William Cary Renfrow

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William Cary Renfrow
William Cary Renfrow.jpg
3rd Governor of Oklahoma Territory
In office
May 7, 1893 – January 31, 1897
Appointed by Grover Cleveland
Preceded by Abraham Jefferson Seay
Succeeded by Cassius McDonald Barnes
Personal details
Born (1845-03-15)March 15, 1845
Smithfield, North Carolina
Died May 24, 1922(1922-05-24) (aged 77)
Bentonville, Arkansas
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Jennie York Renforw
Profession Soldier, Businessperson

William Cary Renfrow (March 15, 1845 – January 31, 1922) was a Confederate soldier in the American Civil War and Democratic 3rd Governor of Oklahoma Territory. His term of office saw the opening of the Cherokee Outlet.

Early life and Civil War[edit]

William Cary Renfrow was born on March 15, 1845, in Smithfield, North Carolina. Renfrow attended public schools in North Carolina until he was 17 years old. In 1862, Renfrow dropped out of school to fight for the Confederate States of America in the American Civil War. He enlisted on February 25, 1862 in Company C of the 50th Regiment of North Carolina Infantry at Smithfield. Renfrow would be mustered into service at Camp Mangum on April 21, 1862 as a Second Sergeant. He was subsequently was promoted to First Sergeant. Renfrow would fight for the Confederacy for over two years. The last rolls of his company were for August, 1864 with Renfrow was being present.

After the Civil War ended, Renfrow did not return home to North Carolina. Instead, he moved to Russellville, Arkansas. There, in 1865, Renfrow married Jennie B. York of Judsonia, Arkansas on October 17, 1875. Renfrow would remain in Arkansas for the next twenty years, even serving as a deputy official for Pope County.

Move to Oklahoma and governorship[edit]

When Unassigned Lands was opened by land run on April 22, 1889, Oklahoma Territory had official begun. Renfrow relocated to Norman where he opened a banking business. When the Republican US President Benjamin Harrison was replaced by Democratic Grover Cleveland, then Governor of Oklahoma Territory Abraham Jefferson Seay was replaced as well.

President Cleveland appointed Renfrow the Governor, with his term beginning on May 7. 1893. He was the only Democratic Governor of Oklahoma Territory as well as the first at serve the full four-year term. During his four-year term, only a few major events would occur. The first of these was the opening of the Cherokee Outlet on September 16, 1893. The Oklahoma Historical Society was formed under his administration and on February 21, 1895, Governor Renfrow approved an act constituting the Society as trustee for Oklahoma Territory.

Governor Renfrow was succeeded by the Republican Cassius McDonald Barnes, who was appointed by President William McKinley. Renfrow’s term in office officially ended on May 24, 1897.

Post-governorship[edit]

After leaving office, Renfrow moved to Kansas City, Missouri, where he would remain for a few years. He would later becoming engaged in the lead and zinc business in northeastern Oklahoma. He would return to Oklahoma and lived in Miami. There, he operated his mining business under the Renfrow Mining and Royalty Company. His business would make Renfrow an extensive owner of lead and zinc properties. In 1920, he would embark in the oil and gas business in the Mexia field in Texas. His business ventures were highly successful.

Renfrow died while sitting in the lobby of the Massey Hotel at Bentonville, Arkansas on January 31, 1922, while traveling from Miami to Russellville to visit his ailing brother. Renfrow was interred in the cemetery at Russellville, Arkansas by the side of his wife who died some years before.

See also[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Abraham Jefferson Seay
Governor of Oklahoma Territory
1893–1897
Succeeded by
Cassius McDonald Barnes