On January 1, 1861, a Union meeting was held at the courthouse in Parkersburg. Gen. John J. Jackson, J. M. Stephenson, Arthur Boreman, and John J. Jackson Jr. made speeches. The meeting passed resolutions in support of the Union and opposed to holding a convention in Virginia to consider relations with the federal government.
Other meetings were held at Bethany and in Pocahontas County.
Pro-Union workingmen met at the Atheneum in Wheeling on January 5, 1861. After hearing several speakers, those in attendance adopted resolutions opposed to secession, opposed to the call for a Virginia convention, and supporting amendment to the Virginia constitution regarding the basis of representation.
On January 7, 1861, a special session of the Virginia General Assembly convened in Richmond under a proclamation by Gov. John Letcher. In the evening session, the House passed a resolution declaring the Union had no power to declare war against the states and opposing any attempt by the federal government to force seceding states back into the Union. The vote was 112 to 5, with Arthur Boreman (Wood), James D. Morris (Marshall), G. McC. Porter (Brooke and Hancock), Nathaniel Richardson (Ohio), and A. S. Watts (Norfolk County) voting against the resolution. The Senate approved this resolution on January 8.
People in Fairmont heard speeches by former Congressman Dr. Zedikiah Kidwell, Francis H. Peirpoint, and Fountain Smith on the political situation in the country. There also was a Union meeting at Point Pleasant.
A detachment of more than 60 United States soldiers arrived at Harpers Ferry on January 8, 1861. Armory superintendent Alfred M. Barbour had informed his superiors several days earlier that he feared an assault and had organized volunteer companies to protect the armory. In response, the Secretary of War had ordered Bvt. Maj. Henry J. Hunt to Harpers Ferry to assume military command of the armory, assisted by First Lt. Roger Jones. This force would remain in Harpers Ferry for the next three months.
Also on the 8th, meetings were held at Wellsburg, Wetzel County, and Kanawha County. At Wellsburg, the Wellsburg Union Club was formed with the object of maintaining the United States constitution and promoting the Union and enforcement of its laws. At the meeting in Kanawha County, resolutions were adopted calling for a convention in Virginia, favoring preservation of the Union if consistent with the rights and honor of the South, and opposing federal use of force against seceding states.
Robert E. Cowan, member of the Virginia House of Delegates from Preston County, spoke on the bill to call a state convention. Cowan voiced his intention to vote in favor of the convention, "believing it to be the only medium through which anything could be done to preserve the honor and integrity of Virginia," and spoke in support of submitting the actions of the convention to the people. He also asserted that he "and my people" would go with Virginia if the convention effort failed. During the war, he joined the Confederate army and served in the Confederate Virginia legislature.
In the Virginia House of Delegates, Isaac N. Smith presented a petition of citizens of Kanawha County proposing a law "that any traveller who brings into this state a free negro from a free state as servant be subject to a fine of two hundred dollars" and also providing fines in cases where a ship stops along any waterway, except the Ohio River. The petition was referred to the committee for courts of justice.
On January 14, 1861, the Virginia General Assembly passed an act providing for an election on February 4 at which delegates to a convention would be selected and also at which the sentiments of the voters as to whether any action of the convention for secession or changing state law should be put before the people for approval.
On January 16, a pro-Union meeting was held in Wheeling.
On January 19, 1861, the Virginia General Assembly passed a joint resolution inviting other states to a Peace Conference in Washington, DC, on February 4, and appointing former president John Tyler, William C. Rives, John W. Brockenbrough, James A. Seddon, and George W. Summers as commissioners representing Virginia. Summers, of Kanawha County, was the only commissioner selected from western Virginia.
Meetings were held at Clarksburg, Romney, Wheeling, and West Liberty. At Clarksburg, resolutions described by the Wheeling Intelligencer as "beacon lights" were passed. After the meeting, John J. Davis, John S. Carlile, and John C. Vance requested Benjamin Wilson to endorse the resolutions approved at that meeting; Wilson subsequently denied having endorsed them, which Davis refuted in a printed broadside.
On January 21, 1861, the House of Delegates approved a joint resolution passed by the Senate stating that if differences between conflicting sections could not be settled, Virginia should join southern states.
Meetings were held at Moundsville, Hancock County, Upshur County, and Parkersburg.
On January 22, 1861, the Hon. Sherrard Clemens (D-Va.) from Wheeling gave a speech in the House of Representatives on slavery and disunion, arguing against dismemberment of the country.
Ten of Virginia's congressmen issued a statement to the people of Virginia regarding the condition of the country and concluding that convention action was the best means of avoiding civil war. Albert Gallatin Jenkins of Cabell County was one of the ten.
Citizens assembled at Brandonville, Preston County, to select delegates to the county convention that would nominate candidates for the Virginia State Convention. They also passed resolutions supporting the Union.
On January 24, 1861, the U.S. Marshal from the Northern District of Ohio, arrived in Wheeling with the fugitive slave Lucy. She had escaped from her owner William S. Goshorn in October 1860 and gone to Cleveland, where she was arrested on January 19 and ordered to be returned to her master under provisions of the Fugitive Slave Act.
At a meeting in Hardy County, resolutions supporting Virginia and secession, when efforts to secure their rights from northern aggression fail, and accepting the Crittenden proposals as a basis of compromise.
On January 25, Union citizens of Kingwood gathered in front of the Preston County courthouse and raised a flag pole.
On January 26, 1861, Allen C. Hammond, candidate for delegate to the Virginia State Convention, presented his views on several topics to the voters of Berkeley County in a printed broadside. Hammond was one of two delegates selected to represent Berkeley County at the convention.
Women in Kingwood provided a flag to fly on the pole erected the previous day. John J. Brown accepted the flag on behalf of the Union men.
At a meeting at Lewisburg, Samuel Price was selected a candidate to represent Greenbrier County at the Virginia State Convention. Col. J. W. Davis immediately called for a meeting to nominate another candidate based upon the pro-southern resolutions he had presented.
On January 29, 1861, the Virginia General Assembly passed an act appropriating $1 million for the defense of the commonwealth.
A meeting of Union supporters was held in Pleasant Valley Church in Preston County.
Undated Events, January 1861
Timeline of West Virginia: Civil War and Statehood