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William H. Upham

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William H. Upham
18th Governor of Wisconsin
In office
January 7, 1895 – January 4, 1897
LieutenantEmil Baensch
Preceded byGeorge Wilbur Peck
Succeeded byEdward Scofield
3rd & 6th Mayor of Marshfield, Wisconsin
In office
April 1891 – April 1892
Preceded byL. A. Arnold
Succeeded byHenry Kalsched
In office
April 1886 – April 1888
Preceded byW. H. Budge
Succeeded byAdam Hafer
Member of the Marshfield City Council
In office
April 1883 – April 1886
Personal details
Born(1841-05-03)May 3, 1841
Westminster, Massachusetts
DiedJuly 2, 1924(1924-07-02) (aged 83)
Marshfield, Wisconsin
Resting placeHillside Cemetery, Marshfield, Wisconsin
Political partyRepublican
  • Mary Cornelia Kelley
  • (died 1912)
  • Grace Wilson Mason
  • (died 1975)
RelativesCalvin H. Upham (brother)
Military service
AllegianceUnited States
Branch/serviceUnited States Volunteers
Union Army
United States Army
Years of service
  • 1861–1862 (USV)
  • 1866–1869 (USA)
Battles/warsAmerican Civil War

William Henry Upham (May 3, 1841 – July 2, 1924) was an American businessman, politician, and Wisconsin pioneer. He was the 18th governor of Wisconsin and served three terms as mayor of Marshfield, Wisconsin.[1] He is the namesake of Upham, Wisconsin, in Langlade County.



Upham was born in Westminster, Massachusetts,[2] and moved to Niles, Michigan around 1852 and then Kenosha, Wisconsin, in 1853.[2] He graduated from Racine High School in Racine, Wisconsin, the first public school in Wisconsin.[3][4]

Military service


At the outbreak of the American Civil War, he joined up with the "Belle City Rifles", a Racine militia company, for service in the Union Army. His company was enrolled as Company F of the 2nd Wisconsin Infantry Regiment.[5]

Just a few months after starting his service, he was wounded during the First Battle of Bull Run by a bullet passing through his shoulder strap that supported his cartridge box just at the shoulder blade. After going to the field hospital, he was captured by Confederate forces and sent to the converted tobacco barn, Libby Prison, along with other members of his company—F. Lacy, James Anderson, John H. Anderson, and Antle Henry. Congressman Alfred Ely from New York was captured along with them.

At Libby Prison, he was attended by Dr. Lewis, the 2nd Wisconsin's surgeon. His family in Wisconsin, however, was told that he had been killed in action and held a funeral for him in Racine, Wisconsin—the captain of his company, William E. Strong, had seen him shot and reported that he believed him to be dead.

Upham was released in a prisoner exchange in 1862 and repatriated to Washington, D.C., where he was introduced to President Abraham Lincoln at a White House interview arranged by Wisconsin Senator James Rood Doolittle. Soon after, Lincoln appointed Upham to the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York, from which he graduated in 1866. Upham was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the artillery and served in the Army until November 1869,[3] having been promoted to the rank of first lieutenant in March of the same year.

While stationed at Fort Monroe, he was detailed as officer of the guard, overseeing the temporary quarters of the then-imprisoned President of the Confederate States of America, Jefferson Davis. In his memoirs, Upham related that he and Davis "usually ... past the hours until after midnight" in conversation, adding, "Mr. Davis was very pleasant and social ... full of reminiscences ... familiar with all parts of Wisconsin, he could tell me the meanings of all the Indian names of the [state]." Later in his life, Upham was a Grand Army of the Republic officer with the rank of major.

Postbellum career


After returning from military service, Upham first resided at Kewaunee, Wisconsin. In 1878, he and his brother, Charles, moved to Marshfield, Wisconsin, where they built the city's first sawmill. The Uphams flourished in the lumber industry, and his company, the Upham Manufacturing Company, came to own several businesses in the Marshfield area, including a shingle mill, grist mill, and furniture factory. In 1880, he constructed his family home, now known as the Gov. William H. Upham House and featured in the National Register of Historic Places.

Upham became one of the most prominent residents of Marshfield in the era and was elected Mayor for three years, in 1886, 1887, and 1891.[6] On June 27, 1887, a major fire started at Upham's lumber mill and spread across all of Marshfield, destroying 250 buildings—virtually the entire city.[7] Upham led reconstruction efforts and saw the city return to prosperity.[8]

In 1894, Upham was the Republican Party of Wisconsin's nominee for Governor against incumbent Democrat George Wilbur Peck. Upham won the election and became the 18th Governor of Wisconsin in January 1895. He served one term but did not seek re-election in 1896.[9] Upham instead tended to his business interests in Marshfield, as President of Upham Manufacturing and the Water, Electric Light and Power Co.[8]

Upham retired from business in 1919 and spent much of his later years in Florida.[8] He died of pneumonia in Marshfield, Wisconsin, on July 2, 1924.[2]

He was an original Companion (#03124) of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States, or the MOLLUS, founded in 1865 by and for commissioned officers who had served in the Union forces in the Civil War. His son William Jr. (1916-2009) served as Commander-in-Chief of the Order from 1985 to 1989.

