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Historical Essay

Farwell, Leonard James 1819 - 1889

Farwell, Leonard James 1819 - 1889 | Wisconsin Historical Society

politician, promoter, businessman, governor, b. Watertown, N.Y. He moved to Lockport, Ill. in 1838 where he established a tin shop and hardware store. In 1840 he moved to Milwaukee and conducted a large wholesale hardware business. He began making large land purchases in the Madison area about 1847, moved there in 1849, and developed the area by erecting mills, building streets, and draining lowlands. To promote settlement of the new capital, he published several pamphlets which he distributed widely on the east coast and abroad. An antislavery Whig, Farwell was state governor (1852-1854), and during his administration the act to abolish capital punishment became law and the state geological survey was instituted. He was a founder of the Wisconsin Natural History Association, and was instrumental in reorganizing the State Historical Society (1854). Farwell was an officer in numerous state and Madison business enterprises, including the Madison Gas Light & Coke Company, the Madison Hydraulic Company, and the Beloit & Madison R.R. Company, but his business ventures were severely crippled in the panic of 1857. After 1854 Farwell was affiliated with the Republican party, and served one term in the state assembly (1860). In 1863 he was appointed to the U.S. Patent Office in Washington, D.C., serving as chief examiner (1863-1870). While in Washington, Farwell was credited with saving the life of Vice-President Andrew Johnson by warning him of a possible attack on the night that President Lincoln was assassinated. In 1870 he moved to Chicago to engage in business, but after suffering heavy losses in the fire of 1871, he moved to Grant City, Mo., where he engaged in banking and real estate enterprises until his death. Wis. Mag. Hist., 31; C. R. Tuttle, Illus. Hist.... Wis. (Boston, 1875);-Wis. Blue Book (1927); J. H. Abbott and L. M. Wilson, comps., Farwell Family (2 vols. [Orange, Tex.] 1929); WPA MS.

The Wisconsin Historical Society has manuscripts related to this topic. See the catalog description of the Leonard J. Farwell Miscellany for details.

View newspaper clippings at Wisconsin Local History and Biography Articles.

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[Source: Blue book]