William Claflin, Governor

Is your surname Claflin?

Research the Claflin family

William Claflin, Governor's Geni Profile

Share your family tree and photos with the people you know and love

  • Build your family tree online
  • Share photos and videos
  • Smart Matching™ technology
  • Free!


William Claflin

Birthdate: (87)
Death: 1905 (87)
Immediate Family:

Son of Lee Claflin and Sarah Watkins Adams

Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:
view all

Immediate Family

About William Claflin, Governor


William Claflin (March 6, 1818 – January 5, 1905) was an industrialist and philanthropist who served as the 27th Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts from 1869–1872 and as a member of the United States Congress from 1877–1881.

Life and career

William Claflin was born on March 6, 1818 in Milford, Massachusetts, to Lee and Sarah (Adams) Claflin. His father was a self-made proprietor of a tannery and shoe factory in Milford. He was educated at first in the local schools, then at Milford Academy, before enrolling in Brown University. He left Brown early due to poor health, and entered his father's business. After a few years, with his health not improving, he traveled to St. Louis, Missouri, where from 1841 to 1847 he worked in the wholesale leather goods business. He then returned to Massachusetts, where he rejoined the family business and settled in Hopkinton. He later took up residence in the Newtonville village of Newton.

Claflin had a significant political career in Massachusetts. An abolitionist, he was a founder of the Free Soil Party, served in the Massachusetts House of Representatives from 1849–1853, and was elected to the Senate in 1859. By this time he had switched to the Republican Party and later served on its national committee. He became Senate President in 1861. After serving as Lieutenant Governor under Governor Alexander Hamilton Bullock, Claflin was elected governor in 1868.

While governor, Claflin promoted women's suffrage and extended women greater rights under the law. During his administration, he advocated prison reform and established the state's first board of public health. Claflin also created the Massachusetts Indian Commission with social activists Wendell Phillips and Helen Hunt Jackson. In 1869, Claflin chartered Boston University, a Methodist institution, which his father co-founded. He served for three terms, each one year in length, but declined to run for a fourth.

Claflin returned to business and supported philanthropic activities. Along with his father, Claflin donated funds to purchase land for Claflin University, the historically black, Methodist university in South Carolina. The University was founded in 1869. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Claflin_University

Elected as a Republican, he later served two terms as a member of the Forty-fifth and Forty-sixth Congresses (from March 4, 1877 to March 3, 1881). He died in 1905 in Newton.

view all

William Claflin, Governor's Timeline

Age 87