The town of Upham, Wisconsin, is named for him.[10]

Personal life and family


William H. Upham was the youngest son of Alvin Upham and his wife Sarah (née Derby). His grandfather, Jonathan Upham, was a soldier in the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War and was present at the surrender of Yorktown.[11] The Uphams were direct descendants of John Upham, an English colonist who came to the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1635, and was one of the first settlers of Weymouth, Massachusetts.[11]

William had several siblings, who also emigrated from the northeast to Wisconsin, including Calvin H. Upham, who served in the Wisconsin State Assembly.[11]

William H. Upham married twice. Some two years after the death of his first wife, Mary Kelly, in 1912, Upham, then 73, undertook a voyage along the Atlantic coast, that was forced by storm to harbor at Beaufort, North Carolina. There he met and married his much younger second wife, Grace Mason, and begat two sons: William H. Upham Jr., (who was a member of Milwaukee Yacht Club until his death), and Frederick M. Upham, who survived his older sibling.[12][13][14]

On August 20, 2009, at age 93, William H. Upham Jr., died in his home in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, due to pneumonia. On December 30, 2018, at age 97, Frederick M. Upham died in Fort Collins, Colorado.[15]

Electoral history

Wisconsin Gubernatorial Election, 1894[16]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
General Election, November 6, 1894
Republican William H. Upham 196,150 52.24% +6.36%
Democratic George Wilbur Peck (incumbent) 142,250 37.89% −10.04%
Populist D. Frank Powell 25,604 6.82%
Prohibition John F. Cleghorn 11,240 2.99% −0.55%
Scattering 205 0.05%
Total votes '375,449' '100.0%' +1.05%
Republican gain from Democratic

See also



  1. ^ Lawrence Kestenbaum (July 22, 2013). "Upham, William Henry". Retrieved October 8, 2013.
  2. ^ a b c "Ex-Governor Upham Dies at Marshfield Following an Illness of Many Weeks". Oshkosh Daily Northwestern. July 2, 1924. p. 1. Retrieved July 4, 2015 – via Newspapers.com. Open access icon
  3. ^ a b "Wisconsin Governor William H. Upham". National Governors Association. Retrieved September 8, 2019.
  4. ^ "Racine High School". Retrieved September 8, 2019.
  5. ^ "Second Regiment Infantry". Roster of Wisconsin Volunteers, War of the Rebellion, 1861–1865. Office of the Adjutant General of Wisconsin. 1886. p. 363. Retrieved February 16, 2022.
  6. ^ Edwards, C. B., ed. (1907). Codification of the Charter and Ordinances of the City of Marshfield, Wisconsin. pp. 1, 2. Retrieved September 8, 2019. {{cite book}}: |work= ignored (help)
  7. ^ Knox, Al (June 27, 2012). "Wednesday Marks the 125th Anniversary of the Marshfield Fire". WSAW-TV. Retrieved September 8, 2019.
  8. ^ a b c "Upham, William Henry 1841 - 1924". Wisconsin Historical Society. August 8, 2017. Retrieved September 8, 2019.
  9. ^ "Upham, William Henry 1841 - 1924". www.wisconsinhistory.org. Archived from the original on June 11, 2011.
  10. ^ Robert E. Gard (September 9, 2015). The Romance of Wisconsin Place Names. Wisconsin Historical Society Press. ISBN 978-0-87020-708-2.
  11. ^ a b c Heywood, William S. (1893). History of Westminster Massachusetts. S. W. Huse & Co. p. 892–893. Retrieved February 15, 2022.
  12. ^ JS Online: Son has a Civil War story to tell about dad
  13. ^ "William H. And Elizabeth Ann Upham papers, 1934-1946, 1973-1974 (Selections). | Turning Points in Wisconsin History | Wisconsin Historical Society".
  14. ^ T. Pletkovich, Civil War Fathers: Sons of the Civil War in WWII (St. Petersburg: Vandamere 2007)
  15. ^ "Frederick Upham Passes Away".
  16. ^ Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau. "Election statistics". The Blue Book of the state of Wisconsin 1895 (Report). State of Wisconsin. pp. 901, 904. Retrieved September 8, 2019.
Party political offices
Preceded by Republican nominee for Governor of Wisconsin
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by Governor of Wisconsin
1895 – 1897
Succeeded by