Berkeley County, West Virginia Biography of John S. GALLAHER


         John S. GALLAHER was born in Martinsburg, Berkeley County, Virginia, December 1, 1796. He was connected with newspapers of Martinsburg and Charles Town from early on, though his schooling was limited. He began his work in 1809, at the age of 12. He was first employed by John Alburtis, editor of the Berkeley and Jefferson Intelligencer, then the Martinsburg Gazette. He later worked on Nile’s Register in Baltimore, Maryland. In August 1814, he was in charge of the Farmers’ Repository, printed in Charles Town.

         He joined the Volunteer Rifle Company of Captain George W. Humphreys and served a month. He was engaged in action at the White House Bluff on the Potomac, in which Commodore Porter undertook to stop the British vessels from descending that river laden with flour and other stores captured at Alexandria, Virginia.

         John Gallaher next worked on the National Intelligencer, published by Gales and Seaton. In 1821 he and his younger brother began publication of the Harper’s Ferry Free Press, known as the Virginia Free Press. He also published a literary paper called The Ladies’ Garland. In 1827 he purchased the Farmers’ Repository at Charles Town and merged it with the Free Press.

         In 1830, he was elected a member of the Virginia House of Delegates. The amended constitution of 1828 being adopted, the election of delegates was set aside and in October 1830, John S. Gallaher and Edward Lucas were chosen. He was re-elected for four consecutive terms without opposition. In 1835 he moved to Richmond and became chief manager of the Richmond Compiler. He was appointed by Governor John W. Floyd of Virginia to serve on a committee to settle the boundary dispute between the states of Maryland and Virginia, with other commission members Charles James Faulkner of Berkeley County and John B.D. Smith of Frederick County.

         In January 1837, Mr. Gallaher purchased one-third interest in the Richmond Hawk and conducted that paper for three years in conjunction with John Hampden Pleasants and Alexander Moseley. In 1840 he sold out to his partners and published the Yeoman, a campaign paper in support of Harrison and Tyler. In 1841, John Gallaher returned to Charles Town and began work on the Free Press. He was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates and served two terms (1842) and was elected State Senator for Virginia by a majority of 62 in a strong Democratic district. In the same election Polk carried the district by a majority of 1 vote. In 1848, he was again a candidate but was defeated by a majority of 22 because of a school bill that he carried through both Houses and enacted into law which put into effect the free school system of Virginia. When he retired from active service, 27 free schools were placed on a firm basis in his county (Jefferson) at that itme and continued to exist despite the opposition. He was the “father of the Free School System” of the State of Virginia, and later West Virginia.

         On October 22, 1849, John Gallaher was appointed by President Tyler as Third Auditor of the Treasury to succeed Peter Hagner, who resigned after 32 years because of ill health. Mr. Gallaher held that position through Presidents Tyler and Filmore, but was removed by President Pierce and replaced by Francis Burt of South Carolina, a friend of Jefferson Davis, then Secretary of War. Gallaher afterward accepted a position in the office of the Quartermaster-General. He died at Washington, D.C. at his home there, on February 4, 1877, and was buried in Edge Hill Cemetery at Charles Town, Jefferson County, West Virginia.


    Submitted by Marilyn Gouge and extracted from History of Berkeley County, West Virginia, 1928

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