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Samuel Jordan Kirkwood

Gov. Samuel Jordan Kirkwood

  • January 11, 1860 - January 14, 1864
    January 13, 1876 - February 1, 1877
  • Republican
  • December 20, 1813
  • September 1, 1894
  • Maryland
  • John McLeod Academy
  • Married Jane Clark
  • Resigned
  • Senator, Cabinet secretary


SAMUEL J. KIRKWOOD, Iowa’s fifth and ninth governor, was born in Harford County, Maryland on December 20, 1813. His education was attained at the John McLeod Academy in Washington, D.C. He studied law in Ohio, was admitted to the bar in 1843, and established a successful legal practice in Mansfield. Kirkwood entered public service in 1845, serving as the prosecuting attorney of Richland County, a position he held for four years. He also served as a member of the Ohio Constitutional Convention in 1850. In 1855, he relocated to Iowa City, Iowa, where he operated a successful milling business. He also returned to his political career, serving as a member of the Iowa State Senate from 1856 to 1859. Kirkwood won the 1859 Republican gubernatorial nomination and was sworn into office on January 11, 1860. He was reelected to a second term in October 1861. During his tenure, two major issues consumed the majority of his time. The first dealt with locating and securing funds for the nearly depleted state treasury, and the other was the problems that resulted from the outbreak of the Civil War. A call for volunteers was assembled, and the first regiment from Iowa was equipped with money donated by Governor Kirkwood. In 1863, President Lincoln appointed Kirkwood to serve as minister of Denmark, but he declined the appointment, opting instead to finish out his gubernatorial term. After leaving office, Kirkwood was elected to fill a vacancy in the U.S. Senate. He served in the senate from January 13, 1866 to March 3, 1867. In 1875, he was reelected to his third term in the governor’s office. After serving a little over a year, he resigned from office to take his seat in the U.S. Senate. He served in this capacity from March 4, 1877 until March 7, 1881, when he resigned to accept an appointment in President Garfield’s cabinet, as secretary of the interior. He resigned from his cabinet post in 1882. Governor Samuel J. Kirkwood passed away on September 1, 1894, and was buried at the Oakland Cemetery in Iowa City, Iowa.



Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress

Historical for Muscatine County Iowa

Palimpsest, 56 (1975): 2-14.

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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