Virginia's part of it; information requested about Lincoln signing the West Virginia state bill; a Prohibition bill in Congress

Family/Friends: 1145, 1148, 1152, 1155-1160 (church matters and a convention in England; requests for WTW to speak at the Morgantown Centennial; a letter regards the history of West Virginia; WTW article about the schools)

Law/Business: 1143, 1150 (officers of a Morgantown bank, and money for railroads in Monongalia County)

Box 4; Folder 10; Item Nos. 1161-1181; 1887-1898;

Politics: 1165, 1166, 1170, 1172, 1175, 1177 (letter regarding the Army and Stonewall Jackson, #1165; Prohibition; state health forms; Congressional compensation; request for a job as a judge)

Family/Friends: 1161-1164, 1168-1169, 1171, 1173-1174, 1176, 1178-1181 (church matter; history of West Virginia by Lewis; letters from son in Washington, D.C.; WTW biography in the newspaper; family in West Virginia; request for an article written by WTW)

Law/Business: 1167 (railroad finances)

Series 1. Incoming Correspondence -- Non-Transcribed/Not Copied Box; Folder; Item Numbers; Dates;

Contents Box 4; Folders 11-12; Item Nos. 1182-1221; 1833-1834;

Legal Matters and Friends (e.g., #1209) (Note: during this time, WTW began his law practice in Morgantown)

Box 5; Folders 1-9; Item Nos. 1222-1406; 1834-1840;

Legal Matters

Family and Friends (e.g., #1230)

Religion (e.g., #1251, #1258, #1280, #1291, #1292, #1401)

Politics (e.g., #1275, #1326, #1366)

(Note: during this time, WTW practiced law in Morgantown)

Box 5; Folders 10-16; Item Nos. 1407-1545; 1840s;

Primarily Legal Matters (e.g., property suits)

Some Political Matters (e.g., #1447 -- WTW as elector for the Harrison / Tyler Presidential election)

Slavery (e.g., #1512 -- "slave boy, Thomas Jefferson" should be free)

and Illness and Death in the Family (e.g., #1497, #1499, #1502 -- death of Thomas P. Ray)

Box 6; Folders 1-12; Item Nos. 1546-1787; 1840s;

Legal and Political Letters (e.g., #1603 -- from Governor of Virginia regarding election errors in 1844)

Requests for Information (e.g., #1668 -- How many physicians in the County?)

Other Material (e.g., #1726 -- about Evan Morgan, who fought in the American Revolution and was a pioneer in Monongalia County; e.g., #1728 and #1729 -- regarding temperance)

(Note: WTW is Clerk of Monongalia County)

Box 6; Folders 13-19; Item Nos. 1788-1929; 1850s;


Legal Matters

Family Matters

Politics (e.g., #1797 -- Washington, DC politics; e.g., #1926 -- Whig voting in 1851 Virginia election)

(Note: WTW is a delegate to the Constitutional Convention at Richmond, Virginia in 1850)

Box 7; Folders 1-25; Item Nos. 1930-2440; 1850s;


Legal Matters

Family and Friends

School and Church Matters (e.g., #2262 - #2300 -- applications for the Morgantown Female Academy)

Politics (e.g., #2370 and #2376 -- election and WTW running for office in 1859)

Box 8; Folders 1-4; Item Nos. 2441-2520; 1859-1860;

Family and Friends

Politics (e.g., #2442 -- son in college mentions John Brown raid in 1859)

Politics (e.g., #2510 -- election results, 1859, and consequences)

Politics (e.g., #2520 -- 1860 election stationery of National Constitutional Union party featuring John Bell and Edward Everett)

Box 8; Folders 5-23; Item Nos. 2521-2903; 1860-1862;

Family and Friends

Politics (e.g., #2556 -- about WTW speech on rebellion)

Politics (e.g., #2587 -- circular from Dickinson College, where his son is studying, regarding war)

Politics (e.g., #2597 -- letter from General Scott regarding Colonel Emory, copy)

