John Eugene Osborne

John Eugene Osborne (June 19, 1858  April 24, 1943) was an American physician, farmer, banker and Democratic politician. He was the third Governor of Wyoming after the Wyoming Territory attained statehood in 1890.

John Eugene Osborne
3rd Governor of Wyoming
In office
January 2, 1893  January 7, 1895
Preceded byAmos W. Barber
Succeeded byWilliam A. Richards
29th United States Assistant Secretary of State
In office
April 21, 1913  December 14, 1916
Preceded byHuntington Wilson
Succeeded byWilliam Phillips
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Wyoming's At-large district
In office
March 4, 1897  March 3, 1899
Preceded byFrank W. Mondell
Succeeded byFrank W. Mondell
Personal details
Born(1858-06-19)June 19, 1858
Westport, New York, U.S.
DiedApril 24, 1943(1943-04-24) (aged 84)
Rawlins, Wyoming, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Selina Smith
EducationUniversity of Vermont (1880)
ProfessionPhysician, politician, banker, farmer

Early life

Osborne was born in Westport, New York, the younger son of John C. Osborne and Mary E. Rail. His parents were both immigrants, his father from England and his mother from Canada. Osborne studied medicine at the University of Vermont and graduated in 1880.[1] He was then hired as a surgeon by the Union Pacific Railroad, and moved to Rawlins, Carbon County, Wyoming.


In 1883, Osborne was elected to Wyoming's House of the Territorial Assembly, but resigned in 1885, when he left the Territory for a brief period. In 1888, he was appointed chairman of the Penitentiary Building Commission and also elected mayor of Rawlins.[2] During the 1880s, Osborne was a physician and chemist in Rawlins, and operated a farm, at one point being the largest individual sheep owner in Wyoming. After the lynching of Big Nose George Parrott, Osborne helped conduct the autopsy, and had Parrot's skin tanned and made into a pair of shoes he later allegedly wore at his inauguration as governor.

Osborne was an alternate delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 1892.[3] That same year, amidst unconfirmed claims of election irregularities, Osborne defeated Edward Ivinson in Wyoming's second gubernatorial election since statehood.

Osborne was one of only a handful of Democrats to win the Governorship of Wyoming, and his term was stormy and rife with bitter fighting between his party and the Republicans. He completed his term on January 7, 1895, having declined renomination.[3] From March 4, 1897 until March 3, 1899, he served in the 55th United States Congress as the U.S. Representative from Wyoming,[4] but again declined renomination when his term expired.[5]

Osborne was appointed Assistant Secretary of State, serving the Wilson Administration from April 21, 1913 until December 14, 1915.[6] He was also chairman of the board of the Rawlins National Bank,[7] and engaged in stock raising.

Desecration of remains of Big Nose George Parrott

Following the botched hanging and subsequent execution of George Parrott, also known as Big Nose George, in 1881,

His remains then embarked on a strange journey, with part of his skin being made into boots by John Eugene Osborne, the doctor who examined him after his death. Osborne wore the boots to his inaugural ball when he became governor in 1892. Osborne also gave part of George's skull to medical assistant Lillian Heath, who used the skull as a doorstop for many years.

By Christina Schmidt, "Famous James brother made camp in Big Horn", Sheridan Press[8]

Lillian Heath was 16 when she received the skull cap of Big Nose George, and went on to become the first female physician in Wyoming.[9]


On November 2, 1907 he married Selina Smith of Princeton, Kentucky.[3]

They met on the island of Madeira when Jean Curtis Smith was on a round-the-world trip with her sister and brother-in-law. According to an account in the Passenger-Inquirer of Owensboro, Kentucky, "they were engaged to be married when they landed on American soil two months later."[10]

Their honeymoon was interrupted "when his efforts to secure the 1908 Democratic National Convention for the West met with success and they were obliged to hurry to Denver," where it was to be held. Mrs. Osborne was known as the "official hostess" for the convention.[11][12]

They were the parents of a daughter, Jean Curtis Osborne.[10]


Osborne was a Freemason and a member of the York Rite. He died in Rawlins on April 24, 1943, at the age of 84. He is interred at the Smith family plot at Cedar Hill Cemetery in Princeton, Kentucky.

Further reading

Ridenour, Hugh (2008), "John E. Osborne: A Real "Character" from the Old West", Annals of Wyoming:The Wyoming History Journal, Wyoming State Historical Society, 80 (3), pp. 2–16


  1. "John E. Osborne". National Governors Society. Retrieved 11 December 2018.
  2. "John Osborne". Wyoming State Hisyorical Society. Retrieved October 30, 2012.
  3. "John Eugene Osborne". The Political Graveyard. Retrieved 31 October 2012.
  4. "Rep. John Osborne". Retrieved October 30, 2012.
  5. "John Eugene Osborne". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Retrieved 19 October 2012.
  6. "John Eugene Osborne". US Department of State: Office of the Historian. Retrieved October 30, 2012.
  7. "John E.Osborne". Wyoming History. Retrieved October 30, 2012.
  8. Schmidt, Christina (July 13, 2014). ""Famous James brother made camp in Big Horn"". The Sheridan Press.
  9. Van Pelt, Lori "Medicine woman: Frontier physician inspires women M.D.s", Star-Tribune, March 14, 2004. Retrieved May 9, 2018.
  10. Selene Armstrong Harmon, "Women Worth While," June 14, 1914, image 13 A similar account is at "On the Beach at Waikiki," Honolulu Star-Bulletin, February 11, 1932, image 2
  11. Marguerite Martyn, "Marguerite Martyn Finds Many Interesting Women in Denver Taking Part in the Preliminaries to the Democratic Convention," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 5, 1908, image 1
  12. "Official Hostess at Denver Is Bride of Former Governor," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 5, 1908, image 1

Political offices
Preceded by
Amos W. Barber
Governor of Wyoming
January 2, 1893 – January 7, 1895
Succeeded by
William A. Richards
Preceded by
Huntington Wilson
United States Assistant Secretary of State
April 21, 1913 – December 14, 1915
Succeeded by
William Phillips
U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Franklin Wheeler Mondell
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Wyoming's 1st congressional district

March 4, 1897 – March 3, 1899
Succeeded by
Franklin Wheeler Mondell
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