Edwards, Ninian W.

Born: 1809-04-15 Franklin County, Kentucky

Died: 1889-09-02 Springfield, Illinois

Ninian W. Edwards moved to Kaskaskia, Illinois, with his family when his father, Ninian Edwards, was appointed governor of the Illinois Territory in 1809. While attending Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky, he met and married Elizabeth Todd, Robert S. Todd’s daughter and Mary Lincoln’s older sister. After earning his law degree in 1833, Ninian moved his family to Illinois and they settled in Springfield in 1835. It was in the Edwards’ Springfield home that Mary Todd and Abraham Lincoln courted and were married in 1842.

Active in Whig politics, Ninian W. Edwards served as attorney general of Illinois from 1834 to 1835, served in both houses of the Illinois General Assembly from 1836 to 1849, and served as Illinois’ first superintendent of public instruction from 1854 to 1857. He joined the Springfield Gas Light Company’s board of directors in 1854. He was also director of the State Bank of Illinois and, along with Lincoln, was a member of the “Long Nine,” a group of Sangamon County legislators who worked to move the state capital from Vandalia to Springfield. Edwards was a delegate to the Illinois constitutional convention of 1847. He won reelection to the Illinois General Assembly in 1850, but resigned when he changed his political affiliation from Whig to Democrat, and lost the election to fill the vacancy. At least as early as 1838, and up through the 1850s, he was a merchant and co-owner of a grocery and dry goods business in Springfield, which was known at one point as N. W. Edwards & Company. A politically prominent and wealthy resident of Springfield, he had accumulated $25,000 in real property by 1850. In 1862, President Lincoln appointed him captain commissary of subsistence.

Newton Bateman and Paul Selby, eds., Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois and History of Sangamon County (Chicago: Munsell, 1912), 1:152-53; Daily Illinois State Journal (Springfield), 26 February 1856, 2:5; 3 September 1889, 1:3-4; Daily Illinois State Register (Springfield), 3 September 1889, 3:6; Ninian W. Edwards, History of Illinois From 1778 to 1833; And Life and Times of Ninian Edwards (Springfield: Illinois State Journal, 1870); John Carroll Power and S. A. Power, History of the Early Settlers of Sangamon County, Illinois (Springfield, IL: Edwin A. Wilson, 1876), 278-79, 464; Sangamo Journal (Springfield, IL), 17 November 1838, 3:5; Illinois Journal (Springfield), 13 January 1848, 2:7; U.S. Census Office, Seventh Census of the United States (1850), Sangamon County, IL, 103; “An Act to Incorporate the Springfield Gas Light Company,” 27 February 1854, Laws of Illinois (1854), 189; Gravestone, Oak Ridge Cemetery, Springfield, IL. Illustration courtesy of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, Springfield, IL.