Born in Plainfield, Connecticut, WILLIAM AUGUSTUS BARSTOW left school at the age of sixteen. In 1834 he joined his brother in a flour milling and forwarding business, which failed during the depression of the late 1830s. He moved to Prairieville, Wisconsin in 1839, where he ran a flour mill. He served as the town’s highway commissioner and postmaster, and was a member of the Milwaukee County Board. In 1846, he played an active role in the movement to separate Waukesha from Milwaukee County. Elected Secretary of State and then governor, he was dogged by corruption charges. Among the concerns raised was that he threatened to veto any legislation calling for an investigation of the handling of land grants to the Fox-Wisconsin River Improvement Company, in which he owned stock. Running for reelection to the governorship in 1855, he was declared the winner by 157 votes, and he took the oath of office for a second term. However, he resigned shortly thereafter in the face of what turned out to be a successful Republican challenge to the outcome before the state Supreme Court. Barstow returned to the milling business, where he remained until 1861, when he entered the Civil War as a Colonel in the Third Wisconsin Cavalry. Discharged in March 1865, he lived in Leavenworth, Kansas until his death. He is buried in Cleveland, Ohio.
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.
The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Vol. 12. New York: James T. White & Company.
Wisconsin Historical Society