Shepherd Professor Writes Book on WV History

Shepherd University’s Dr. John E. Stealey, professor emeritus of history, has written his fourth book about the history of West Virginia.

The book, “West Virginia’s Civil War-Era Constitution: Loyal Revolution, Confederate Counter-Revolution, and the Convention of 1872,” was published on June 7, 2013.

In 831 pages, Stealey covers how western Virginians split from Virginia and formed the state that we know today as West Virginia. In his book he discusses Virginia loyalists, state confederates, and the constitutional convention of 1872, where West Virginia established a state constitution.

Stealey began doing research for his book in 1972, more than forty years ago, when he first arrived at Shepherd.

When told that Dr. Stealey worked on his book for more than forty years, Michelle Magin, a Shepherd University art education major exclaimed, “Wow… he must have been really dedicated.”

The constitution that was created in 1872 is still the constitution that West Virginians live under today. Despite still holding much importance in West Virginia’s courts, there was no detailed accounting of the constitutional convention debates. Surprised and worried that this might lead to errors relating to legal rulings, Stealey took it upon himself to rectify this problem.

Using newspapers, pamphlets and the manuscript papers of the delegates located in depositories in several states, he recreated the debates and actions that occurred at the constitutional convention of 1872. In order to ensure that his project would make sense, Stealey included the political background of the document.

Stealey faced a few difficulties while writing his book. He spent three months each writing just two chapters which included a collective biography of all 78 delegates and the complicated politics of two referenda and gubernatorial and national elections in 1872.

He also ran into a challenge trying to find a university press to publish his book due to the length. After being approved by two anonymous peer reviews, Kent State University decided to publish the book. The length of his work not only made it difficult to find a publisher, it also made the actual publishing process, which took two years, more extensive.

After working on his book for so long and then waiting through the publication process, Stealey felt a vast amount of satisfaction when his book was finally published. However, he also felt that the completion of such a large work left a void in his life. To make the transition easier he has already begun busying himself with another project and according to Stealey, “a couple of more are in the formative stages.”

Stealey is very proud of the work that he has done; for him, presenting historical information that has been previously unknown in a state and national context gave him great excitement. All of his hard work and dedication has paid off. It has resulted in what Stealey calls, “the most substantial academic publication about the Mountain State in its sesquicentennial year.”

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