Columbus Delano

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Columbus Delano
Columbus Delano Brady Handy.tif
11th United States Secretary of the Interior
In office
November 1, 1870 – September 30, 1875
President Ulysses S. Grant
Preceded by Jacob Dolson Cox
Succeeded by Zachariah Chandler
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Ohio's 13th district
In office
March 4, 1865 – March 3, 1867
Preceded by John O'Neill
Succeeded by George W. Morgan
In office
June 3, 1868 – March 3, 1869
Preceded by George W. Morgan
Succeeded by George W. Morgan
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Ohio's 10th district
In office
March 4, 1845 – March 3, 1847
Preceded by Alfred P. Stone
Succeeded by Milton I. Southard
Personal details
Born (1809-06-04)June 4, 1809
Shoreham, Vermont, US
Died October 23, 1896(1896-10-23) (aged 87)
Mount Vernon, Ohio, US
Political party Whig, Republican
Profession Politician, Lawyer, Farmer, Banker

Columbus Delano, (June 4, 1809 – October 23, 1896) was a lawyer and a statesman and a member of the prominent Delano family. Delano was elected U.S. Congressman from Ohio, serving two terms; the first from 1845 to 1847 and the second from 1865 to 1867. Prior to the American Civil War, Delano supported the Free Soil movement that was against the spread of slavery in the Western territories. During Reconstruction Delano advocated state protection of African Americans civil rights, and argued that the former Confederate states were actual states, but not part of the United States. Delano served as President Grant's Secretary of Interior during a time of rapid Westward expansionism. Delano had to contend with conflicts between Native American tribes and settlers. Secretary Delano was instrumental in the establishment of America's first national park, supervising the first U.S. federally funded 1871 exploratory scientific expedition into Yellowstone. Delano believed the best Indian policy was to allot Native American tribes on Indian Territory reservations; believing that tribal communalism living led to Indian wars and impoverishment. Delano believed that the reservation system humanely protected Native Americans from the encroachment of western settlers. He advocated Indian assimilation and independence from federal funding. Delano supported the slaughter of buffalo, essential to the Plains Indians' lifestyle, in order to stop their nomadic hunting. Delano's tenure was marred by profiteering and corruption in his Interior Department by Indian Bureau agents posing as attorneys and Patent clerks who became wealthy through fraudulent land grants. As a result, Delano was forced to resign by President Grant in 1875. Historians believe that although Delano was personally honest, he was not a reformer, and he was careless in his management of the Interior Department.

Early Years[edit]

On June 5, 1809, Columbus Delano was born at Shoreham, Vermont.[1] His father was James Delano and his mother was Lucinda Bateman. At the age of eight, Delano's family moved to Mount Vernon in Knox County, Ohio, a place he would call home for the rest of his life.[1] In 1819, Delano was left without a natural protector, and he was moved to Lexington, Ohio where he worked in a mill that manufactured wool.[1] Delano served as prosecuting attorney for Knox County from 1826 to 1830. Delano at this time was associated with the Whig Party, and his political views were unpopular.[2] In 1828, while serving as prosecuting attorney, Delano entered and studied at the law office of Homer Curtis at Mt. Vernon and he was admitted to the bar in 1831. He then set up his law practice in Mount Vernon.[2]

Whig politician[edit]

A member of the Whig Party, Delano became active in politics and in 1844 was elected to the United States House of Representatives as a Whig. After serving his two-year term he chose not to run again, instead focusing on Ohio politics, launching an unsuccessful bid for the governorship in 1847.

Joined Republican Party[edit]

With the demise of the Whig party, Columbus Delano became an Ohio delegate to the Republican National Convention in 1860, supporting Abraham Lincoln's nomination as President. The following year he served as State commissary general and in 1862 ran for the United States Senate, losing by only two votes to Benjamin Wade. The next year, he was successful in a bid to become a member of the State house of representatives.

U.S. Congressman[edit]

Delano was elected Ohio U.S. Congressman in 1864 and served two terms until 1869. Congressman Delano supported Radical Reconstruction; having believed the South was in chaos after the American Civil War and U.S. military deployment in the Southern states was necessary to keep peace.

Commissioner of Internal Revenue[edit]

After completing his term, Delano remained active in party politics and was appointed Commissioner of Internal Revenue in March 1869 and until November 1, 1870.

Secretary of Interior[edit]

Delano served as Commissioner of Internal Revenue until November 1, 1870 when President Ulysses S. Grant appointed him Secretary of the Interior. With the Interior Department's varied and diverse responsibilities increasing at a rapid rate, it had become a place with numerous administrative problems. For the department head, controlling the bureaus and shaping policy was a daunting task and during Delano's time as Secretary, he faced many problems but managed to last longer in the job than any other 19th-century incumbent. In 1871, Sec. Delano organized an expedition into Yellowstone whose discoveries influenced Congress and President Grant to sign into law America's first national park that federally protected public land from settler intrusion. Delano also had to contend with hostile Native American tribes and aggressive settlers during a time of rapid American westward expansion brought on by the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad. During his tenure as Secretary of the Interior, the town of Delano, California, founded on July 14, 1873, was named in his honor. Under Sec. Delano's tenure corruption permeated in the Department of Interior as bogus agents in the Bureau of Indian Affairs and fraudulent clerks in the Patent Office made tremendous profits at the expense of tax payers and Native Americans. Delano resigned because of evidence that his son, John Delano, had been given partnerships in surveying contracts over which the Interior Department had control.

