William Bebb, Governor

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Gov. William Bebb

Birthdate: (71)
Birthplace: Butler County, Ohio, United States
Death: Died
Place of Burial: Rockford, Winnebago County, Illinois, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of William Bebb and Ann Bebb
Husband of Sarah Bebb
Father of Sarah Bebb and Michael Bebb
Brother of Edward Bebb

Occupation: Governor of Ohio 1846-1849
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About William Bebb, Governor


Edward and Margaret Bebb's oldest child, William Bebb, was to become in turn local schoolmaster, lawyer, governor of Ohio from 1846-49, a campaign manager for Abraham Lincoln in the 1860 election, and to end his working life rewarded by a post as Chief Examiner in the U.S. Patents Office.


In 1857, Bebb fired a weapon and a man died. He was accused of manslaughter, and tried in Winnebago County, Illinois Circuit Court in 1858. One of his defense council summarized the case thusly:

   In the month of May, 1857, Michael Bebb, the second son of Gov. Bebb, had married a wife and brought her home to his father's house. On the night of the 18th, a company of young men, to the number of twelve, collected cow-bells, tin horns and other noise making instruments, together with a number of guns; and about 11 o'clock opened up a '''charivari'''[ midwestern custom of hijinks on a wedding night], with cheers, ringing of bells, blowing of horns, rattling of pans and discharging of guns.
   The family of Gov. Bebb had no previous intimation of what was intended, and were very much alarmed. The Governor took a double-barrel fowling-piece in his hands and went out, and ordered the rioters off his premises. They may not have heard him, by reason of the noise they were making, being in full concert when he went out. Be that as it may, they gave no heed to the warning. 

He then discharged one barrel of his gun at too great a distance to do any serious execution, and again warned them to be gone. All the company except four retreated. These four made a rush toward the Governor, apparently for the purpose of seizing him. He retreated a few paces, and, turning round, shot the foremost man dead on the spot.

   The next morning he assembled the sheriff and other ministers of the law; showed them what was done; furnished them with the names of all the parties, so far as he had ascertained them in the meantime; and demanded an investigation. An investigation was had before the examining court, and the Governor was discharged.
   Some months afterward, when he was in the city of Cincinnati on business, he learned through the newspapers that the Grand Jury of Winnebago County had indicted him for manslaughter. He immediately telegraphed the sheriff of the county, informing him where he was and when he would be home. He went home, surrendered himself and gave bail for his appearance.
   The trial of the case was set for the 4th of February, 1858, and, in addition to the able council at home, he added the Hon. Thomas Corwin and Judge William Johnston, of Ohio, who were present, conducted the examination, and argued the case to the jury. The argument for the defense was opened by Gov. Corwin, in a speech replete with wit and eloquence. Immense numbers of people crowded to hear the trial, from various motives; chiefly to learn judicially how much an unoffending citizen might lawfully do in defense of his habituation and household when menaced by lawless assemblies.
   The result, it is believed, was satisfactory to all well-disposed persons. Gov. Bebb was acquitted, notwithstanding an able and learned effort on the part of the People, in which everything was done, that talent and industry could do, to secure a conviction.



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William Bebb, Governor's Timeline

Butler County, Ohio, United States
Age 44
Age 71
Rockford, Winnebago County, Illinois, United States