CADWALLADER COLDEN WASHBURN was born and educated in Livermore, Maine. While working as a surveyor in Rock Island County, Illinois, he studied law and was admitted to the Wisconsin Bar in 1842. In partnership with an agent for the New England Land Company, he engaged in land speculation and founded a bank, accumulating a considerable fortune in property and timber. In 1854, Washburn was elected to Congress as a Whig. He was reelected twice more as a Republican, serving in Congress with his two brothers-one from Illinois and the other from Maine. He was a commissioned a Colonel in the Civil War, fighting in numerous battles including the Battle of Vicksburg. In 1865, he retired with the rank of Major General and settled in La Crosse, where he was once more elected to Congress. In 1871, he won the governorship, and despite his own wealth took controversial positions against industry that ultimately led to his defeat for reelection in 1873. He returned to the private sector, leading the development of the company that ultimately became General Mills. With his accumulated wealth, he donated large sums to various causes, and in 1879 he was named a university regent for life by the state legislature. He died in Eureka Springs, Arkansas and was buried in La Crosse.
Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 4. Westport, CT: Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols.
The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Vol. 12. New York: James T. White & Company.