John W. Leedy, Governor

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John Whitnah Leedy

Birthdate: (86)
Death: 1935 (86)
Immediate Family:

Son of Samuel Keith Leedy and Margaret Whitnack

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About John W. Leedy, Governor

John Whitnah Leedy (March 8, 1849 – March 24, 1935) was the 14th Governor of Kansas.


Leedy was born near Bellville, Ohio in Richland County to Samuel Keith and Margaret (Whitnah) Leedy, the fifth of six children. His parents were members of the Church of the Brethren (colloquially called "Tunkers" or "Dunkers" in the United States). Upon the death of his father in 1853, he went to work for neighbors as a farm hand. He was only able to briefly attend school during a few winters.

In 1863, Leedy attempted to join the Union Army, but was rejected because of his age and the intervention of his mother. But in 1864, he essentially ran away from home, following the 163rd Ohio Infantry in which his cousin Jacob M. Leedy was captain of Company D.

After the Civil War, Leedy moved to Princeton, Indiana where he served as a clerk in a store for three years. His health in decline, Leedy then moved to Carlinville, Illinois and sought work as a farm hand. He worked for Squire Gore (later state auditor of Illinois), and within five years his health had returned and he had saved enough money to purchase his own farm. He married Sarah Jane Boyd (1851-1940) in 1874 and had three children: Clara Romaine (1876-1972), Alice May (1880-1964), and John Boyd (1880-1968).

Leedy moved to Coffey County, Kansas near Le Roy in 1880, where he purchased land for a farm. His interest turned to horse breeding and was known as a successful breeder. However, in 1890, his finances began to fail and during the Panic of 1893, Leedy was forced to turn over his farm and all improvements--including his home--to his creditors.


Before 1892, Leedy had little interest in politics; he was a Democrat and regularly voted that ticket. However in 1892 Leedy changed his party affiliation from Democrat to the Populist Party, and was nominated for the Kansas State Senate by both the Populists and Democrats. He served in the State Senate from 1892 until 1897.

At the time of his nomination for governor of Kansas in 1896, Leedy was very poor and he and his family were renting a small house for $15 a month. During his tenure as Governor of Kansas (1897-1899), a state schoolbook commission was organized and four state regiments were organized for service in the Spanish-American War. Leedy was known as an outspoken critic of railroads and corporations. He was defeated for renomination as governor and moved to Alaska where he served as mayor of Valdez for two years.

Leedy moved to Alberta and became a naturalized Canadian citizen. He ran for a seat to the Alberta Legislature in the 1917 Alberta general election as a candidate for the Non-Partisan League in the electoral district of Gleichen and was defeated finishing a distant third behind Conservative candidate Fred Davis and the defeated incumbent John McArthur.

Leedy ran for a seat to the Canadian House of Commons as an independent candidate in the electoral district of Victoria in the 1917 federal election. He was defeated in the three-way race, finishing third behind anti-conscriptionist Laurier Liberal candidate William Henry White (the sitting MP who was re-elected) and the Conservative/Unionist candidate, former Alberta MLA James Holden.


Leedy died in Edmonton, Alberta on March 24, 1935, with almost no money or other assets. The Kansas State Legislature donated $1,000 to mark his grave and pay his funeral expenses.

He is interred at Edmonton Municipal Cemetery, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

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John W. Leedy, Governor's Timeline

Age 86