Politics (e.g., #2600 -- Brigadier General Robert Anderson to Dr. Crawford regarding Fort Sumter, copy)

Politics (e.g., #2723 -- regarding WTW speech in Senate)

(Note: WTW is in Richmond for the secession vote during this period)

Box 9; Folders 1-23; Item Nos. 2904-3364; 1862-1863;


Friends and Family

Politics and War (e.g., #2988 -- recommendation to President Lincoln regarding General Rosecrans)

Politics and War (e.g., #3052 -- WTW voted against emancipation)

Politics and War (e.g., #3239 -- Jenkins raid in West Virginia)

Box 10; Folders 1-23; Item Nos. 3365-3824; 1863-1864;

Friends, Family, Politics, Government, War, and Other Topics (e.g., #3696 -- list of IRS fees for legal services; e.g., #3703 -- translation of a letter in French)

Box 11; Folders 1-25; Item Nos. 3825-4324; 1864-1865;

Friends, Family, Politics, Government, War, and Other Topics (e.g., #3641 -- advertising and testimonials by Professor Lacknow, "only liver and blood physician of the age"; e.g., #4112 -- a prisoner in Camp Chase, Ohio, claims wrongful imprisonment)

Box 12; Folders 1-24; Item Nos. 4325-4804; 1865-1866;

Friends, Family, Politics, Government, War, and Other Topics (e.g., #4330a and #4330b -- brief messages regarding fall of Richmond and fate of Lee's army; e.g., #4421 -- letter from J. Evans, Governor of Colorado Territory, regarding "Sand Creek Affair")

Box 13; Folders 1-27; Item Nos. 4805-5344; 1866-1868;

Friends, Family, Politics, and Other Topics

folder 3 -- President Andrew Johnson's appointments, and state jobs disputed between "loyal" citizens and "rebels"

folder 23 -- letter regarding slaves and voting

folder 25 -- a person's claim for war work

folder 27 -- "impeachment trial" mentioned)

Box 14; Folders 1-21; Item Nos. 5345-5764; 1868-1869;

Politics, Government, Family/Friends, Business (topics include requests for jobs or appointments, complaints that "rebels" are getting jobs, claims for war damages, concerns about political "disabilities", and information about railroads and the West)

folder 1 -- politics in Dakota Territory; reparations for damage to a church in Mannington, WV; compensation for soldiers of Revolution and War of 1812; the "impeachment trial"

folder 8 -- news article about WTW and Van Winkle votes in the impeachment trial of President Johnson; signature of F.W. Seward (item 5489)

folder 10 -- patent office requests are found

folder 13 -- autograph of US Grant (item 5604)

folders 14-16 -- general communications as previously mentioned

Folder 17 -- autographs of Governor Boreman (item 5668) and Governor Stevenson (item 5677)

Folders 18-21 -- general communications as previously mentioned

Folder 19 -- general communications as previously mentioned; request for help from a woman who lost two sons in the war, example of the times (item 5719)

Box 14; Folders 22-27; Item Nos. 5765-5884; 1870s;

Politics, Government, Family/Friends, Business

folder 22 -- letter charging US District Attorney, General Goff, with fraud (item 5776); a letter lobbying to reject bill in Congress giving franking privileges to senators on the grounds it will force newspapers out of business (item 5784)

folder 23 -- letter from mayor of Lewisburg, WV, requesting job to get him away from the "rebels" in Greenbrier County (item 5786); a letter lobbying for the government to do something for the railroads in WV since "all the bridges" were destroyed by the "rebels" (item 5788)

folders 24, 25, 27 -- similar subjects as above

folder 26 -- a letter requesting seeds and bulbs from the Agriculture Department (items 5849, 5851); letters praising speech by WTW regarding Southern loyalists (items 5847, 5848); news article about fraud involving counterfeit money (item 5863)

Box 15; Folders 1-20; Item Nos. 5885-6285; 1870s;

