Vance, Joseph

Born: 1786-03-25 Washington County, Pennsylvania

Died: 1852-08-26 Urbana, Ohio


Joseph Vance was an Ohio farmer, businessman, and politician. Vance moved with his father, a Revolutionary War soldier and farmer, to Vanceburg, Kentucky, in 1788, and to Urbana, Ohio, in 1805. Receiving little formal education, he engaged in farming and wood cutting before becoming a salt peddler. In 1807, Vance married Mary Lemen. After his father's death in 1809, Vance assumed control of the family farm in Urbana. That same year he began his political career, receiving appointment as secretary of the Champaign County Board of Commissioners. In 1810, he organized an independent rifle company, and his troops elected him captain. During the War of 1812, Vance's company joined the Ohio State Militia, and he rose successively from captain to brigadier general. He represented Champaign County in the Ohio House of Representatives in 1813, 1814, 1815, 1816, 1819, and 1820. He was a delegate to the Ohio state constitutional convention in 1820. While a member of the Ohio House, he engaged in mercantile pursuits in Urbana and Perrysburg, Ohio, and helped to lay out the town of Findley. In 1820, Ohio voters elected him to the U.S. House of Representatives, where he served as an anti-Jacksonian from 1821 to 1835. He was an unsuccessful candidate for reelection in 1834. Nominated by the Whig Party in 1836 as their candidate for governor, Vance defeated his Democrat challenger, becoming the first Whig to govern Ohio. As governor, Vance advocated the use of federal surplus funds for public schools, completion of internal improvement projects already underway, and abolition of capital punishment. He ran afoul of anti-slavery Whigs, however, when he ordered the extradition of John B. Mahan, who was wanted in Kentucky for helping two fugitive slaves escape. This decision cost him reelection in 1838. Vance refused the Whig nomination for governor in 1840, but served in the Ohio Senate from 1840 to 1841. In 1842, Ohio voters sent him back the U.S. House, where he served as a Whig from 1843 to 1847. Not a candidate for reelection in 1846, Vance retired to his farm after the end of his term in Congress. He was a delegate to the Whig National Convention in 1848, and represented Champaign County in the Ohio state constitutional convention in 1851.

Gravestone, Oak Dale Cemetery, Urbana, OH; Robert Sobel and John Raimo, eds., Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States 1789-1978 (Westport, CT: Meckler Books, 1978), 3:1200; Biographical Directory of the American Congress 1774-1996 (Alexandria, VA: CQ Staff Directories, 1997), 1980.