John W. Dawson

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John W. Dawson
John W Dawson.jpg
John W. Dawson
Governor of Utah Territory
In office
Preceded by Alfred Cumming
Succeeded by Stephen S. Harding
Personal details
Born (1820-10-21)October 21, 1820
Cambridge, Indiana, United States
Died September 10, 1877(1877-09-10) (aged 56)
Resting place Lindenwood Cemetery, Fort Wayne, Indiana
Citizenship American
Political party Republican
Other political
Originally Democrat

John W. Dawson (October 21, 1820 – September 10, 1877) was Governor of Utah Territory in 1861.

Born on October 21, 1820, in Cambridge, Indiana he was a lawyer, a farmer and a newspaper editor before he entered politics, unsuccessfully running for a seat in the Indiana House of Representatives in 1854, Secretary of State of Indiana in 1856, and United States Congress in 1858. He started as a Democrat, but later became a Republican. Abraham Lincoln named him governor of Utah Territory in 1861, but he left the territory and his post as governor after only three weeks due to tensions with the Mormon residents. Dawson allegedly made "grossly improper proposals" to the Mormon widow Albina Merrill Williams, who responded by thrashing him with a fire shovel.

Taking a mail coach eastward, he arrived at Ephraim Hanks' Pony Express station at Mountain Dell, Utah. There, Hanks assured Dawson he was now safe. However a group of young Mormon vigilantes named Jason Luce, Martin "Matt" Luce, Wilford Luce, Wood Reynolds, Moroni Clawson, Lot Hungtington, and Isaac Neibaur followed the retreating governor, and during a night of drinking, they plundered the governor's baggage, and attacked him, beating and kicking Dawson about the head, chest, and groin (and allegedly castrating one of his testicles). The thugs later claimed they were acting under direct orders of the Salt Lake Police Chief. Four of the youths were captured but the other three were gunned down trying to escape from police and sheriffs.[1][2][3]

Dawson later became famous as the first biographer of John Chapman, the legendary Johnny Appleseed. Dawson's 1871 article in the Fort Wayne News Sentinel of October 21 and 23 about Dawson's childhood friend is still considered the main source for biographical information on Chapman.

He died on September 10, 1877 and was interred at Lindenwood Cemetery in Fort Wayne, Indiana.[4]

See also


  1. "Governor Dawson's Statement", Deseret News, January 22, 1862, pp. 2
  2. "Exciting and Terrifying Occurrences", Deseret News, January 22, 1862, pp. 5
  3. "Third Governor Was Run Out of Utah After 3 Weeks", Will Bagley, Salt Lake Tribune, December 30, 2001, p. B1.
  4. The Political Graveyard: Index to Politicians: Dawson
Political offices
Preceded by
Alfred Cumming
Governor of Utah Territory
Succeeded by
Stephen S. Harding