Politics, Government, Family/Friends, Business (after 1871 the incoming letters concern matters of law, business, politics, friends, and family; they do not pertain to governmental activities)

folder 1 -- letter regarding the 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (items 5885, 5904); letter from WTW's wife about home, crops, weather, and whether WTW wants another term in Senate (item 5902)

folder 2 -- an invitation for WTW to an excursion on the new Kansas-Pacific RR (item 5908); more on the 15th Amendment (item 5909)

folder 10 -- contains the first postcard among the incoming letters

folder 19 -- letter detailing property values in Missouri; a letter from A.L. Purinton of Morgantown requesting job as agent for the "civilized tribes" in Bureau of Indian Affairs

folder 20 -- letter inviting WTW to lay cornerstone for a new building at Waynesburg College (July, 1879)

Box 15; Folders 21-27; Item Nos. 6286-6425; 1880s;

Legal, Business, General Political Topics, Family and Friends, Temperance Activities, Recommendations for Jobs, Requests for Speeches

folder 23 -- letter regarding damage to a wall at Monticello in August, 1880

Box 16; Folders 1-13; Item Nos. 6426-6685; 1880s;

Legal, Business, General Political Topics, Friends and Family Concerns (typescripts appear)

folder 12 -- letter from Virgil Ambler Lewis

(Note: WTW has written "The Life of Philip Doddridge"; Grover Cleveland is President [1884-1887] but the Republicans return to power [1889].)

Box 16; Folders 14-28; Item Nos. 6686-6995; 1890s;

Legal, Business, Politics, Family and Friends

folder 16 -- letters from a company in Oil City, Pennsylvania

folder 17 -- mention of W.L. Mellon and J.M. King

folder 23 -- engraving of WTW for his recently published biography; flyer regarding a hospital in Wheeling (item 6880)

folder 25 -- regards 81st birthday of F.H. Pierpont (item 6911); broadsheet regarding "loyal WV from 1861-1865" (item 6916); letter from son, Ray, about illness and a smallpox epidemic in Washington, D.C. (item 6917)

folder 28 -- letter regarding WTW's retirement at age 85 (item 6973)

Box 16; Folder 29; Item Nos. 6986-7008; 1900;

Legal, Business, Politics, Family and Friends

(last letter dated April 23, 1900; WTW died May 3, 1900)

Series 2. Financial Records

Boxes 17-18; Financial Records; 1837-1869

Series 3. Legal Papers

Boxes 19-20; Legal Papers; 1820-1856

Series 4. W.T. Willey's Diary

Box 21; Loose; Volume 1; 1830-1899

Box 22; Loose; Volume 2 (includes clippings added posthumously); 1899-1908

Series 5. Miscellaneous

Box 22; Folder 1; Miscellaneous Material (folder 1 of 2); "Sophomore scheme", Dickinson College, William Willey, "2nd session, 1860."; 1860

Box 22; Folder 1; Miscellaneous Material (folder 1 of 2); List of battles of Arthur Palmer, Civil War; undated

Box 22; Folder 1; Miscellaneous Material (folder 1 of 2); Report of Commission on Taxation; 1862

Box 22; Folder 1; Miscellaneous Material (folder 1 of 2); Bills of rent of William Willey from Harvey Merrifield and James Heften; 1854

Box 22; Folder 1; Miscellaneous Material (folder 1 of 2); Palsey vs. Haymond "amt of judgt" [amount of judgement]; 1845 April - 1846 July

Box 22; Folder 1; Miscellaneous Material (folder 1 of 2); James McClellen vs. John Ambler plat of land; 1851

Box 22; Folder 1; Miscellaneous Material (folder 1 of 2); Deputy Grand Worthy Patriarch's Commission, Sons of Temperance ("do not copy" is written on it); 1847

Box 22; Folder 1; Miscellaneous Material (folder 1 of 2); Votes for President and Vice President electors, 1840, Ohio County, Virginia (labeled Ohio Co. Commissioners); 1840

