Stephen F. Chadwick

Stephen F. Chadwick
5th Governor of Oregon
In office
February 1, 1877  September 11, 1878
Preceded by La Fayette Grover
Succeeded by W. W. Thayer
Secretary of State of Oregon
In office
September 10, 1870  September 2, 1878
Preceded by Samuel E. May
Succeeded by Rockey Preston Earhart
Personal details
Born (1825-12-25)December 25, 1825
Middletown, Connecticut
Died January 15, 1895(1895-01-15) (aged 69)
Salem, Oregon
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Jane A. Smith
Profession Lawyer

Stephen Fowler Chadwick (December 25, 1825 – January 15, 1895) was an American Democratic politician[1] who served as the fifth Governor of Oregon from 1877 to 1878. Governor Chadwick was the first person to obtain the governorship by way of the state's Line of Succession.


Occupational background

Chadwick was a lawyer, admitted to the New York State Bar on May 30, 1850. He soon made his way to Oregon, setting up a law firm in Douglas County in the settlement of Scottsburg on April 21, 1851. Chadwick served as the town's first postmaster.[1]

Early political career

After moving from Scottsburg to Roseburg, Chadwick ran for the newly created position of Judge of Douglas County. Later, he represented Douglas County at the State Constitutional Convention, in 1857.[2] In the 1864 and 1868 Presidential elections, Chadwick served as a Democratic elector.

Chadwick won the 1870 election to the position of Secretary of State, and was subsequently reelected in 1874.[1]

Chadwick is credited for having originated the idea while Secretary of State to make June 15 an Oregon state holiday called "Pioneer Day."[3] The date of the occasion was selected in honor of the signing of the 1846 treaty between the United States and Great Britain formally settling their contested claims to the Oregon Territory.[3]


In 1877, La Fayette Grover resigned the governorship after his election to the United States Senate by the State Legislature. Chadwick, as Secretary of State and second in the gubernatorial line of succession, was inaugurated to fill out the remaining year of Governor Grover's term.[1]

Although unconstitutional under Article V, Section 1 of the State Constitution, Chadwick also kept his position of Secretary of State. When signing official documents requiring the signatures of both the Secretary of State and Governor, he would sign first on the left side, then on the right.

The most notable policy of his administration was Chadwick's stand on the Nez Perce War raging in the northeastern part of the state. Chadwick was unhappy with the stalemated situation, going so far as to inspect the front lines first-hand. He aided white settlers during the conflict, and argued for much harsher punishments for rebellious and uncooperative tribal leaders than the Army's policies.

At the time of the 1878 elections, Governor Chadwick declined a second term and went back to practicing law.

Death and legacy

Stephen F. Chadwick died on February 15, 1895, in Salem, Oregon.[1]


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 "Stephen Fowler Chadwick." Mecklermedia. Retrieved September 5, 2010.
  2. "Biographical Sketch of Stephen Chadwick". Crafting the Oregon Constitution. Oregon State Archives. Retrieved 2016-06-20.
  3. 1 2 Chadwick first advanced the notion in a letter to Oregon Pioneer Association President J.W. Grim on November 19, 1873. See: Transactions of the Nineteenth Annual Reunion of the Oregon Pioneer Society for 1891. Portland, OR: A. Anderson & Co., 1891; pg. 32.

Further reading

Political offices
Preceded by
Samuel E. May
Secretary of State of Oregon
Succeeded by
Rockey Preston Earhart
Preceded by
La Fayette Grover
Governor of Oregon
Succeeded by
W. W. Thayer
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