Family Tree Tuesday – William D. Washburn
William Drew Washburn was an American politician and founded the Pillsbury-Washburn Milling Company, which later became the Pillsbury Company. He served in both the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate.
He was born on January 14, 1831 in Livermore, Maine to Israel Washburn and Martha Benjamin. He made a large fortune from his business ventures in lumber and flour milling, and by the 1880s he was among the wealthiest men in Minnesota. Washburn served as the first president of Soo Line Railroad from 1883 to 1889. He built a mansion in 1883 known as “Fair Oaks”, it was designed by E. Townsend Mix, who also designed Minneapolis’ Metropolitan Building but the mansion was eventually demolished in 1924 to make way for a park.
Three of his seven brothers became politicians as well – Israel Washburn, Jr., Elihu Washburn and Cadwallader Washburn. Israel Washburn, Jr. was originally a member of the Whig Party, but later became a founding member of the Republican Party. The Republican Party was formed when Israel was angry over the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act and had called a meeting of 30 members of the U.S. House of Representatives for a discussion. Israel was the 29th Governor of Maine from 1861 to 1863, he helped recruit Federal troops from Maine during the American Civil War and in 1862 he attended the Loyal War Governors’ Conference in Altoona, Pennsylvania, which ultimately gave Abraham Lincoln support for his Emancipation Proclamation. The town of Washburn, Maine is named in honor of Israel.
Elihu Washburn was appointed as the United States Secretary of State in 1869 by President Ulysses S. Grant out of respect for his championship in the House during the Civil War and to give Washburn diplomatic clout after being appointed Minister to France. Although he was Secretary of State for only eleven days, he ended up being Minister to France for eight years. Washburn was known for his diplomatic integrity and for his humanitarian support of Americans and Germans in France during the Franco-Prussian War.
Cadwallader Washburn was the founder of General Mills. Prior to founding General Mills he was a United States Congressman from 1855 to 1861. He had served in the Union Army during the Civil War, becoming colonel of the 2nd Wisconsin Volunteer Cavalry, brigadier general of Volunteers and major general in 1862. The city of Washburn, Wisconsin and Washburn County in northern Wisconsin was named after Cadwallader.
Check out William D. Washburn’s family tree and see how you may be related!