Willis Benson Machen

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Willis Benson Machen
WillisMachen.jpg
Official Congressional portrait
United States Senator
from Kentucky
In office
September 27, 1872 – March 3, 1873
Serving with John W. Stevenson
Preceded by Garrett Davis
Succeeded by Thomas C. McCreery
Personal details
Born (1810-04-10)April 10, 1810
Caldwell County, Kentucky
Died September 29, 1893(1893-09-29) (aged 83)
Hopkinsville, Kentucky
Resting place Riverview Cemetery
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Margaret A. Lyon
Eliza W. Dobbins
Theresa Mims
Relations Son-in-law of Chittenden Lyon
Grandfather of Zelda Fitzgerald
Residence Mineral Mount
Alma mater Cumberland College
Occupation Farmer, Iron worker
Profession Lawyer
Religion Methodist

Willis Benson Machen (April 10, 1810 – September 29, 1893) was a Democratic U.S. Senator from Kentucky.

Early life[edit]

Willis B. Machen was born the son of Henry and Nancy (Tarrant) Machen on April 10, 1810 in Caldwell County, Kentucky (now Lyon County, Kentucky).[1] He attended the common schools of the area and became a farmer.[1] Machen attended Cumberland College in Princeton, and then engaged in agricultural pursuits near Eddyville.

In addition to farming, Machen worked at the Livingston iron forge.[2] Soon, he and a partner opened their own business, but it failed and nearly led Machen to financial ruin.[3] Eventually, he was able to repay his debts, and he began building turnpikes.[3] An injury forced him to abandon that course as well, so he turned to the practice of law.[3] He was admitted to the bar in 1844 and quickly built up a large clientele.[2][3]

Machen married Margaret A. Lyon, daughter of U.S. Representative Chittenden Lyon and granddaughter of U.S. Representative Colonel Matthew Lyon.[4]

Political career[edit]

Machen was delegate to the State constitutional convention in 1849, was a member of the Kentucky Senate in 1854, and was a member of the Kentucky House of Representatives in 1856 and 1860.

When a group of secessionist Kentuckians formed a Confederate government for the state, the Kentucky Confederate legislative council elected Machen as its president.[5] Machen represented Kentucky's 1st congressional district in the First Confederate Congress, serving on the Accounts and Ways and Means Committees.[2] He was re-elected to the Second Confederate Congress and worked in the quartermaster and commissary departments.[2] In total, he served in the Confederate Congress from February 22, 1862 until its dissolution in April 1865.[2]

After the close of the war, Machen, fearing reprisals for his alignment with the Confederacy, fled to Canada; his third wife and daughters Minnie and Marjorie joined him there. In 1869, President Ulysses S. Grant issued a pardon for Machen, and he returned to Kentucky.[6]

Friends encouraged Machen to run for governor, but there were questions about his eligibility, and he declined.[7] On July 9, 1872, Kentucky's delegates to the Democratic National Convention in Baltimore, Maryland nominated Machen for the office of Vice-President of the United States; he received one electoral vote.[4]

On September 22, 1872, Governor Preston H. Leslie appointed Machen to the United States Senate to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Garrett Davis.[4] When the Kentucky Senate re-convened, he was formally elected to the seat on January 21, 1873, defeating Republican Tarvin Baker by a vote of 104–18.[1][2] He served from September 27, 1872, to March 3, 1873.

Later life[edit]

Following his congressional tenure, he resumed agricultural interests. He also jointly owned several iron furnaces in Lyon County; it was at one of these furnaces that William Kelly invented his process for making steel rails.[4] In 1880, Machen was appointed to the Kentucky Railroad Commission, serving one full term.[4]

Following his term on the railroad commission, Machen retired to Mineral Mound, his 1,000-acre (4 km2) estate on the Cumberland River near Eddyville, where he raised tobacco.[7] He died September 29, 1893 at the Western Asylum in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, and was interred in Riverview Cemetery in Eddyville.[2] Today, Machen's former estate is the site of Mineral Mound State Park.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c National Cyclopedia, p. 395
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Kleber, p. 598
  3. ^ a b c d Milford, p. 3
  4. ^ a b c d e Johnson
  5. ^ Kent Masterson Brown, ed. (2000). "The Government of Confederate Kentucky". The Civil War in Kentucky: Battle for the Bluegrass. Mason City, Iowa: Savas Publishing Company. pp. 69–98. ISBN 1-882810-47-3. 
  6. ^ Cline, p. 17
  7. ^ a b Milford, p. 4

Further reading[edit]

United States Senate
Preceded by
Garrett Davis
U.S. Senator (Class 3) from Kentucky
1872–1873
Served alongside: John W. Stevenson
Succeeded by
Thomas C. McCreery