John Wesley Davis

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John W. Davis
Davis as painted by W.D. Murphy, 1911.
4th Governor of Oregon Territory
In office
May 14, 1853 – August 1, 1854
Appointed byFranklin Pierce
Preceded byGeorge Law Curry (acting)
Succeeded byGeorge Law Curry
3rd United States Commissioner to the Great Qing Empire
In office
January 3, 1848 – May 25, 1850
Appointed byJames K. Polk
Preceded byAlexander Hill Everett
Succeeded byHumphrey Marshall
17th Speaker of the United States House of Representatives
In office
December 1, 1845 – March 4, 1847
Preceded byJohn W. Jones
Succeeded byRobert C. Winthrop
Member of the
U.S. House of Representatives
from Indiana
In office
March 4, 1835 – March 3, 1837
March 4, 1839 – March 3, 1841
March 4, 1843 – March 3, 1847
Preceded byJohn Ewing (2nd)
John Ewing (2nd)
David Wallace (6th)
Succeeded byJohn Ewing (2nd)
Richard W. Thompson (2nd)
George Grundy Dunn (6th)
Constituency2nd district (1835–37)
2nd district (1839–41)
6th district (1843–47)
Speaker of the Indiana House of Representatives
In office
December 1, 1851 – March 7, 1852
Preceded byEbenezer Dumont
Succeeded byWilliam Hayden English
In office
December 6, 1841 – January 31, 1842
Preceded bySamuel Judah
Succeeded byThomas Jefferson Henley
In office
December 3, 1832 – February 4, 1833
Preceded byHarbin H. Moore
Succeeded byNathan B. Palmer
Member of the Indiana House of Representatives
In office
Personal details
John Wesley Davis

(1799-04-16)April 16, 1799
New Holland, Pennsylvania, US
DiedAugust 22, 1859(1859-08-22) (aged 60)
Carlisle, Indiana, US
Resting placeCity Cemetery
Political partyDemocratic
Other political
Alma materUMB
CommitteesCommittee on Public Lands

John Wesley Davis (April 16, 1799 – August 22, 1859) was an American physician and Democratic politician, active in the mid-1800s. He is best known for serving as Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, Governor of the Oregon Territory, and as a four-time member of the Indiana state legislature.

Early life and education[edit]

Davis was born in New Holland, Pennsylvania, on April 16, 1799, and later moved to Shippensburg, Pennsylvania, with his parents.[1][2] Davis graduated from Baltimore Medical College in 1821, then moved to Carlisle, Indiana, in 1823 and practiced medicine there.[2] He married Ann Hoover on November 19, 1820.

His daughter, Caroline Davis, married James C. Denny, Indiana Attorney General (1872–1874). Their son, Frank Lee Denny, was a colonel of the U.S. Marine Corps who served in the Egyptian Expedition of 1882, the U.S. intervention in Panama in 1885, and the Spanish–American War.[3]

Political career[edit]

State politics[edit]

Davis started his political career as an unsuccessful candidate for the Indiana Senate in 1828. He instead became a state court judge in Indiana from 1829 to 1831. He was elected a member of the Indiana House of Representatives four times, serving terms beginning in 1831, 1841, 1851, and 1857.[1] He was Speaker of the Indiana House from 1832 to 1833 and again from 1841 to 1842 and 1851 to 1852.[1]

National politics[edit]

He served as a U.S. Representative from Indiana in the 24th, 26th, 28th and 29th Congresses and was Speaker of the U.S. House in the 29th Congress.[1] From 1848 to 1850 he was U.S. Diplomatic Commissioner to China.[1] In 1852 he was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention from Indiana.[1]


Davis was appointed to the office of Governor of the Oregon Territory in 1853 by President Franklin Pierce. His appointment was not welcomed by Oregonians, however, and he left office just over a year later, with the position returning to his predecessor, Secretary of the Territory George Law Curry.


Davis died in Carlisle, Indiana on August 22, 1859.[1] He was buried at City Cemetery in Carlisle.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "The Political Graveyard: Index to Politicians: Davis, J." The Political Graveyard. Retrieved October 31, 2007.
  2. ^ a b Biographical Directory of the United States Congress: DAVIS, John Wesley
  3. ^ Macfarland, Henry Brown Floyd (1908). District of Columbia. Washington D.C.: Potomac Press.

External links[edit]

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Indiana's 2nd congressional district

Succeeded by
Preceded by Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Indiana's 2nd congressional district

Succeeded by
Preceded by Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Indiana's 6th congressional district

Succeeded by