Member Biography

William Fisher Packer 


PHMC: Pennsylvania Governors Past and Present


Sessions Office Position District Party
1850       12 Democrat
1851       14 Democrat
1852       14 Democrat


04/02/1807 - 09/27/1870

William Fisher Packer (D12) Centre, Clinton and Lycoming Counties 1850 (D14) Centre, Clinton, Lycoming, and Sullivan Counties 1851-1852

Early Life:

William Fisher Packer, born April 2, 1807, Howard Township, Centre County, Pennsylvania; son of James and Charity Bye Packer; age thirteen, printer’s apprentice, Sunbury Public Inquirer, Bellefonte Patriot, Harrisburg, Intelligencer; studied law but never practiced; married, Mary Mary Wycoff Vanderbelt Packer, 1829, children, Elizabeth R., Howard, William Vanderbelt, James, Mary, Sarah Bye, Albert, Boyd Cummings, Ellen B., Annie; owned, Lycoming Gazette, 1829-1836; appointed, superintendent, West Branch Division, Pennsylvania Canal, State Canal Commissioner, 1839-1842; appointed, Pennsylvania State Auditor General, 1842-1845; unsuccessful campaigned, Pennsylvania House of Representatives, 1846; elected, Democrat, Speaker, Pennsylvania State House of Representatives, 1848-1849; elected, Democrat, Pennsylvania State Senate, 1850-1852; first, President, Susquehanna Railroad Company; founded, Harrisburg, Keystone Gazette; elected, Democrat, 14th Governor of Pennsylvania, 1858- 1861; died, September 27, 1870 (aged 63), Williamsport Lycoming County, Pennsylvania; interment, Williamsport Cemetery, Williamsport, Lycoming County, Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania Politics:

Appointed, Governor George Wolf, Superintendent, West Branch Division, Pennsylvania Canal, Pennsylvania State Canal Commissioner, 1839-1842. 

Appointed, Governor David Rittenhouse Porter, Pennsylvania State Auditor General, 1842-1845. 

Unsuccessful campaign, Democrat, Pennsylvania House of Representatives, 1846. 

Elected, Democrat, Speaker, Pennsylvania State House of Representatives, 1848-1849; significant legislation regarding women’s rights in Pennsylvania enacted as part of an omnibus bill resulting in Act 372 of 1848. Ensured that all property owned by a single woman would remain hers after marriage, that she could acquire additional property in her own name while married, that said property could not be sold without her consent to pay her spouse’s debts.

Elected, Democrat, Pennsylvania State Senate, 12th district, Centre, Clinton and Lycoming Counties, 1850.

Elected, Democrat, Pennsylvania State Senate, 14th district, Centre, Clinton, Lycoming and Sullivan Counties, 1851-1852. Supported railroad development in Central Pennsylvania, working towards the establishment of the Susquehanna Railroad. 

Elected, Democrat, 14th Governor of Pennsylvania, 1858- 1861; privatization of the state canal system with Act 445 of 1858, calling for the sale of the canals to private railroad companies; Act 8 of 1859, abolished the offices of Pennsylvania Canal Commissioner, Pennsylvania State Engineer. 

Pennsylvania House of Representatives Biography:

William F. Packer - PA House of Representatives - PA House of Representatives (


Unsuccessful campaign, Pennsylvania House of Representatives, general election, 1846, reported to have lost the election by just 12 votes to Benjamin F. Pauling, who went on to serve for the entire subsequent session. In a most unusual circumstance, a later examination of the votes in Porter Township, Clinton County, saw that 49 votes for Packer had been recorded, when the tallies showed he had 69 votes. This margin of just 20 votes meant that Packer had been elected by 8 votes over his challenger instead of losing by 12 as was initially believed.

Though once a friend of James Buchanan, Governor Packer opposed him on the issue of the expansion of slavery into western territories, a sign of growing splits within the Democratic Party. Packer supported calling for a National Convention to address the impending dissolution of the Union in hopes that a compromise could be made, avoiding war. Following his term as Governor, Packer retired to Williamsport.


Cox, Harold. "Senate Members P"Wilkes University Election Statistics Project. Wilkes University.

Governor William Fisher Packer | PHMC > Pennsylvania Governors (

Harrisburg Telegraph, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Wednesday September 28, 1870, Page 2. 

William Fisher Packer (1807-1870) - Find a Grave Memorial