Winfield S. Hammond Biography

Minnesota's eighteenth governor had little time to effect significant change before he died in office. Had he lived longer, perhaps Winfield Scott Hammond would have realized his ambitious plans to reorganize state government by minimizing bureaucracy and eliminating waste to make Minnesota’s wheels turn more efficiently. Instead, his most notable legislation was the “county option bill,” a restriction on liquor sales that pleased prohibition advocates.

An inscription under a bust of Hammond in the state capitol describes him aptly as “a scholar in politics.” He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Dartmouth College and upon moving to Mankato at age twenty-one, became principal of its high school. He later studied law while he supervised schools in Watonwan County. He made his permanent home in St. James, where he practiced law and established himself as a political contender.

A staunch Democrat in a Republican community, he lost his first bid for Congress in 1892, but perseverance and bipartisan support eventually brought him a congressional seat fourteen years later. He interrupted his fourth consecutive term to leave Washington and run for governor.

Hammond had been in office only eight months when he suffered ptomaine poisoning on a trip south and died of a stroke in a little bayou town in Louisiana.