WILLIAM ERSKINE STEVENSON was born in Warren, Pennsylvania. In 1829 he moved to Pittsburgh and apprenticed as a cabinet maker. He was elected to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in 1856, after which he moved to Valley Mills, Virginia, where he had purchased a farm. He was active in the movement that resulted in the formation of West Virginia from the northern and western areas of Virginia, and he served as member of the Constitutional Convention of 1861 and a member of the West Virginia State Senate from 1863 to 1868—as president during the last three of those years. Elected governor in 1868, Stevenson favored adoption of legislation to restore voting rights to Confederates. He also encouraged immigration to West Virginia and advocated providing for the families of soldiers killed during the Civil War. Defeated for reelection in 1870, he partnered in the publication of the State Journal at Parkersburg. In 1881 he became receiver of the West Virginia Oil and Land Company, serving in that role until shortly before his death in Parkersburg.
Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 4. Westport, CT: Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols.
The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Vol. 12. New York: James T. White & Company.