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Biography: William Charles Cole Claiborne born 1775

William Charles Cole Claiborne
William Charles Cole Claiborne



(b. 1775 -d. 1817)

Mississippi Territory


William Charles Cole Claiborne was born in Sussex, Virginia in 1775 to Col. William Claiborne and Mary Leigh. He studied at the college of William and Mary along with his brother Ferdinand Leigh Claiborne and afterward Richmond Academy. His father lost the family estate during the Revolution and this ended William’s formal education.

William C.C. Claiborne’s brother was Nathaniel Herbert Claiborne from Virginia who served in Virginia Legislature for 20 years.

Moved to New York City when 16-years of age

At the age of 16 he moved to New York City, where he worked as a clerk under John Beckley, the clerk of the United States House of Representatives when it was seated at New York.

When the Federal Government moved to Philadelphia, he followed them here, William caught the attention of three prominent men, John AdamsThomas Jefferson and John Sevier. He read Jefferson’s books and began to study law at Richmond.

Became a lawyer

Then in 1794, he followed the advice of John Sevier and moved to Sullivan County, Tennessee to start a law practice. He became a member of Tennessee’s Constitutional Convention in Knoxville where he was lauded by Governor Blount.

Appointed to the Supreme Court

In 1796, he was appointed to the Supreme Court of Tennessee by Governor John Sevier. The following year he resigned to run successfully for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, even though he was not yet 25 years of age, as required by the United States Constitution. He, along with Gallatin was on the ways and means committee and served as Chairman of the Committee on Indian Affairs.

He married Elizabeth W. Lewis of Nashville, Tennessee and they had one daughter.

Served in House of Representatives

He served through 1801 in the House of Representatives of Tennessee. While the House was in recess in 1801, he was appointed Governor of the Territory of Mississippi to replace Gov. Winthrop Sargent.

Jan. 26, 1802, he became Governor of the Mississippi Territory at the age of 26. On Feb. 1, 1802, he moved the territorial capital from Natchez to Washington County.

Wrote President Thomas Jefferson

In the spring of the same year, he wrote President Thomas Jefferson that the port of New Orleans had been closed to American shipping. President Thomas Jefferson asked Congress for more money for defense and sent James Monroe to Paris to try to obtain additional rights on the Mississippi since it appeared that France was influencing the Spanish colonial decisions….this led to the Louisiana Purchase.

Claiborne bargained with Joseph Calvit for the site of the the new post Fort Dearborn in Washington County for ample supple of timber for construction and years of firewood. The price was $15 per acre.

Natchez Trace established

He established the Natchez Trace as a mail route. He also settled the disputes over chaotic land titles and his methods were used in future United States settlements.

In 1803, Thomas Jefferson sent him to New Orleans with 200 Mississippi territorial militia to oversee the Louisiana Purchase from France to the United States. Claiborne was assisted by General James Wilkinson in administering the territory until the President named him the first Governor of the Territory of Orleans which is now the state of Louisiana.

Lost wife and daughter to yellow fever

September 26, 1804, he lost his wife and infant daughter to yellow fever. In 1806, he married Clarissa Duralde of Attakapas, Louisiana and they had one son, William C. C. Claiborne III.

Claiborne held the office of Territorial Governor through the admission of Louisiana to the Union in 1812.

Elected Governor of Louisiana

In 1812 he was elected the first Governor of the State of Louisiana over Jacques Villere by a popular vote of 3,707 to 1,947. His campaign was helped by his compassionate reception of refugees from St. Domingue in 1809 and his Creole wife. He married a third time to Suzette Bosque Nov. 8, 1812,. He had a daughter named Sophronia Claiborne.

After his years as governor, Claiborne was elected the U.S. Senate. However, Claiborne passed away at the age of 42 on Nov. 11, 1817 before he could take his seat in the Senate. He is buried at Metairie Cemetery in New Orleans, Louisiana.

The popular Claiborne was at odds with many state residents over one issue – the acceptability of pirate Jean Lafitte. The people loved Lafitte because he provided goods, though stolen, that were inexpensive or otherwise not available. Governor Claiborne disappointed that the Louisiana legislature would not approve his request to put up a reward for Lafitte, decided to put one up himself for $500 As a humorous response, Lafitte offered a $15,000 reward for the governor.

Cokie Roberts is descendant

Claiborne’s great-great-great-grandniece is Lindy Boggs, born 1916 and named Corinne Claiborne Lindy Boggs served Louisiana as a U.S. Representative from 2nd District, 1973 through 1991 when she was appointed U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican. Lindy is the mother of reporter and commentator Cokie Roberts.


  1. Bioguide Congress
  2. Find A Memorial# 7931338 # 10624481 # 114445225
  3. Wikipedia


 This biography is included in the Book Biographies of Notable and Not-so-Notable Alabama Pioneers Vol. III

Biographies of Notable and Not-so-Notable Alabama Pioneers Volume III (Kindle Edition)

By (author):  Causey, Donna R

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About Donna R Causey

Donna R. Causey, resident of Alabama, was a teacher in the public school system for twenty years. When she retired, Donna found time to focus on her lifetime passion for historical writing. She developed the websites www.alabamapioneers and All her books can be purchased at and Barnes & Noble. She has authored numerous genealogy books. RIBBON OF LOVE: A Novel Of Colonial America (TAPESTRY OF LOVE) is her first novel in the Tapestry of Love about her family where she uses actual characters, facts, dates and places to create a story about life as it might have happened in colonial Virginia. Faith and Courage: Tapestry of Love (Volume 2) is the second book and the third FreeHearts: A Novel of Colonial America (Book 3 in the Tapestry of Love Series) Discordance: The Cottinghams (Volume 1) is the continuation of the story. . For a complete list of books, visit Donna R Causey

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