Strangers to Us All Lawyers and Poetry

Joseph T. Hoke

(1835-    )
West Virginia

Geo. W. Atkins & Alvaro F. Gibbens, Prominent Men of West Virginia 454
(Wheeling: W.L. Callin, 1890)

"Joseph T. Hoke was born in Berkeley county, Virginia, February 6, 1835. He attended school at Rock River Seminary, Illinois, at Oberlin College, Ohio, and Hillsdale College, Michigan, graduating with the degree of A.B., from the latter in August, 1860. He determined to become a lawyer, and accordingly took the course of legal studies in the Michigan University, at Ann Arbor, graduating LL.B., in March, 1864. In the summer of that year he commenced practice at Martinsburg, West Virginia. He was commissioned by Governor A.I. Boreman to organize the first loyal civil government of the Union people in Berkeley and Jefferson counties, under which the first election was held in October, 1864, and the first officers for said counties were elected. . . ."

In 1864, Hoke was elected Prosecuting Attorney and was appointed Clerk of the Board of Supervisors of Berkeley County. In 1865 he established the Berkeley Union, a weekly newspaper, at Martinsburg, just before General Lee's surrender. In 1866 and again in 1868 he was elected to the State Senate. In 1869 he was appointed as a circuit judge. In 1876, after he moved to Keyser, in Mineral County, he founded still another newspaper, the Mountain Echo. Hoke served for a number of years as a member and then President of the West Virginia University Board of Regents. In 1881 he moved from Keyser to Kingwood, Preston County where he was elected, in 1886, to the West Virginia House of Delegates. Two years later, he again became a circuit judge.

Judge Hoke is reported to have been a literary man, writing both prose and poetry for the periodicals of his day. The following poem accompanies his biographical sketch in Prominent Men of West Virginia:

     We write but a line,
     We leave but a name, 
We cast but a leaf on the tide;
     The line is soon gone,
     The name is soon blank,
The leaf with the current will glide.

     Thus ever like leaves,
     Of the beautiful spring,
In youth time we shadow the deep,—
     But soon, like the leaves
     Of the autumn, we fall,
And float on the billows asleep.

[Opening quote, biographical information, and poem from: Geo. W. Atkinson & Alvaro F. Gibbens, Prominent Men of West Virginia 455, 456-458 (Wheeling, West Virginia: W.L. Callin, 1890)][online text]