Francis G. Newlands

Francis G. Newlands
United States Senator
from Nevada
In office
March 4, 1903  December 24, 1917
Preceded by John P. Jones
Succeeded by Charles B. Henderson
Member of the
U.S. House of Representatives
from Nevada's At-Large district
In office
March 4, 1893  March 3, 1903
Preceded by Horace F. Bartine
Succeeded by Clarence D. Van Duzer
Personal details
Born Francis Griffith Newlands
(1846-08-28)August 28, 1846
Natchez, Mississippi
Died December 24, 1917(1917-12-24) (aged 71)
Washington, D.C.
Political party Silver (1893-1903)
Democratic (1903-1917)
Spouse(s) Clara Adelaide Sharon, died birthing 4th child in 1882. Second wife: Edith McCallister married 1888
Residence Reno
Profession Attorney, Politician

Francis Griffith Newlands (August 28, 1846  December 24, 1917) was a United States Representative and Senator from Nevada.[1] A supporter of westward expansion, he helped pass the Newlands Reclamation Act of 1902, which created the Bureau of Reclamation and boosted the agricultural industry by building dams to support irrigation in the arid Western states.[2] Newlands also founded the neighborhoods of Chevy Chase, Washington, D.C.; and Chevy Chase, Maryland.[3]

An avowed white supremacist,[4][5][6] Senator Newlands argued publicly for racial restrictions on immigration and repealing the 15th Amendment.[2][7][8]

Early life

Newlands was born in Natchez, Mississippi, on August 28, 1846, to Jessie and James Newlands, immigrants from Scotland. Sources vary as to whether Newlands was born in 1846 or 1848.[8][9][10] Newlands was the fourth of five children. His father, trained as a physician in Edinburgh, died in 1851.[8] Newlands was raised in Illinois and Washington, D.C.[9]

In 1867, he went to Yale University. In 1869, he graduated from Columbian College, which is now George Washington University Law School.[11] He was admitted to the bar in 1869.[8][12] In 1901, he received an honorary M.A. degree.[11]


In 1870, Newlands moved to San Francisco, California. He married Clara Adelaide Sharon, the daughter of Nevada senator William Sharon, in 1874.[8][10] They had three daughters.[9] Newlands helped William Sharon to reopen the Bank of California, and supervised the management of the Palace Hotel, San Francisco.[8] When Newlands’ wife died, he inherited the Sharon estate.[9] Newlands married Edith McAllister and moved to Nevada in 1888.[13]

Land developer

In the late 1880s, Newlands and his partners began to acquire farmland in northwestern Washington, D.C., and southern Montgomery County, Maryland, in order to develop a residential streetcar suburb for the nation's capital. On June 23, 1888, Newlands chartered the Rock Creek Railway for a single-track streetcar.[14] Newlands and his partners purchased over 1,700 acres and formed the Chevy Chase Land Company in 1890.[15][16] Between 1890 and 1892, the Land Company built two bridges, constructed five miles of road, and laid streetcar tracks along the road.[15] The Rock Creek Railway opened in 1892.[16]

Newlands created the Chevy Chase Springs Hotel (later the Chevy Chase School for Girls, now the 4-H Youth Conference Center), and a lake which powered an electric generating plant for the railway. Chevy Chase Lake was created by damming Coquelin Run. In 1894, an amusement park was created on the lake. Newlands ensured the community included schools, churches, country clubs, an infrastructure featuring tree-lined streets, a water supply and a sewage system. Groceries and daily purchases were brought from Washington, D.C., on the railway at no charge to residents.[16]

In 1893, Newlands began to subdivide the San Francisco property in Burlingame, California, he inherited, beginning with the Burlingame Country Club and five cottages. The following year, he added the Burlingame train station.[17][18]

U.S. Representative

Newlands represented Nevada in the United States House of Representatives from 1893 to 1903 as a member of the Silver Party. In 1898, he created the Newlands Resolution, which annexed the Republic of Hawaii, creating a new territory.[9] He supported a greater federal role in conservation and pushed for federal funding of western arid land irrigation projects.[9][19] He helped pass the Reclamation Act of 1902, also called the Newlands Act, which created what would become the Bureau of Reclamation.[9]

U.S. Senator

Newlands entered the United States Senate in 1903 as a Democrat. He supported the protection of the National Forests under the United States Forest Service in 1905, and the creation of the National Park Service in 1916.[9] He was a member of the Senate subcommittee that investigated the 1912 sinking of RMS Titanic.[20] In 1916, he was the only Democratic senator to vote against the nomination of Louis Brandeis to the U.S. Supreme Court.[21]

Newlands held white supremacist beliefs and spoke publicly in favor of restricting the rights of African-Americans.[7][22][23]

He served until his death in Washington, D.C., on December 24, 1917. He died of heart failure in his home.[24]


The Francis Griffith Newlands Memorial Fountain in Chevy Chase Circle, a federal park that divides D.C. and Maryland, honors his achievements in irrigation. In 2014, a member of the Chevy Chase advisory neighborhood commission proposed a resolution calling for the removal of Newlands’ name from the fountain because of his views on race. Others believe that Chevy Chase should not alter the monument because the change would belittle Newlands' legislative accomplishments.[25][26]

Newlands' former mansion in Reno is one of six properties in Nevada designated as a National Historic Landmark.[27] Many notable people, including Barbara Hutton in 1935, stayed at the house while waiting for their divorce paperwork to be finalized by George Thatcher, a local divorce lawyer who purchased the home in 1920.

