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Governor Nelson Dewey Chapter

National Society
Daughters of the American Revolution

Maple Bluff, WI

Governor Nelson Dewey

Governor Nelson Dewey.


Our chapter is named for the first Governor of Wisconsin, Nelson Dewey. He held two consecutive terms that began in 1848 when he was 33 years old. During those years in office, using his profession as a lawyer, he rewrote the early laws in correct legal language.  Many of his terms are still used today in the Wisconsin courtroom.

Nelson Dewey first arrived in Wisconsin the year it became a territory, 1836. He went to work for Daniels, Denniston, and Co. as a clerk. The New York company was speculating in land in Wisconsin and was pushing for Cassville to become the territorial capitol. At that same time Dewey began studying law. He passed the territorial bar after the company failed because Madison was named as the capitol.

He made a fortune in land speculation and investments in lead mining. During the 1840s he held a number of local and territorial offices. When he attended the first State Democratic Convention in 1848 he was selected as their candidate for Governor.

Establishing the new Wisconsin government was Dewey's primary activity while in office. He also worked for navigational improvements of the Wisconsin and Fox rivers. As a Liberal Democrat, Dewey opposed slavery in new territories and supported the popular election of Senators. 

It is important to note that Governor Nelson Dewey designed the original seal of Wisconsin so that the official documents would be marked with the State's seal. He was also instrumental in the formation of the University of Wisconsin. He believed that every citizen deserved the right to further education and worked to see that these opportunities were afforded to all.

After leaving the office of Governor, Dewey moved back to Cassville and began working to establish Stonefield, the mansion on his 2,000 acre estate. Dewey employed all the local help he could get in building and maintaining his home and grounds. This ready employment was largely responsible for the large increase in the population of the area during his residence.

Dewey lost everything in the Panic of 1873 and, in the same year, the original house was lost to fire. He died in 1889 at the Denniston Hotel in Cassville, which, during his more prosperous days, he had once owned.

Governor Dewey was a man of integrity, respectability, and sincerity--words interwoven into his life and which demonstrated how he lived.

The estate was purchased by Walter Cass Newberry of Chicago and the house was rebuilt on the original foundation in the 1890s. In 1936, 700 acres of the original estate was purchased by the State of Wisconsin for a state park. The Department of Natural Resources and the State Historical Society began restoration in 1948. The Legislature declared Stonefield as the site of the State Farm and Craft Museum in 1953. 

    • Bibliography: Nord, David Paul. "A Guide to Stonefield." State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1977
    • Photograph, Nelson Dewey, Artist Unknown, Photo used with permission of State Historical Society of Wisconsin Museum #42.466. 

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