Joseph Lane, 1st Governor of Oregon Territory, U.S. Senator

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Joseph Lane

Birthdate: (79)
Birthplace: Buncombe County, North Carolina, United States
Death: April 19, 1881 (79)
Roseburg, Douglas County, Oregon, United States
Place of Burial: Roseburg, Douglas County, Oregon, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of John Lane and Elizabeth Lane
Husband of Polly Mary Hart Lane
Father of Mary Virginia Shelby; Lafayette Lane, US Congress; Sarah Emily Floed; John Lane; Nathaniel Hart Lane and 2 others
Brother of Jesse Augustus Lane, Rev.

Occupation: soldier, legislator, and governor
Managed by: Jill Chesler
Last Updated:

About Joseph Lane, 1st Governor of Oregon Territory, U.S. Senator

Joseph Lane (December 14, 1801 – April 19, 1881) became an American general during the Mexican-American War and later served, as Oregon Territory's first governor. Later, when Oregon became a state, on February 14, 1859, he became one of her first United States Senators.

Early life

Lane was born in Buncombe County, North Carolina on December 14, 1801. His early education was much like Abraham Lincoln's (a contemporary) in that Jo Lane read a lot from childhood on. He had very little official instruction. He moved to Kentucky at a young age, and then moved to Indiana, where he was engaged in farming for a while, and had an internship with an uncle, a local merchant. Lane and his wife, Polly Hart Lane, had ten children. While in Indiana, he served in the State House of Representatives and the Indiana Senate from 1822 to 1846. He was the youngest person voted into any legislative office in the United States at the time he was first elected.

Military career

At the outbreak of hostilities with Mexico, Lane was appointed colonel of the 2nd Indiana Volunteer Regiment and served along the border. The same year he was appointed brigadier general of volunteers and commanded the Indiana Brigade at the Battle of Buena Vista. After the battle he was appointed major general of volunteers and led the relief force which lifted the Siege of Puebla defeating Antonio López de Santa Anna at the Battle of Huamantla along the way.

Oregon territory and statehood

He was appointed by President James Polk to be governor of Oregon Territory in 1848. Lane arrived in Oregon in March 1849, following a hazardous winter trip on the Oregon Trail. One of his first duties was to obtain the surrender of five Cayuse accused in the Whitman Massacre. The accused were brought back to Oregon City for trial, where they were convicted and hanged.

In 1851, Lane became delegate to Oregon Territory in the U.S. Congress, and was subsequently elected as one of Oregon's first two United States Senators when Oregon became a state in 1859. In 1853, Lane agreed to become acting Territorial Governor for three days (May 16–19) to help remove unpopular John P. Gaines from office. Lane then returned to his post as Congressional delegate.

Vice-presidential nomination and political decline

Lane was nominated for Vice President by the pro-slavery southern wing of the Democratic Party in 1860 alongside Presidential candidate John C. Breckinridge, the most ardently pro-slavery candidate in the election.

With his defeat as Vice President and the beginning of the Civil War, Lane's pro-slavery and pro-secessionist sympathies effectively ended his political career. However, Lane made headlines in his final day of proceedings as a U.S. Senator with an exchange of speeches between himself and Tennessee Senator and future president Andrew Johnson. In February 1861, Johnson made an ardent stand in favor of the Union and warned against the Southern states attempting to force his home state into secession; when a referendum on secession in Tennessee failed shortly thereafter, generally credited to Johnson's speech, Lane took the Senate floor on March 2 to accuse the southern Senator of having "sold his birthright." Johnson's response was to suggest that Lane was a hypocrite for accusing Johnson of betraying his heritage when Lane so staunchly supported a movement of active treason against the United States.

Retirement and legacy

Lane retired at the expiration of his Senate term in 1861 to Roseburg, Oregon where he died in 1881. He is interred in the Masonic Cemetery.

He had been baptized Catholic in 1867. His daughter and son-in-law's home there is now a museum maintained by the Douglas County Historical Society. Known as the Creed Floed House, the Floed-Lane House, or simply the Joseph Lane House, it is on the National Register of Historic Places. It is the home of the Douglas County Pioneer Museum. The Floed-Lane House is the ONLY structure that still survives that can be directly attributed to General Joseph Lane in the state of Oregon.

Lane County, Oregon is named for him. A son, Lafayette Lane, served in Congress from 1875 to 1877, and another son John fought in the Civil War for the Confederacy. Joseph's grandson, Harry Lane, was a mayor of Portland, Oregon and then U.S. Senator from 1913 until his death in 1917.

Joseph Lane Middle School in Roseburg is named for him, as is Joseph Lane Middle School in Portland. Lane Mountain just south-west from Roseburg is also named for him.


Peggy Rowe (Douglas County Historical Society) told me that he was the youngest man in the country EVER voted into a state legislature at that time in history.

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Joseph Lane, 1st Governor of Oregon Territory, U.S. Senator's Timeline

December 14, 1801
Buncombe County, North Carolina, United States
Age 21
Age 25
Vanderburgh County Indiana
Age 28
Vanderburgh County, Indiana, United States
Age 30
May 16, 1834
Age 32
Evansville, IN, USA
November 12, 1842
Age 40
Evansville, IN, USA
April 19, 1881
Age 79
Roseburg, Douglas County, Oregon, United States
April 19, 1881
Age 79
Roseburg, Douglas County, Oregon, United States