Politician Nathan Goff Jr. was born in Clarksburg on February 9, 1843. He served in the Union Army during the Civil War, rising from a private to brevet brigadier general. In 1864, he was captured at Moorefield and sent to Richmond’s notorious Libby Prison. He was released in a prisoner exchange personally authorized by President Lincoln.
After the war, Goff served in the state legislature, as a U.S. district attorney for West Virginia, briefly as U.S. secretary of the navy, and as a congressman. In 1888, he and Democrat A. B. Fleming were deadlocked in the most bizarre gubernatorial election in state history.
In the initial tally, Goff won by 106 votes, but after more than a year of legal delays, Goff lost his bid for governor. He finished his political career with a term in the U.S. Senate from 1913 until 1919.
Despite his illustrious career as a government official, his most important contribution may have been as a political boss. Nathan Goff helped chart the West Virginia Republican Party’s course from the 1870s until the turn of the century. He died in 1920 at age 77.