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Walter Harriman (governor)

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Subject: Governors of New Hampshire, Walter Harriman, Onslow Stearns, Frederick Smyth (New Hampshire), John S. Pillsbury
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Walter Harriman (governor)

Walter Harriman
Born (1817-04-08)April 8, 1817
Warner, New Hampshire
Died July 25, 1884(1884-07-25) (aged 67)
Concord, New Hampshire
Place of burial Concord, New Hampshire
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch Union Army
Rank Brevet Brigadier General
Battles/wars American Civil War

Walter Harriman (April 8, 1817 – July 25, 1884) was an American preacher, merchant, soldier, and politician who served two terms as the Governor of New Hampshire. He was a brevet brigadier general in the Union Army during the American Civil War.


  • Early life and career 1
  • Civil War 2
  • Postbellum career 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • Notes 6

Early life and career

Harriman was born in Warner, New Hampshire, where he was raised and educated. He taught school at a number of academies in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and New Jersey from 1835 through 1840. While teaching, he studied theology and in 1840 joined the Universalist Church. He later preached in Harvard, Massachusetts, and his native Warner.

In 1849, Harriman entered politics as a Democrat and was elected to the New Hampshire state legislature, serving through 1850. The following year, he resigned as a minister and opened a store in Warner, partnering with John S. Pillsbury, a future Governor of Minnesota and industrialist. In 1853, Harriman returned to politics and served as State Treasurer until 1854 when he moved to Washington, D.C., to take the role as Clerk of the Pension Office, a patronage position which he held until 1856 when President James Buchanan took office and replaced Harriman with his own selection.

Harriman returned to New Hampshire and was elected to the state legislature in 1858. He was subsequently elected to the state senate, serving there from 1859 through 1861. Upon the completion of his term, he entered the newspaper business as an editor in Manchester, New Hampshire.

Civil War

In 1862, Harriman was appointed colonel of the 11th New Hampshire, a newly raised three-years regiment of infantry. He led his regiment from Cincinnati, Ohio, across the rugged Cumberland Plateau of Kentucky and Tennessee to join Maj. Gen. Ambrose Burnside's army in Knoxville, Tennessee. Harriman had no horse and walked with his men. During this 20-day journey, Harriman and his regiment camped for several days on the Emory River in Tennessee near the future location of the city of Harriman. (The directors of the company that later founded the city there decided to name it for him after having a conversation with an elderly man who fondly remembered Colonel Harriman and recalled the colonel saying that there should be a town near his regiment's campsite.)[1]

He interrupted his military service to run as a War Democrat in the 1863 gubernatorial campaign. He siphoned off enough regular Democratic votes to give the election to Republican candidate Joseph A. Gilmore. Harriman rejoined the 11th New Hampshire in time for the Battle of the Wilderness during the Overland Campaign. He was captured and sent south as a prisoner of war. He was exchanged in September 1864, and mustered out as a Brevet brigadier general in June 1865.

Postbellum career

Following the Civil War's conclusion in early 1865, Harriman joined the Republican Party and served as the New Hampshire Secretary of State until 1867, when he was elected as the state's governor. Harriman served two terms as Governor of New Hampshire from 1867 to 1869. Governor Harriman urged the public and the legislature to develop New Hampshire's agricultural, industrial and forest resources, in order to develop a post-war economy. He was very concerned with the education of post-war citizens of the state, and he signed an act creating teacher institutes. He personally drafted a law to get education out from under county commissioners, and he established an education fund with monies from the sale of state lands.

In retirement, Harriman served as Naval Officer for the Port of Boston until 1877. He published his History of Warner in 1879, and then traveled to Europe and the Far East from 1882–83. He published Travels and Observations in the Far East in 1883.

Walter Harriman died the following year in Concord, New Hampshire and was buried in Warner.

In the early 1890s Harriman's son, Walter C. Harriman, was one of the founders of the city of Harriman, Tennessee, which is named for Governor Harriman.

See also


  • W. Calvin Dickinson, Walter C. Harriman in the Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture
  • Harriman at New Hampshire's Division of Historic Resources


  1. ^ Dickinson
Political offices
Preceded by
Frederick Smyth
Governor of New Hampshire
Succeeded by
Onslow Stearns
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