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Thomas B. Cuming

Thomas Barney Cuming
Acting Governor of Nebraska Territory
In office
October 18, 1854 – February 23, 1855
Appointed by Franklin Pierce
Preceded by Francis Burt
as Territorial Governor
Succeeded by Mark W. Izard
as Territorial Governor
Acting Governor of Nebraska Territory
In office
October 25, 1857 – January 12, 1858
Appointed by James Buchanan
Preceded by Mark W. Izard
as Territorial Governor
Succeeded by William Alexander Richardson
as Territorial Governor
Personal details
Born (1827-12-25)December 25, 1827
Genesee County, New York
Died March 12, 1858(1858-03-12) (aged 30)
Omaha, Nebraska
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Margaret C. Murphy
Alma mater University of Michigan

Thomas B. Cuming (December 25, 1827 – March 12, 1858) was an American military officer and politician. He served as the first Secretary of Nebraska Territory and served twice as the territory's Acting Governor, the first time following the death of Francis Burt and the second following the resignation of Mark W. Izard.


Cuming was born in Genesee County, New York on December 25, 1827. The son of an Episcopal minister, his mother died when he was a young child. Following his mother's death he was raise by his uncle, a Prebysterian residing in Rochester, New York.[1] Cuming was admitted to The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor at an early age and graduated at the age of sixteen.[2] Following his graduation he worked as a geologist in a scientific expedition exploring the Lake Superior region for minerals.[3]

In November 1847, during the Mexican–American War, Cuming enlisted as a sergeant with the 1st Michigan Infantry Regiment. His assigned duties kept him away from battle for the course of the hostilities. Following the war he became a telegraph operator in Keokuk, Iowa. Looking to advance himself, he began writing articles for the Keokuk Dispatch. Reaction to these articles was extremely favorable and Cuming was made editor of the newspaper. During his time in Keokuk, he also married Margaret C. Murphy.[3]


Cuming was appointed Secretary of the newly formed Nebraska Territory at the age of 25 and arrived to assume his duties on October 8, 1854.[3] Ten days later, with the death of Governor Francis Burt, Cuming became Acting Governor.[4]

Among his first duties as Acting Governor, Cuming ordered a census of the territory and preparations for the territory's first legislative session. Despite Governor Burt's intention to have the capital in Bellevue, Cuming chose to place it in Omaha.[4] The choice of a location north of the Platte River, while beneficial to Cuming's political allies in Council Bluffs, Iowa, angered many of the territory's 2,732 residents, 1,818 of whom lived south of the river. The Acting Governor further complicated the situation by allocating a majority of the legislative representation to counties north of the river.[5] As a result, when the legislature convened on January 16, 1885, it dedicated most of its energies in examining Cuming's role in making Omaha the territorial capital.[4]

With the arrival of Governor Mark W. Izard, Cuming resumed his role as Territorial Secretary. The political split between north and south continued however, with a short lived effort to have southern Nebraska annexed into Kansas taking place.[5] Following the resignation of Governor Izard, Cuming again became Acting Governor until the arrival of Governor William Alexander Richardson.[4]

Cuming died on March 12, 1858, at the age of 30.[6] Cuming County, Nebraska was named after him.[7]


  1. ^ Morton & Watkins, p. 249
  2. ^ Morton & Watkins, p. 249-50
  3. ^ a b c Morton & Watkins, p. 250
  4. ^ a b c d McMullin & Walker, p. 223
  5. ^ a b Rodriguez, p. 244
  6. ^ Nebraska Legislative Reference Bureau (1915). Sheldon, Addison E., ed. Nebraska blue book. Lincoln: Nebraska Legislative Council.  
  7. ^ Gannett, Henry (1905). The Origin of Certain Place Names in the United States. Govt. Print. Off. p. 97. 
  • McMullin, Thomas A.; Walker, David (1984). Biographical Directory of American Territorial Governors. Westport, CT: Meckler Publishing.  
  • Morton, Julius Sterling; Watkins, Albert (1918). History of Nebraska from the earliest explorations of the trans-Mississippi region. Lincoln, Nebraska: Western Publishing and Engraving Company.  
  • Rodriguez, Junius P. (2002). The Louisiana Purchase: a historical and geographical encyclopedia. Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-CLIO.  
Preceded by
Francis Burt
Territorial Governor
Acting Governor of Nebraska Territory
October 18, 1854 – 1855
Succeeded by
Mark W. Izard
Territorial Governor
Preceded by
Mark W. Izard
Territorial Governor
Acting Governor of Nebraska Territory
1857 – March 23, 1858
Succeeded by
William A. Richardson
Territorial Governor
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