Governor Wells

Research Guides

1896-1905, Republican

About the Wells Administration

Heber Manning Wells was the first governor to serve the State of Utah. He served two terms from 1896 to 1905. Governor Wells announced his candidacy a few days before the Republican convention. He defeated party chair Charles Crane and former territorial governor Arthur L. Thomas for the Republican nomination. He then defeated the Democrat's nominee, John T. Caine, the former delegate to Congress, and became governor at thirty-six.

Governor Wells's first term was a five-year term; all state officials were initially elected to serve five years to allow state elections to be aligned in 1900 with the presidential election. The Governor had great responsibility as the State's first governor. The Constitution allowed for the first legislative session to run ninety days and contained legislation building the framework for the new state including organization of state courts and offices, election reform, and codifying existing laws. Governor Wells also confronted eight-hour work days for underground miners and smelter workers, Utah's involvement in the Spanish American War, and irrigation and water rights issues.

During his terms, what is now Southern Utah University and the first state-sponsored art organization (present Utah Arts Council) were established. Governor Wells aided in coordinating private relief efforts for the affected families of the Winter Quarter's mine explosion. These are just a few examples of issues involving the Governor. His records contain information on many more. Governor Wells ran for a third term but lost the Republican nomination to John C. Cutler.

Murphy, Miriam B. "Heber Manning Wells," Beehive History 18 (1992): 4-5.

Powell, Allan Kent, ed. Utah History Encyclopedia. Heber Manning Wells, by Miriam B. Murphy. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1994.

Sobel, Robert and John Raimo, ed. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States 1789-1978, vol. IV. Westport: Meckler Books.

History of Wells Administration
Biography of Heber Manning Wells
Portrait by John Willard “Will” Clawson from the Utah State Capitol

Records of Governor Wells

Governor Wells  
Correspondence, 1895-1904 Series 235
Spanish American War scrapbook, 1898-1899 Series 84193

Page Last Updated May 29, 2002.