Biography of Samuel J. Crawford

Samuel J. Crawford was one of the first members of the Kansas State Legislature, by service on the field of battle attained the rank of brigadier-general during the Civil war, and was the third governor of the state. He was one of the history makers of early Kansas, and what he did to influence the early political development of Kansas must be told on other pages. Following is a brief sketch of his personal career.

He was born in Lawrence County, Indiana, April 10, 1835, grew up on a farm, attended the graded schools of Bedford, Indiana, and the law school of Cincinnati College. His parents were William and Jane (Merrow) Crawford, who were natives of North Carolina and had moved to Indiana Territory in 1815. His paternal grandparents were James and Mary (Fraser) Crawford, his grandfather having been a Revolutionary soldier. In remote ancestry the Crawfords were Scotch.

Samuel J. Crawford arrived in Kansas Territory and began the practice of law at Garnett on March 1, 1859. He had the personal courage, the mental talents and other qualities so essential for leadership in the troubled country of Kansas at that time, and he did not long remain a struggling lawyer in Garnett. In May of the same year of his arrival he attended the Ossawatomie convention and participated in the organization of the republican party in Kansas. In September of the same year he was a delegate to the republican stats convention at Topeka, which placed in nomination state officers under the Wyandotte constitution. Then, in November, 1859, he was elected a member of the first state Legislature, and assisted in putting the state government into operation.

Toward the close of the first session the country was involved in war. He resigned his legislative seat to become captain in the Second Kansas Volunteer Infantry. He participated in those Southwest Missouri campaigns led by General Lyon, and took part in all the engagements, including the crucial battle of Wilson Creek. In March, 1862, Captain Crawford was assigned the command of Troop A, Second Kansas Cavalry, and soon afterwards the command of a battalion in the same regiment.

With the Second Kansas he was with General Blunt in Southwest Missouri, Arkansas, and Indian Territory until early in the fall of 1862. During that time he participated in the battles of Newtonia, Old Fort Wayne, Kane Hill, Bald Peak, Cove Creek, Prairie Grove and Van Buren. At old Fort Wayne he led his battalion in the charge which resulted in the capture of an entire battery of artillery.

On March 12, 1863, he was assigned to command the Second Kansas Cavalry and soon afterwards joined Blunt at Fort Gibson for an expedition south through the Choctaw Nation. This campaign ended with the taking of Fort Smith and Colonel Crawford was instrumental in capturing a number of prisoners, wagons, horses, a Confederate paymaster and $40,000 of Confederate money.

In November, 1863, he was appointed colonel in the Eighty-third United States Colored Infantry. In March, 1864, he joined General Steele on an expedition to the Red River under the general command of General Banks. At Jenkins Ferry his command lost heavily and his own horse was shot.

While still in active service, on September 8, 1864, Colonel Crawford was nominated for governor of Kansas. On October 1st he was granted a leave of absence, the first he had had since entering the service at the beginning of the war, but on arriving in Kansas learned of Price’s raid through Missouri. Instead of entering the canvass for office, he at once reported to and was assigned to the staff of General Curtis, and he was with the Union forces in every battle of this campaign from Westport to Mine Creek. Of Kansas soldiers General Crawford was one of the greatest. It was for meritorious services on the field of battle that he was brevetted brigadier-general on April 13, 1865.

In the meantime, on November 8, 1864, he was elected governor, and on January 9, 1865, took the oath of office. On September 5, 1866, he was re-elected governor, and was the first executive of the state to be honored with re-election.

It is not the purpose of this sketch to review the conditions of Kansas when Governor Crawford took his seat in the governor’s office. All that is told on other pages. But as some of the distinctive accomplishments of his administration it should be recalled that during that time the State University, the Agricultural College, the Normal School, the Deaf, Mute, Blind and Insane anylums were opened, and not only these institutions but many enduring Kansas policies saw their beginning while he was in the gubernatorial chair.

About the time he retired from the office of governor he organized a regiment of cavalry and joined General Sheridan in November, 1868, in the campaign against the Indians. This campaign was made in the dead of winter and under the greatest of difficulties, but the Indians were overtaken and compelled to surrender the captives of their raid.

After retiring from the governorship Mr. Orawford was in the real estate businses at Emporia until 1876, when he removed to Topeka and undertook the proseention of certain claims against the United States for indemnity school lands, and in this he rendered much aid to Kansas. Subsequently he moved to Washington, D. C., and practiced law there for a number of years. Among other activities Governor Crawford published “Kansas in the ’60s,” a work which attracted much attention as a picture of conditions in early Kansas history, and which will always be an important source of history.

Governor Crawford died October 21, 1913. On November 27, 1866, he married Isabel M. Chase. His only daughter Florence is now the wife of Governor Arthur Capper.


Connelley, William E. A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans. Chicago : Lewis, 1918. 5v. Biographies can be accessed from this page: Kansas and Kansans Biographies.

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