Box 22; Folder 1; Miscellaneous Material (folder 1 of 2); Wm Fairfax vs James Huggins plat of land; Wm Fairfax vs James Hggins (sic) plat of land (labeled on reverse as "Wm Fairfax vs John Ambler") (the papers are torn in half); undated

Box 22; Folder 1; Miscellaneous Material (folder 1 of 2); Department of Agriculture list of seeds; 1867

Box 22; Folder 1; Miscellaneous Material (folder 1 of 2); IOU, Harvey Merryfield to William Wiley; 1857

Box 22; Folder 1; Miscellaneous Material (folder 1 of 2); Piece of a document; 1841

Box 22; Folder 1; Miscellaneous Material (folder 1 of 2); Suit of John Merrill vs Henry Batton; 1827

Box 22; Folder 2; Miscellaneous Material (folder 2 of 2); List of names with "send to Alexandria, Va" written on it; 1862 [?]

Box 22; Folder 2; Miscellaneous Material (folder 2 of 2); Two report cards for J.R. Willey at Monongalia Academy; 1862

Box 22; Folder 2; Miscellaneous Material (folder 2 of 2); IOU from Saterfield to William Willey; undated

Box 22; Folder 2; Miscellaneous Material (folder 2 of 2); A bill of debt; 1835 [?]

Box 22; Folder 2; Miscellaneous Material (folder 2 of 2); Letter regarding distribution of sessions written to WTW in Washington, D.C.; 1854

Box 22; Folder 2; Miscellaneous Material (folder 2 of 2); A membership form for Independent Order of Odd Fellows; 1850s

Box 22; Folder 2; Miscellaneous Material (folder 2 of 2); 30 page speech manuscript in WTW writing delivered at cemetery in Grafton, Decoration Day; 1878

Box 22; Folder 2; Miscellaneous Material (folder 2 of 2); Petition to President Hayes for a consul (unfinished); 1879 [?]

Box 22; Folder 2; Miscellaneous Material (folder 2 of 2); County clerk apportionment form in WTW handwriting; 1887

Box 22; Folder 2; Miscellaneous Material (folder 2 of 2); Extract from revised statutes for the State of Indiana (1881) and suggested forms for certificate (1885) (3 pp.); 1881-1885

Box 22; Folder 2; Miscellaneous Material (folder 2 of 2); Subscription to Wheeling, West Virginia, paper; 1892

Box 22; Folder 2; Miscellaneous Material (folder 2 of 2); Bill for steel-plate portrait; 1893

Box 22; Folder 3; Documents and Clipping (contains envelope, a memorial card, two pages of a manuscript regarding Methodist Episcopal Church, newspaper article about the South Side of Morgantown, typewritten invitation to dinner with the Lincolns [copy]); undated

Box 22; Folder 4; Louisa L. Willey Papers (contains envelope, 2 documents, 2 newspaper clippings, and letter concerning death and legacy of Miss Louisa L. Willey); 1917, undated

Box 22; Loose; Account Book for "Line Ferry," Operator George Frankenberry; 1830-1856

Unboxed; Oversize folder; Oversize Material; Envelope; undated

Unboxed; Oversize folder; Oversize Material; Willey's diploma from Madison College; 1832

Unboxed; Oversize folder; Oversize Material; Willey's diploma from Augusta College; 1834

Unboxed; Oversize folder; Oversize Material; Willey's license to practice law; 1832


  • 1820-1917


Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Access

No special access restriction applies.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to publish or reproduce is required from the copyright holder. For more information, please contact the West Virginia and Regional History Center.

Biographical / Historical

Waitman Thomas Willey, West Virginia pioneer, lawyer, Methodist churchman, and United States Senator, was born October 18, 1811, at Buffalo Creek, Virginia (near Fairmont in Marion County, West Virginia), the son of William Willey, Jr., former Revolutionary War soldier under General Anthony Wayne, and Sarah Barnes, a member of a prominent family of northwestern Virginia.

