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Home North Carolina Buncombe County City of Asheville Historical Markers Joseph Lane

Joseph Lane

Merrimon Avenue at Beaverdam Road, Asheville, NC, USA
  North Carolina State Historical Marker
    North Carolina State
Historical Marker
    Marker Text:
"Territorial Governor of Oregon, 1848-50, Vice-Presidential candidate, 1860, U.S. Senator, major general in Mexican War. Born 3 miles east."
     Joseph Lane, vice-presidential candidate and territorial governor of Oregon, was born on December 14, 1801, near Asheville, the son of John and Elizabeth Street Lane. Three years later the father, a Revolutionary War veteran who had fought at Kings Mountain, moved the family to Henderson County, Kentucky. In 1816, Joseph Lane left home and found work as a clerk in Warrick County, Indiana. Four years later he married Mary Pierre Hart, and the two settled in Vanderburgh County.

     Lane and his wife ran a mercantile business that traded produce along the Mississippi River via flatboats. In 1822 he held his first public office when he was elected to the Indiana state legislature, a position he maintained for the next twenty-four years. At the outbreak of hostilities with Mexico in 1846, Lane was appointed colonel of the 2nd Indiana Volunteer Infantry. A promotion to brigadier general followed, and he commanded a brigade of Indiana Volunteers at the Battle of Buena Vista on February 22-23, 1847.

     After the battle, Lane received a promotion to major general of volunteers, and led the relief column that lifted the Siege of Puebla on October 12, 1847, shortly after defeating the army of Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna at the Battle of Huamantla three days earlier. Lane embroiled himself in controversy when he allowed his soldiers to burn and sack the town of Huamantla after the death of Captain Samuel Walker of the Texas Rangers. It was the only instance in the Mexican-American War in which a sizable American force ransacked a Mexican city.

     At the war’s conclusion in 1848, President James K. Polk appointed Lane governor of the Oregon Territory. Lane arrived there in March 1849. He resigned the territorial governorship in June 1850 and was named the territory’s delegate to the United States Congress. Reelected to the position three times, Lane was selected as Oregon’s first United States senator when the territory became a state in 1859.

     In 1860, Lane was named vice-presidential candidate for the Democratic ticket headed by John C. Breckenridge. After an unsuccessful campaign, Lane returned to North Carolina for the first time since childhood, visiting his father’s birthplace near Raleigh and the Joel Lane House. He also visited with his cousin, David Lowry Swain then president of the University of North Carolina.

     Lane returned to Oregon the following year, settling on his farm near Roseburg, with his wife and ten children. He converted to Catholicism in 1867, never reentered public life, and died quietly on his farm on April 19, 1881. Lane County, Oregon, is named for him.

William S. Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, IV, 13-14—sketch by James Meehan
Biographical Dictionary of the American Congress (1971)
James E. Hendrickson, Joe Lane of Oregon (1967)
M. Margaret Jean Kelly, The Career of Joseph Lane: Frontier Politician (1942)
Joseph Lane Papers, University of Oregon, Eugene, Oregon