Richard J. Oglesby

Governor of Illinois, 1865-1869; Jan. 13, 1873-Jan. 23, 1873; 1885-1889.
William Bross, Lieutenant Governor, 1865-1869
John L. Beveridge, Lieutenant Governor, January, 1873
John C. Smith, Lieutenant Governor, 1885-1889

Richard J. Oglesby was born in Oldham County, Kentucky, July 25, 1824. He was left an orphan at the age eight years; in 1836 he accompanied his uncle to Decatur, Illinois, where until 1844, he worked at farming, carpentering and rope making. In 1845 he was admitted to the bar and began practice at Sullivan, Moultrie County. In 1846 he was commissioned a lieutenant in the Fourth Regiment Illinois Volunteers (Col. E. D. Baker's Regiment) and served through the Mexican war, taking part in the siege of Vera Cruz and the battle of Cerro Gordo. In 1849 he graduated from the Louisville Law School. In 1859, Richard J. Oglesby married Miss Anna E. White of Decatur. In 1860 he was elected to the State Senate, but early in 1861 he resigned his seat to become the colonel of the Eighth Illinois Volunteers. Through gallantry, notably at Forts Henry and Donelson and at Corinth, he rose to the rank of Major-General. He was severely wounded in the battle of Corinth. He resigned his commission in the Army on account of disability in May, 1864, and the following November was elected Governor of the State. In 1872, he was again elected Governor, but, two weeks after his inauguration, in January, 1873, resigned to accept a seat in the United States Senate, to which he was elected by the Legislature of 1873. In 1884 he was elected Governor for the third time being the only man in the history of the State who so far has thus been honored.

After the expiration of his last term as Governor he retired to his home at Elkhart, Logan County, where he devoted his attention to his private affairs and in the enjoyment of his family and friends.

Governor Oglesby was married to Mrs. Emma Gillette Keays, at Elkhart, Illinois, November 18, 1873.

He died at his home in Elkhart, April 24, 1899, and is buried in the cemetery at that place.

Important events which occurred during the first administration of Governor Oglesby were the close of the Civil War and the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.

Source: "The Governors of Illinois, 1818-1918"; Issued by the Illinois Centennial Commission


RICHARD J. OGLESBY, the fourteenth governor of Illinois, was born in Oldham County, Ky. He was left an orphan when but eight years old. His uncle who had the care of him, apprenticed him to be a carpenter and he was working at that trade when but ten and a half years old. When he was twelve years old his uncle moved to Decatur, Illinois, and took Richard with him. In 1844, Richard Oglesby commenced the study of law, he was admitted to the bar the following years, and began the practice of his profession at Sullivan.

Mr. Oglesby volunteered in the war with Mexico in June, 1846, and was elected first lieutenant of Company C, 4th Illinois Regiment, and took part in the battles of Vera Cruz and Cerro Gordo. On his return he began further pursuit of his Law studies by attendance upon a course of lectures at Louisville, Ky., but the “California Gold Fever” broke out, and 1849 saw him crossing the plains to the new Eldorado.

In 1852, he returned to Macon County and was put upon the presidential ticket as an elector. Four years later he was absent twenty months visiting Europe, Asia and Africa. Upon his return in 1858, he ran for Congress, but was defeated. In 1860 he was elected to the Illinois senate.

The following spring, when the war had began in earnest, he quickly responded to the call for volunteers. The extra session of the Legislature elected him Colonel of the Eighth Illinois Infantry. In April, after having been stationed at Bird’s Point, Cairo, he was promoted brigadier-general. At Fort Donelson, his brigade was in the van, being stationed to the right of General Grant’s army. It was the first brigade to be attacked. He lost 500 men before reinforcements arrived, many of whom were from Macon County. He was carried from the field at the battle of Corinth with a bullet in his body, which hc carried to the day of his death.

In 1863, he was assigned to the command of the 16th army corps but because of the effect of his wound, he gave up this command. Gen. Grant refused to accept his resignation, however, and the following December Oglesby was detailed to court martial and try the surgeon-general of the army, at Washangton, where he remained until May, 1864, when he returned home.

He was elected governor of Illinois in the following fall election. He was twice after this elected to the same office.

Gov. Oglesby, or “Dick Oglesby” as his loving friends delighted in calling him, was a fine appearing, affable man with regular, well-defined features, and a rotund face. He was a little above medium height, large of frame and inclined to put on flesh. He was outspoken, ardent in feeling, and first, last, and every time a devoted republican. His bluff manner and speech attracted his admirers and his jovial disposition and general liberal attitude saved him from the hatred of those opposing him. He was an effective stump-speaker. He died at Elkhart, Ill., April 24, 1899.

The events of prominence of the first term of Gov. Oglesby were the election of Ex-Gov. Yates to the United States Senate, and the ratification of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. The Legislature repealed the last of the famous Black Laws which long ago had been but a dead letter on the statutes. Several bills were passed over the governor’s veto. Contests over the location of the industrial college, the capitol, the southern penitentiary, as well as the canal enlargement and the Illinois River improvements, were bitter and all-absorbing. The asylum for the feebleminded was located at Jacksonville in 1865. The Soldiers’ Orphans’ home at Normal was established the same year. Abraham Lincoln was assassinated April 14, 1865. His burial at Springfield occurred May 5, 1865. The state reformatory at Pontiac was established in 1867, also the office of state entomologist.

RICHARD J. OGLESBY, 1872-1874, the fourteenth governor of Illinois, was elected the sixteenth governor in 1872, with John L. Beveridge as lieutenant-governor. This election was to have Oglesby made an available candidate for United States Senator. He was duly elected to the United States Senate as soon as the Legislature met. During his short term the state was reapportioned, giving nineteen Congressmen.


RICHARD J. OGLESBY was the twenty-first governor of Illinois. (See sketch.) The events of this, his third (though not consecutive) term were:

Legislative Acts — Establishment of Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Home at Quincy; making Illinois Industrial University the University of Illinois; the creation of the offices of State Veterinarian and State Game Wardens, also of Live Stock Commission; and the Industrial Home for the Blind at Chicago; provisions for Arbor Day, also the execution of the Chicago anarchists.

Labor troubles during this administration were menacing. In March, 1886, these was a strike at the McCormick Harvester Works; in April, a railroad strike in East St. Louis, and May 4th, the anarchists’ riot at Haymarket Square in Chicago. The trial and conviction of the anarchists followed.

The Republican National Convention at Chicago, 1888, nominated Benjamin Harrison for President of the United States.

Source: Decisive Dates in Illinois History, A Story of the State, By Lottie B. Jones. Danville, Illinois: Illinois Printing Company, 1909.

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