GRESHAM — Originally intended to be called “Poston” – honoring Judge George Post of the Fourth Judicial District (York) – the Pioneer Town Site Company’s good intentions were squashed by postal authorities.
Ironically, “Poston” became the namesake of the United States 31st United States Postmaster General, Walter Quintin Gresham. At the time of the town’s founding (1887), Walter Q. Gresham was Judge of the United States Seventh Circuit Court. He was appointed by President Chester Arthur, serving in this capacity from Oct. 28, 1884 until June 16, 1891.
It is somewhat unclear why Gresham became Gresham specifically, but the namesake’s long, illustrious political and judicial career certainly merited it. He was appointed to several high-ranking positions, but ultimately became the United States’ 33rd Secretary of State under President Grover Cleveland.
Walter Q. Gresham’s loftiest goal, however, was to reach the very pinnacle of politics – President of the United States. He was a candidate for the position in 1884 and 1888, and was closely affiliated with agricultural interest groups, such as Grange (also known as the National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry – a non-partisan group existing still today) and the National Farmers’ Alliance, which was comprised primarily of white and black Midwestern farmers. (Perhaps it was his agricultural advocacy that spurred a small Nebraska town to call itself “Gresham.”)
While the Midwest population boomed in the 1870s (Nebraska’s population nearly tripled as people moved westward), the Village of Gresham reached its peak population in 1920 with 492 residents, according to U.S. Census records. Walter Q. Gresham is the namesake of communities in Oregon and Wisconsin.
In addition to his service as Secretary of State, Postmaster General, circuit court judge and aspirations to become President, Walter Q. Gresham was the 35th Secretary of Treasury under President Arthur and U.S. Army Brigadier General during the Civil War, serving for the Union 1861-1864. His life story is also detailed in the book “Gilded Age Cato: The Life of Walter Q. Gresham” by Charles W. Calhoun.