Willey's first twelve years were spent at Buffalo Creek where his father's farm was a frontier homestead isolated from the few towns in the area. In 1823, the family (which now included stepmother, Mary McCormack Willey) moved to a farm on the Monongahela River in Monongalia County near present-day Rivesville. Here, Willey received a rudimentary formal education with readings from the classics and the Bible.

In 1827, Willey walked the forty miles from his home to Uniontown, Pennsylvania to attend Madison College (later Allegheny College) where he excelled in classical studies and mathematics. After three and one half years he received a B.A. degree, and then read law in the office of Philip Doddridge and John Campbell in Wellsburg, Brooke County, Virginia. He was admitted to the bar in 1833; in addition, he received an M.A. degree from Augusta College in Kentucky in 1834.

Willey settled in Morgantown, Monongalia County, Virginia, in 1832, with his wife Elizabeth, daughter of Patrick Ray, a prominent citizen of Morgantown who was Clerk of the Court and a founder of the Morgantown Female Academy (to which he gave his home). The Willey family subsequently included seven children: Mary Ellen, wife of Dr. M.L. Casselberry of Morgantown; Sarah Barnes, wife of J. Marshall Hagans, distinguished judge; William Patrick, professor of law at West Virginia University; Julia, wife of Major William McGrew, Union Army officer, West Virginia state senator, and Morgantown banker; Thomas Ray, United States government clerk in the Interior Department; Louisa, unmarried, who remained at home; and John Byrne, deputy clerk of Monongalia County.

Waitman T. Willey maintained a successful and lucrative law practice in Morgantown for 67 years. He served as Monongalia County Clerk and clerk of the Circuit Superior Court from 1841 to 1852, and was Morgantown's first Superintendent of Schools. Willey had an early interest in politics and was an active member of the conservative Whig Party: he served as an elector for the Harrison-Tyler election of 1840, was an unsuccessful Whig candidate for Congress in 1852, an unsuccessful Opposition (Whig Party) candidate for Lt. Governor of Virginia in 1859, and a delegate to the Constitutional Union Party convention which nominated Bell and Everett for President and Vice President in 1860. In 1850, Willey had been a delegate to the Virginia Constitutional Convention where he championed western Virginia interests, white manhood suffrage, and governmental reforms. Again, in 1861, he was a delegate to the Virginia Convention that voted for secession (Willey voted against it). In the subsequent, Pro-Union, reorganized legislature (the "Restored Government of Virginia at Wheeling"), Willey was elected to Congress to complete the term of James M. Mason for two years. While in the Senate, Willey actively introduced legislation to admit West Virginia into the Union. The Reorganized Government proposed a new state Constitution that Willey supported in Congress in 1862. Following revision of the proposal to include emancipation of slaves and a favorable referendum by the West Virginia voters, statehood was achieved in 1863.

Willey returned to the Senate in 1863 and was elected to the full six-year term in 1865. During his tenure, he initially opposed Republican lawmakers over issues involving the war, confiscation of rebel property, and slavery. But because of his "ardent support" of the Union, Willey's political views evolved through the years to support Republican aims, including national emancipation of slaves and disenfranchisement of disloyal citizens. He considered the latter appropriate in order to keep "southern sympathizers" from gaining control of West Virginia and perhaps reuniting the state with Virginia. Although Willey was aligned with conservative Republicans in the Senate, he did vote for the Civil Rights Act of 1866, the Reconstruction Acts, the removal of President Johnson, and the 14th and 15th Amendments. He opposed the Freedman's Bureau and the Enforcement Acts of 1870. Many in West Virginia opposed Republican Party policies, and in 1870 the party lost control of state government. Willey left the Senate in 1871 and returned to his Morgantown law practice and the County Clerkship (1882-1890).

