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Thomas W. Sutherland

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Thomas W. Sutherland
United States Attorney for the District of Wisconsin
In office
June 12, 1848 – 1848
Appointed byJames K. Polk
Preceded byWilliam Pitt Lynde
(Wisconsin Territory)
Succeeded byA. Hyatt Smith
United States Attorney for the Wisconsin Territory
In office
April 27, 1841 – 1845
Appointed byJohn Tyler
Preceded byMoses M. Strong
Succeeded byWilliam Pitt Lynde
1st Village President of Madison, Wisconsin
In office
Preceded byPosition Established
Succeeded byAlexander L. Collins
District Attorney of San Diego County
In office
Preceded byWilliam C. Ferrell
Succeeded byJames W. Robinson
Alcalde of San Diego (Acting)
In office
March 1850 – 1850
Preceded byDennis Gahagan
Succeeded byJoshua Bean (Mayor)
Personal details
Born1817 (1817)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
DiedFebruary 2, 1859(1859-02-02) (aged 41–42)
Sacramento, California
Cause of deathPulmonary edema
Resting place
Political partyDemocratic
  • Joanna Hudson
  • (m. 1841)
  • Thomas A. Sutherland
  • (b. 1850; died 1891)
FatherJoel Barlow Sutherland
Professionlawyer, politician

Thomas W. Sutherland (c. 1817 – February 2, 1859) was an American lawyer and pioneer settler of Wisconsin and California. He was the first Village President of Madison, Wisconsin, was United States Attorney for Wisconsin for several years in the 1840s, was a member of the first Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin, and was the last Alcalde (Mayor) of San Diego, California, prior to statehood.[1]

He was the eldest son of Joel Barlow Sutherland of Philadelphia, who had been a militia officer in the War of 1812 and served as a Member of Congress when Thomas was a child.[1]

Early life and career

Thomas W. Sutherland was born c. 1817 in Pennsylvania (he is listed as 33 in the 1850 San Diego Census). In 1835, he traveled to Indiana as a clerk for Henry Leavitt Ellsworth, who had just become commissioner of the U.S. Patent Office and had been tasked by the U.S. government to travel there to make a treaty with an indian tribe. Ellsworth returned east from here, but Sutherland, at age 18, traveled west, meeting a cousin near St. Louis. They traveled together, exploring parts of what is now Iowa and Minnesota. He followed a river route from the Saint Anthony Falls to the location that would later become Madison, Wisconsin, which at the time was still inhabited only by the Ho-Chunk. He spent some time living with the indians on the shore of Lake Monona, and determined that this would become his future home. He returned briefly to Philadelphia to make preparations, then returned to Madison to purchase his lot as soon as land became available under the newly organized Wisconsin Territory.[1]


He was admitted to the Pennsylvania Bar Association in 1839 and formed a legal partnership in Wisconsin with David Brigham with the endorsement of his father and several other notable politicians. In 1840, at the first session of court in Dane County, Sutherland was one of the first lawyers admitted to practice law in the territory, along with Edward V. Whiton (later Chief Justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court), John Hubbard Tweedy, and Morgan Lewis Martin (later congressional delegates for the territory).[1]

In 1841 he married Joanna Hudson (born c.1822), the daughter of Philadelphia Doctor Edward Hudson. That same year, he was appointed United States Attorney for the Wisconsin Territory by President John Tyler and remained in that role until the inauguration of James K. Polk in 1845. In 1846, Madison was formally incorporated as a Village and Sutherland became the first President of the Village of Madison. That same year, he became one of the founders of the Wisconsin Historical Society and served as the first Secretary of the organization under President A. Hyatt Smith.[1]

In 1848, after Wisconsin became the 30th state, Sutherland was again named United States Attorney to fill the vacancy created by William Pitt Lynde, who had resigned after he was elected to Wisconsin's first congressional delegation. In that consequential year, the new state legislature formalized the state University and established the first Board of Regents. Sutherland was appointed to the Board of Regents by Governor Nelson Dewey, along with other early Wisconsin dwellers Edward V. Whiton, Alexander L. Collins, John H. Rountree, and Rufus King.[1]


In the spring of 1849, Sutherland left Wisconsin for California, which had just been annexed by the United States in the Mexican–American War. Sutherland settled in San Diego, where, in 1850, he served as the final Alcalde (Mayor) of San Diego prior to California becoming a state. That year, on May 5, he and his wife welcomed a son, Thomas, who is claimed to be the first "white" child born in the territory. He then became District Attorney for San Diego County in 1851. They moved to San Francisco in 1852, where Sutherland continued his law practice. He died on February 2, 1859, in Sacramento, California, and was buried at Lone Mountain Cemetery in San Francisco.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Butterfield, Consul Willshire, ed. (1880). History of Dane County, Wisconsin. Western Historical Co., Chicago. pp. 435, 459, 500, 522, 678, 713. Retrieved November 16, 2019.

See also

This page was last edited on 25 December 2020, at 03:24
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