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Works Project Administration – Articles from Rockingham County


Hon. Charles Tripplett O’Ferrall, Governor, 1840-1905.

Berkley Springs, Morgan County, Virginia, October 21, 1840.

Harrisonburg, Virginia, 1860-1893.

Was born at Berkley Springs, Morgan County, Virginia, (now in West Virginia) October 21st, 1840, and died at
Richmond, Virginia, September 22, 1905.

His father was Clerk of the Circuit and County Courts of Morgan County, and at the age of eleven years,
Charles was required to spend his vacations from school in his father’s office, and to render such clerical
service as he prescribed, very much to his advantage as he afterwards found.

Directly after he had attained the age of fifteen years, his father died, leaving his mother with five children –
three daughters and two sons, himself the oldest. His father’s means being quite limited, his mother was in large
measure thrown upon her own resources. The lawyers of the county thinking he was competent under the
training he had had to discharge the duties of Clerk, petitioned the Hon. Richard Parker, judge of the Circuit
Court of Morgan County to appoint him clerk pro tempore. This he consented to do and this at the early age of
fifteen years, he was filling a position of trust and responsibility in his county. Two years later he was elected to
the full term as Clerk of Courts of the County of Morgan, and was, perhaps, the youngest person over [likely,
ever] before or since, elected to this responsible position.

He served in this capacity about two and a half years when the war coming on, he entered the Confederate
service as a private and rose steadily, step by step, finally becoming Colonel of the 23rd Virginia Regiment of
Cavalry, which he disbanded at New Market, April 3, 1865.

After the war, Col. O’Ferrall attended Washington and Lee College and after graduating in law, in 1869 he
made his home in Harrisonburg, Virginia, where he practiced his profession until he became Judge of the Court,
which position he filled from 1874 until 1880.

In 1882 he was the Democratic nominee for Congress in 7th Virginia District, but on the face of the returns, was
defeated by a small majority by his opponent, Judge Paul, but the election being contested on the grounds of
fraud, the charge was sustained and O’Ferrall was declared entitled to the seat. He was elected to Congress for
six terms and very fittingly, indeed, did he represent his district and his State.

Prior to his twelve years in Congress he had served as a member of the State Legislature, representing the
County of Rockingham, taking a prominent part in all of its various activities, especially in connection with the
Readjuster movement, he being a straight or regular Democrat. He was elected Governor of the State at the full
election of 1893. At the expiration of his term as Governor, he continued to reside in Richmond, where he died,
September 22, 1905.

Colonel O’Ferrall is another instance illustrating the splendid opportunities that lie open to the humblest citizen
who has courage, industry, and determination. He mastered the difficulties as they came and steadily, step by
step, rose from his humble home to the governor’s mansion of a great State, to be Governor of a great people.

He was one of the only two governors coming from this part of the state, and Rockingham feels a special pride
in him, tho he was born only by adoption.

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