Stephen Wheeler Downey

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Stephen Wheeler Downey
Stephen Wheeler Downey (Wyoming Congressman).jpg
Member of the Wyoming House of Representatives
In office
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Wyoming Territory's at-large district
In office
March 4, 1879 – March 3, 1881
Preceded by William Wellington Corlett
Succeeded by Morton Everel Post
Wyoming Territory Auditor
In office
Wyoming Territory Treasurer
In office
Personal details
Born (1839-07-25)July 25, 1839
Westernport, Maryland
Died August 3, 1902(1902-08-03) (aged 63)
Albany County, Wyoming
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Evangeline Victoria Owen (1853–1937)
Children 10 (including Sheridan Downey and Dr. June Etta Downey
Profession Attorney
Military service
Allegiance  United States
Service/branch  United States Army
Union Army
Years of service 1861-1863
Rank Colonel
Unit 3rd Maryland Infantry, Potomac Home Brigade

Civil War

Stephen Wheeler Downey (July 25, 1839 – August 3, 1902) was a lawyer and politician in Wyoming. A Union Army veteran of the American Civil War, he was an early white settler of Wyoming, and served as its Treasurer, Auditor, and Delegate to Congress. After statehood, Downey continued to serve in local and state office, including Speaker of the Wyoming House of Representatives.

Downey was a founder of the University of Wyoming, and the longtime president of its board of trustees.

Early life[edit]

Downey was born in Westernport, Maryland on July 25, 1839. He was educated locally in preparation for a career as a lawyer, and then began to study law.

Civil War service[edit]

in 1861, Downey interrupted his studies and enlisted as a private in the 3rd Maryland Infantry, Potomac Home Brigade. He later received a commission and advanced through the ranks to lieutenant colonel as second in command of the regiment. He was discharged after the Battle of Harpers Ferry due to wounds he sustained in the fighting, and was promoted to colonel at his discharge.

After leaving the Army, Downey completed his law studies; he was admitted to the bar in Washington, D.C. in 1863.

Move to Wyoming[edit]

In 1869, he moved to the Territory of Wyoming and established a law practice in Laramie. He served as the prosecuting attorney of Albany County, Wyoming in 1869 and 1870. He also opened a survey office in Laramie and was assigned to six government survey contracts between 1870 and 1873. He was elected as a member of the Wyoming Territorial Council in 1871, 1875, and 1877, as treasurer of the territory from 1872 to 1875, and as auditor of the territory from 1877 to 1879.

Congressional delegate[edit]

He was elected as a Republican delegate to the United States Congress from Wyoming Territory and served from 1879 to 1881.

Later career[edit]

He was elected as a member of the territorial house of representatives in 1886 and 1890, was a member of the state constitutional convention in 1889, and was a member of the state house of representatives in 1893 and 1895, serving as Speaker of the House in 1895.

In 1886, Downey sponsored the bill that created the University of Wyoming and became known as "The Father of the University of Wyoming". From 1891 to 1897 he was a board of trustees member, and he was the longtime president of the board.

From 1899 until his death he served as the prosecuting attorney for Albany County.[1]

Death and burial[edit]

Downey died in Denver, Colorado on August 14, 1902. He was buried in the Greenhill Cemetery in Laramie.


He married Evangeline Victoria Owen (1853–1937) in Laramie, Wyoming in 1872 and they had ten children. His son, Sheridan Downey (1884–1961) became a lawyer and United States Senator from California. His daughter, Dr. June Etta Downey (1875–1932) became a prominent psychologist, and a professor of psychology and philosophy at the University of Wyoming.[2]

The Downey Family Papers (1866–1997) are located at the University of Wyoming's American Heritage Center Archives.


  1. ^ Ritter, Charles F. (1989). American Legislative Leaders, 1850-1910. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press. p. 189. 
  2. ^ Bazar, Jennifer (2010). "Profile: June Etta Downey". Psychology's Feminist Voices Multimedia Internet Archive. Retrieved 18 July 2011. 

External links[edit]

United States Congress. "DOWNEY, Stephen Wheeler (id: D000470)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.  - From the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.

Further reading[edit]

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
William Wellington Corlett
Delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives
from Wyoming Territory's at-large congressional district

March 4, 1879 – March 3, 1881
Succeeded by
Morton Everel Post