Tag Archives: Secretary of State

A Confederate in the Capitol: Samuel D. Shannon

Probably the oddest Wyoming territorial official was Samuel D. Shannon, secretary of territory from 1887 to 1889.  It is not odd that he was a secretary of the territory.  What is odd is that he was appointed.

Samuel D. Shannon (WSA)

Samuel D. Shannon
(WSA)

Many of the territorial administrators worked their ways into political prominence, were successful businessmen or lawyers, or had served in the Union Army during the Civil War.  Not so for Shannon. Shannon’s background was anything but admirable, and he had served with the Confederate Army.

Samuel Davis Shannon was born in May 3, 1833 in Camden, South Carolina.  During the Civil War he was a staff member to General Richard Anderson.  A handsome man with a magnetic personality, he had many friends and was a well-known womanizer.    During the war, he married Elizabeth Peton Giles of Richmond, Virginia.  The marriage was short-lived.  She divorced him on the grounds of non-support.

At this point, Shannon’s history is unclear.  One account, and probably the most entertaining, paints a picture of a freeloader.   After the war, Shannon reportedly roamed the South and stayed for  long periods of time with friends.  His outgoing and polite manners offset the fact that he was moocher.    He “had a sublime contempt for toil.”

Another account states that he applied himself in respectable work and eventually became a journalist in Charleston.  Declining health forced him to move west.  Shannon settled in Denver and then moved to Cheyenne, where he quickly became well known and had a large circle of friends.

Both accounts warrant closer historical scrutiny.

What is known is that opportunity brought Shannon to Wyoming.

On February 28, 1887, E.S.N. Morgan resigned as territorial secretary of state for Wyoming.  Governor Thomas Moonlight, who had been appointed territorial governor in late January, relied heavily upon Morgan for guidance and support.  Despite their political differences, the two men had a good working relationship.  With Morgan gone, who would the President appoint in his place?

In March, Moonlight learned that Shannon was on the list of possible replacements.  Shannon was reportedly in Washington DC, though what he was doing there is not entirely clear.  Writing to Shannon, Moonlight stated that he would not endorse anyone nor did he feel a need to do so at the time.  In other words, Moonlight was not going to have any input or say as to Morgan’s successor.  The decision would rest entirely with the President.

Governor Moonlight's terse note to Shannon stating that he "was not looking for a change." He then also wrote to the Secretary of the Interior with the same. (WSA Thomas Moonlight gubernatorial records, letterpress book Feb. 1887-May 1888, p46)

Governor Moonlight’s terse note to Shannon stating that he “was not looking for a change.” He then also wrote to the Secretary of the Interior with the same. Later, Moonlight would send a longer letter  to “My Dear Major” explaining that he felt he needed to be impartial and if he had said the appointment was agreeable to him it might be construed as showing favor.
(WSA Thomas Moonlight gubernatorial records, letterpress book Feb. 1887-May 1888, p46)

On April 9, 1887, President Grover Cleveland appointed Shannon as territorial secretary of State.  Shannon left Washington, D.C. and no sooner had Morgan vacated his office, than Shannon took his place.

Unlike his predecessor, ESN Morgan, Shannon was not required to swear a form of the "Ironclad Oath", a part of which stated that "...I have never voluntarily borne arms against the United States since I have been a citizen thereof..." This oath, adopted by Congress in 1862 for all Federal employees, was a stumbling block for all former Confederates in politics. Despite strong presidential opposition, the law persisted until 1884 when it was finally repealed. (WSA SOS records, Oath of Office 1886-1887 file)

Unlike his predecessor, E.S.N. Morgan, Shannon was not required to swear a form of the “Ironclad Oath”, a part of which stated that “…I have never voluntarily borne arms against the United States since I have been a citizen thereof…” This oath, adopted by Congress in 1862 for all Federal employees, was a stumbling block for former Confederates in politics. Despite strong presidential opposition, the law persisted until 1884 when it was finally repealed.
(WSA SOS records, Oath of Office 1886-1887 file)

Shannon proved to be a good choice.  He was competent and diligent.  In addition to his statuatory duties, he served as territorial immigration agent, promoted Wyoming’s resources, and favored statehood.

Shannon  left office on July 1, 1889, and returned to his old southern stomping grounds, where he once again relied upon the generosity of his friends to see to his welfare.  Due to poor health, he was eventually placed in the Soldier’s Home at Pikesville, near Baltimore, where he died on September 13, 1896.  He was buried in his home of Camden, South Carolina.[1]

— Carl V. Hallberg, Reference Archivist


1. “Capt. Samuel D. Shannon memorial,” FindAGrave.com.

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This Day in Wyoming History: Happy Birthday Gov. Houx!

