John Eugene Osborne

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John Eugene Osborne
29th United States Assistant Secretary of State
In office
April 21, 1913 – December 14, 1916
Preceded byHuntington Wilson
Succeeded byWilliam Phillips
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Wyoming's at-large district
In office
March 4, 1897 – March 3, 1899
Preceded byFrank W. Mondell
Succeeded byFrank W. Mondell
3rd Governor of Wyoming
In office
January 2, 1893 – January 7, 1895
Preceded byAmos W. Barber
Succeeded byWilliam A. Richards
Personal details
Born(1858-06-19)June 19, 1858
Westport, New York, U.S.
DiedApril 24, 1943(1943-04-24) (aged 84)
Rawlins, Wyoming, U.S.
Resting placeCedar Hill Cemetery, Princeton, Kentucky, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Selina Smith
ChildrenJean Curtis Osborne
MotherMary E. Rail
FatherJohn C. Osborne
EducationUniversity of Vermont College of Medicine

John Eugene Osborne (June 19, 1858 – April 24, 1943) was an American physician, farmer, banker, and politician who served as the 3rd Governor of Wyoming and United States Representative as a member of the Democratic Party.

Early life[edit]

John Eugene Osborne was born on June 19, 1858, although his passport stated that he was born on June 19, 1860, in Westport, New York to John C. Osborne and Mary E. Rail.[1] In 1874 Osborne moved to Burlington, Vermont where he worked at a drug store and studied medicine at the University of Vermont College of Medicine where he graduated in 1880.[2][3] Later that year he moved to Rawlins in the Wyoming Territory where he established a drug store. In 1881 he was hired as an assistant surgeon by the Union Pacific Railroad.

Big Nose George Parrott[edit]

Following the botched hanging and subsequent execution of George Parrott, also known as Big Nose George, in 1881,

His remains then embarked on a strange journey, with part of his skin being made into boots by John Eugene Osborne, the doctor who examined him after his death. Osborne wore the boots to his inaugural ball when he became governor in 1892. Osborne also gave part of George's skull to medical assistant Lillian Heath, who used the skull as a doorstop for many years.

— By Christina Schmidt, "Famous James brother made camp in Big Horn", Sheridan Press[4]

Lillian Heath was 16 when she received the skull cap of Big Nose George, and went on to become the first female physician in Wyoming.[5]


Early politics[edit]

In 1883, Osborne was elected to Wyoming's House of the Territorial Assembly, but resigned in 1885, when he left the Territory for a brief period. In 1888, he was appointed chairman of the Penitentiary Building Commission and also elected mayor of Rawlins.[6] During the 1880s, Osborne was a physician and chemist in Rawlins, and operated a farm, at one point being the largest individual sheep owner in Wyoming. After the lynching of Big Nose George Parrott, Osborne helped conduct the autopsy, and had Parrot's skin tanned and made into a pair of shoes he later allegedly wore at his inauguration as governor.

Governor and House[edit]

Osborne was an alternate delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 1892.[7] In July 1892, Osborne was given the Democratic nomination for governor at the state convention on the 37th ballot although he had removed his name from consideration before being convinced to put it back up. In the general election he defeated Edward Ivinson with 9,290 votes to 7,509 votes.

On January 2, 1893, Osborne was inaugurated, wearing the shoes he had made from Big Nose George's skin, although he had attempted to take office earlier on December 2, 1892, which was ruled as invalid and premature by the Wyoming Supreme Court on January 17. He was unable to attend Grover Cleveland's presidential inauguration as he was afraid that Secretary of State Amos W. Barber would appoint a Republican during the time that he would server as acting governor in Osborne's absence. During his tenure he fought with the state legislature which was divided with 22 Republicans, 21 Democrats, and 5 Populists. He completed his term on January 7, 1895, having declined renomination.[1]

From March 4, 1897 until March 3, 1899, he served in the 55th United States Congress as the U.S. Representative from Wyoming,[8] but again declined renomination when his term expired.[9]

Later life[edit]

Selina Smith

Osborne was a free silver supporter and during the 1896, 1900, and 1908 presidential elections he supported William Jennings Bryan. In 1896 he served as chairman of the Wyoming delegation to the Democratic National Convention, in 1898 he served as vice chairman of the Democratic National Committee, was made a member of the national committee in 1900, and served as the vice chairman of the finance committee in 1908.[10][11] During the 1904 presidential election Bryan suggested that somebody like Osborne from the western United States should run for the Democratic nomination, but Osborne chose not to run.[12]

On April 28, 1903, Governor DeForest Richards died in office shortly after winning reelection in 1902 resulting in a special election. Osborne won the Democratic nomination by acclamation, but was defeated in a landslide in the special election by Bryant Butler Brooks.[13]

On November 2, 1907, he married Selina Smith of Princeton, Kentucky after they met on the island of Madeira when Jean Curtis Smith was on a round-the-world trip with her sister and brother-in-law. According to an account in the Passenger-Inquirer of Owensboro, Kentucky, "they were engaged to be married when they landed on American soil two months later."[14] Their honeymoon was interrupted "when his efforts to secure the 1908 Democratic National Convention for the West met with success and they were obliged to hurry to [Denver," where it was to be held. Mrs. Osborne was known as the "official hostess" for the convention.[15][16]

In 1910, he served as chairman of the Wyoming Democratic Party.[17] Osborne was appointed Assistant Secretary of State by President Woodrow Wilson and served in his administration from April 21, 1913 until December 14, 1915.[18] He was also chairman of the board of the Rawlins National Bank, and engaged in stock raising.[19] In 1913, he suggested that the remains of Christopher Columbus should be placed on a battleship and travel through the Panama Canal as a part of its opening ceremony.[20] During the 1936 presidential election he was selected as one of the three Democratic presidential electors for Wyoming and vote for Franklin D. Roosevelt and John Nance Garner when the electoral college convened.[21]

Osborne was a Freemason and a member of the York Rite. On March 2, 1942, his wife died in Louisville, Kentucky. On April 24, 1943, Osborne died in Rawlins, Wyoming at age 84 after suffering a heart attack earlier in the week.[22] He was interred at the Smith family plot at Cedar Hill Cemetery in Princeton, Kentucky.

