McMullen, Governor Fayette
b. 1805-05-18
d. 1880-11-08
Governor Fayette McMullen (also spelt McMullin) was born on 18 May 1805 in Estellville, Scott County. McMullen's remembrance rests on his governorship for Washington Territory -- appointed by President Buchanan -- from 1857 to 1859.1 In McMullen's young life he was educated at private schools and spent some time as a coach driver and a teamster -- working in the family owned business.2 He moved into politics as a member of the State Senate from 1839-1849, then as an elected Democrat to the thirty-first and to the three succeeding congresses from 4 March 1849 to 3 March 1857.3
During this time, McMullen also served as a chairman on the Committee on Expenditures in the Department of the Navy and Committee on Expenditures on Public Buildings. As well as, a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 1852 and 1856.4 It was not until the year of 1857 that he was appointed to the governorship. His time as governor was limited to two years, but nonetheless he did propose a call to attention for military roads and the construction of a railroad through Washington Territory to the Pacific. During his time as governor, two major events occured in the Pacific Northwest: the discovery of gold in the Fraser River Valley of British Columbia and the defeat of Colonel Steptoe by the Indigenous group in Spokane.5
It has been suggested that, due to the emergence of the issue of “legislative divorce” in the Washington Territorial Legislature, which granted divorce without the aid of the court, McMullen accepted his appointment as governor in order to get a divorce.6 This theory has some weight because immediately after his divorce and remarriage, McMullen left Washington Territory for Virginia.7 McMullen continued in politics after the end of his governorship. He was an advocate of state's rights and at the onset of the Civil War he was elected to the Congress of the Confederate States of America.8 Not much else is known of McMullen's life after this except for his death by a train on 8 November 1880 in Wytheville, VA.
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