Acting Governor Frank Houx was the last Wyoming governor to regularly sport facial hair. (WSA Sub Neg 2108)

Acting Governor Frank Houx was the last Wyoming governor to regularly sport facial hair.
(WSA Sub Neg 2108)

Frank L. Houx was born on December 12, 1854 near Lexington, Missouri.  He attended business college in Kansas City and was involved in various commercial activities from his mid-teens to mid-20s.  Houx married Augusta Camp in 1875, a union which would produce four children; Carrie Pearl, Horace, Earl and Florence.

Three of Houx daughters, Vera, Mercedes and Thora in 1915. During the first couple decades of the 20th century, it was in vogue for girls to wear larger and larger hair bows. (WSA Meyers Neg 5692, photo by Joe Shimitz, Cheyenne)

Vera, Mercedes and Thora, Houx’s daughters by his second wife Ida. During the early 20th century, it was in vogue for girls to wear larger and larger hair bows.
(WSA Meyers Neg 5692, photo by Joe Shimitz, Cheyenne, 1915)

In 1885, Houx took his family to Montana where he made a living in the cattle business for ten years.  The fledgling settlement of Cody, Wyoming then beckoned and the family relocated again.  Shortly thereafter Houx purchased the stage depot at nearby Corbett.  Augusta died the following year and Houx returned to Cody, where he made a living in real estate and the insurance business.  In 1898, he married widow Ida Mason Christy.  Three more girls would be added to the Houx family; Vera, Mercedes and Thora.

Houx as Mayor of Cody (WSA Sub Neg 26386)

Houx as Mayor of Cody
(WSA Sub Neg 26386)

Houx was elected Cody’s first mayor after the town was incorporated in 1901.  He was re-elected in 1905 and served four more years.  Seeking a bigger public service role, Houx ran for the office of Wyoming’s Secretary of State in 1910, representing the Democratic Party.  With recently converted Democrat Joseph M. Carey easily winning the gubernatorial race, Houx narrowly defeated incumbent Secretary William R. Schnitger. He won another close race for the same office in 1914, as Wyoming voters elected another Democratic governor, John B. Kendrick.  When Kendrick was elected to the U.S. Senate two years later, Houx completed Kendrick’s term as Acting Governor.  However, rather than turn the executive office immediately over to Houx, Kendrick held onto the position until the state legislative session was over.  This apparent lack of trust was used against Houx in the 1918 gubernatorial election, which he lost to Robert D. Carey, Joseph’s son.

Houx signed the proclaimation for the Prohibition constitutional amendment as both Secretary of State and Acting Governor.  (WSA Gov Houx gubernatorial papers, prohibition)

Houx signed the proclamation announcing the 1918 adoption of the constitutional amendment for prohibition in Wyoming as both Secretary of State and Acting Governor.
(WSA Gov. Houx gubernatorial papers, prohibition)

Gov. Houx himself was a vocal supporter of prohibition, as this letter shows.  (WSA Gov Houx gubernatorial papers, prohibition)

Gov. Houx himself was a vocal supporter of prohibition, as this letter shows.
(WSA Gov. Houx gubernatorial papers, prohibition)

The United States entered World War I shortly after Houx occupied the executive office.  A spirit of patriotism filled the state, resulting in about 12,000 Wyoming men joining the military.  Acting Governor Houx mobilized the Wyoming National Guard, which was offered to the United States for overseas service.  He also appointed the Wyoming Council for National Defense.

This memorandum lays out the duties of the governor in preparation for the enactment of the selective service registration starting June 5, 1917. (WSA Gov Houx gubernatorial papers, WWI)

This memorandum lays out the duties of the governor in preparation for the enactment of the selective service registration starting June 5, 1917.
(WSA Gov. Houx gubernatorial papers, WWI)

Out of politics, Houx spent most of his later years in Texas where he engaged in the oil business.  Ida Houx died in 1934 while visiting a daughter in California.  Frank Houx returned to Cody the following year, residing with his daughter, Pearl Newell, until his death in 1941. He is buried in Cody.

The records of Acting Governor Houx at the Wyoming State Archives are distinctive for their World War I documentation.  War related series include Council for the National Defense, Women’s War Work, Army Nurse Corps, Selective Service, American Red Cross, Conscription, and Appointments and Commissions.   The collection also includes the routine records associated with the duties of a governor:  Proclamations,   appointments, pardons, extraditions, and correspondence.

In 1917, William F.

In 1917, William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody was accused of skipping out on a mortgage on a car. This request for extradition was filed with Gov. Houx’s administration. This must have been slightly awkward for Gov. Houx since he was a long time resident of Cody and probably knew the man.[1]
(WSA Gov Houx gubernatorial papers, extraditions)

— Curtis Greubel, State Imaging Center Supervisor


1. UPDATE: Houx and Cody were, in fact, close friends, which would have made this extradition request very awkward indeed. According to Houx’s reminiscences published in the Cody Enterprise, he rushed to Denver upon hearing of Cody’s death in order to claim his body and transport it to Cody for burial, as per Cody’s wishes. Unfortunately, when he arrived he found that Mayor Speer of Denver had already taken charge of the body and made arrangements to bury him on Lookout Mountain.

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