Born: 1798-03-15 England, United Kingdom
Died: 1873-04-22 Albion, Illinois
Flourished: Albion, Illinois
Pickering graduated from Oxford University in 1820. Trained as a civil engineer, Pickering immigrated to Edwards County, Illinois, in 1821, settling first in Village Prairie. In 1824, he married Margaret Flower, with whom he had two children. Margaret Pickering died in 1838, and William never re-married. He subsequently moved to Albion, where he purchased approximately 900 acres of public property and engaged in various business interests, including farming, banking, and railroads. An Episcopalian, Pickering was an organizer and long-time member of St. John's Episcopal Church of Albion. He also became active in state politics and the Whig Party. From 1842 to 1852, he represented Edwards County as a Whig in the Illinois House of Representatives. As a prominent Whig, he became a close friend of Abraham Lincoln. After the demise of the Whig Party in the mid-1850s, Pickering joined the Republican Party. In 1860, he served as chairman of the Illinois delegation to the Republican National Convention, playing a pivotal role in getting Lincoln's name into nomination. In 1862, President Lincoln offered Pickering a choice of a diplomatic post in Great Britain or the governorship of the Washington Territory. Pickering chose the latter, serving as governor from June 1862 to January 1867. During his time in office, Pickering restructured the government, improved roads in the territory, and convinced the legislature to fund care for the mentally ill. He was also responsible for connecting the territory to the transcontinental telegraph, sending the first message from Olympia in September 1864. After his term ended, he returned to Albion.
Gravestone, "William Pickering," Albion Cemetery, Albion, IL; Gravestone, "Martha Flower," Albion Cemetery, Albion, IL; Illinois Public Domain Land Tract Sales, Edwards County, 110:9, 10, 11; 818:48, Illinois State Archives, Springfield, IL; Illinois Statewide Marriage Index, Edwards County, 9 March 1824, Illinois State Archives, Springfield, IL; Combined History of Edwards, Lawrence and Wabash Counties, Illinois (Philadelphia, PA: J. L. McDonough & Co., 1883), 48, 66, 96, 165-66, 206; Paul G. Pierpaoli, Jr., "Pickering, William (1798-1873)," American Civil War: A State-by-State Encyclopedia (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLLO, 2015), 1:888; Edmond S. Meany, Governors of Washington: Territorial and State (Seattle: Department of Printing, University of Washington, 1915), 27-28.