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First West Virginia Legislature

Biographical Sketches: Nathan Goff

Wheeling Intelligencer
August 21, 1863

The First West Va. Legislature.


Sketches Personal, Political and Biographical.

NATHAN GOFF, from Harrison.

Nathan Goff, one of the delegates from Harrison, was born in Otsego county, New York, in 1798. He is of English descent on his father's side, being descended from William Goff, one of the regicides of Charles I of England, who, along with Whalley and Dixwell, fled to this country to escape the consequences of that act towards the close of the sixteenth century. His father removed to Western Virginia and settled on Booth's Creek in Harrison county in 1801, at which period that region was in a very primitive state of civilization. The same farm thus redeemed from the woods, is still in possession of the family, and is one of the most valuable in the county. From the time he was old enough till he was twenty years of age, Nathan worked on his father's farm, obtaining meanwhile such education as could be had by attendance during the winter seasons upon the log cabin schools the country then afforded. About the time of attaining his majority, he went to Clarksburg and was made the sheriff, which position he filled for three years. He then removed to Morgantown and there engaged in the business of merchant. Four years afterwards he had the misfortune to be burned out root and branch, but in no wise daunted or discouraged he began again, and to use his favorite phrase, "took it ranging and went ahead." He had established a reputation for probity and business habits that enabled him to make fresh purchases without embarrassment. He accordingly pushed on energetically, and at the end of five years more had made a good deal of money despite his losses. About this time his health failed and he was obliged to quit business. After six months' travel and recreation he settled in Clarksburg and again engaged in merchandising, and was getting along even more successfully than before, when in 1844 he was again obliged by ill health to discontinue the business. He then turned his attention to banking, and did some business as a private banker until some three years ago, about which time, almost entirely through his aid and exertions, the branch of the Merchants' and Mechanics' Bank of Wheeling was established at Clarksburg. Mr. Goff was made, and is yet, its President.

Mr. Goff has been nearly all his life the holder of some responsible official position:having been three years a sheriff, nine years a magistrate, twenty-four years of his life, superintendent, treasurer and commissioner of schools for Harrison County.

He is now and has been for years president of the corporation of Clarksburg, and it may be added, as worthy of mention, that he is also president of a Bible Society in his native town.

Mr. Goff is one of the wealthiest men of his county, and acquired his wealth by his own energy and diligence. He has lost heavily by the war, and partly by the general depression it had occasioned in stocks, and partly by debtors running away to rebeldom.

In politics he has always been a whig, and voted for Bell and Everett in '60. As an abstract question he has always believed slavery wrong, but as a practical question has opposed its abolishment. Owns two house servants himself. Thinks however that the Government is worth much more than slavery, and if necessary to save the Union is willing every slave in it shall be emancipated. He has been from the beginning firm and consistent in his opposition to the schemes of the rebels, ad so great and general was the confidence of his constituency in him that he was brought out against his will and elected without opposition, by a numerically larger vote than was received by any other member of the House.

He has been for 35 years a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and has been twice married. As a member of the House no one is more respected or wields more silent influence. He is an efficient member of several Committees and Chairman of the Committee on Printing and Contingent expenses. Is "no orator as Brutus is," but speaks occasionally. Is brief and direct with no attempt at oratory. Is for business rather than buncombe. In person is above the medium height, and inclining to be portly. Looks quite fresh and vigorous for a man of his age; which is at least partially due, I suppose, to his well known habits of temperance and regularity. Wears a dark wig, no beard, eyes dark hazel, and has an intelligent good humored English type of face. Dresses during the hot weather in a suit of white linen, always scrupulously neat and clean, but with no pretension to style. - Wears a silk hat, respectable on account of age if nothing else. At home wears a white fur, with low crown and a rim like a sombrero.

Socially is a very agreeable gentleman. Believes that the way to restore peace to the country is to whip the rebels, and that the only way to do that is to give the existing administration a hearty support, morally and materially in all necessary measures.

Biographies of the First West Virginia Legislature

West Virginia Archives and History