Samuel J. Kirkwood

Samuel Jordan Kirkwood
14th United States Secretary of the Interior
In office
March 8, 1881  April 17, 1882
President James A. Garfield
Chester A. Arthur
Preceded by Carl Schurz
Succeeded by Henry M. Teller
United State Senator
from Iowa
In office
March 4, 1877  March 7, 1881
Preceded by George G. Wright
Succeeded by James W. McDill
In office
January 13, 1866  March 3, 1867
Preceded by James Harlan
Succeeded by James Harlan
5th & 9th Governor of Iowa
In office
January 13, 1876  February 1, 1877
Lieutenant Joshua G. Newbold
Preceded by Cyrus C. Carpenter
Succeeded by Joshua G. Newbold
In office
January 11, 1860  January 14, 1864
Lieutenant Nicholas J. Rusch (1860-1862)
John R. Needham (1862-1864)
Preceded by Ralph P. Lowe
Succeeded by William M. Stone
Member of the Iowa Senate
In office
Personal details
Born (1813-12-20)December 20, 1813
Harford County, Maryland, US
Died September 1, 1894(1894-09-01) (aged 80)
Iowa City, Iowa, US
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Jane Clark
Profession Politician, Miller, Lawyer, Clerk, Teacher

Samuel Jordan Kirkwood (December 20, 1813  September 1, 1894), was an American politician best known as Iowa's American Civil War Governor. He also served in the U.S. Senate and as U.S. Secretary of the Interior.

Early life and career

Coralville mills in 1870; Kirkwood's mill on the right.

Samuel J. Kirkwood was born in 1813 in Harford County, Maryland. At age 17, he began teaching school and had as one of his pupils his cousin Daniel Kirkwood, who later achieved prominence as a mathematician and astronomer.[1] Samuel spent part of his youth in Washington, D.C.,[2] then joined his father in moving to Ohio in 1835.[3] There he became a well-known anti-slavery Republican. He was elected to several state offices and worked closely with Thomas Bartley, the future governor of Ohio, in the 1840s.

Jane and Samuel Kirkwood, 1852.

In 1855 Kirkwood moved to Iowa, living northwest of Iowa City, and became involved with the Clark family, also from Ohio, in a milling venture, and then with the Clark and Lucas families in land speculation. Kirkwood married Jane Clark, the sister of Ezekiel Clark, and thus became the brother-in-law of Edward Lucas, son of Robert Lucas. Although Kirkwood intended to leave politics behind him in Ohio, he took an interest in the newly founded Republican Party. Summoned from his mill at Coralville and still coated in flour dust, Kirkwood gave a rousing speech at the founding meeting of the Iowa Republican Party in February 1856. Many people credited Kirkwood’s speech and subsequent work with the success of the Republican Party in Iowa; that year he was elected to the Iowa Senate serving from 1856 to 1859.

Governorship: The Coppock Incident and the Civil War

In 1859 Kirkwood was nominated for governor and defeated Augustus C. Dodge after a bitter campaign which focused on the slave issue. In 1860, Kirkwood’s first year in office, the John Brown raid on Harpers Ferry further polarized the nation over slavery, and Kirkwood was clearly on the side of the militant abolitionists. When Barclay Coppock, a youth from Springdale, who was part of Brown’s raid, fled to Iowa, Kirkwood refused to accept extradition papers for him from Virginia, and allowed Coppock to escape.

During the Civil War, Kirkwood gained national attention for his extraordinary efforts to secure soldiers and supplies from Iowa for the Union Army. A strong supporter of President Abraham Lincoln's policies during the American Civil War, he was active in raising and equipping dozens of regiments of infantry, as well as cavalry and artillery, for the Union Army.

In 1862, he attended the Loyal War Governors' Conference in Altoona, Pennsylvania, which ultimately gave Lincoln support for his Emancipation Proclamation.[4]

Senate and Secretary of the Interior

After he left office in 1864, Kirkwood moved to a new brick house on Wyoming Road in Iowa City (now Kirkwood Avenue) and practiced law. About this time Kirkwood sold his share of the mill, part of it to his brother, William, and part to Valentine Miller. In 1865-1867, he served the remainder of James Harlan’s term in the U.S. Senate, and served in the Senate again from 1877 to 1881.[5] Between his separate terms as a Senator, he was again the Governor of Iowa from 1876 to 1877. He resigned as governor in 1877 to begin his second term as U.S. Senator. In 1881, Kirkwood resigned his Senate seat to become Secretary of the Interior under President James Garfield. He served as Interior Secretary until 1882. He unsuccessfully ran for Congress in 1886.

Kirkwood died in 1894 in Iowa City, and is buried in Oakland Cemetery.


Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids is named for the former Iowa Governor and Senator. The town of Kirkwood, Illinois is named for him as well. Along with Nobel Peace Prize winner and agronomist Norman Borlaug, Kirkwood's sculptured likeness is maintained among the two coveted statues apportioned to each state on display under the rotunda in Statuary Hall in the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C. Kirkwood Avenue in Iowa City, where he lived for much of his political career, is named for him, as is the Kirkwood Hotel in Des Moines. Kirkwood Elementary is located in Coralville, where Kirkwood ran his mill. A small, neglected monument once stood near the Morningside entrance to Iowa City High School, but this was removed in 2010. Kirkwood Boulevard in Davenport is the route of the internationally known foot race, the Bix 7.


  1. Clark, Dan Elbert, Samuel Jordan Kirkwood, Iowa City, Iowa: Iowa State Historical Society, 1917, p. 8.
  2. Id., pp 7-9
  3. Id., p. 12.
  4. general histories of Kirkwood's rise are included in Lathrop (1893)and Clark (1917)
  5. Aurner 1912:415; Parish 1921


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Political offices
Preceded by
Ralph P. Lowe
Governor of Iowa
January 11, 1860 January 14, 1864
Succeeded by
William M. Stone
Preceded by
Cyrus C. Carpenter
Governor of Iowa
January 13, 1876 February 1, 1877
Succeeded by
Joshua G. Newbold
Preceded by
Carl Schurz
U.S. Secretary of the Interior
Served under: James A. Garfield, Chester A. Arthur

March 8, 1881 April 17, 1882
Succeeded by
Henry M. Teller
United States Senate
Preceded by
James Harlan
U.S. Senator (Class 3) from Iowa
January 13, 1866 March 4, 1867
Served alongside: James W. Grimes
Succeeded by
James Harlan
Preceded by
George G. Wright
U.S. Senator (Class 2) from Iowa
March 4, 1877 March 7, 1881
Served alongside: William B. Allison
Succeeded by
James W. McDill
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