Born in New York, land developer Leonard James Farwell (1819-1889) came to Madison in 1849.
He quickly drained lowlands and helped industrialize the city. As one of the state's most
he abolished capital punishment and founded the state geological survey, a state banking
system and the Insane Asylum (Mendota Mental Health Institute).
During the Civil War he served as the chief examiner at the U.S. Patent Office in
Washington, D.C. He is credited with saving vice president Andrew Johnson's life by
warning him of a possible attack after learning of Lincoln's assassination earlier
in the evening. Farwell spent the last years of his life as a banker in Grant City, Mo.
in Maple Bluff named after him by the
His owned a house there better know as the
La Follette House
Farwell began making large land purchases in the Madison area about 1847, and developed
the area by erecting mills, building streets and draining lowlands. To promote settlement
of the new capital, he published several pamphlets that he distributed widely on the East
Coast and abroad. Farwell was governor (1852-1854), and during his administration, the act
to abolish capital punishment became law and the state geological survey was instituted.
After leaving Madison to work for the federal government, Farwell was credited with saving
the life of Vice President Andrew Johnson by warning him of a possible attack on the night
that President Lincoln was assassinated.