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James Lanier

James Franklin Doughty Lanier (1800-1881) was a entrepreneur who lived in Madison, Indiana prior to the outbreak of the American Civil War (1861-1865). Lanier became a wealthy banker with interests in pork packing, the railroads, and real-estate.


James Lanier was born in 1800 in North Carolina. He and his family moved to Madison, Indiana in 1817, the year after it became a state. He married his first wife, Elizabeth Gardner, in 1819. He studied law at Transylvania University and began practicing in 1820. During the 1820s he was assistance clerk to the Indiana Legislature and later Clerk to the Indiana House of Representatives where he was involved in assisting to move the capitol from Corydon to Indianapolis in 1825.

In the early 1830s Lanier became involved in banking. He became president of the Bank of Indiana in 1833 and eventually became a large shareholder of its Madison branch and was also on the board of directors that oversaw all branches. In the later 1830s Lanier was involved with construction of the state first major rail line connecting Madison and Indianapolis. He became a major stockholder in the line which was finally finished in 1847. The line turned out to be very profitable.

The same year Lanier represented Indiana in a meeting with its European creditors. The state was on the verge of bankruptcy due to extreme overspending on internal improvement over the previous decade and was liquidating it's assets. Lanier was able to negotiate the transfer of ownership of most of the Indiana canals to their bond holders in exchange for a 50% reduction in the value of the bonds.[1]

His sudden wealth allowed him to build a large mansion in Madison, it was completed in 1844. His wife Elizabeth died in 1846 and he remarried to Margaret Mary McClure in 1848.

In 1849 Lanier began trading railroad shares in New York in a bank he started there in the same year with Richard Winslow called Winslow, Lanier & Co.. In 1851 Lanier moved out of the state to New York where he would manage his new business. He never moved back to Indiana.

Lanier, at the request of Gov. Oliver Morton, loaned the Indiana government over one million dollars without security to help the state avoid bankruptcy during the American Civil War. The money was used to pay interest on the state debt and outfit troops. It was all repaid by 1870. The state, grateful for his help, has preserved his residence in Madison, the Lanier Mansion, as a state historic site.[2]

Lanier died in 1881 in New York.


  1. ^ Dunn, Jacob Piatt (1919). Indiana and Indianans. American Historical Society.  
  2. ^ Indiana Center for History


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