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Wilson Shannon

In office
September 7, 1855 – August 18, 1856
Preceded by Andrew Reeder
Succeeded by John W. Geary

Born February 24, 1802
Belmont County, Ohio
Died August 30, 1877
Lawrence, Kansas
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Elizabeth Ellis, Sarah Osbun
Profession attorney, politician
Religion Catholic

Wilson Shannon (February 24, 1802 - August 30, 1877) was a Democratic politician from Ohio and Kansas. He served as the 14th and 16th Governor of Ohio, and was the first governor of Ohio born in the state. Shannon was the second governor of Kansas Territory.


Early life

Shannon was born in Belmont County, Ohio, the son of an Irish immigrant, George Shannon, who fought in the Revolutionary War. Wilson Shannon's elder brother, Thomas Shannon, served a partial term in the United States House of Representatives from 1826-1827. His oldest brother, George Shannon, was the youngest member of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

Ohio Politics

After attending Ohio University and Transylvania University, Shannon was admitted to the bar and began practicing law in 1830. He ran for the U.S. House of Representatives in 1832, losing by only 37 votes. Shannon then served as a prosecutor in Belmont County before winning election to the governorship in 1838. He lost a re-election bid to the Whig candidate, Thomas Corwin in 1840, but defeated Corwin for a second term two years later. Shannon resigned on April 15, 1844 to take up an appointment from President John Tyler as Minister to Mexico.

Shannon spent a year in the post before being recalled. Shannon went to California in the 1849 gold rush but returned and later won election to the House of Representatives in 1852. He served a single term before taking up an appointment from President Franklin Pierce as Governor of the Kansas Territory in 1855.

Kansas Territory

Shannon was commissioned by President Pierce on August 10, 1855. He took the oath of office on September 7, 1855 and served until June 24, 1856, having been sworn into office a second time on June 13, 1856. He then served from July 7 through August 18, 1856 when he was removed from office by the President. Shannon was known for his Southern sympathies, so much so that he was described by a contemporary as "an extreme Southern man in politics, of the border ruffian type."[1] Shannon frequently utilized federal troops to bring peace to areas of the territory where violence was commonplace. However, the problems of government administration he experienced while Minister to Mexico plagued him in Kansas, and he stumbled into one political crisis after another.[2]

In May 1856, a large proslavery force entered Lawrence and destroyed many buildings and printing presses. Shannon failed to intervene to protect the citizens and their property. In retaliation, John Brown and a small group of followers moved along Pottawatomie Creek, 40 miles south of Lawrence, killing five proslavery settlers. The "Pottawatomie Massacre", as it came to be known, brought even more violence into the territory. Shannon lost complete control of the territory and left for St. Louis on June 23, 1856, leaving Daniel Woodson as acting governor.

While at Lecompton, Shannon offered President Pierce his resignation on August 18, 1856, but Pierce had already determined to fire him. In his resignation he wrote that he had "received unofficial information of my removal from office, and finding myself here without the moral power which my official station confers, and being destitute of any adequate military force to preserve the peace of the country, I feel it due to myself, as well as to the government, to notify you that I am unwilling to perform the duties of government of this territory any longer. You will therefore consider my official connection at an end."[3] Shannon feared for his life and returned east. He met John Geary, the next territorial governor, on September 7 at Glasgow, Missouri, though their meeting was brief.

Despite his troubled term as territorial governor of Kansas, Shannon served the longest continuous term of any Kansas territorial governor, more than nine and one-half months of an eleven-month term.

Later life

Shannon returned to Kansas soon after leaving office. He set up law practice in Lecompton, and later in Lawrence and Topeka. To visitors he frequently stated: "Govern Kansas in 1855 and '56! You might as well attempt to govern the devil in hell."[4] Shannon died in Lawrence on August 30, 1877 and is buried in Oak Hill Cemetery.


  • Shannon, Kansas was the first county seat of Anderson County and was named for him. The town ceased to exist in 1860.

See also


  1. ^ Gladstone, p. 14
  2. ^ Socolofsky, p. 44.
  3. ^ Socolofsky, p. 46.
  4. ^ Nichols, p. 139.


  • Gladstone, T. H. The Englishman in Kansas (New York: Miller), 1857.
  • Nichols, Alice. Bleeding Kansas (New York: Oxford University Press), 1954.
  • Socolofsky, Homer E. Kansas Governors (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas), 1990. ISBN 0-7006-0421-9

External links



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