Joseph W. McCorkle

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Joseph Walker McCorkle (June 24, 1819 – March 18, 1884) was a California congressman. He would serve as the 1851-1853 U.S. Representative for the second district of California.


Born at Piqua, Ohio, he attended Kenyon College at Gambier, Ohio, and then studied law thereafter being admitted to the bar approximately 1842 and then moved to Dayton, Ohio where he practiced law in the private sector. Here he received a public sector appointment and from 1845 to 1849, he served as the U.S. Postmaster of Dayton.

As word of the discovery of gold in California spread eastward, in 1849 he left his Office in Ohio and moved to San Francisco, California. Returning to his legal experience, in 1850, he made an unsuccessful attempt to seek Office as a Judge in the 8th Judicial District.

However, in that very year of 1850, the field of politics proved to be far more rewarding. In 1850, he secured Office for the term of 1850-1852 wherein he served in the State of California Assembly. In 1850, he also secured Office for the term of 1851-1853 in the 32nd U.S. Congress where he would serve as a U.S. Representative for the 2nd District of California; in 1852, he failed in his attempt to seek re-election.

Perhaps better known for what he did after his term in Office had ended than during that term in Office, on June 1st of 1853, he fought a duel with the still California Democratic Party U.S. Senator William M. Gwin over the question of alleged mismanagement of federal patronage; no human died in the duel, however, a donkey met an unfortunate fate. (See Entry for William M. Gwin)

After failing to get re-election, in 1852-1853, he left San Francisco, California and moved to Marysville, California where he again returned to his legal background. In 1853, he was appointed Judge to the 9th Judicial District where he served in 1853-1857. In 1855, the 'Siren Call of Politics' returned to him but he was unsuccessful in an attempt to seek an Office as a U.S. Senator.

In 1857-1860, he left Marysville and returned to San Francisco where he again practiced law in the private sector. In 1860, just after the 1859 discovery of the Comstock Lode, he would leave California forever and would move to Virginia City, Nevada where he would continue the practice of law in the private sector from 1860 to 1870. Then in 1870, he moved still further eastward moving from Nevada to Washington, D.C. where he would practice law before the American-Mexican Claims Commission which was constituted back on July 4th of 1868.

Then in 1884, he died while living in Branchville, Maryland. However, despite his travels across the United States, he would be interred at the place of his birth, Piqua, Ohio, at the Forest Hill Cemetery.

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U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Edward Gilbert
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from California's at-large congressional district

1851-1853
Succeeded by
James A. McDougall