Richards, William A. (William Alford), 1849-1912

Alternative names
Birth 1849-03-09
Death 1912-07-25

Biographical notes:

Richards (1849-1912) was born in Wisconsin and worked as a surveyor in Nebraska from 1869 to 1873 before surveying the southern and western boundaries of Wyoming territory from 1873 to 1874 with his brother Alonzo. He worked as a surveyor in Santa Clara County, California from 1876 to 1880 before moving to Colorado Springs, Colorado to recover from tuberculosis. He homesteaded in Johnson County, Wyoming (now Washakie County)in 1885. From 1889 to 1893 Richards was surveyor general for Wyoming and served as governor from 1895 to 1899. He later served as assistant commissioner (1899-1903) and commissioner (1904-1907)of the U.S. General Land Office. He died in Melbourne, Australia, while serving as the delegate for the U.S. Committee on Irrigation.

From the description of William A. Richards family papers, 1870-1965. (University of Wyoming, American Heritage Center). WorldCat record id: 33156804

William A. Richards was the governor of Wyoming from 1895 to 1898. Richards was born on March 9, 1849 in Hazel Green, Wisconsin. He attended public school until about the age of 17, when he began a teaching career in Wisconsin and Illinois from 1866 to 1869. During the Civil War he drove an ambulance, because he was too young to enlist. After his teaching career, he began to practice surveying and civil engineering in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Although he never attended college, he excelled at his work. In 1883 Richards was elected county surveyor of El Paso County and city engineer of Colorado Springs.

In 1884, William A. Richards, intrigued by the possibilities of irrigation, decided to move to Wyoming, where he set up his homestead at the Western foot of the Big Horn Mountains. After his arrival in Wyoming, Richards was elected Commissioner of Johnson County and managed a large cattle company before being appointed U. S. surveyor general for the state of Wyoming by President Benjamin Harrison in 1889. He served four years and was then elected as Governor of Wyoming. He served from 1895 to 1898. After Richards declined a nomination for reelection as governor, President William McKinley appointed him assistant commissioner of the general land office. It was during this time that he was directly involved in opening up the Indian Territory to settlement. After this term was up, President Theodore Roosevelt appointed him commissioner of the general land office in 1903.

William A. Richards married Harriett Alice Hunt on December 28, 1874. They had three daughters. In 1912, Richards was sent to Melbourne, Australia as a U. S. delegate for the U. S. Committee on Irrigation. It was here that he suddenly died of angina pectoris on July 25, 1912.

From the guide to the William A. Richards Family Papers, 1870-1965, (University of Wyoming. American Heritage Center.)


Loading Relationships


Ark ID:


  • Land settlement
  • Land settlement--Oklahoma


  • Politicians
  • Surveyors


  • Yellowstone National Park. (as recorded)
  • Oklahoma (as recorded)
  • Yellowstone National Park (as recorded)
  • Oklahoma (as recorded)
  • Wyoming (as recorded)
  • Wyoming (as recorded)