Willis Gorman Biography - Page 1

Willis Arnold Gorman, the second territorial governor of Minnesota, was born January 12, 1816, in Fleming County, Kentucky. He was the only child of David and Elizabeth Gorman, both of Irish descent. In 1835, the family moved to Bloomington, Indiana, where Gorman studied law at Indiana University. In January, 1836, he married Martha Stone in Bloomington.

Soon after being admitted to the bar, Gorman entered politics as the clerk (1838), and then as enrolling secretary (1839-40) of the Indiana Senate. He served as a member of the Indiana House of Representatives from 1841-44.

When the Mexican War broke out, Gorman enlisted as a private, but was later appointed as a major in the 3rd Indiana Regiment. When his term of service ended, he re-enlisted and was appointed colonel. His regiment served in the capture of Huamantla and in several significant battles.

Upon his return, Gorman's political career advanced to the national level. He served as a Democratic delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives from 1849 to 1853. As a representative, he supported Franklin Pierce in his successful bid for the presidency and was rewarded with the governorship of the Minnesota Territory.

While territorial governor, Gorman also served as the superintendent of Indian affairs for Minnesota Territory and was a key figure in negotiating several treaties, including the removal in 1853 of the Sioux bands from opposite St. Paul to Redwood and Yellow Medicine on the Minnesota River. During his term he also set up a system of taxing the railroads in return for granting the railroads land for expansion.