Willey remained active in politics throughout his later life. He served in the 1872 State Constitutional Convention and supported Republican Party policies and candidates, and was chairman of the West Virginia delegation to the GOP National Convention in 1876. He also continued his active service in the Methodist Church where he was an advocate for lay participation in the national conference and served as delegate from West Virginia in 1880. Willey was much in demand as a public speaker throughout his life -- he was called, "old man eloquent" -- because of his commanding appearance, "thrilling" voice, evident sincerity, and knowledge. He spoke frequently on Temperance, Methodist beliefs, politics, the classics, and history. He collected a large library, wrote numerous articles and a biography of Philip Doddridge. He received several honorary degrees, including LLD from Allegheny College and West Virginia University. Willey's last public appearance was at the funeral of Governor Pierpont when he gave a "stirring" eulogy. He was 88 years of age.

Waitman T. Willey, "Grand Old Man of West Virginia," died May 2, 1900, at his home, Chancery Hill, in Morgantown. His funeral was the largest ever held in Morgantown to that time. He was interred in Oak Grove Cemetery.

Notes: 1. In June, 1861, Willey was not present at the second convention in Wheeling at which the Reorganized Government of Virginia was established in preparation for statehood. His father and stepmother were fatally ill at the time and he was at home.

2. Willey never wrote a history of the statehood deliberations, politics, or conventions. He felt he was too biased to do justice to the history. No history was ever written by the participants.

Bibliography: 1. Ambler, C.H.; Waitman Thomas Willey, 1954, Standard Printing and Publishing C., Huntington, W. Va.

2. Corson, L.D.; Legislative Career of Waitman T. Willey, 1942, master's thesis, West Virginia University.

3. Moore, J.T.; "Waitman T. Willey," in Dictionary of American Biography, p. 426.

4. Obituary, Morgantown Weekly Post, Thursday, May 10, 1900.

5. Ware, A.F.; A Study of the Rhetoric of Waitman T. Willey in the West Virginia Statehood Movement, 1952, master's thesis, West Virginia University.

6. White, L.C.; West Virginia and Her U.S. Senators in the Impeachment of President Andrew Johnson, 1928, master's thesis, West Virginia University.

7. Willey, Waitman T.; "Liberty and Union," 1854, Wheeling, J.E. Wharton, publisher. A speech.

8. Willey, Waitman T.; address delivered before the Constitutional Convention of West Virginia in the City of Wheeling, 12 February 1863.

9. Willey, Waitman T.; "Historical Address," Celebration of the Municipal Centennial of Morgantown, 1885.

10. Willey, William P.; The Formation of the State of West Virginia, 1901, The News Publishing Co., Wheeling, W. Va.

Prepared by Carole B. Boyd, M.D., 2000.


9.2 Linear Feet (Summary: 9 ft. 2 1/4 in. (22 document cases, 5 in. each); (1 oversize folder, 1/4 in.))


Papers of Waitman T. Willey (1811-1900), lawyer, senator, and founding father of West Virginia. A resident of Monongalia County, Willey was a delegate to the Constitutional Convention of 1850, the Secession Convention of 1861, the First Wheeling Convention of 1861, and the Constitutional Convention of 1871. He was U.S. Senator from the Restored Government of Virginia (1861-1863) and Senator from West Virginia (1863-1871). Includes several thousand pieces of incoming correspondence to Waitman T. Willey dating from 1833 to 1900 (bulk 1859-1869) concerning political, social, and economic affairs. There is much material on the temperance movement in Virginia (1845-1860), the Civil War, and the statehood movement in West Virginia. Also includes miscellaneous financial records (1837-1869) and legal papers (1820-1856); Willey's diary (entries from 1830-1899, posthumously added clippings through 1908); and other material. For more details and a contents list, see the Scope and Content Note. For more information about Willey, see the Historical Note.

Physical Location

West Virginia and Regional History Center / West Virginia University / 1549 University Avenue / P.O. Box 6069 / Morgantown, WV 26506-6069 / Phone: 304-293-3536 / Fax: 304-293-3981 / URL:

Related A&M Collections

3, 1361
Waitman T. Willey Papers, 1820-1917
Staff of the West Virginia & Regional History Center
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the West Virginia and Regional History Center Repository

1549 University Ave.
P.O. Box 6069
Morgantown WV 26506-6069 US