Henry Clay Hansbrough
United States Senator
from North Dakota
In office
March 4, 1891 – March 4, 1909
Preceded byGilbert A. Pierce
Succeeded byMartin N. Johnson
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from North Dakota's at-large district
In office
November 2, 1889 – March 3, 1891
Preceded byConstituency established
Succeeded byMartin N. Johnson
Personal details
Born(1848-01-30)January 30, 1848
Prairie du Rocher, Illinois
DiedNovember 16, 1933(1933-11-16) (aged 85)
Washington, D.C.
Political partyRepublican

Henry Clay Hansbrough (January 30, 1848 – November 16, 1933) was a United States politician who served as the first United States Representative from North Dakota, as well as a Senator from North Dakota.


Hansbrough's birthplace
Hansbrough's birthplace

Henry Clay Hansbrough was born in the historic Creole House in the village of Prairie du Rocher, Illinois.[1] Henry Clay, who attended the wedding for his parents Elisha Hansbrough and Sarah Hagan, suggested to them that they name their first son after him, and they did.[2] Henry attended the common schools, but his school was interrupted by the Civil War and was forced to close.[3]

In 1867, the family moved to San Jose, California. He learned the art of printing and worked at the trade in San Jose and later at Baraboo, Wisconsin. He was employed at one time at the San Jose Daily Independent and the San Francisco Chronicle.[3]

Hansbrough later moved to Dakota Territory and established the Grand Forks News in 1881 and the Inter-Ocean at Devils Lake in 1883.


Hansbrough was a strong advocate for dividing Dakota Territory and admitted the two halves as separate states into the Union, which eventually happened on November 2, 1889.

He arrived in Creel City, North Dakota (later renamed to Devils Lake), and was soon named postmaster, replacing Heber M. Creel, who was the settler and founder of Devils Lake. This created a rivalry between Creel and Hansbrough.[4] The two owned rival newspapers. Hansbrough owned the Devils Lake Inter-Ocean and Creel owned the Devils Lake Pioneer Press.[4] Both men ran for mayor of the city. Hansbrough was elected mayor of Devils Lake in 1885 and served until 1888.[4] He was also a member of the Republican National Committee from 1888 to 1896.

Upon the admission of North Dakota as a state, Hansbrough was elected as a Republican to the Fifty-first Congress. He was the first person to represent the new state of North Dakota in the House of Representatives. He served from November 2, 1889, until March 3, 1891. He did not seek renomination in 1891, having become a candidate for Senator.

Hansbrough was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1891 and reelected in 1897 and again in 1903 and served from March 4, 1891, to March 3, 1909. He was an unsuccessful candidate for reelection in 1909. While in the Senate, he was chairman of the Committee on the Library (Fifty-fourth Congress) and a member of the Committee on Public Lands (Fifty-fifth through Sixtieth Congresses) and the Committee on Agriculture and Forestry (Sixtieth Congress).[5]

Portrait of Senator Henry C. Hansbrough, circa 1898
Portrait of Senator Henry C. Hansbrough, circa 1898

As a Republican in D.C., Hansbrough became friends with Theodore Roosevelt, another prominent member of the party.[2] Even though Hansbrough was a Republican, he was still a "maverick," and later he would announce his support of Democratic Woodrow Wilson.[4][6] In 1928, he supported the Democratic candidate, Alfred E. Smith, over the Republican candidate, Herbert Hoover. Before his death in 1933, Hansbrough was also a supporter of President Franklin Roosevelt's farm programs during the Great Depression.[6]

Hansbrough resumed his former business pursuits in Devils Lake following his unsuccessful reelection and moved to Florida, New York, and finally to Washington, D.C., in 1927, where he died in 1933.


In 1933, Hansbrough visited his friend U.S. Senator Gerald Nye. Hansbrough requested Nye, upon his death, to scatter his ashes under an elm tree on the United States Capitol Grounds in Washington, D.C. Although it was not allowed, Nye fulfilled his friend’s request after he died, making Hansbrough the only person to have a final resting place on Capitol Hill.[2]


Mrs Henry C. Hansbrough
Mrs Henry C. Hansbrough


  1. ^ Gilster, Ruth, and A. Hahn. National Register of Historic Places Inventory/Nomination: Creole House. National Park Service, n.d., 3.
  2. ^ a b c "Dakota Datebook". Archived from the original on September 27, 2007. Retrieved July 21, 2007.
  3. ^ a b ERIKSMOEN, CURT. "N.D.'s first member of the U.S. House also ran newspapers". Bismarck Tribune. Retrieved October 27, 2020.
  4. ^ a b c d "Eriksmoen: First to represent North Dakota in House endorsed Democrat for president". INFORUM. Retrieved October 27, 2020.
  5. ^ "Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress - Retro Member details". bioguideretro.congress.gov. Retrieved October 27, 2020.
  6. ^ a b "Eriksmoen: First North Dakota rep had ashes scattered on Capitol grounds". INFORUM. Retrieved October 27, 2020.
U.S. House of Representatives New constituency Member of the U.S. House of Representativesfrom North Dakota's at-large congressional district 1889–1891 Succeeded byMartin N. Johnson U.S. Senate Preceded byGilbert A. Pierce U.S. Senator (Class 3) from North Dakota 1891–1909 Served alongside: Lyman R. Casey, William N. Roach, Porter J. McCumber Succeeded byMartin N. Johnson Honorary titles Preceded byAdelbert Ames Most senior living U.S. senator (Sitting or former) April 12, 1933 – November 16, 1933 Succeeded byLee Mantle