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Oliver P. Morton (1823-1877)

Oliver P. Morton

Best known as War Governor of Indiana during the Civil War, he was also the first Indiana-born man to become governor. His full name was Oliver Hazard Perry Throck Morton, and he was born in Salisbury, orphaned at an early age, and raised by his grandparents and aunts. He attended school in the Wayne County Seminary. After apprenticing for four years as a hatter with his elder brother, he attended Miami University in nearby Oxford, Ohio where he distinguished himself as an excellent debater. He did not graduate, but learned enough to know that he wanted to become a lawyer and began studying law in the office of John S. Newman in Centerville. He was a very successful lawyer, and five years after he was admitted to the bar, the governor appointed him a Circuit Judge.

Morton was a Democrat as a young man, but disliked the influence of the Southern states in that party. In 1856, Wayne County selected him to attend the first convention of the new Republican party in Pittsburgh. Later that year the Republicans nominated him as their candidate for Governor, but he was defeated. In 1860, he was elected Lieutenant Governor, but Governor Henry S. Lane left to serve as a U. S. Senator, so on January 16, 1861, Morton became Governor of Indiana.

Immediately after Lincoln’s call for troops, Morton pledged and raised six thousand men, and never failed to meet all subsequent calls. At one point the legislature had failed to provide for bonuses and advance pay for newly inducted troops, and Morton personally raised $500,000 in a matter of days, $100,000 of that coming from Cincinnati, with the help of Richmond native Mark E. Reeves, then a merchant in Cincinnati. Throughout the war he was known as “The Soldiers’ Friend” for his material support of Indiana’s troops, and he remained one of the strongest supporters of the Federal government.

He was reelected in 1864 to a second term. Soon after he was afflicted by paralysis of the legs but continued to be active in office. In 1867 he was elected to complete Henry Lane’s term as U.S. Senator, and elected again in 1873, but died before his term was complete. He is buried in Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis.

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