Richard D. Gholson, 3rd Territorial Governor of Washington

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Richard Dickerson Gholson

Birthdate: (58)
Death: August 23, 1862 (58)
Immediate Family:

Son of Sgt. William J. Gholson and Mary Gholson
Husband of Mary Jane Morrison Gholson
Father of Elizabeth Angelina Steel
Brother of Ann C. Harkless; John B. Gholson; James Jarrell Gholson; Toliver Craig Gholson and Jacob Johnston Gholson

Occupation: Governor over Wasington Territory (Kentucky), politician
Managed by: Aaron Steel
Last Updated:

About Richard D. Gholson, 3rd Territorial Governor of Washington

Richard Dickerson Gholson (January 31, 1804 – August 23, 1862) was the 3rd Territorial Governor of Washington.


Born in Garrard County, Kentucky, Gholson was the son of William J. Gholson and "Polly" Mary Jarrell. He settled on Humphrey's Creek in the area of Lovelaceville, KY. This was only a couple years after the area had been settled by Andrew Lovelace in 1820. He was married in Hickman County Kentucky to Mary Jane Morrison Martin on April 15, 1826. Richard studied law and became a lawyer with a practice in Kentucky.

He served as a Captain with the U. S. Volunteers during the war with Mexico. On June 26, 1846, he was appointed Asstant Commissary of Subsistence, U. S. Volunteers with the rank of Captain. On July 31, 1846, he accepted that appointment at Paducah, Kentucky USA. On August 26, 1846, he joined the 2nd Kentucky Infantry & served in Mexican War. In October 1846, he was known to be at Round Rock, Williamson County, Texas USA. In December 1846, he was at Corpus Christi, Nueces County, Texas USA. On June 30, 1847, he was honorably discharged from military service.

His experience during the war with Mexico, led him to purchase a sizable ranch in Texas, in addition to his substantial land holdings in Kentucky. He could not convince his wife to move to the Texas frontier.

He was a member of the Kentucky Legislature from 1851 to 1855 and represented Ballard and McCracken Counties in the framing of a new constitution for Kentucky.

Richard was an ardent supporter of President Buchanan and campaigned throughout the state of Kentucky for him in his race for president. Buchanan later appointed him Governor of the Washington Territory and he served from July 1859 until 1861 when he resigned and returned to Kentucky due to the unrest which led up to the Civil War.

At the onset of the Civil War, Richard moved from Kentucky across the state line into Tennessee "for greater protection of his family and slaves". This was apparently a fairly common practice during that time. The Woodville Cavalry, Woodville, McCracken County, Kentucky, was commissioned on April 23, 1861. Its officers were: R. D. Gholson, Captain; W. W. Faulkner, 1st Lieutenant; R. S. Hill, 2nd Lieutenant; and W. S. Gholson, 3rd Lieutenant.

Richard died in Troy Tennessee on August 23, 1862. His death resulted from injuries suffered from being thrown against a tree by a runaway team of horses pulling a wagan. Some believe that his body was taken back to Kentucky for burial, other believe he was burine on his Texas ranch, but the burial spot remains unknown.

For over a century it was believed that no portrait of Gholson existed. In 2006, Jewell Dunn, a volunteer at the Washington State Archives located Gholson family members who had chalk pastel portrait of Richard Dickerson Gholson. An electronic image of the portrait is now available by emailing the Washington State Photo Archivist at

His wife Mary died in Ballard County Kentucky on October 19, 1883.

Family correspondence suggest that Gholson and his wife had eleven children. Census records suggests they may have had as many as 13 children:

1. Mary Agnes Gholson, born April 23, 1827

2. Frederick Martin Gholson, born April 10, 1829

3. Daniel Burdine Gholson, born September 21, 1831 (Twin child)

4. Elizabeth Angelline Gholson, born September 21, 1831 (Twin child)

5. Richard Dickerson Gholson, born March 13, 1834

6. Phoebe Jane Gholson, born March 6, 1837

7. William Samuel Gholson, born September 29, 1839

8. Susan Frances Gholson, born September 30, 1842

9. Sarah Gholson, born February 22, 1844

10. Marguerite L. J. Gholson, born August 25, 1848 11. Daniel Jarrell Gholson, born January 10, 1851 (Twin child) 12. Margaret Burdine Gholson, born January 10, 1851 (Twin child) 13. Martha Gholson, born February 1852

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Richard D. Gholson, 3rd Territorial Governor of Washington's Timeline

January 31, 1804
August 23, 1862
Age 58