John Jeremiah Jacob was born near Romney, Hampshire County, the first of West Virginia's governors born within the present-day borders of the state. He attended the Romney Academy and Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Jacob studied law and taught school in Hampshire County before accepting a position at the University of Missouri in 1853. He worked as an attorney in Missouri during the Civil War and returned to Romney in 1865 to establish a law practice. In 1868, he was elected to the West Virginia House of Delegates.
As the first of six consecutive Democratic governors, Jacob supported the elimination of all remaining legislation that discriminated against former Confederates. He presided over the establishment of new facilities to care for the mentally handicapped and the creation of statewide schools, known as normal schools, to train teachers. Most of these schools are now part of the state college system.
The most significant development of Jacob's term was the drafting of a new state constitution. Former Confederate supporters believed the original 1863 constitution was pro-Union. A new constitutional convention, controlled by Democrats, met in Charleston in 1872. The new constitution restricted the power of the legislature and expanded the governor's term in office from two to four years, prohibiting consecutive terms. Due to a split in the Democratic party, Jacob was re-elected as an Independent in 1872. In 1875, the state government moved from Charleston back to Wheeling.
Jacob served in the House of Delegates from Ohio County in 1879 and as a circuit judge from 1881 to 1888. He practiced law in Wheeling until his death in 1893.
Gubernatorial Papers Finding Aid (1870-1876)
West Virginia's Governors
West Virginia History Center