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John Winans
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Wisconsin's 1st district
In office
March 4, 1883 – March 3, 1885
Preceded byCharles Grandison Williams
Succeeded byLucien B. Caswell
Personal details
BornSeptember 27, 1831
Vernon, New Jersey
DiedJanuary 17, 1907(1907-01-17) (aged 75)
Janesville, Wisconsin
Political partyDemocratic

John Winans (September 27, 1831 – January 17, 1907) was an American lawyer from Janesville, Wisconsin who served as a member of the Wisconsin State Assembly and as a U.S. Representative from Wisconsin, as well as holding down local offices such as mayor of Janesville.


Winans was born in Vernon, New Jersey, received a public and private school, studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1855. He came to Wisconsin in 1857 and settled in Janesville, where he practiced his profession. He served as member of the board of aldermen of Janesville in 1861, and as city attorney several times. He served as delegate to the 1864 Democratic National Convention, and in 1868 was the Democratic nominee for Congress from Wisconsin's 2nd congressional district, against incumbent Republican Benjamin F. Hopkins.


Winans was first elected to the State Assembly from Rock County's 5th Assembly district (the City of Janesville) in 1873 as a member of the short-lived Reform Party, a coalition of Democrats, reform and Liberal Republicans, and Grangers formed in 1873, which secured the election for two years of William Robert Taylor as Governor of Wisconsin.[1] He received 741 votes to 633 for Republican incumbent Henry A. Patterson, and was assigned to the standing committee on the judiciary, of which he was elected chairman.[2] He ran for re-election in 1874 under the "Democratic Reform" label (the Reform coalition had begun to dissolve, and Taylor would lose his 1875 bid for re-election), but was unseated by Republican Hiram Merrill, who drew 799 votes to 694 for Winans. Winans served as a colonel on the staff of Governor Taylor in 1874 and 1875.[3]

He returned to the practice of law, and was elected to the Assembly again as a Democrat in 1881 from the new 2nd Rock County district (the City of Janesville, plus the Towns of Janesville and Rock) with 806 votes to 618 for Republican Oscar F. Nowlan and 109 for Prohibitionist G. W. Lawrence (Republican incumbent Franklin Lawrence was not a candidate for re-election; it is unknown whether the two Lawrences were related). He returned to the judiciary committee, and was also assigned to the committee on bills on the third reading. Winans was also selected by the Wisconsin Supreme Court in 1882 as one of the Commissioners to represent them in planning the expansion of the Wisconsin State Capitol Building.[4]


Winans was elected as an independent Democrat to the Forty-eighth Congress (March 4, 1883 – March 3, 1885) representing Wisconsin's 1st congressional district, unseating five-term Republican incumbent Charles G. Williams, with 12,307 votes to 11,853 for Williams, 2207 for Prohibitionist C. M. Blackman, and 10 for former State Senator William L. Utley, who had served in the legislature as a Free Soiler and a Republican, but was now a Greenback.[5]

He was not a candidate for renomination in 1884, since he was running for mayor of Janesville. He was succeeded in Congress by Republican Lucien Caswell.

After Congress

He was elected mayor of Janesville in April 1885 for a two-year term, over Republican Charles Valentine. He was elected to the Assembly as a Democrat again in 1886, after being defeated in a run for the United States Senate by incumbent Republican Philetus Sawyer, who won the votes of 82 legislators, to 37 for Winans and six for Populist John Cochrane. For the Assembly, he received 1,132 votes to 1,047 for Republican Oscar Nowland (Republican incumbent Pliny Norcross was not a candidate) and 91 for Prohibitionist James Harris. When the Assembly session opened, he was the Democratic candidate for Speaker, losing to Republican Thomas B. Mills in what turned out to be a six-man race. He once more returned to the judiciary committee, and to the committee on bills on the third reading.[6] He was not a candidate for re-election in 1888, and was succeeded by Republican Cyrus Miner.

He was elected to the Assembly (as a Democrat) for the final time in 1890; the 2nd district no longer included the Town of Rock, but did include those of Center and Harmony. He received 1487 votes to 1308 for Nowland and 67 for Prohibitionist C. W. Cook. He again became chair of the judiciary committee; and was also on the joint committees on charitable and penal institutions, and on apportionment (serving as Assembly co-chair of the latter committee).[7] After the redistricting of 1891, most of his district was put in the new 3rd Rock County Assembly district; Winans did not run for re-election, and was succeeded by fellow Democrat Agesilaus Wilson.[8]

Out of office again

He continue to engage in the practice of law in Janesville, until his death on January 17, 1907. He was interred in Oak Hill Cemetery.


  • United States Congress. "John Winans (id: W000627)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.


  1. ^ William Robert Taylor, Wisconsin Historical Society
  2. ^ Turner, A. J., ed. The legislative manual of the state of Wisconsin: comprising the constitutions of the United States and of the state of Wisconsin, Jefferson's manual, forms and laws for the regulation of business; also, lists and tables for reference, etc. Thirteenth Annual Edition. Madison: Atwood and Culver, Printers and Stereotypers, 1874; pp. 352, 467, 476, 479
  3. ^ Bashford, R. M., ed. The legislative manual of the state of Wisconsin: comprising the constitutions of the United States and of the state of Wisconsin, Jefferson's manual, forms and laws for the regulation of business; also, lists and tables for reference, etc. Fourteenth Annual Edition. Madison: Atwood and Culver, Printers and Stereotypers, 1875; pp. 202, 245, 333
  4. ^ Heg, J. E., ed. The blue book of the state of Wisconsin 1882 Madison, 1882; pp. 389, 558, 569, 572
  5. ^ Heg, J. E., ed. The blue book of the state of Wisconsin  1883 Madison, 1883; pp. 466-67
  6. ^ Timme, Ernst G., ed. The blue book of the state of Wisconsin 1887 Madison, 1887; pp. 378, 473, 479, 500, 507
  7. ^ Cunningham, Thomas J., ed. The blue book of the state of Wisconsin 1891 Madison, 1891; pp. 311, 562-63, 601
  8. ^ Cunningham, Thomas J., ed. The blue book of the state of Wisconsin 1893 Madison, 1893; p. 651
U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Charles Grandison Williams
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Wisconsin's 1st congressional district

March 4, 1883 – March 3, 1885
Succeeded by
Lucien B. Caswell
This page was last edited on 21 May 2019, at 08:37
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