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John Harte McGraw

Gov. John Harte McGraw

  • January 9, 1893 - January 11, 1897
  • Republican
  • October 4, 1850
  • June 23, 1910
  • Maine
  • Married May L. Kelley; two children


JOHN HARTE MC GRAW was born in Penobscot County, Maine. He moved west when the grocery store that he had opened with his brother failed in the Panic of 1873. He worked briefly in San Francisco before relocating to Seattle. He joined the city’s four-man police force, after which he was elected City Marshal and appointed Police Chief by the City Council in 1879, and then re-elected/reappointed to these positions for an additional two years. He was elected Sheriff of King County in 1882 and reelected in 1884. He studied law while serving as sheriff, and went on to practice law before being reelected sheriff in 1888. He then became president of Seattle First National Bank. He was campaign manager for the first U.S. Senators from Washington, after which he ran successfully for governor in 1892. During his gubernatorial term, he guided the enactment of legislation codifying land laws and providing for a State Land Commission. His administration ended when the Fusionist Party defeated statewide Republican candidates in the 1896 election. The new gubernatorial administration investigated the sheriff’s office account during McGraw’s terms and determined that he owed the state $10,000. He sold his property to secure the money and went to the Klondike in what turned out to be a successful effort to regain his fortune. He then returned to Seattle and began a real estate and insurance business. He served as president of the Seattle Chamber of Commerce from 1905 until 1907. Three years later, he died of typhoid fever.


Official Records at Washington State Archives, 1893-97, 4.5 cubic feet.

List of finding aids available at the Division of Archives and Records Management, Office of the Secretary of State. Available in hard copy: Guide to the Papers of the Governors of Washington, Volume 2: 1889-1919—Governor Ferry through Governor Lister.

The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Vol. 38. New York: James T. White & Company.

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.

Washington State Library: Governors of Washington State

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