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James Madison Harvey

Politician, governor. Republican. Born: September 21, 1833, Salt Sulphur Springs, Virginia (now West Virginia). Died: April 15, 1894. Served in U.S. Senate: January 11, 1869, to January 13, 1873. Served as 5th Governor of Kansas: January 11, 1869, to January 13, 1873.

James Madison HarveyJames M. Harvey succeeded Robert Crozier as U.S. Senator. Harvey moved to Kansas in 1859 at age 26. A farmer and land surveyor by occupation, Harvey located in Riley County. After the Civil War, he served in the legislature and became the state's fifth governor in 1869. Harvey returned to his native Virginia during the 1880s but after a few years moved back to Vinton where he died on April 15, 1894.

James M. Harvey was born 21 September 1833 near Salt Sulphur Springs, Monroe County, Virginia, today part of West Virginia. He was the son of Thomas Jefferson Harvey and Mary Walker Harvey and grew up with four brothers. He was educated at common and select schools throughout Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa. Harvey’s ancestors for many generations were Virginians and his paternal ancestor in America was Henry Harvey who came from England around the year 1725. His parents removed from the Old Dominion when their son James was just an infant; settled first in Rush County, Indiana; later moved to Iowa; and finally on to Adams County, Illinois, where they both died leaving eight children with an abundance of heritage. Their household included a large family of orphaned nephews and nieces who lived and worked together until they left for independence.

By the age of ten his favorite pastime was to engulf himself in a book of history so large that he could hardly handle the sheer volume. Harvey was known for his extraordinary memory and to the day of his death was very accurate in recalling historical events.

James Harvey initially trained as a surveyor and civil engineer and harbored a thirst for knowledge of history of any kind. James Harvey married Charlotte Richardson Cutter in 1854 while he was in Adams County teaching school and surveying land.

While Harvey resided in Adams County, he joined a party heading west to take part in the great Pike’s Peak gold strike in Colorado. However, along the trail his caravan came across too many disappointed miners, so he decided to turn around at Fort Kearney, Nebraska, and went back to Riley County, Kansas. There, in 1859, he obtained a land preemption claim near Vinton, moved his family to Kansas, and secured numerous jobs near the Fort Riley Military Reservation to pay for his land; he earned money by teaching school, quarrying rock, and driving freight wagons. He expanded his land hold after he became a full time rancher. Originally a Whig partisan, he became a Republican by the time he settled in Kansas.

James and Charlotte Harvey had four sons and four daughters, all born in Riley County.

As a Kansas citizen Harvey became interested in the affairs of public welfare and was recognized as a person of patriotic spirit, keen ability and of extraordinary intelligence. He consulted on several matters of importance that led to admission of Kansas as a free (non-slavery) State.

When the Civil War broke out in 1861 he enlisted in the Union Army and quickly obtained the rank of captain; he later became a brigadier general in the Kansas State Militia. Harvey had long been firm on anti-slavery and fought bravely as a Union soldier in the Civil War. He served as captain of Company G, 10th Kansas Volunteer Infantry, and took part in the battle of Prairie Grove in Arkansas. Harvey fought in subsequent campaigns throughout Missouri, Arkansas, and the Indian Territory. In 1864, Captain Harvey along with his entire regiment was mustered out of the service but subsequently was commissioned a colonel of the 14th Regiment, Kansas State Militia, and called upon to repel the raid of Confederate General Sterling Price.

