Back to former Minnesota governors
William Rainey Marshall

Gov. William Rainey Marshall

  • January 8, 1866 - January 9, 1870
  • Republican
  • October 17, 1825
  • January 8, 1896
  • Missouri
  • Married Abby Langford
  • Army


WILLIAM R. MARSHALL, the fifth governor of Minnesota, was born in Boone County, Missouri on October 17, 1825. His education was limited and attained in the common schools of Illinois. Marshall worked as a surveyor and miner in Illinois and Wisconsin. In 1849, he moved to Minnesota, where he went on to establish successful businesses in the banking, newspaper and dairy industries. During the Civil War, he fought in several battles with the Union Army, and rose through the ranks, becoming a brigadier general by the time of his discharge in 1865. Marshall first entered politics in 1848, serving as a one-term member of the Wisconsin Legislature. He also served as a member of the Minnesota Territorial House of Representatives from 1849 to 1850, and he presided over the convention that founded the Republican Party in Minnesota. Marshall next secured the Republican gubernatorial nomination and was elected governor by a popular vote on November 7, 1865. He was reelected to a second term in 1867. During his tenure, a University of Minnesota collegiate department was formed; a state hospital for the insane was established; the state’s railway system was advanced; the state’s population continued to increase; and a state normal school in Mankato was founded. After completing his term, Marshall left office on January 9, 1870. He continued to stay politically active, serving as the railroad and warehouse commissioner, a position he held from 1874 to 1882. Governor William R. Marshall passed away on January 8, 1896, and was buried in the Oakland Cemetery in St. Paul, Minnesota.


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.

Minnesota Historical Society

The Political Graveyard

Recent Minnesota Governors