The Three West Virginians With Links to Lincoln's Assassination



On the anniversary of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, many don’t realize the many links between the 16th President and the Mountain State. 

Most know the story behind the assassination of Lincoln on April 15th 1865, but many don’t realize President Lincoln’s connections to West Virginia aside from his hand in its statehood. Lincoln’s mother was probably from Mineral County, but the link runs much deeper. Michael Woods is a Marshall History professor who’s found three West Virginians with unique connections. 

  1. William McPeck was from Morgantown and a member of the 6th West Virginia Calvary. He was on guard outside Ford Theater when Lincoln was shot. He was one of six soldiers that carried Lincoln out of the theater and across the street to the William Petersen House.
  2. Everton Conger was actually born in Ohio, but served also in a West Virginia regiment. He was recruited into an intelligence agency that worked in D.C. and just after the assassination was dispatched to a company with some New York soldiers that were trying to track down John Wilkes Booth. He set the barn on the fire that Booth was hiding in and forced Booth outside to be shot by others. For his participation he was awarded $15,000 and retired to Hawaii.

  3. Thomas Harris was a Ritchie County Physician. He was a union army officer who was selected as one of the nine commissioners that presided over the trial and conviction of Booth’s eight co-conspirators. 

According to Woods many worried about what the death of Lincoln would mean for the recently established statehood of West Virginia. Virginia began calling for the redrawing of the state’s borders, but the Supreme Court upheld the new statehood. Woods says he still thinks the death of Lincoln was detrimental to the state in the early years. 

"[Lincoln's death] added fuel to the fires that were already there as people were returning home and settling war-time scores. Some of the most famous feuds in West Virginia and Appalachian history come out of that time, and his death must have played even just a small role in heightening some of those conflicts." – Michael Woods, Marshall History Professor

Woods said the assassination of Lincoln leads to many debates to what West Virginia might have been.