Washburn, Cadwallader Colden

Washburn, Cadwallader Colden

(1818–82) land agent, industrialist, miller, U.S. representative, governor; born in Livermore, Maine. In 1839 he traveled west to Davenport, Iowa, where he held several jobs and read law. In 1842 he opened a law office in Mineral Point, Wis., and in 1844 he formed a partnership with Cyrus Woodland to buy up valuable public land, which they then sold to settlers; the partnership dissolved in 1855 but Washburn continued as a developer. A Republican, he served in the U.S. House of Representatives (Wis., 1855–61), where he opposed attempts to make slavery legal. During the Civil War, he organized and led a volunteer cavalry from Wisconsin. After the war he served in the U.S. House of Representatives again (1867–71) and as governor of Wisconsin (1872–73). Although he was involved in a variety of businesses throughout his career, including lumber and railroads, he made his greatest contribution with his Minneapolis Mill Co., which became one of the largest flour-millers in the U.S.A. Among his philanthropies were the University of Wisconsin's Washburn Observatory, a public library in La Crosse, Wis., and an orphan asylum in Minneapolis, Minn.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.