About Alvin Saunders
Alvin Saunders was born near Flemingsburg, Fleming County, Kentucky, on July 12, 1817. The son of a farmer, Frinnell , and Mary (Mauzy) Saunders, he lived on homesteads in Fleming County and, after 1829, near Springfield, Illinois. He was educated in the common schools around Springfield where he lived until 1836. Saunders struck out on his own at the age of nineteen, and went to find land in the New Blackhawk Purchase, settling finally at Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, which was at that time still a part of the Territory of Wisconsin.At first he worked on a farm, but shortly thereafter hired on as a clerk in the store of a pioneer merchant at Mt. Pleasant. A Whig supporter, he was appointed to be the first postmaster of Mt. Pleasant by Democratic President, Martin Van Buren. His removal from that office by President Polk aroused a swell of indignation that carried Saunders' name to the attention of the general public. As a delegate to the Iowa Constitutional Convention of 1846, his opposition to the extension of slavery into the territories helped him win a seat in the Iowa Senate in 1854, to which he was returned in 1858. The year 1860 found Saunders in the Republican ranks, attending both the Iowa State Republican Convention and the Chicago Convention. In the Chicago convention he became acquainted with Abraham Lincoln, whom he supported vigorously both a t the convention and back in Iowa. Saunders' support was acknowledged in March, 1861, only days after Lincoln's inauguration, when he received an appointment to serve as Governor of the Territory of Nebraska. Within two months the Civil War had begun, and on May 18, 1861 Governor Saunders issued his first proclamation, calling for the Counties to organize companies for the purpose of mustering, the First Regiment of Nebraska Volunteers. In July of 1862 it became necessary to organize a company of volunteers for a state militia to combat the depredations of the newly active hostile Indians and border raiders. During the war years, Saunders continued to express his strong support of the trans-continental railroad, of which he had long been an advocate. He was instrumental in the adoption o f the measure and was named one of the formal directors of the project. Alvin Saunders was also one of the important men in the group which finally won statehood for Nebraska. I n his 1865 message to the legislature, he indicated that he did not intend to seek reappointment to the office, but the legislature disregarded party lines and unanimously petitioned President Lincoln to reappoint him. Saunders was reappointed, and was in office to witness the winning of statehood, after which he retired from office and devoted himself to his private affairs.
Throughout his term of office, he had been active in business affairs in Omaha. He was the founder and President o f the State Bank o f Nebraska, later the Merchants National Bank, and was one of the original stockholders of the Omaha Smelting Works. He was executive head o f the Omaha Real Estate and Trust Company, and one o f the founders o f the Omaha Real Estate Exchange. In 1868 Saunders was one of the Nebraska delegates to the Republican National Convention, and in 1877 he was elected to the U.S. Senate, where he was influential in winning the resumption of specie payments and in the correction of the northern boundary line of the state. Upon his death at Omaha in November, 1899, he left his wife, Marthena (Barlow) Saunders, and two children.
Alvin Saunders (July 12, 1817 – November 1, 1899) was a U.S. Senator from Nebraska, in the United States, as well as the governor of the Nebraska Territory for most of the American Civil War.
Saunders was born in Fleming County, Kentucky. He attended the common schools and pursued an academic course; he moved with his father to Illinois in 1829 and then to Mount Pleasant, Iowa (then a part of Wisconsin Territory) in 1836.
He was the postmaster of Mount Pleasant for seven years. Saunders studied law but never entered into practice; instead, he engaged in mercantile pursuits and banking. He was a delegate to the Iowa State constitutional convention in 1846 and was a member of the Iowa State Senate from 1854 to 1856 and 1858 to 1860. Saunders was one of the commissioners appointed by Congress to organize the Union Pacific Railroad Company.
He served as the last Governor of Nebraska Territory from 1861 to 1867. He was a delegate to the 1868 Republican National Convention. Saunders was elected as a Republican to the United States Senate and served from March 4, 1877, to March 4, 1883; chairman of the Committee on Territories (Forty-seventh Congress). He died in Omaha on November 1, 1899; interment in Forest Lawn Cemetery.
Saunders was the grandfather of William Henry Harrison, who served several terms as Wyoming's member of the U.S. House of Representatives in the 1950s and 60s. His son-in-law was Russell Benjamin Harrison.
Saunders County, Nebraska is named after him.