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Dictionary of Wisconsin History

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Term: Nelson Dewey-First Governor of Wisconsin (Historic Marker Erected 1961)


Cemetery, 1 block W of Hays. 61, 35, and 81, Lancaster, Grant County

When Nelson Dewey left his parents' home at Hamilton, New York, at the age of 23, he traveled by stagecoach, steamer, sailing vessel, horseback, and on foot to reach Wisconsin. The trip took four weeks and Dewey arrived in Cassville in June of 1836, about two weeks before Wisconsin was officially established as a territory. He soon became interested and active in politics and when Grant County was organized the next year, he became its first Register of Deeds and moved to Lancaster. Next he entered the Territorial Legislature and when Wisconsin became the thirtieth state in 1848, Dewey was elected its first governor. Because of his election to such high office at the age of 35, many people expected him to continue in a political career but he disliked politics and returned to Grant County. In 1854 he began to acquire land at Cassville and developed a 2000-acre plantation which he called "Stonefield," today preserved in Nelson Dewey State Park. He died July 20, 1889, and his was the last burial in this cemetery.

[Source: Source: McBride, Sarah Davis. History Just Ahead (Madison:WHS, 1999).]

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