Joseph Vance, half-length portrait, slightly to the left]
Joseph Vance was Ohio's thirteenth governor.
Vance was born in Catfish, Pennsylvania (modern-day Washington, Pennsylvania), on March 21, 1786. His father, Joseph C. Vance, was a Revolutionary War veteran originally from Virginia. The family moved from Pennsylvania to Kentucky in 1788 and then into Ohio in 1801. In 1805, Vance moved to the new community of Urbana, Ohio.
Because Vance had grown up in relatively unsettled parts of the country, he had few opportunities to attend school as a child. His lack of formal education was something that bothered him throughout his life. In spite of not having attended school, however, Vance became very successful. His willingness to work hard, even at a young age, contributed to his success.
As a young man, Vance was a salt peddler. He traveled throughout remote parts of Ohio selling salt to the local settlers. In 1807, Vance married Mary Lemon, whose family also lived in Urbana. When Vance's father died in 1809, Vance took over the family farm. Aside from his time serving in various political offices, Vance worked as a farmer for the rest of his life.
Vance first entered politics as the secretary of the board of county commissioners. He also formed his own rifle company, which became part of the Ohio militia during the War of 1812. Vance earned much respect for his contributions during the war and rose from the rank of captain eventually all the way to the rank of brigadier general by the war's end. In addition, Champaign County voters first elected him as a state representative in 1812. Vance served in the Ohio House of Representatives from 1812 to 1814, 1815 to 1816, and again from 1819 to 1820. Vance was first elected as a member of the United States House of Representatives in 1821, a position that he held until 1835. As a congressman, Vance voted in favor of legislation that provided funding for Western improvements. He also became known for his support of abolitionism.
Vance was elected as Ohio's governor in 1836, becoming the first Whig Party candidate elected in the state. During his term as governor, Vance supported state funding for public schools and canal construction. He also worked to abolish capital punishment in Ohio. He had an excellent reputation as governor until he supported the extradition of someone accused of helping escaped slaves to stand trial in Kentucky. Although Vance had previously been known for his anti-slavery views, the extradition seriously affected his campaign for reelection in 1838. Ultimately, Wilson Shannon was elected as governor instead.
Vance's retirement from politics did not last long. The citizens from the tenth district elected him to the Ohio senate from 1839 to 1841, before electing him to the U.S. House of Representatives once again from 1843 to 1847. He was a prominent and well-respected figure in Congress. Vance was known for his views against the annexation of Texas and the Mexican War.
Although Vance no longer held public office after 1847, this did not mean that he was no longer involved in politics. On the contrary, he remained active within the Whig Party, traveling as a delegate to the national convention in 1848. He also was elected to the Ohio Constitutional Convention of 1850. The convention proved to be Vance's last public service. Returning home from the convention, Vance suffered a stroke. The last months of his life were spent at his home near Urbana, where he died on August 24, 1852.
- Fess, Simeon D., ed. Ohio: A Four-Volume Reference Library on the History of a Great State. Chicago, IL: Lewis Publishing Company, 1937
- The Governors of Ohio. Columbus: The Ohio History Connection, 1954