Francis A. Chenoweth

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Francis A. Chenoweth
Francis A. Chenoweth.jpg
Chenoweth as Speaker of the Oregon House
5th Speaker of the Oregon House of Representatives
In office
Preceded by Isaac R. Moores, Jr.
Succeeded by John Whiteaker
Speaker of the Washington House of Representatives
In office
Associate Justice of the Washington Supreme Court
In office
Appointed by Franklin Pierce
Preceded by Victor Munroe
Personal details
Born May 24, 1819
Franklin County, Ohio
Died November 29, 1899(1899-11-29) (aged 80)
Kings Valley, Oregon
Spouse(s) Hannah Logan
Elizabeth Findley

Francis A. Chenoweth (May 24, 1819 – November 29, 1899) was an American lawyer and politician in the Pacific Northwest. A native of Ohio, he lived in Iowa and Wisconsin before immigrating to the Oregon Territory. There he served in the legislature of the Oregon Territory and then the Washington Territory, including serving as Speaker of the Washington House of Representatives. A Democrat, he then served on the Washington Supreme Court before returning to Oregon where he was elected to the Oregon House of Representatives and was selected as Speaker of the body for one session.

Early life[edit]

Francis Chenoweth was born in Clark County, Ohio, on May 24, 1819, to Rachel Morgan and Thomas C. Chenowith.[1] He moved to Grant County, Wisconsin, where in 1842 to the age of 22 passed the Wisconsin bar.[2][3] That year he also married Maud S. Hannah Logan of Iowa, and had two children while living in both Iowa and Wisconsin.[1]

In 1849, he moved to the Oregon Territory and the next year settled on the north side of the Columbia River.[3] Before moving he married Elizabeth Ann Findley in Oregon City on March 27, 1850, and they had eight children.[1] Chenoweth and family settled at the new community of Cascade, located at the lower set of rapids on the river.[4] There he operated a business portaging cargo and passengers around the set of rapids.[3] This consisted of a mule powered train pulling cars over a two to four mile (6 km) track.[5] Opened in 1851, it was the first railroad in what is now the state of Washington.[5]

Political career[edit]

In 1852, Chenoweth was elected as a Democrat to the Oregon Territorial Legislature representing Clark and Lewis counties.[6] Both counties were north of the Columbia, and while in office from late 1852 to early 1853 he advocated to create a new territory on that side of the river.[3][6] On March 2, 1853, Washington Territory was created out of the northern and eastern portions of Oregon Territory, eliminating those counties.[7] The following year Chenoweth was elected to the Washington House of Representatives, again representing Clark County.[8] That session he served as the Speaker of the House.[2]

In Spring 1854, he was appointed by United States President Franklin Pierce to Washington Territory’s Supreme Court to replace Victor Munroe.[2][9] Chenoweth served as judge on the high court until 1858.[3] He moved north to Island County after leaving the court and in 1859 was again elected to the House.[8]

In 1863, Chenoweth returned south to what was then the state of Oregon, settling in the Willamette Valley at Corvallis in Benton County.[3] He helped to incorporate the Oregon Central Railroad in 1865 as a shareholder.[10] Now a Republican, he was elected to the Oregon House in 1866 representing Benton County.[11] That session he also served as Speaker of the House.[3] Chenoweth served as the district attorney of Oregon’s second judicial district (Benton County) in 1872.[3]

Later life and family[edit]

Chenoweth continued to practice law in Corvallis and live there until the 1880s.[1] He helped organize and later served as the president of the Corvallis & Yaquina Bay Railroad.[3] By 1885, he moved to the Kings Valley part of Benton County.[1] His children were Ella, Lloyd, Elizabeth, William Preston, Lindus, Ross Francis, Heber, Somerville Samuel, Mary Theresa, and Robert Ulysses S. Grant Chenoweth.[1] Francis A. Chenoweth died on November 29, 1899, at the age of 80 in Kings Valley and was buried at Kings Valley Cemetery.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Benton County Genealogical Society. Pioneers of South Benton County Oregon. Retrieved on December 17, 2008.
  2. ^ a b c Lang, H. O. (1885). History of the Willamette Valley Being a Description of the Valley and Its Resources, with an Account of Its Discovery and Settlement by White Men, and Its Subsequent History, Together with Personal Reminiscences of Its Early Pioneers (PDF). Portland, Oregon: Himes & Lang. p. 701. ISBN 0-665-15239-6. OCLC 16739827. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Corning, Howard M. (1989) Dictionary of Oregon History. Binfords & Mort Publishing. p. 52.
  4. ^ Bancroft, Hubert Howe; Frances Fuller Victor (1890). History of Washington, Idaho, and Montana 1845–1889. History Co. p. 37. 
  5. ^ a b Herrington, Gregg (August 23, 2008). "Francis Chenoweth builds Washington's first railroad in July 1851". 
  6. ^ a b 1852 Regular Session (4th Territorial). Oregon State Archives. Retrieved on December 18, 2008.
  7. ^ Weber, Dennis. “The Creation of Washington Territory”, Columbia Magazine, Fall 2003; Vol. 17, No. 3.
  8. ^ a b Levesque, Ellen. “Members of the Territorial Legislature 1854 – 1887”, Washington State Library, Olympia, WA, October 1989.
  9. ^ Prosser, William Farrand (1903). A History of the Puget Sound Country: Its Resources, Its Commerce and Its People: with Some Reference to Discoveries and Explorations in North America from the Time of Christopher Columbus Down to that of George Vancouver in 1792 ... The Lewis Publishing Company. p. 206. 
  10. ^ Hubert Howe, Bancroft; Frances Auretta Fuller Barrett Victor (1888). History of Oregon. The History Co. p. 698. 
  11. ^ 1866 Regular Session (4th). Oregon State Archives. Retrieved on December 18, 2008.

External links[edit]