February 12, 1901: Congressman Jacob Blair Dies at 79

Jacob Beeson Blair

Congressman Jacob Blair died in Utah, on February 12, 1901, at age 79. He was born in Parkersburg in 1821 and orphaned at a young age. He studied law under his uncle John Jay Jackson Sr., was admitted to the bar, and then elected prosecuting attorney of Ritchie County.

When the Civil War broke out in 1861, Blair was elected as a pro-Union congressman from Virginia, representing what is now northwestern West Virginia. He was serving in the U.S. House of Representatives on New Year’s Eve 1862, when he and two congressional colleagues met at the White House with President Abraham Lincoln regarding West Virginia’s potential admission to the Union.

When they left the White House, Lincoln still hadn’t made up his mind. Eager for an answer, Blair entered the White House the next morning through an open window and was told the president would indeed approve West Virginia statehood. Thus, Blair was likely the first West Virginian to learn the news.

Jacob Blair was reelected to Congress twice more before being appointed minister to Costa Rica. He spent his last 25 years in Wyoming and Utah.