JOEL ALDRICH MATTESON, Illinois’ 10th governor was born in Watertown, New York, on August 2, 1808. His education was limited and earned in the common schools of New York. Before moving to Illinois, Matteson taught school in New York, and built railroads in the South. In 1836, he settled his family in Joliet, Illinois, where he established a career as a heavy contractor on the Illinois and Michigan Canal, and where he opened a successful woolen mill. Matteson entered politics in 1842 as a member of the Illinois State Senate, a position he held until 1853. He won election as Illinois governor on November 2, 1852 and was sworn into office on January 10, 1853. During his tenure, the free-school system was initiated; the state deficit was reduced; railroad mileage was advanced; and Chicago’s population and commerce increased significantly. Also, the Maine liquor law was passed; construction for additional prison cells at the Alton penitentiary was sanctioned; and the incorporation of the State Agricultural Society was approved. Governor Matteson’s term ended on January 12, 1857, and he retired from politics. He later served as lessee and president of the Chicago and Alton Railroad. Governor Joel A. Matteson died on January 31, 1873, and he was buried at the Oakwood Cemetery in Joliet, Illinois.
Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 1, Westport, Conn.; Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols.