March of the Governors, Governor #15, Samuel Van Sant
Samuel Van Sant was Minnesota’s fifteenth governor—the first to serve in the twentieth century and the first to occupy the current capitol. After three years of combat duty in the Union cavalry (1861-1864), Van Sant joined the family steamboat business in LeClaire, Iowa. In 1883, he moved to Winona and soon went into politics. A Republican, he was elected to the legislature in 1892 and rose to speaker of the house just two years later. A gifted public speaker, he was elected governor in 1900 and reelected in 1902. In keeping with the spirit of the age, he championed such progressive measures as reform of the state’s tax system, advocating for wilderness protection, and extending the use of the primaries to nominate candidates. In the decades following his retirement from political office, Van Sant became a national leader in Civil War veterans’ affairs and was a popular speaker at Republican gatherings throughout Minnesota. He died in 1936 at the age of ninety-two.