Would You Bid on This Nearly Twenty Thousand Dollar Document About Wheeling?

From the desk of President Abraham Lincoln, on October 21, 1861, came a document. With all the zeal of man who knew what he was doing was right, and all the swirling, swooping letters found in penmanship at the time, Lincoln sent the document off. It traveled by train, or horseman, or who-knows-what to arrive at the very top point of the state of Virginia, in a town called Wheeling. 

The letter was handed to a one Mr. Daniel Lamb. As he read it, he must have realized the President had imbued him with a great power. It gave Lamb the right to distribute a portion of $2 million that had been appropriated by Congress three months before. Lamb was made an agent for Union-loyal Virginians under the terms of the Congressional allocation. With this agency, he was given the funds in order to financially support militias fighting in Confederate states. It authorized him “to pay the expenses of transporting and delivering arms and munitions of war to the loyal citizens of the state of which the inhabitants now are, or hereafter, may be, in rebellion, against the Government of the United States.” In addition to the cost of weapons, it also granted him the power to cover the cost of organizing Virginians “into companies, battalions, regiments or otherwise for their own protection against violence, insurrection, invasion, or rebellion.” 

Who Was Daniel Lamb?

Daniel Lamb, photo courtesy of the West Virginia State Archives

The man President Lincoln so entrusted was a longtime resident of Wheeling, having moved here from his birthplace of Connellsville, Pennsylvania, when he was 13. Just nine years later, aged 22, he was elected City Clerk. In the years that followed, he also worked as the treasurer of the Fire and Marine Insurance Company and as the Secretary and Treasurer of the Wheeling Savings Institution. He went on to study law under prominent Wheeling lawyer Morgan Nelson, and was admitted to the bar in 1837. He worked as a lawyer until 1848 when he became the cashier at the Northwestern Bank of Virginia at Wheeling.

His experience in banking and the law is not what led to the privileged position President Lincoln bestowed upon him, though. Perhaps, in part, it was his Quaker upbringing. Quakers are quite well known for their pacifism and beliefs in human equality. By the early 1800s, Quakers, or The Society of Friends, had become fervent abolitionists. It is very likely that this kind of upbringing shaped Lamb’s next steps. When the secession vote led Virginia leaving the Union, residents of the north immediately met to discuss the crisis this created in the state’s northern half. This was known at the First Wheeling Convention.

After the First Wheeling Convention determined that the goal moving forward would be to try and split the state, the next step was the hosting of the Constitutional Convention in 1861, in Wheeling. Daniel Lamb was a key player here. He took the lead in crafting the government and constitution of what would become West Virginia. He continued working to form the state by participating in its legislature from 1861 to 1867. Afterward, he was offered several statewide offices, but they were all turned down. His last play in politics was a bid for election to the U.S. Senate in 1871, in which he was defeated by Democrat Henry Gassaway Davis. He resumed his law practice, and continued so until his death in 1894. 

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The Document Now

The document, suctioned by Nate D. Sanders Auctions.

This piece was auctioned off by Nate D. Sanders Auctions, a Los Angeles-based auction house that specializes in historic documents and memorabilia. They rated the document as “good plus” condition. They described the document as “visually interesting” due to the handwritten text at the top. Due to the document’s age, they did note some light soiling with a split starting at the folds. The bidding started at a whopping $14,000 for this important artifact. The piece attracted two bids total, with bidding closing on May 30, and the final price being $19,250. Some lucky person just became the owner of a fantastic piece of Wheeling History.

• Makayla Carney, a Wheeling native, is the 2023-2024 AmeriCorps member for Wheeling Heritage, where she will get to write all about the history and culture of her hometown. She has a B.F.A. in Film and Television from DePaul University in Chicago. She adores all kinds of art, a lavender latte, and the occasional performance on the Towngate Theatre stage.

References

Bailey, Kenneth R. “Daniel Lamb.” The West Virginia Encyclopedia, https://www.wvencyclopedia.org/print/Article/1290. Accessed 3 June 2024.

Bailey, Kenneth R. “First Wheeling Convention.” The West Virginia Encyclopedia, 2023, https://www.wvencyclopedia.org/articles/2439.

“Daniel Lamb.” THE HISTORICAL MARKER DATABASE , https://www.hmdb.org/m.asp?m=189429. Accessed 3 June 2024.

Gooden, Randall S. “Constitutional Convention of 1861–63.” The West Virginia Encyclopedia, 2024, https://www.wvencyclopedia.org/articles/1566.

McLean Bates, Doris. “The Quakers and Their War of Resistance | NCpedia.” NCpedia Home Page | NCpedia, 2000, https://www.ncpedia.org/quakers-and-their-war-resistance#:~:text=They%20still%20opposed%20war%20and,the%20mountains%20to%20Union%20territory.

Steelhammer, Rick. “Up for Auction: Lincoln Letter to Daniel Lamb of Wheeling WV | News | Herald-Dispatch.Com.” The Herald-Dispatch, herald-dispatch.com, 30 May 2024, https://www.herald-dispatch.com/news/up-for-auction-1861-lincoln-letter-to-wheeling-statehood-booster/article_1b1e2d8a-5f75-5893-b1bc-5a13b0d74bd3.html.