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William A. Richards

william a richards, william a richardson
William Alford Richards March 9, 1849 – July 25, 1912 was an American surveyor, rancher and politician He was the fourth Governor of Wyoming from January 7, 1895 until January 2, 1899


  • 1 Biography
  • 2 Career
  • 3 Death
  • 4 References
  • 5 External links


Richards was born in Hazel Green, in Grant County, Wisconsin, and educated there and in Galena, Illinois During the Civil War he served as an ambulance driver for the Army of the Potomac1


As a young man Richards worked on surveying missions in Nebraska, and first came to Wyoming in 1873 when his brother Alonzo V Richards hired him as his general assistant while surveying the southern boundary of Wyoming Territory

The next year they returned for the survey of the western boundary of Wyoming Alonzo left the expedition after 99 miles, leaving William in charge of completing the survey William moved to California, to marry Harriet Alice Hunt in 1874 The couple had three daughters In 1885 he returned to Wyoming, homesteading a ranch in Big Horn County In 1886, he was elected county commissioner of Johnson County, and in 1889 President Harrison appointed him Surveyor General for Wyoming

In 1894, Richards ran for Governor on the Republican ticket He defeated William H Holliday and Lewis C Tidball, becoming the state's third elected governor He served as Governor from 1895 to 18992 Though he helped defuse the Jackson Hole Indian Crisis of 1895, Richards is most famous for pardoning Butch Cassidy3 Then a small-time rustler, Cassidy was serving a two-year term in the State Penitentiary for possession of a stolen horse worth only $5 Citizens of Fremont County, fearing Cassidy's return, asked the governor for a pardon in hopes it "would have much to do in causing him to become a law-abiding citizen," Richards wrote to a concerned rancher, Jay Torrey Richards had interviewed Butch at the Penitentiary and pardoned him after hearing reassuring words from the prisoner Cassidy "told me that he had had enough of Penitentiary life," Richards told Torrey, "and intended to conduct himself in such a way as to not again lay himself liable to arrest" What he may have meant was, he intended to not again get caught4

At the conclusion of his term he was replaced by DeForest Richards a very distant cousin, also a Republican, and was appointed assistant commissioner of the General Land Office William A Richards opened the Apache, Comanche, and Wichita Indian Reservations in Oklahoma to settlement1

Richards was appointed Commissioner of the General Land Office in 1903, serving until 1907 During his tenure he helped save Indian ruins and other important monuments from damage and destruction by asking Edgar L Hewett of New Mexico for a list of sites that should be protected Hewett sent back a Memorandum that listed Mesa Verde, Chaco Canyon and many others, and Richards had it published as a Circular The memorandum was a step toward the passage of the Antiquites Act of 1906, which has been used by American presidents to set aside innumerable National Monuments5

In 1909 Richards became the first Commissioner for Taxation for the state of Wyoming, holding the post until a change in administration a year later In 1912, he traveled to Melbourne, Australia, to start a new life after the violent deaths of his daughter Edna and her husband, Thomas Jenkins


Richards died of a heart attack soon after his arrival He had attended an honorary banquet for his old friend Elwood Mead, former State Engineer of Wyoming, who was then in charge of developing irrigation in Australia Mead accompanied Richards's body home across the ocean6 Richards is interred at Lakeview Cemetery, in Cheyenne, Wyoming


  1. ^ a b "William A Richards" National Governors Association Retrieved 19 October 2012 
  2. ^ "William A Richards" The Political Graveyard Retrieved 19 October 2012 
  3. ^ "On This Day in Wyoming History Butch Cassidy is Pardoned, 1896" Wyoming Postscripts Retrieved 2016-01-22 
  4. ^ Wyoming State Archives Letters from Judge Jesse Knight to Richards, Cassidy Pardon file Pardon itself, WAR to Jay Torrey, outgoing correspondence, March 16th, 1896
  5. ^ http://wwwcrnpsgov/archeology////sites/Antiquities/activities/saamcmhtm
  6. ^ Contemporary newspaper accounts

External linksedit

  • Wyoming Cadastral Survey Richards bio – Bureau of Land Management Wyoming
  • State biography – Wyoming State Archives, Wyoming Blue Book Wiki
  • Biography portal
  • William Alford Richards collection at Nebraska State Historical Society
  • William A Richards at Find a Grave
  • National Governors Association
  • The Political Graveyard
  • "A Surveyor in the Governor's Office: William A Richards", Wyoming Postscripts March 9, 2015 Retrieved 22 January 2016
  • Governor William A Richards papers, RG000114, Wyoming State Archives

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