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John Grant Otis

Politician. Populist. Born: February 10, 1838, Rutland County, Vermont. Died: February 22, 1916, Topeka, Kansas. Served in U.S. House of Representatives, 4th District: March 4, 1891, to March 3, 1893.

One of the Alliance (or People's) Party's five successful congressional candidates in its first election contest, John G. Otis was born in Rutland County, Vermont, on February 10, 1838. He received his early education in the county's rural schools and then attended the Burr Seminary at Manchester, Vermont, and Williams College, Williamstown, Massachusetts, before studying for a year in the law department at Harvard University. Otis was admitted to the bar of Rutland County in 1859 and in May of that same year removed to Topeka, Kansas, where he commenced his practice. In 1862 he helped recruit the first black infantry regiment in Kansas and subsequently (February 19, 1863) received appointment as paymaster general at the rank of colonel on the governor's military staff. After the war, Otis became involved in a farming and dairying operation near Topeka, served as state agent for the Grange, 1873-1875, and was state lecturer for the organization, 1889-1891. He was also a member of the Farmers Alliance and elected by the People's Party to Congress in 1890. Congressman Otis, wrote Populist historian Gene Clanton, exhibited "a nativist streak," and he "was defeated for reelection in 1892, and was ultimately isolated within the party itself." He died at Topeka on February 22, 1916.

Entry: Otis, John Grant

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: June 2011

Date Modified: May 2012

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