William King, Governor

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William King

Birthdate: (84)
Birthplace: Scarborough, Maine, United States
Death: Died in Bath, Maine, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Richard King and Mary King
Brother of Richard King II; Isabella King; Dorcus Leland; Cyrus King and Betsey King
Half brother of The Honorable Rufus King, Signer of the U.S. Constitution; Mary Southgate; Paulina King and Elizabeth Lydden Porter

Occupation: First Governor of Maine
Managed by: Martin Severin Eriksen
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About William King, Governor


William King (February 9, 1768 – June 17, 1852) was an American merchant, shipbuilder, army officer, and statesman from Bath, Maine. A proponent of statehood for Maine, he became its first Governor when it separated from Massachusetts in 1820.

Personal and business career

William King was born to Richard King, a merchant and shipowner, and Mary Black, on February 9, 1768 at Scarborough, then in Massachusetts. His formal education was limited to local schools (he spent one term at Phillips Academy) and ended when he was thirteen. He was largely self-educated. Starting as a hand in a saw-mill, he went on to open his own mill.

King was employed in a variety of businesses, including as a shipbuilder, then a ship-owner. He became the largest merchant shipping owner in Maine. He became a successful merchant and a significant real-estate investor. He opened the first cotton mill in Maine, at Brunswick. He founded and was president of the first bank of Bath.

Political career

King became active politically in 1795 as a member of the Democratic-Republican Party. He represented Topsham in the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1795 and 1799. After he moved to Bath, he represented that town in 1804. He served in the Massachusetts Senate for Lincoln County from 1807 to 1811.

When the War of 1812 began, Massachusetts made him Major General of the militia, in charge of the Maine district. He devoted much of his attention to coastal shipping and defenses. He also led recruiting efforts for the regular army, for which he was made a Colonel in the United States Army. In 1813 King began a seven-year effort that started with his petition to Massachusetts for separation.

In 1816 he was re-elected to the Massachusetts Senate, and finally secured their approval for Maine to become a separate state, in 1818. The Missouri Compromise allowed Maine to be recognized as a state on March 15, 1820. He was shortly thereafter elected Governor of the new state.

In May 1821, President James Monroe named him as a special minister to negotiate a treaty with Spain. King resigned as governor on May 28, 1821, to take the position of U.S. commissioner.

By 1824 he had successfully negotiated a treaty that kept the United States from becoming embroiled in issues surrounding the Mexican struggle for independence. He returned home and resumed private life.

With the shifting of political parties, he ran once more for governor, as a Whig in 1834, but lost.

Later life

King continued as a prominent business man, investor, and ship-owner. Even though he had a very limited education he served for years as a trustee and overseer of Bowdoin College, and as a trustee of Waterville College (now called Colby College).

He died at home, in Bath, Maine on June 17, 1852 and is buried in the Oak Grove Cemetery there.

King's offspring immigrated to Ontario, Canada.

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William King, Governor's Timeline

February 9, 1768
Scarborough, Maine, United States
June 17, 1852
Age 84
Bath, Maine, United States