May 4, 1887: W.Va. Legislature Elects Charles Faulkner Jr. to the Senate

Charles Faulkner Jr.

On May 4, 1887, the West Virginia Legislature pulled its support from incumbent U.S. Senator Johnson Camden and elected Charles Faulkner Jr. of Martinsburg to the Senate. At the time, U.S. senators were chosen by state legislatures.

The move ended a legislative deadlock that had dragged on for months. Camden, a railroad and oil developer, was a controversial figure even within his own Democratic Party. Anti-Camden forces disliked his links to big business, namely John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Company. As a silent partner of Rockefeller, Camden had forced most West Virginia oil companies other than his own out of business.

As a U.S. senator, Camden was one of the state’s first politicians to exploit his position for personal and business advantage. While in the senate, he speculated financially on West Virginia’s attempts to settle pre-statehood debts with Virginia, helped get Standard Oil into international markets, and repealed laws opposed by the oil industry.

In the 1890s, Johnson Camden returned to the Senate for two years, completing the unexpired term of John Kenna—all the while, becoming one of West Virginia’s richest men.