John D. Defrees

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John D. Defrees
So complete a system of government never before existed, and it became the admiration of the lovers of liberty throughout the world. The prayers of its founders, as they passed from earth, were for its perpetuity. It was received by their children and cherished as an inheritance above all price. With them the man who dared to lisp of its destruction was branded as a traitor and an enemy of mankind.

John D. Defrees, 1864[1]

John Dougherty Defrees (1810–1882) was an American newspaperman and politician.

Political career[edit]

Born in Sparta, Tennessee, Defrees moved to Ohio and worked in the law office of Thomas Corwin, who would later serve as Governor of Ohio. In 1831, Defrees and his brother, Joseph, moved to South Bend, Indiana, where they founded the Northwestern Pioneer and St. Joseph Intelligencer, Northern Indiana's first newspaper.[2]

Newspaper career[edit]

In 1833, Defrees moved to White Pigeon, Michigan, and began publishing the Michigan Statesman and St. Joseph Chronicle, only the third newspaper published in the Michigan Territory and the first published between Chicago and Detroit. Under Defrees, the paper took a radical Democratic line and supported President Andrew Jackson. Defrees sold his interest in the paper in mid-1834 to Henry Gilbert, who later shortened it to the Michigan Statesman. The paper became the Kalamazoo Gazette in 1837 and as of 2010 remains in publication.[3][4]

Defrees returned to South Bend and was admitted to the Indiana bar. Defrees became involved in Indiana state politics and won election to the Indiana Senate as a Whig. In 1846, Defrees bought the Indianapolis Journal (now The Indianapolis Star) which he also edited until he sold the paper in 1854. Defrees sought the Republican nomination for his congressional district in the 1858 election but lost out to Albert G. Porter, who later became Governor of Indiana. Defrees returned to newspapering and founded the Atlas, another pro-Republican newspaper. Under Defrees, the Atlas promoted Edward Bates for the 1860 presidential nomination, although Bates lost to Abraham Lincoln.[5] By 1860 Defrees, along with Henry S. Lane, Schuyler Colfax and Cyrus Allen controlled Republican party politics in Indiana.[6] When Lincoln became President, he named Defrees Public Printer, at which point Defrees sold the Atlas to the Journal.[5]

Civil war politics[edit]

Defrees was a vocal supporter of the Union and the government during the American Civil War.[1] In those days, the Government Printing Office was a rich source of patronage, and Defrees' failure to satisfy members of Congress in that regard led to his removal in 1869, and the restructuring of the post of Public Printer. Previously, the President named the printer; now and to this day the Senate must approve the appointment.[5][7]

Defrees backed Horace Greeley for President in 1872 and Rutherford B. Hayes in 1876; after his election, Hayes returned Defrees to the Printing Office, which post he held until April 1, 1882. Defrees retired to Berkeley Springs, West Virginia, where he had made his home since 1861, and died there October 19, 1882. He is buried in Crown Hill Cemetery, Indianapolis.[8]

Defrees was the brother of Joseph H. Defrees, who served in the United States House of Representatives.


  1. ^ a b Defrees, John D. (1864). Remarks made by John D. Defrees before the Indiana Union Club of Washington, D.C. 
  2. ^ Deahl (1905), 35.
  3. ^ Bishop (1900), 346-347.
  4. ^ "Kalamazoo Gazette". Michigan Historical Markers. Retrieved 2010-01-02. 
  5. ^ a b c Woollen (1975), 486.
  6. ^ Kettleborough (1913), 141.
  7. ^ 44 U.S.C. § 301
  8. ^ Woollen (1975), 487-488.

See also[edit]


External links[edit]