Electoral history[edit]

John Eugene Osborne electoral history
1892 Wyoming Gubernatorial special election
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic John Eugene Osborne 9,290 53.84% +9.22%
Republican Edward Ivinson 7,509 43.52% -11.86%
Prohibition William Brown 421 2.44% +2.44%
Independent write-ins 36 0.21% +0.21%
Total votes '17,256' '100.00%'
1894 Wyoming at-large Congressional District election
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic John Eugene Osborne 10,310 49.14% +16.97%
Republican Frank Wheeler Mondell 10,044 47.87% -4.77%
People's William Brown 628 2.99% -12.20%
Total votes '20,982' '100.00%'
1894 Wyoming Gubernatorial special election
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Republican Bryant Butler Brooks 14,483 57.48% -0.33%
Democratic John Eugene Osborne 12,137 39.27% -0.72%
Socialist James W. Gates 816 2.64% +0.44%
Prohibition George W. Blain 191 0.62% +0.62%
Total votes '30,909' '100.00%'


  1. ^ a b "John E. Osborne and the Logjammed Politics of 1893". February 6, 2016.
  2. ^ "Ex-Gov. J. E. Osborne". The Burlington Free Press. April 27, 1943. p. 13. Archived from the original on January 1, 2020 – via
  3. ^ "John E. Osborne". National Governors Society. Retrieved December 11, 2018.
  4. ^ Schmidt, Christina (July 13, 2014). "Famous James brother made camp in Big Horn". The Sheridan Press.
  5. ^ Van Pelt, Lori "Medicine woman: Frontier physician inspires women M.D.s", Star-Tribune, March 14, 2004. Retrieved May 9, 2018.
  6. ^ "John Osborne". Wyoming State Hisyorical Society. Retrieved October 30, 2012.
  7. ^ "John Eugene Osborne". The Political Graveyard. Retrieved October 31, 2012.
  8. ^ "Rep. John Osborne". Retrieved October 30, 2012.
  9. ^ "John Eugene Osborne". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Retrieved October 19, 2012.
  10. ^ "John E. Osborne". The Tampa Tribune. July 5, 1908. p. 8. Archived from the original on January 2, 2020 – via
  11. ^ "Democratic Committees". Intelligencer Journal. August 7, 1908. p. 5. Archived from the original on January 2, 2020 – via
  12. ^ "Bryan Favors Western Man". Great Falls Tribune. October 2, 1903. p. 1. Archived from the original on January 2, 2020 – via
  13. ^ "John E. Osborne Chosen". The Salt Lake Tribune. September 9, 1904. p. 1. Archived from the original on January 2, 2020 – via
  14. ^ Selene Armstrong Harmon, "Women Worth While," June 14, 1914, image 13 A similar account is at "On the Beach at Waikiki," Honolulu Star-Bulletin, February 11, 1932, image 2
  15. ^ Marguerite Martyn, "Marguerite Martyn Finds Many Interesting Women in Denver Taking Part in the Preliminaries to the Democratic Convention," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 5, 1908, image 1
  16. ^ "Official Hostess at Denver Is Bride of Former Governor," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 5, 1908, image 1
  17. ^ "Roosevelt And Garner Given Party Support". Casper Star-Tribune. April 23, 1943. p. 10. Archived from the original on January 2, 2020 – via
  18. ^ "John Eugene Osborne". US Department of State: Office of the Historian. Retrieved October 30, 2012.
  19. ^ "John E.Osborne". Wyoming History. Retrieved October 30, 2012.
  20. ^ "Columbus Buried In San Domingo?". Evening Star. July 17, 1913. p. 11. Archived from the original on January 2, 2020 – via
  21. ^ "Roosevelt And Garner Given Party Support". Casper Star-Tribune. May 12, 1936. p. 1. Archived from the original on January 2, 2020 – via
  22. ^ "Death Takes Physician, Wyoming Ex-Governor". The Salt Lake Tribune. April 26, 1943. p. 18. Archived from the original on January 1, 2020 – via

External links[edit]

Party political offices
Preceded by
George W. Baxter
Democratic nominee for Governor of Wyoming
Succeeded by
William H. Holliday
Preceded by
George T. Beck
Democratic nominee for Governor of Wyoming
Succeeded by
Stephen A. D. Keister
First Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from Wyoming
(Class 2)

Succeeded by
Robert R. Rose
Political offices
Preceded by
Amos W. Barber
Governor of Wyoming
January 2, 1893 – January 7, 1895
Succeeded by
William A. Richards
Preceded by
Huntington Wilson
United States Assistant Secretary of State
April 21, 1913 – December 14, 1915
Succeeded by
William Phillips
U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Franklin Wheeler Mondell
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Wyoming's 1st congressional district

March 4, 1897 – March 3, 1899
Succeeded by
Franklin Wheeler Mondell