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09/23/2021 06:32 PM
Pennsylvania State Senate

William Wilkins

Photo credit:

Congressional Biographies; Portrait: Brady-Handy Collection, Lib. of Congress;also: John Newton Boucher,  A century and a half of Pittsburg and her people, illustrated. Vol. 2  ( John Newton Boucher : Author:, 1854-1933.p 466.



Session Position District Party
1857 22 Democrat
 Counties   Allegheny


1779 - 1865

William Wilkins was born in Carlisle, Pa., December 20, 1779, the son of Capt. John Wilkins Sr. and Catherine Rowan; attended Dickinson College, Carlisle, Pa.; studied law under Judge David Watts; admitted to the bar in 1801 and commenced practice in Pittsburgh, Pa.; assisted in organizing the Pittsburgh Manufacturing Co. in 1810; first president of the Bank of Pittsburgh; first president of the common council, 1816-1819; member, Federalist to the state House of Representatives, 1820; appointed president judge of the fifth judicial district of Pennsylvania, 1821-1824; judge of the United States District Court for western Pennsylvania, 1824-1831; unsuccessful candidate for election to Congress, 1826; elected to the subsequent Congress but resigned before qualifying.  He served as a Jacksonian to the US Senate, 1831-1834, resigning  in the latter year.  Wilkins was appointed US Minister to Russia, 1834-1835; unsuccessful candidate for re-election to Congress, 1840, but elected as a Democrat, 1843-1844, again resigning, this time to accept an appointment as Secretary of War under President John Tyler, 1844-1845, who had now become an opposition figure to the Jacksonians.  William became a member of the state Senate, 1856-1858; a major general of the Pennsylvania Home Guards in 1862; and died in ‘Homewood,’ near Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, Pa., June 23, 1865; interred in Homewood Cemetery, Wilkinsburg, PA, a town named for him.  He married (1) Catherine Holmes (deceased 1816) and (2) Mathilda Dallas.  The Hon. Wilkins was a “second” during the famous 1806 Bates duel, resulting in the death of Mr. Bates.  It is the last duel of record in Pennsylvania, preceding the Pa. Gen. Assembly’s “Act to abolish the horrid act of dueling.”