The Ottumwa Courier

Local News

February 22, 2013

Kirkwood visits history group

Lawyer dresses as Civil War governor, talks about his life

OTTUMWA — A Civil War governor showed up at the Wapello County Historical Society meeting, and an Ottumwa attorney “escorted” Gov. Samuel Kirkwood to the event.

Kirkwood was an Iowa governor and a Civil War soldier, and Attorney Richard Gaumer dressed and spoke like Kirkwood, who is someone from Iowa’s distant past.

More than a dozen people attended the society’s meeting about Kirkwood. Born Dec. 20, 1813, in Hartford County, Md., Kirkwood died Sept. 1, 1894, in Iowa City. He was admitted to the Bar of Ohio in the 1840s and served as a county prosecutor in Ohio.

Gaumer’s attire helped him create a picture of Kirkwood, who worked with his father raising horses. Dressed in a tan farmer’s jacket with spots of road dust and flour on it, a flannel shirt, worn jeans and mud boots, Gaumer presented his information as if he was Kirkwood.

Kirkwood said he moved to Iowa in about 1854.

“I was elected to the Iowa Legislature in 1857 and was elected governor of Iowa in 1860 and in 1862,” Kirkwood said. “I was appointed to the U.S. Senate in 1865-67 to fill the term of James Harlan.”

Kirkwood also served as governor from 18776-1877. He resigned as governor to be elected to the U.S. Senate from 1877 to 1881. He resigned in 1882.

“I lost an election for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1886,” Kirkwood said. “I also served as a ‘lowly township trustee’ in between the time I was governor and my third term as governor.”

Kirkwood said he had worked as a tax assessor, miller, farmer and banker. He was an investor in an ill-fated railroad company in Iowa.

A member of the Iowa Department of Education, Kirkwood was also a founder of the forerunner of Iowa State University and the Iowa Historical Museum.

For his 1860 campaign, Kirkwood wore his overall and a flannel shirt to tour to private schools and the Capitol. That’s where he heard orators such as Daniel Webster and Henry Clay.

Kirkwood often talked to his family about the many issues of the day. One of them was slavery.

“I saw people selling slaves in the streets of Washington, D.C.,” he said. “A man and his wife were separated.”

Kirkwood knew other heartaches, too. He recalled being 16 years old when “Pa lost the farm.”

“When I was 16, we went to Ohio and cleared a 40-acre parcel,” Kirkwood said.

In 1860, Kirkwood decided to try a run for governor.

“Well, I don’t know much, but there’s panic in the banks, and I don’t know about Democrats like Augustus Cesar Dodge, who had been governor and been to Spain,” Kirkwood said. “He ran against me and wanted to be governor, so we had a debate in Muscatine.”

Citizens wanted Kirkwood “to do something” about Dodge.

“Dodge will ride up in a fancy carriage, with four matched horses,” Kirkwood said. “My supporters will have team of oxen and a hay rack.”

Kirkwood lived a long life that included a lot of government work.

“We did the best we could. I lived until Sept. 1, 1894. Jane was still alive, and she buried me in Iowa City,” Kirkwood said. “I had a career I enjoyed.”

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