William C. Pifer

Submitted to the West Virginia Biographies Project by:
Valerie & Tommy Crook
April 13, 2000

The History of West Virginia, Old and New
Published 1923, The American Historical Society, Inc.,
Chicago and New York, Volume III,
pg. 408-409

WILLIAM C. PIFER, one of the substantial business men of
Keyser, and ex-mayor of the city, comes of one of the old-
established families of the country, the American founder
of it having settled in Virginia while it was still a colony
of England, and from him have sprung a numerous progeny.
Those bearing the name of Pifer are to be found in many
states of the Union, and wherever they are located they
are numbered among the solid and representative people
of their neighborhood. The majority of the Pifers have
been farmers, but others have succeeded in business, and
a few have adopted teaching as their life work. It is some-
what unusual that none of them have entered the ministry,
the law or the medical profession.

The birth of William C. Pifer occurred at Stephens
City, Frederick County, Virginia, in the neighborhood of
Winchester, July 3, 1878, and he is a son of Randolph and
Mary Catherine (Cooper) Pifer, both of whom were born
in Frederick County, Virginia, and their lives were spent
principally on a farm. When war broke out between the
North and the South, Randolph Pifer, as did the majority
in his community, cast his lot with the Confederacy, and
enlisted in Company A, First Virginia Cavalry, was made
captain of his company, and served until the very close
of the war, being one of the 8,000 soldiers still following
General Lee at Appomattox, in April, 1865. He saw much
hard fighting, was twice wounded, a musket ball passing
through his body just under the heart, but he recovered.
With the declaration of peace he tried to accept the results
philosophically and to forget the past. In fact he had but
little personal feeling against those whom the chances of
war had made his enemies, and upon one occasion it is
stated that he accepted an invitation from the Federal
forces across the Potomac River, at Harper’s Ferry, and
took dinner with the “Boys in Blue.” With his old com-
rades of “the lost cause” he fraternized after the war,
and enjoyed the reunions heartily.

With characteristic energy and determination Randolph
Pifer became a public servant of Frederick County after
the war, and was county assessor for one term and county
treasurer for four terms, to which offices he was elected on
the democratic ticket. He was of German stock, his father
having been John William Pifer, whose father was born in
Germany, but left his native land for America in young
manhood. John William Pifer married a member of the
Richards family. Randolph Pifer was one of six children,
the four sons of which were: Randolph, Stanley, Cyrus
and Clarence, but Randolph was the only one of them who
served in the army. The two daughters were Laura and
Harriet, the former of whom married Neal Snapp, and the
latter, Josiah Rinker.

Until he was twenty-three years of age William C. Pifer
remained on his father’s farm, during which time he made
himself useful and secured a country-school education, and
for the last two years of the time was engaged in teaching
in his home district. Abandoning the educational field, Mr.
Pifer went with the wholesale firm of Naylor, Shyrock &
Company, of Front Royal, Virginia, as office man and book-
keeper for one year, leaving this concern to become a trav-
eling salesman for the Birdsell Wagon Company of South
Bend, Indiana. He worked out of Kansas City, Missouri,
covering territory embracing Kansas, Oklahoma and Indian
Territory, but after two years located permanently at Key-
ser, where he embarked in business.

At the beginning of his connection with West Virginia
Mr. Pifer opened for business with a stock of pianos
and music merchandise, with a very small captal. At first
he traveled with a wagon through this region selling instru-
ments, and as fast as he sold one, used the money to pur-
chase another, and in this way secured enough money to
open his store. Beginning thus in a very small way, he
has gradually expanded, and now has one of the most mod-
ern and well-stocked establishments of its kind in this part
of the state. As the demand was created he added the
Victor talking machine when the phonograph industry was
in its infancy, and later the Brunswick Phonograph, and
also carries both the Victor and Brunswick records for the

In 1915 Mr. Pifer was elected as mayor of Keyser to
succeed Mayor F. H. Babb, and was twice re-elected, serv-
ing in all six years. As he was the incumbent of the office
during the war period he was kept very busy, and made a
record which does him and his community great credit. It
was during his administration that the city purchased its
modern fire truck. The south side of Keyser was sewered,
and the water mains extended through that portion. All of
the public improvements were paid for by a bond issue,
and when Mayor Pifer turned the office over to his suc-
cessor the latter found affairs in an admirable financial
condition. In politics he is a democrat, and has always
been active in party affairs. Fraternally he belongs to
Front Royal Lodge, A. F. and A. M.

Mr. Pifer married at Keyser Miss Maude May Chrisman,
a daughter of John W. and Emma (Nixon) Chrisman. Mrs.
Pifer was born at Keyser, and educated in its public schools.
Mr. Chrisman came to Keyser from Virginia as an employe
of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Company, which he is
now serving as a conductor. He is one of the old employes
of the road, having begun his connection with it as fireman,
when wood was used for firing purposes. Mr. and Mrs.
Pifer have the following children: Robert Arnold, Isabel,
Geraldine, Kenneth, William and Marjorie. Mr. Pifer is
an excellent example of the self-reliant man who has risen
through his own efforts. There was no powerful influence
or great wealth back of him when he located at Keyser, bnt
he did possess determination to succeed, a willingness to
work and a knowledge of his business, and these qualities,
combined with his cheerful service and pleasing manner,
have firmly established him in the confidence of the public
and won for him a valuable trade. During the time he was
the city’s chief executive he made many personal sacrifices,
especially daring the war, and left nothing undone which
he thought would advance his community and add to its
prestige. That he succeeded the many public improvements
and flourishing conditions generally, amply demonstrate.