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John White Geary

Politician, territorial governor. Democrat. Republican. Born: December 30, 1819, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania. Died: February 8, 1873, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Served as 3rd territorial governor of Kansas: September 9, 1856, to March 12, 1857.

John White GearyJohn White Geary was born December 30, 1819, in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania. His father taught an academy, which he attended before entering Jefferson College at Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, studying civil engineering. After his graduation in 1841 and the death of his father, Geary worked as a clerk in a Pittsburgh store and taught school. He eventually found work as a civil engineer in Pennsylvania and Kentucky. Geary was a tall man, standing 6 feet 6 inches. During the Mexican-American War he raised the "American Highlanders" company, a part of the Second Pennsylvania infantry, and was appointed lieutenant colonel. Geary was promoted to colonel for his efforts in battle at Mexico City, when he was wounded five times. When Mexican capitol fell, Geary was appointed commandant of the city. He was lured to California after gold was discovered. In 1849 Geary was appointed postmaster of San Francisco. A few months later he was elected the first alcalde of the city, then the first mayor. In 1852 Geary returned to Pennsylvania. On July 31, 1856, Geary was appointed governor of Kansas Territory. He resigned March 12, 1857, leaving at night to escape assassination by members of his political party. Geary returned to his farm in Pennsylvania. When the Civil War began in 1861 Geary raised the 28th Pennsylvania Infantry and was commissioned colonel. He was later promoted to brigadier and eventually major general. He commanded the "White Star" division of the 20th army corps in the battle of Atlanta. In 1864 Geary was appointed by General William T. Sherman military governor of Savannah. In 1866 he was elected governor of Pennsylvania, and was reelected the following term. Geary died at February 8, 1873, in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, just 18 days after the end of his second term. His term as territorial governor helped to end the power of the proslavery party in Kansas and move toward its admission as a free state. Geary County is named for him.

Entry: Geary, John White

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: May 2012

Date Modified: May 2012

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