Apache massacre (1871)[edit]

On April 30, 1871 white Tucson townspeople had organized a militia party that massacred an Apache Indian settlement at Camp Grant.[3][4] Approximately 144 Apaches were killed, mostly women and children. Twenty eight children were kidnapped by the Tucson townspeople and held as ransom for the Apache warriors.[3] Having drawn national attention, Eastern philanthropists and President Grant denounced the massacre. Arizona citizens, however, believed the killings were justified having claimed that Apache warriors had killed mail runners and settlers near Tucson.[3][4] President Grant sent Maj. Gen. George Crook to keep the peace in Arizona; many Apaches having joined the U.S. military for protection.[3] On November 10, 1871 Sec. Delano advocated President Grant that Apaches be given new reservation land in Arizona and New Mexico under recommendation of Indian Peace Commissioner Vincent Colyer where they could be protected from any white settler attacks.[5] Delano advocated that all Apaches be put on reservations including young men and warriors, who were forming raiding parties, rather than just their old men and women.[5] President Grant sent Maj. Gen. Oliver Otis Howard to Arizona who organized a peace conference with Apache leader Eskiminzin in May 1872 at Camp Grant. Maj. Gen. Howard also negotiated the release of six of the captive Apache children to be returned to Camp Grant.[3] In December 1872, a permanent settlement was established at the San Carlos and Gila Rivers, the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation; having been agreed upon by Maj. Gen. Howard and Eskiminzin.[3]

Yellowstone (1871)[edit]

In 1871, Sec. Delano organized America's first federally funded scientific expedition into Yellowstone headed by U.S. Geologist Ferdinand V. Hayden.[6] Sec. Delano gave specific instructions for Hayden to make a geographical map of the area and to make astronomical and barometric observations. Sec. Delano stated that Hayden's expedition was directed to "…secure as much information as possible, both scientific and practical…give your attention to the geological, mineralogical, zoological, botanical, and agricultural resources of the country."[6] Sec. Delano also ordered Hayden to gather information on Native American tribes who lived in the area. Hayden's expedition was outfitted by an extensive scientific team that included two botanists, a meteorologist, a zoologist, an ornithologist, a mineralogist, a topographer, an artist, a photographer, a physician, hunters, mule teams and ambulances, and a support staff. Hayden submitted his scientific findings report to Congress in the Yellowstone National Park Organic Act.[6]

Defined Indian policy (1873)[edit]

In 1873, Sec. Delano formerly defined the goals and purposes of President Grant's Peace policy toward Native Americans.[7] According to Delano, putting Native Americans on reservations was primary importance, since this would protect them from the violence of white settlement encroachment. Christian organizations on these reservations could teach the Indians civility, as compared to Delano's belief that Indian communal life led to destruction.[7] Delano stated that Indians would be humanely punished if they chose war rather than live peacefully on their allotted reservations. Delano advocated that top quality supplies be sold to Indians at reasonable prices. The Indians would be aided by upright religious organizations who would distribute supplies and improve Indian culture. The ultimate goal of Grant's peace policy was to convert Indians to Christian civilization and to prepare them for U.S. Citizenship. These fundamental principles continued to influence Indian Peace policy for the rest of the 19th Century.[7]

Resignation (1875)[edit]

Newspapers in 1875 reported that there was corruption in the Department of Interior under Sec. Delano.[8] The New York Tribune reported that Delano's son was profiteering in the Office of Surveyor General by being awarded partnerships in surveying contracts without having been trained or rendering any cartographical service.[9] Territorial Gov. Edward M. McCook stated that Sec. Delano himself had accepted a $1,200 bribe from a Colorado banker, Jerome B. Chaffee, to secure land patents. Although there was not enough evidence to formerly charge Delano, the press put pressure on President Grant to ask for Sec. Delano's resignation.[9] Initially President Grant resisted, however, Grant finally asked for Sec. Delano's resignation in August 1875. Sec. Delano resigned office on October 15, 1875 serving until September 30, 1875. Sec. Delano was replaced by Zachariah Chandler, who quickly initiated civil service reform in the Department of Interior.[10] Sec. Delano's Department of Interior was investigated by Congress and President Grant's appointed special Commission, however, Delano was exhonerated of any charges. Sec. Chandler discovered that there were as many as 800 fraudulent land grants allowed under Sec. Delano's Department of Interior.[11]

Mount Vernon Bank President[edit]

On his resignation from Grant's cabinet, Delano returned to Mount Vernon where for the next twenty years he served as president of the First National Bank of Mount Vernon. A long time trustee of Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, where an LL.D. degree had been conferred on him, he endowed Delano hall. His Lakeholm mansion, built in 1871 at the outskirts of Mount Vernon, is now part of Mount Vernon Nazarene University.


Columbus Delano died in 1896 and was interred in Mound View Cemetery in Mount Vernon, Ohio.


  1. ^ a b c The Biographical Dictionary of America, Delano, Columbus, p. 225
  2. ^ a b The Biographical Dictionary of America, [1], p. 226
  3. ^ a b c d e f Arizona Apache Wars
  4. ^ a b Michno, pp. 248, 249
  5. ^ a b New York Times (November 11, 1871), Sec. Delano's Letter Relating to the Apaches
  6. ^ a b c Greater Yellowstone, A Brief History of Science in Yellowstone
  7. ^ a b c Prucha, pp. 481-482
  8. ^ Smith, p. 586
  9. ^ a b Smith, pp. 586-587
  10. ^ Smith, p. 587
  11. ^ McFeely-Woodward, p.150



  • Prucha, Francis Paul (1984). The Great Father: The United States Government and the American Indians. Volumes 1-2. University of Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press. ISBN 0-8032-8734-8. 

External links[edit]

  • William McFeeley, Grant: A Biography (1981)