William Janes

Submitted to the West Virginia Biographies Project by:
Valerie & Tommy Crook
November 26, 1999

The History of West Virginia, Old and New
Published 1923, The American Historical Society, Inc.,
Chicago and New York, Volume III,
pg. 333-334

HON. WILLIAM JANES, several times mayor of the City
of Philippi, is an able lawyer and business man, whose
activities have had much to do with the exploitation of
the material resources of the state. He is of English an-
cestry, but is the direct descendant of a young Englishman
who fought on the side of the colonists in the struggle
for independence, and the family has been in West Vir-
ginia for over a century.

His Revolutionary ancestor was his great-grandfather,
John Janes, who was born in Staffordshire, England, about
1752, and as a young man came to America. He enlisted
from Pennsylvania for the War of the Revolution, and was
with the American troops when General Cornwallis sur-
rendered to General Washington at Yorktown in 1781, that
being the concluding act of the war. John Janes lived
for many years in Barbour County, West Virginia, and is
believed to be the only soldier of the Revolution buried
there. He died in 1842, since in that year he drew his
last pension from the Government as a soldier. He was
about ninety years of age when he died.

His son, Alexander Janes, was a stone mason, and ex-
amples of his work were on the bridge abutment on the
Parkersburg and Staunton Pike and across Greenbrier
River and the steps and the foundation of the old Court
House of Randolph County at Beveriy. These old steps
are still in use. He spent his last days at Moatsville in
Barbour County, where he is buried. Alexander Janes
married Louisa Casteel, of the Casteel family of Preston
County. Their children were: William, who retained the
old English spelling of the name Jennings, and was a
prominent resident of Preston County and a member of
the County Court; Noah Janes, whose record follows:
Thomas Janes; Nancy, who became the wife of George
Nestor; Maria, who married James Isner; Margaret, who
was the wife of A. J. Cline; Alice, who married Winfield
Cox; and Calore, wife of Edward Freeman.

Noah J. Janes, father of Mayor Janes of Philippi, was
born in Barbour County, in Cove District, February 19,
1849, and spent his active life as a farmer and lumber-
man. He acquired a common school education, was elected
as president of the Board of Education of Cove District,
and spent his last days at Fox Hall in Pleasant District,
where he died August 13, 1911, at the age of sixty-two.
He was a republican. He was distinguished by certain
strong traits of character, he dealt in nothing but the
truth, despised shams and camouflage, but in spite of the
strength of his convictions was reasonable in his rela-
tions with all men. Noah Janes married Catherine England,
daughter of Archibald England. She died December 6,
1889, being the mother of William and Ida B., the latter
the wife of T. E. Phillips, of Fox Hall, West Virginia.

William Janes was born in Cove District of Barbour
County, spent his early life on the farm, and beyond
the advantages of his immediate home community he had
to depend on his own exertions for the higher education
which he craved. After completing the work of the com-
mon schools he taught school, his first school being in
the Bull Run District in Tucker County. While teaching
he attended the Fairmont Normal School, and in his senior
year was given a scholarship under the Peabody fund as a
student in the Peabody Normal College at Nashville, Ten-
nessee. This appointment was conferred by the state
superintendent of schools of West Virginia, and it paid
in addition to the railroad fare both ways $100 a year
toward the maintenance of a student in the Normal Col-
lege. Mr. Janes continued his studies there two and one
half years, and subsequently entered West Virginia Uni-
versity, where he graduated A.B. in 1900, and subsequently
received the law degree.

In the meantime he had done his duty as a volunteer
soldier at the time of the Spanish-American war. He
enlisted at Morgantown, and at Kanawha City was sworn
in as a member of Company D of the First West Virginia
Volunteers. The company was sent from Charleston to
Chickamauga Park, Georgia, thence to Knoxville, Tennes-
see, and to Columbus, Georgia, and be was in that camp
until discharged in the spring of 1899. After leaving the
army he returned to Morgantown to finish bis university
work. Mr. Janes tanght for a brief time, and then located
at Philippi, where for some time he was engaged in the
business of securing options on coal lands. Thus he be-
came interested in some of the companies that were or-
ganized for the opening of mines and the development
of the field. Although establishing himself in a business
way in the community, he entered the practice of law,
being admitted to the bar at Philippi. For a time he
practiced with Senator W. H. Carter, now of Middlebourne.
Mr. Janes has devoted his talent primarily to the business
side of law and as a counsel and adviser rather than in
court practice. Among other professional connections he
is attorney for the Peoples Bank at Philippi and one of
its directors.

Mr. Janes is a republican, and has done a great deal
of work for the party, being acting secretary of the
County Committee in 1904, and has been a delegate to
congressional, judicial and other conventions. In polities
he is primarily interested in good government, and puts
the interest of the community and people above party.

The most notable era in the progressive administration
of the municipal affairs at Philippi coincides with his
term of mayor. He was elected mayor by the City Council
in 1918 as the successor of Brown Shafer. He then was
elected by popular vote for five successive terms, now in
1922, serving his fifth term. Among other outstanding
steps of his administration was the extension of the electric
light plant, the power for which is purchased from the
Monongahela Power Company. When he became mayor
the income of the light plant was about $200 a month,
and now the gross revenue from the same source is $1,400
a month. A sewerage system has been installed, providing
not only for present needs but for future growth. About
$20,000 bonded indebtedness has been discharged, and the
outstanding debt of the city at the present time is $33,500.
Altogether Philippi is on a sound financial basis, and is
working out a program of municipal improvements that
gives it rank among the best cities of its size in the state.

At the signing of the armistice closing the World war
Mayor Janes issued a proclamation to the citizens of
Philippi, and in the course of the proclamation he said:

“The war is over, the rights of man have been vindicated,
righteousness and the allied arms have triumphed. Despotic
and imperial Germany has been crushed. Downtrodden
man now stands erect on the broad plain of equal rights
to all. American principles and American ideals have
permeated the old world and the Declaration of Independ-
ence has become the political textbook of all countries.
It is right that we should be thankful and it is but
right that we should celebrate this great world triumph
with all that it means to humanity, and in order that we
may more effectually do so I, William Janes, Mayor of the
City of Philippi, call upon our citizens to take such steps
to recognize the importance of the event by such public
ceremonies as befit the occasion.”

October 2, 1901, Mr. Janes married Miss Jessie Lee
Semmelman, a native of Barbour County, who was reared
and educated there. Her father, Samuel L. Semmelman,
was born in Baltimore, has spent most of his life as a
merchant, coming to West Virginia when about twenty-
one years of age, and for some years lived in Grafton,
where he married and later was a mechant at Nestorville
in Barbour County. He married Mollie (DeHaven) Hub-
bard, widow of William Hubbard. Both of them now live
in Philippi. Mrs. Semmelman by her first marriage has
the following children: Granville Hubbard, of Delphi, In-
diana; Perdita, who died as Mrs. Mont Burley; Nettie,
Mrs. Howard Bailey, of Flemington; Mrs. Iva Marple,
of Hamilton, Ohio. The Semmelman children are: Alice M.,
wife of J. C. Annon, of Philippi; Charles, of Columbus,
Ohio; Mrs. William Janes; Mrs. Gay Murphy, of Philippi;
John Semmelman, of Moatsville; and Carrie, wife of
D. C. Gall of Philippi. Mr. and Mrs. Janes have one son,
Aubrey Howard Janes, born August 15, 1902.