Kinder to be first lt. governor from Cape County in 150 years

Friday, November 12, 2004

The two previous lieutenant governors from the county were doctors who lived in Cape Girardeau and Jackson.

By Marc Powers ~ Southeast Missourian

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- When Peter Kinder is sworn in as Missouri lieutenant governor in January, he will be the first Republican to hold the post in 24 years and just the second in 72 years.

But to find the last Cape Girardeau County resident who served as lieutenant governor, you have to go back 150 years to a time when the Republican Party was just being organized.

Kinder will become the third man from Cape Girardeau County to fill Missouri's No. 2 executive branch position. However, he will be the first county native and first area Republican in the job. Kinder, who is nearing the end of a four-year tenure as Senate president pro tem, said he is proud of his unique status in local political history.

"It accentuates the tremendous honor I felt upon being elected," Kinder said.

The two other Cape Girardeau County residents to serve as lieutenant governor were Franklin Cannon and Wilson Brown, who both held the job during early decades of statehood.

In addition to being Democrats, living in the same county and holding the same statewide office, Cannon and Brown had much in common.

Both men were physicians who moved to Southeast Missouri from southern states and went on to enjoy great financial and political success, said Dr. Frank Nickell, a history professor at Southeast Missouri State University.

"What is significant about both of them is they started out with very little money," Nickell said. "By mid-century they were wealthy, prosperous land owners, leaders of the community and statewide officeholders. They really adapted to the environment of the time."

Most of what is known about Cannon and Brown comes from "Goodspeed's History of Southeast Missouri" published in 1888. Information from that source was provided by Missouri state archivist Kenneth Winn.

Cannon was born in North Carolina on March 12, 1794. He moved to Jackson around 1830.

Nickell said Cannon built a strong reputation as a top-notch physician during the cholera outbreak of 1832 and 1833 that claimed the lives of hundreds in Cape Girardeau County.

"He was praised for his efforts in that epidemic," Nickell said.

Cannon twice won election to the state Senate, in 1832 and 1834. While serving in the legislature he met and married Mary W. Dunklin, the eldest daughter of Gov. Daniel Dunklin -- the namesake of Dunklin County.

Cannon was Missouri's fifth lieutenant governor, serving from 1837 to 1841. He died on June 13, 1863, at the age of 69.

Both Cannon and Brown were slave owners. One sign of Cannon's growing prosperity was the increase in his slave holdings. According to county tax records compiled by Nickell, Cannon owned one slave valued at $400 in 1830. By 1860, he owned 11 slaves valued at $4,400. Nickell didn't have details on Brown's slave holdings.

Brown was born in Maryland on Aug. 27, 1804. He moved to Sikeston in 1827 and set up his practice.

"For a brief period of time at Sikeston, which at that time was very small, he was the only physician," Nickell said.

Brown was elected to one term in the House of Representatives from Scott County in 1838. He later moved to Cape Girar-deau. His brother, Robert Brown, was editor of the Southern Advocate, a newspaper based in Jackson.

Brown served one term as state auditor, from 1849 to 1853, before being elected Missouri's ninth lieutenant governor. His tenure, however, was cut short when he died in office on Aug. 27, 1855. It was his 51st birthday.

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