Alexander W. Doniphan

Historical Marker #877 in Mason County, Kentucky, notes the birthplace of Mexican-American War hero Alexander William Doniphan.

Born in Mason County on July 9, 1808, Doniphan came from a long line of soldiers, including both of his grandfathers, who fought in the Revolutionary War.

Doniphan, who attended Augusta College in nearby Bracken County, became an attorney in 1830. Like many men of his era, Doniphan migrated from Kentucky to Missouri to seek new opportunities. He first settled in Lexington, Missouri, but soon moved further west to Liberty, Missouri, where he established a successful law practice. As a leading citizen there, Doniphan actively participated in the local militia and served in the Missouri Mormon Wars of the late 1830s. Doniphan had previously been legal counsel for the religious group, and, as a state legislator, even helped establish Caldwell County as a site for their religious practices. When Missouri’s governor ordered him to exterminate the Mormons and their leader, Joseph Smith, Doniphan refused. Eventually, the governor exiled the group from the state, and they established the community of Nauvoo in Illinois. Joseph Smith was killed in Nauvoo in 1844.

When the Mexican-American War broke out in 1846, Doniphan became colonel of the 1st Regiment of Missouri Mounted Volunteers. Doniphan’s outstanding service record included an incredible march of more than 3,000 miles which saw the capture of Santé Fe and battles at El Brazito, Sacramento (Mexico), and the capture of Chihuahua.

After the Mexican War, Doniphan returned to Liberty, Missouri. He continued to serve in the Missouri legislature and worked as a lawyer. During the Civil War, he sought a middle ground and refused to join either side. Doniphan died in Richmond, Missouri, in 1887, and was buried in Liberty.