Legislation Quick Search
12/02/2022 02:25 PM
Pennsylvania State Senate

William Fisher Packer

Photo credit:

PHMC: Pennsylvania Governors Past and Present




Session Office Position District Party
1850 12 Democrat
1851 14 Democrat
1852 14 Democrat
 Counties   Centre, Clinton, Lycoming, Sullivan


04/02/1807 - 09/27/1870

William Fisher Packer (D12) Centre, Clinton, Lycoming Counties 1850 (D14) Centre, Clinton, Lycoming, and Sullivan Counties 1851-1852

Early Life:

William Fisher Packer, born April 2, 1807, Howard Township, Centre County, Pennsylvania; son of James and Charity Bye Packer; age thirteen, printer’s apprentice, Sunbury Public Inquirer, Bellefonte Patriot, Harrisburg, Intelligencer; studied law but never practiced; married, Mary Mary Wycoff Vanderbelt Packer, 1829, children, Elizabeth R., Howard, William Vanderbelt, James, Mary, Sarah Bye, Albert, Boyd Cummings, Ellen B., Annie; owned, Lycoming Gazette, 1829-1836; appointed, superintendent, West Branch Division, Pennsylvania Canal, state Canal Commissioner, 1839-1842; appointed, Pennsylvania State Auditor General, 1842-1845; unsuccessful campaigned, Pennsylvania House of Representatives, 1846; elected, Democrat, Speaker, Pennsylvania State House of Representatives, 1848-1849; elected, Democrat, Pennsylvania State Senate, 1850-1852; first, President, Susquehanna Railroad Company; founded, Harrisburg, Keystone Gazette; elected Governor 1858- 1861; died September 27, 1870 (aged 63), Williamsport Lycoming County, Pennsylvania; interment, Williamsport Cemetery, Williamsport, Lycoming County, Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania Politics:

Appointed, Governor George Wolf, Superintendent, West Branch Division, Pennsylvania Canal, Pennsylvania State Canal Commissioner, 1839-1842.  

Appointed, Governor David Rittenhouse Porter, Pennsylvania State Auditor General, 1842-1845.

Unsuccessful campaigned, Democrat, Pennsylvania House of Representatives, 1846.

Elected, Democrat, Speaker, Pennsylvania State House of Representatives, 1848-1849. significant legislation regarding women’s rights in Pennsylvania was enacted as part of an omnibus bill resulting in Act 372 of 1848. Ensured that all property owned by a single woman would remain hers after marriage, that she could acquire additional property in her own name while married, and that said property could not be sold without her consent to pay her spouse’s debts.

Elected, Democrat, Pennsylvania State Senate, 12th district, Centre, Clinton, Lycoming Counties, 1850.

Elected, Democrat, Pennsylvania State Senate, 14th district, Centre, Clinton, Lycoming, and Sullivan Counties, 1851-1852. Supported railroad development in Central Pennsylvania, working towards the establishment of the Susquehanna Railroad.

Elected, Democrat, 14th Governor of Pennsylvania, 1858- 1861; privatization of the state canal system with Act 445 of 1858, calling for the sale of the canals to private railroad companies, and Act 8 of 1859, which abolished the offices of Canal Commissioner and State Engineer.

Pennsylvania House of Representatives Biography:



Packer campaigned for a seat in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in the 1846 general election. He was reported to have lost the election by just 12 votes to competitor Benjamin F. Pauling, who went on to serve for the entire subsequent session. In a most unusual circumstance, a later examination of the votes in Porter Township, Clinton County, saw that 49 votes for Packer had been recorded, when the tallies showed he had 69 votes. This margin of just 20 votes meant that Packer had been elected by 8 votes over his challenger instead of losing by 12 as was initially believed.

Though once a friend of James Buchanan, Governor Packer opposed President Buchanan on the issue of the expansion of slavery into western territories, a sign of growing splits within the Democratic Party.  Packer supported calling for a National Convention to address the impending dissolution of the Union in hopes that a compromise could be made, and war avoided. Following his term as Governor, Packer retired to Williamsport.


Harrisburg Telegraph, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Wednesday September 28, 1870, Page 2.