Samuel Dexter Lecompte, 1814-1888
Samuel Dexter Lecompte was born in Dorchester County, Maryland, on December 13, 1814. After attending Kenyan College in Ohio for two years, he graduated from Jefferson College in Pennsylvania in 1834. Afterward he studied law in Maryland and was subsequently admitted to the bar. He later practiced law in Carroll County, Maryland, and in1840 he was elected to the state legislature. Upon leaving the legislature he practiced law in Dorchester County, until 1854, when he moved to Baltimore.
Once the Kansas-Nebraska Act was passed in 1854, Lecompte found himself appointed by President Franklin Pierce as chief justice of the Supreme Court of the Kansas Territory. At the time of his move to the territory, Lecompte brought with him his wife and five children. As an ardent supporter of the Democratic Party, Lecompte was seen by many as being a proslavery man and protector of the “peculiar institution.” Lecompte’s tenure as chief justice lasted until March 9, 1859. Upon leaving the high court, he moved to Leavenworth where he opened a private law office.
Lecompte’s personal business enterprises during the 1850s included involvement in the speculation of both real estate and railroads. He was the president of the Lecompton Town Company and actively promoted that city to become the state capital. Similarly, he sponsored a charter for the establishment of a medical college to be located there and worked with John Stringfellow to promote the establishment of a university of Kansas at Leavenworth. His railroad pursuits included the incorporation of the Kansas Central Railroad Company; the Leavenworth, Pawnee and Western Railroad Company; and the Leavenworth and Lecompton Railroad Company.
At the end of the Civil War, he renounced his allegiance to the Democratic Party and became a Republican. He served four years as the probate judge of Leavenworth County. Then he was elected to the 1867 and 1868 state legislature. In 1874 he became the chairman of the Republican congressional committee of the first district. In 1887 he moved to live with his son in Kansas City, where he died on April 24, 1888.
Lecompte’s political career can be viewed as pragmatic: first coming to the territory of Kansas as a stalwart Democrat and then, once the Civil War had been decided, becoming a Republican Party convert. Politics played a major part in Lecompte’s professional career and the events in Kansas shaped his political fortune and future.
Holloway, John N. History of Kansas. Lafayette, IN: James, Emmons and Company, 1868.
Lecompte, Samuel D. “A Defense By Samuel D. Lecompte.” Kansas Historical Collection, 1903-1904 8 (1904): 389-405.
Treadway, William E. “The Gilded Age in Kansas.” Kansas Historical Quarterly 40 (Spring 1974): 4-5.