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John Pierce St. John

Gov. John Pierce St. John

  • January 13, 1879 - January 8, 1883
  • Republican
  • February 25, 1833
  • August 31, 1916
  • Indiana
  • Married Susan J. Parker; three children
  • Army


JOHN PIERCE ST. JOHN, the eighth governor of Kansas, was born in Brookville, Indiana on February 25, 1833. His early education was very limited and attained in a log schoolhouse on his father’s farm. In 1852, he left home, traveling to California, where he worked numerous odd jobs. After serving in the Indian Wars of 1853 to 1854, St. John traveled extensively, exploring Central and South America, the Sandwich Islands, and Mexico. In 1859, he settled in Illinois, studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1860. His legal career was temporarily interrupted with the outbreak of the Civil War. He served as captain of Company C, 68th Illinois Volunteer Infantry, and rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel, commanding the 143rd Regiment, Illinois Volunteer Infantry. After his military service, St. John practiced law in Independence, Missouri before finally settling in Olathe, Kansas. He entered politics in 1873, serving as a one-term member of the Kansas State Senate. St. John won the 1878 Republican gubernatorial nomination, and was sworn into the governor’s office on January 13, 1879. He was reelected to a second term in 1880. During his tenure, his greatest feat was the prohibitory law, which was enacted in 1881. It put into effect the prohibition amendment that was adopted in the general election of 1880. Also, a state reform school was created, and a large influx of ex-slaves (Exodusters) were aided in their settlement within the state. After losing his reelection bid for a third term, St. John left office on January 8, 1883. He switched political parties in 1884, becoming the Prohibitionist party candidate for president of the United States, however he was unsuccessful in his bid. In 1896, he became disillusioned with the Prohibitionist party, and joined the People’s party, accepting any party that presented the greatest opportunities for all people. Governor John P. St. John died on August 31, 1916, and was buried at the Olathe Cemetery.


Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 2, Westport, Conn.; Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols.

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