Image of Edwards, Ninian W.

Edwards, Ninian W.

b. April 15, 1809, in Frankfort, Kentucky; d. September 2, 1889, in Springfield, Illinois. Edwards moved to Kaskaskia, Illinois with his family when his father, Ninian Edwards, was appointed Governor of Illinois Territory in 1809. Edwards attended Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky, and graduated from the law department in 1833. On February 16, 1832, he married Elizabeth P. Todd, Mary Todd Lincoln’s sister, in Lexington. The couple had four children. After graduation, Edwards began practicing law in Illinois. In 1834, Governor John Reynolds appointed him Illinois Attorney General. In 1835, Edwards resigned as Attorney General and moved to Springfield, Illinois. From December 1836 to March 1837 Edwards was a representative in the Illinois state legislature and a member of the “Long Nine” delegation that helped secure the removal of the state capital from Vandalia to Springfield. Edwards remained in the state legislature until 1852 either as a member of the house or senate, and in 1848 was a member of the Illinois Constitutional Convention. On March 24, 1854, Governor Joel Matteson appointed him the state’s first Superintendent of Public Instruction, a position he held until January 12, 1857. During this period, Edwards drafted the first school law of the state, which laid the foundation for the public educational system. By 1860, Edwards owned real property valued at $100,000 and personal property worth $10,000. In 1862, President Abraham Lincoln appointed him Captain Commissary of Subsistence. At the request of the State Historical Society, Edwards wrote a book about his father and the early history of Illinois entitled History of Illinois From 1778 to 1833; And Life and Times of Ninian Edwards.
Newton Bateman and Paul Selby, eds., Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois and History of Sangamon County (Chicago: Munsell Publishing Company, 1912), 1:152-53; Daily Illinois State Journal (Springfield), 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: The Illinois State Journal Company, 1870); John Power, History of the Early Settlers of Sangamon County, Illinois (Springfield: E. A. Wilson and Company, 1876), 278-79, 464; Sangamon County, Illinois, Seventh Census of the United States, 1850; Sangamon County, Illinois, Eighth Census of the United States, 1860. Illustration courtesy of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, Springfield, IL.