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John Smith Phelps

Gov. John Smith Phelps

  • February 8, 1877 - January 10, 1881
  • Democratic
  • December 14, 1814
  • November 20, 1886
  • Connecticut
  • Trinity College
  • Married Mary Whitney; five children
  • Representative
  • Army


JOHN S. PHELPS was born in Simsbury, Connecticut on December 14, 1814. His education was attained at Trinity College, from which he graduated in 1832. He studied law, and was admitted to the bar in 1835. He established his legal career in Simsbury, Connecticut and after 1837 in Springfield, Missouri. During the Civil War, he served as a private in the Union Army, and rose to the rank of Brigadier General by the time he was discharged in 1862. Phelps first entered politics in 1840, serving as a one-term member of the Missouri House of Representatives. He also served as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1845 to 1863, and was appointed the military governor of Arkansas in 1862. Phelps next secured the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, and was elected governor by a popular vote on November 7, 1876. He was sworn into office on February 8, 1877. During his tenure, a railroad strike, as well as the Greenback movement were both dealt with. Also, currency reform was endorsed; a state bureau of labor statistics was established; the St. Louis symphony society was founded; funding for public education was lobbied for; and the state bar association was created. After completing his term, Phelps left office on January 10, 1881 and retired from public service. Governor John S. Phelps passed away on November 20, 1886, and was buried in the Hazelwood Cemetery in Springfield, Missouri.


Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress

Messages and Proclamations of the Governors of the State of Missouri (Produced by the Missouri Historical Society)

Missouri State Archives (Jefferson City, MO)

Phelps Family History in America

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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