George W. Steele

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George Washington Steele, Sr.
George W. Steele congressman.png
1st Governor of Oklahoma Territory
From: May 22, 1890 – October 18, 1891
Predecessor (none)
Successor Robert Martin
Former U.S. Representative from Indiana's 11th Congressional District
From: March 4, 1895 – March 3, 1903
Predecessor August N. Martin
Successor Frederick Landis
Former U.S. Representative from Indiana's 11th Congressional District
From: March 4, 1881 – March 3, 1889
Predecessor Calvin Cowgill
Successor Augustus N. Martin
Party Republican
Spouse(s) Marietta Elizabeth Swayzee
Military Service
Allegiance United States
Service/branch Union Army
Service Years • May 1861 – ???
• February 23, 1866 – February 1, 1876
Unit • 12th Indiana Regiment, 101st Indiana Regiment
• 14th Regiment
Battles/wars American Civil War

George Washington Steele, Sr. (December 13, 1839 – July 12, 1922), also known as G. W. Steele,[1] was a Republican from Indiana who represented the state's 11th congressional district in the United States House of Representatives for two separate periods of time. He also served as the Governor of Oklahoma Territory during the presidency of Benjamin Harrison.


Steele was born in Connersville, Indiana (located in Fayette County) to Louisa and Asbury Earl Steele. After attending local common schools in Marion, Indiana, he enrolled in Ohio Wesleyan School, studying law and being admitted to the bar.[2] Steele then returned to Indiana to commence practice at Hartford City.

Civil War service

During the Civil War, Steele joined the 12th and 101st Indiana Regiments of the Union Army, serving since May of 1861. He saw action in action in General William Tecumseh Sherman's march to Savannah, Georgia, as well as in Chattanooga, Missionary Ridge, and Atlanta.[2]

Steele's service in the Indiana Regiments ended sometime close to the end of the war.

Post-Civil War life

Following the Civil War, Steele ran a business in Marion, though was unsuccessful and later would re-join the military to serve in the West.[2] He married Marietta Eliezabeth Swayzee in 1866,[2] and the couple had two children, Marietta Steele (1870–1945) and George W. Steele, Jr. (1879–???).[3]

After leaving the military once again when resigning after a decade of service in 1876, Steele pursued agriculture and the pork-packing industry, where he worked in until 1882.

Political career

U.S. House of Representatives, 1881–89

George Steele bioguide.jpg

Steele was first elected to the U.S. House from Indiana's 11th congressional district in 1880, narrowly defeating Democrat opponent James R. Slack.[4] He was re-elected by even narrower margins three times,[5] though faced defeat in 1888.[6]

Steele votes against the Pendleton Act

During a lame duck session in 1883, Steele was one of only seven House Republicans to vote against passing the Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act,[7] which created a Civil Service Commission that would dismantle patronage control of government posts.

Civil service reform had been opposed during the Hayes presidency by congressional Stalwarts, the conservative pro-civil rights wing of the GOP. However, following the assassination of "Half-Breed" president James A. Garfield by the mentally ill Charles J. Guiteau and the subsequent nationwide demand for civil service reform, the vast majority of Stalwarts voted for the Pendleton Act.

Territorial Governor of Oklahoma

George W. Steele Territorial Governor.jpg

In 1890, President Benjamin Harrison appointed Steele to become the first governor of then-Oklahoma Territory, and he took office on May 22nd that year.[2] Among tasks the Steele administration faced was creating the three branches of government, filling government posts, and developing policies in addition to institutions.[2]

Gov. Steele early on set up county seats, boundaries for individual counties, and local government mechanisms.[2] He also spearheaded the establishment of colleges, including the University of Oklahoma, Territorial Normal School (known today as the University of Central Oklahoma) and Oklahoma A&M College (known today as Oklahoma State University). His accomplishments in public education was limited, however, due to the inability of the state legislature to pass legislation pertaining to common schools until later in his tenure.[2]

Steele also faced decisions to make regarding a territorial capital location and the public domain lands.[2] Factionalism arose over the fight over the government seat, which during the time was in Guthrie. The governor vetoed bills that would designate Oklahoma City or Kingfisher as the state capital, believing a permanent selection should wait pending further development.[2] Gov. Steele also tribal land disputes, which were resolved by federal treaties.

Among Steele's last actions as territorial governor was dividing new opened land into two counties, one to be named Lincoln and the other Pottawatomie.[2] Less than two years into his tenure, he resigned from the post and returned to Indiana.[2]

Return to the House, 1895–1903

In the 1894 midterm elections, Steele ran for his old House seat, garnering the party nomination and defeating incumbent Democrat Augustus N. Martin by eight percentage points.[8] He was subsequently re-elected three times,[5] and declined to run for re-election in the 1902 midterms.

See also


  1. Steele, Hon. G.W. digital file from original. Library of Congress. Retrieved December 23, 2021.
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 Everett, Dianna. STEELE, GEORGE WASHINGTON (1839–1922). Oklahoma Historical Society. Retrieved December 23, 2021.
  3. George W. Steele Jr. WikiMarion. Retrieved December 23, 2021.
  4. IN District 11 Race - Nov 02, 1880. Our Campaigns. Retrieved December 23, 2021.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Candidate - George W. Steele. Our Campaigns. Retrieved December 23, 2021.
  6. IN - District 11 Race - Nov 06, 1888. Our Campaigns. Retrieved December 23, 2021.
  7. TO PASS S. 133, A BILL REGULATING AND IMPROVING THE U. S. CIVIL SERVICE. (J.P. 163). Retrieved December 23, 2021.
  8. IN - District 11 Race - Nov 06, 1894. Our Campaigns. Retrieved December 23, 2021.

External links