As delegates to the First Wheeling Convention had suspected, the Virginia Ordinance of Secession was ratified on May 23, 1861. This set into motion a plan which had been arranged at Wheeling just a week prior.
On June 11, 88 delegates from 32 counties arrived at Wheeling for the Second Wheeling Convention. Representing Mason County were Lewis Wetzel, Charles Beall Waggener, and Daniel Polsley. All three were chosen by the people of Mason County to represent them.
The first major action of the convention was approving the “Declaration of the People of Virginia.” It declared that due to Virginia’s secession, all state offices had been vacated and needed to be refilled. Nine days later, a vote was held to elect state officials. Francis Pierpont, of Marion County, was elected governor, our own Daniel Polsley was elected lieutenant governor, and James Wheat of Wheeling was chosen as attorney general. With this, the convention adjourned until Aug. 6.
However, there was still business to be done. Gov. Pierpont called for all loyal State Assembly members to organize in Wheeling for a special session. Here, they filled the rest of the state offices, such as treasurer and auditor, and elected senators to the US Senate. The one thing that they could not agree on was the creation of a new state. For this, we return to the Convention.
When the delegates reassembled on Aug. 6, they passed several resolutions, many of which concerned the day-to-day actions of the state government. Their first major act was to nullify the Ordinance of Secession; however, the crowning achievement of the convention would not come until Aug. 20. By a vote of 50-28, the convention adopted a proposal that a new state be created. It would consist of 39 counties plus 7 others if their voters approved, and the new state would be known as Kanawha. With the statehood process in motion, the convention adjourned until November.
The entire convention was met with widespread support in Mason County, especially the election of Daniel Polsley to Lt. Gov.
May 14-May 20 in Mason County History:
-On May 18, 1966, Staff Sergeant Jimmy G. Stewart of West Columbia was killed in Vietnam. He was a member of Company B, 2nd Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile). Even after 5 fellow soldiers were wounded, he refused to withdraw and held his position alone for almost 4 hours. When reinforcements arrived, he assisted with their attack and was killed. He was later awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions, and he is one of three namesakes for the current Pomeroy-Mason Bridge.
-On May 20, 1778, a small army of Wyandot and Mingo Native Americans laid siege to Fort Randolph. The fort, under Captain McKee, refused to surrender, and the attack lasted for a week. Once the Wyandot King realized that the attack was useless, the army proceeded up the Kanawha to Fort Donnally, which also withstood their attack.
Chris Rizer is the president of the Mason County Historical and Preservation Society. More information on the organization found on Facebook at Mason County Historic Preservation.