See also


  1. NPS: Newlands
  2. 1 2 "My Nevada 5: Admired and Reviled Politicians". University of Nevada, Las Vegas. October 23, 2014. Retrieved October 6, 2015.
  3. The Papers of Frederick Law Olmsted: The Last Great Projects, 1890-1895. JHU Press. January 20, 2015.
  4. Turque, Bill (December 26, 2014). "In Chevy Chase, a conundrum spouts from fountain named after a racist senator". Washington, D.C. Washington Post. Retrieved October 6, 2015.
  5. Merleaux, April (2015). Sugar and Civilization: American Empire and the Cultural Politics of Sweetness. UNC Press Books. p. 32.
  6. Lancaster, Angela, CCHS President. Mary Sheehan, Board Member. Gail Sansbury, Director, Archive and Research Center (December 4, 2014). "Letter, CCHS to Gary Thompson" (PDF). Chevy Chase Historical Society. Retrieved February 13, 2015.
  7. 1 2 Newlands, Francis G. (1909). "A Western View of the Race Question". Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science. 34: 269.
  8. 1 2 3 4 5 6 William D. Rowley (1996). Reclaiming the Arid West: The Career of Francis G. Newlands. Indiana University Press.
  9. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 "Newlands, Francis Griffith". Encyclopedia of American Environmental History. 3.
  10. 1 2 Mark Walston (May 2010). "Call it Ishpiming". Bethesda Magazine. Retrieved October 6, 2015.
  11. 1 2 "Administrative Information". Sterling Memorial Library. Retrieved October 6, 2015.
  12. Atwood, Albert W. Francis G. Newlands: A Builder of the Nation. 1969
  13. Daily Alta California, Volume 42, Number 14249, 9 September 1888
  14. Stephen A. Hansen (2011). Kalorama Triangle: The History of a Capital Neighborhood. The History Press.
  15. 1 2 Margery L. Elfin; Paul K. Williams (2006). Forest Hills. Arcadia Publishing.
  16. 1 2 3 Lisa Fadden (July 2, 2012). "The History of Chevy Chase Lake". Chevy Chase Lake. Retrieved October 6, 2015.
  17. "Explore the History of Burlingame". City of Burlingame. Retrieved October 6, 2015.
  18. "SF Bay Area 1893-1929". Timelines. Retrieved October 6, 2015.
  19. Richard O. Davies (1999). The Maverick Spirit: Building the New Nevada. University of Nevada Press.
  20. Titanic Inquiry Project
  21. Confirm Brandeis by Vote of 47 to 22, The New York Times, June 2, 1916
  22. Fisher, Marc. "Chevy Chase, 1916: For Everyman, a New Lot in Life," Washington Post, February 15, 1999
  23. Gary, Frank Boyd (1909). "The Immigration Commission and the Immigration Problem". U.S. Government Printing Office. p. 23. Retrieved February 23, 2015. This pamphlet, consisting mostly of a transcript of a speech by Gary, includes an extract of a statement given by Newlands on February 7, 1909, to the Washington Post that includes the "race of children" assertion.
  24. "Newlands Dead of Heart Attack". The New York Times. December 25, 1917. Retrieved October 6, 2015.
  25. "NEWLANDS, Francis: Fountain at Chevy Chase Circle in Washington, D.C.". D.C. Memorials. Retrieved October 6, 2015.
  26. Aaron Kraut (December 9, 2014). "D.C. Group Tables Discussion of Newlands' Name On Chevy Chase Fountain". Bethesda Magazine. Retrieved October 6, 2015.
  27. "Senator Francis G. Newlands House". U.S. National Park Service. Retrieved 3 August 2011.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Francis G. Newlands.
United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Horace F. Bartine
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Nevada's at-large congressional district

Succeeded by
Clarence D. Van Duzer
United States Senate
Preceded by
John P. Jones
U.S. Senator (Class 3) from Nevada
Served alongside: William M. Stewart, George S. Nixon, William A. Massey, Key Pittman
Succeeded by
Charles B. Henderson
Political offices
Preceded by
Moses E. Clapp
Chairman of the United States Senate Committee on Interstate Commerce
Succeeded by
Ellison D. Smith
South Carolina
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