In the fall of 1865, he returned to his farmland. Harvey was elected to the Kansas State Legislature that same year. While a legislator he rendered sound advice in the untangling of several problems left by the War to be resolved and the unfinished state of Kansas affairs. In 1867 - 68 he was elected a member of the Kansas State Senate. Republicans opposed to Thaddeus H. Walker, candidate of the Liberal Republican party, re-elected Harvey to represent the Seventh District in the State Senate. As an inspiring legislator he gained much admiration and respect from the senior leadership of the commonwealth. Prior to the Republican primaries in 1868, Harvey secured immense support for the gubernatorial nomination in more then a dozen counties. In the fall of 1868, Harvey was elected the Republican candidate for governor and won; he was re-elected to that office in 1872. Good “Old Honesty,” as he was called, won the hearts and minds of the Kansas people and its Legislature and sailed through two terms as governor. He was the first Kansas governor to serve two full terms and the first governor to later represent Kansas in the United States Senate. He was also the first to serve in the newly built State Capitol, and he occupied the first completed section of the east wing. The Governor lived at the Teft House residence hotel at Seventh Street and Kansas Avenue while his wife resided on the family farm near Vinton.

While Harvey was governor the cattle trade grew immensely and the cowboy and the “longhorn” became the order of the Kansas prairies. This activity brought new violence and recklessness among the rich cowmen and local citizens where the legends of the old Wild West began. Sheriffs and many locally deputized lawmen were kept employed by the lawless disorder and gun slinging in some western counties. Saloons, dance halls, and gambling dens ran wild for the benefit of the cowboy and lawless thugs. But law and order gradually ruled the day and community prosperity increased. The shipments of cattle from Wichita and Dodge City were seldom less then 200,000 head a year. The construction of the rail system in Kansas by March of 1869 enabled the first train on the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad (the present Burlington Northern Santa Fe) to reach Topeka, and on 1 September 1870, the Union Pacific Railway (now the Union Pacific Railroad) reached Denver, Colorado. This remarkable feat of the railway system allowed the State population to dramatically increase, thus making Kansas eligible for three representatives in Congress. The welcomed advertisements seeking new settlers were written in several languages, and the Kansas Pacific Railway (now part of the Union Pacific) became the primary vessel that brought several hundreds of foreigners from across the world to Kansas. The emigrants were settled in colonies along with their old - world customs and legends that are today preserved intact on the prairies. During the administration of Governor Harvey, the Grand Duke Alexis of Russia with his entourage explored and hunted on the Kansas plains. The Grand Duke’s party was received and honored in Topeka by Governor Harvey and the Legislature. In 1870, the Labor Party organized and held its first convention of that year promoting a two thousand dollar tax exemption and the inherent right to land ownership. While Kansas was rapidly growing as an agricultural State, the need for an organized system of cooperation, protectionism, and legal advocacy was recognized, especially for large farms. Appropriate and streamlined polices of cattle and crop policing that had proven effective elsewhere were adopted.

On 2 February 1874, Harvey was elected to the United States Senate to serve the remaining term of Alexander Caldwell upon his resignation. While United States senator for only three years, he held many important positions: chairman of the Select Committee to Examine the Appropriateness of the Many Branches of the Civil Service; a member of the Committee for Public Lands, Agriculture, and Mining; and service on the Select Committee for Regulating Levee Systems of the Mississippi.

By 1884, Governor Harvey’s health began to decline, and the family moved to Norfolk, Virginia, for three years and again to Richmond, Virginia, for three years in hope that the warmer climate would aid him. In 1890, Governor Harvey moved back to the farm in Riley County where he remained until his death in 1894, the only exception being the summer and fall of 1891 when he did government surveying throughout south and southwest Kansas.

James Harvey died on 15 April 1894 of Bright’s Disease at his farm near Vinton in Riley County; he is buried at Highland Cemetery in Junction City, Kansas. His wife and six of his children survived him. Kansas mourned their finest and brightest man of the times who sacrificed so much for his beloved State of Kansas. The Honorable Edward Secrest once wrote of Governor Harvey: “Whether driving oxen in breaking the prairie, or moving among his distinguished peers in the United States Senate chamber; whether offering shelter to the many early settlers who called at his home, or conferring with councilors of state at the capital, he remained a true son of the Kansas prairie in mood, heart and soul, and always in republican simplicity.”


Entry: Harvey, James Madison

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: June 2011

Date Modified: February 2017

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.