John Thomas West

Submitted to the West Virginia Biographies Project by:
Tina Hursh
January 3, 2000

The History of West Virginia, Old and New
Published 1923, The American Historical Society, Inc.
Chicago and New York, Volume II
pg. 74 and 75

John Thomas West, B.S. The thinking world agrees that knowledge is the master
key to unlock the hidden mysteries of life made worth while through
achievement. It is the great human leveler, giving to the poor and obscure
the same tools to work with as the rich and more fortunate, and rewarding them
alike according to the use made of them. Leaders in educaitonal work in the
United States, those who have been chosen because of particular fitness to
lead, direct and encourage seekers for knowledge throughout the great school
system of the country, find themselves, perhaps, more deeply interested than
ever before as they see their fields of usefulness growing wider. Like the
good soldiers that they are, they keep their armor bright and stand ready to
do battle with the cohorts of ignorance and superstition. With the coming of
Prof. John Thomas West to Morgantown as pricipal of the high school this city
took a long stride forward.

Professor West was born in Greene County, Pennsylvania, May 14, 1882, and is
a son of John B. and Sarah Jane (Stewart) West. Looking back along the
genealogical line it is found that the first of the West family recorded in
America was a soldier in King George’s Army who was killed in battle during
the Revolutionary war. He left descendants, and after the war other members of
his family came from England and established themselves in Greene County,
Pennslyvania, where Professor West’s father, grandfather and great-grandfather
were born as well as himself. John B. West now makes his home at
Morgantown, West Virginia. He married Sarah Jane Stewart, who died Ocotber 12,
1884. She also was born in Green County, and was a daughter of James and
Lucinda (De Berry)) Stewart, the Stewarts being of Irish and the De Berrys of
Holland stock.

Losing his mother in infancy, John T. West was reared by her people in Marshall
county, West Virginia, where he obtained his early educational training. His
talents received recognition, and he prepared for college in the preparatory
department of the West Virginia University, afterward taking the full course and
was graduated in the class of 1907 with his B.S. degree, continuing at the
university during 1907-08 for special work. In the latter year, in association
with Prof. Lawrence B. Hill, principal of the university he opened a county high
school at Middlebourne in Tyler county, a most creditable enterprise, the first
of its kind in West Virginia, and one of the first county high schools east of
the Mississippi River. In this school Professor West was an instructor from
1908 until the fall of 1913, during the last year being principal. At that
time he was made acting principal of the Morgantown High School, and a few
months later, at the beginning of 1914, became principal in fact and so

On December 31, 1908, Professor West married Miss Mary Elizabeth Sturgiss, who
was born at Morgantown and is a daughter of A. Howard and Elizabeth (Pretzman)
Sturgiss, the former of whom is deceased. Professor and Mrs. West have four
young daughters: Margaret Sturgiss, born November 15, 1909; Ruth Elizabeth, born
March 2, 1913; Mary Jane, born December 24, 1914; and Anna Eleanor, born August
8, 1919. Professor West and his family belong to the First Baptist Church at
Morgantown. He is a Mason, a member of Middlebourne Lodge No. 34, A.F. and
A.M., and of Morgantown Lodge of Perfections No. 6; belongs to the Chamber of
Commerce; the Kiwanis Club; his old college fraternity, the Sigma Phi Epsilon,
and is a member of the National Teachers Assocaition and of the county and
state bodies. As an educator he occupies a foremost position, and is
broad-minded policies have proved him exceptionally able as an executive.