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Dictionary of Wisconsin History

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Term: Vineyard, James Russell 1804 - 1863


(Note: birth date given in original as "ca. 1804.") pioneer settler, lead miner, politician, b. Kentucky. He moved to the Wisconsin area in 1827, settling near Platteville, where for a number of years he engaged in lead mining and prospecting. A Democrat, Vineyard was a member of the upper house of the territorial legislature (1836-1842), and in 1842 gained notoriety when he shot and killed Charles Arndt (q.v.) during a bitter argument on the council floor. Vineyard was tried for manslaughter, was defended by Moses M. Strong (q.v.), and was subsequently acquitted of the slaying. The incident is described at lengthin in the Wisconsin Magazine of History vol. 5, no. 3 (March 1922): 264-283.

Despite this incident, he maintained his popularity in the lead region, was a delegate to the first state constitutional convention (1846), and was state assemblyman (1849). In 1850 he followed the Gold Rush to California, later served in the California legislature, and remained in that state until his death. Wis. Mag. Hist., 5; K. W. Duckett, Frontiersman of Fortune: M. M. Strong . . . Madison, 1955]; J. R. Berryman, ed., Bench and Bar of Wis. (2 vols., Chicago, 1898); M. M. Quaife, ed., Convention of 1846 (Madison, 1919).

The Wisconsin Historical Society has manuscripts related to this topic. See the catalog description of the James R. Vineyard Indictment for details.

View a related article at Wisconsin Magazine of History Archives.

[Source: Dictionary of Wisconsin biography]
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