Joseph W. Fifer
|Joseph Wilson Fifer|
|19th Governor of Illinois|
|Preceded by||Richard J. Oglesby|
|Succeeded by||John Peter Altgeld|
|Commissioner of the Interstate Commerce Commission|
November 14, 1899 – December 30, 1905
|Preceded by||William J. Calhoun|
|Succeeded by||Franklin Knight Lane|
|Born||October 28, 1840
|Died||August 6, 1938(aged 97)|
“Private Joe” Fifer was born at Staunton, Virginia on October 28, 1840. At the age of 16, in 1856, he moved with his family to Danvers, Illinois and worked in his father’s brickyard for several years.
Fifer enlisted as a Private in the 33rd Illinois Infantry at the start of the Civil War and was severely wounded at Jackson, Mississippi during General Grant’s Vicksburg campaign. He refused a discharge and spent the rest of the war guarding a prison boat.
After the war, Fifer married Gertrude Lewis, and had three children. The oldest child died in infancy, leaving Herman and Florence. He studied law at Illinois Wesleyan University and became the tax collector at Danvers Township. He served as the City Attorney of Bloomington, Illinois and as a state’s attorney as well.
In 1880, he was elected to the state senate where he served for seven years.
His name was elevated to state level after fighting with General John Black, the pension commissioner, when the latter tried to remove him as a “typical Republican politician who did not deserve a pension.” Fifer’s pension was $24 a month. Due to his celebrity status "Private Joe" Fifer was elected Governor of Illinois in 1889. One of his notable acts as Governor was to commute the life sentence of murderer Neill Cream, allowing his release, and freeing Cream to commit at least four more murders in London.
- McLean County Museum of History The Fifer-Bohrer Papers Collection
- Shore, W. Teignmouth: "Thomas Neill Cream", in "Famous Trials 5", Hodge, James H. (ed), Penguin: 1955
- McLaren, Angus: A Prescription For Murder: The Victorian Serial Killings of Dr. Thomas Neill Cream (Chicago series on sexuality, history, and society) Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1995, ISBN 0-226-56068-6, p.43
- bio squib at Illinois National Guard
- bio squib at Daily Pantagraph
- Joseph Fifer House (in Bloomington)
- Fifer-Bohrer Papers Collection - McLean County Museum of History archives