Born at Southampton, Massachusetts, on January 3, 1816, Samuel C. Pomeroy attended Amherst College (1836-38) and held several local offices in Southampton before serving in the Massachusetts House of Representatives, 1852-53. He became active in the antislavery movement and, after the enactment of the Kansas-Nebraska bill, served as general agent for the New England Emigrant Aid Company. Pomeroy moved to Kansas Territory at the head on one of the company’s early parties and resided first in Lawrence and then in Atchison, where he served as mayor (1859). Pomeroy was president of the Relief Committee during famine of 1860-61.
From the beginning, Pomeroy pursued a variety of investment and business opportunities, as well as politics. Over the years he was involved in organizing several railroads, including the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe, as well as coal mines, private roads, bridge and ferry companies, and other enterprises that transported people and freight through Kansas. In the 1860 federal census for Atchison, Pomeroy was enumerated as a “Speculator.”
In part, at least, because of the highly visible role he played throughout his years in Kansas, Pomeroy had his loyal supporters and vehement detractors. In commenting Pomeroy’s prospects for election in March 1861, John J. Ingalls wrote: “If abdomen was a test he [Pomeroy] would be sure to triumph, but as brains enter into the contest some what, his chances are small.” Selected one of the states first two U.S. senators, nevertheless, Pomeroy served in that capacity from April 4, 1861, to March 3, 1873. He sought reelection in 1873 but was opposed by a Republican faction, which included most of the rest of the Kansas congressional delegation.
Accused of Bribery
Pomeroy was accused of buying votes in the legislature, and, although he denied that he had given a legislator a bribe, he lost his support and was replaced by John J. Ingalls. So unseemly were many of Pomeroy’s dealings that he served as a fictionalized model for Mark Twain’s Senator Dilworthy, the archetypal corrupt politician in the novel, The Gilded Age.
He lived in Washington, DC for a number of years after being defeated for reelection and eventually returned to Massachusetts where he died in 1891. Pomeroy died at Whitinsville, Worcester Co., Mass., on August 27, 1891, and was buried in Forest Hills Cemetery, Boston.
Plummer, Mark A. Biographical sketch of “Pomeroy, Samuel Clarke.” In American National Biography. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.
Treawell, William E. “The Gilded Age in Kansas.” Kansas Historical Quarterly 40 (Spring 1974): 7.
Bondi, August. “With John Brown in Kansas.” Kansas Historical Collection, 1903-1904 8 (1904): 275-289.