Francis G. Newlands


Francis Griffith Newlands (August 28, 1846 – December 24, 1917) was a United States representative and Senator from Nevada and a member of the Democratic Party.[1]

Francis G. Newlands
NEWLANDS, F.G. SENATOR LCCN2016857153 (cropped).jpg
United States Senator
from Nevada
In office
March 4, 1903 – December 24, 1917
Preceded byJohn P. Jones
Succeeded byCharles B. Henderson
Member of the
U.S. House of Representatives
from Nevada's At-Large district
In office
March 4, 1893 – March 3, 1903
Preceded byHorace F. Bartine
Succeeded byClarence D. Van Duzer
Personal details
Francis Griffith Newlands

(1846-08-28)August 28, 1846
Natchez, Mississippi, U.S.
DiedDecember 24, 1917(1917-12-24) (aged 71)
Washington, D.C., U.S.
Political partySilver (1893–1903)
Democratic (1903–1917)
Spouse(s)Clara Adelaide Sharon, died birthing 4th child in 1882. Second wife: Edith McCallister married 1888
ProfessionAttorney, real estate developer, politician

A supporter of westward expansion, he helped pass the Newlands Reclamation Act of 1902, which created the Bureau of Reclamation and boosted the agricultural industry by building dams to support irrigation in the arid Western states.[2] An avowed white supremacist,[3][4][5] Senator Newlands argued publicly for racial restrictions on immigration and repealing the 15th Amendment.[2][6][7]

As land developer, Newlands founded the neighborhoods of Chevy Chase, Washington, D.C.; and Chevy Chase, Maryland,[8] and took steps to prevent non-white people from moving there.[9]

Early lifeEdit

Newlands was born in Natchez, Mississippi, on August 28, 1846 (or 1848; sources differ). He was the fourth of five children born to Jessie and James Newlands, immigrants from Scotland.[7][10][11] His father, trained as a physician in Edinburgh, died in 1851.[7] Newlands was raised in Illinois and Washington, D.C.[10]

In 1867, he went to Yale University but left after his first year.[12] In 1869, he graduated from Columbian College, which is now George Washington University Law School,[13] and was admitted to the bar in 1869.[7][14] In 1901, he received an honorary M.A. degree.[13]


In 1870, Newlands moved to San Francisco, California. He married Clara Adelaide Sharon, the daughter of future Nevada senator William Sharon, in 1874.[7][11] They had three daughters.[10] Newlands helped William Sharon to reopen the Bank of California, and supervised the management of the Palace Hotel, San Francisco.[7] When Newlands’ wife died, he inherited the Sharon estate.[10] Newlands married Edith McAllister and moved to Nevada in 1888.[15]

Land developerEdit

In the late 1880s, Newlands and his partners began to acquire farmland in northwestern Washington, D.C., and southern Montgomery County, Maryland, in order to develop a residential streetcar suburb for the nation's capital. On June 23, 1888, Newlands chartered the Rock Creek Railway for a single-track streetcar.[16] Two years later, Newlands and his partners purchased more than 1,700 acres and formed the Chevy Chase Land Company.[17][18] Between 1890 and 1892, the Land Company built two bridges, constructed five miles of road, and laid streetcar tracks along the road.[17] The Rock Creek Railway opened in 1892.[18] To supply the electricity to the streetcars, the company dammed Coquelin Run, a small tributary of Rock Creek, just east of Connecticut Avenue; the resulting Chevy Chase Lake supplied water for an electric generating plant.

Newlands' development companies attached covenants to lots in Chevy Chase, D.C.; Chevy Chase, Maryland; and later Burlingame, California. These covenants did not explicitly forbid their sale to people of specific races or religions. Instead they forbade buyers to build homes that cost less than certain amounts — e.g., $3,000 and $5,000 — effectively preventing their sale to members of minority populations with less access to wealth.[19]

Newlands created the Chevy Chase Springs Hotel (later the Chevy Chase School for Girls, now the 4-H Youth Conference Center). Newlands ensured the community included schools, churches, country clubs, tree-lined streets, a water supply and a sewage system. Groceries and daily purchases were brought from Washington, D.C., on the railway at no charge to residents.[18] From 1894 to 1936, the Land Company operated an amusement park on the lake as a means to draw prospective buyers to the development and to keep the streetcars supplied with evening and weekend passengers.[20]

In 1893, Newlands began to subdivide some property he inherited in Burlingame, California. He started with the Burlingame Country Club and five cottages. The following year, he added the Burlingame train station.[21][22]

U.S. RepresentativeEdit

Newlands represented Nevada in the United States House of Representatives from 1893 to 1903 as a member of the Silver Party. In 1898, he created the Newlands Resolution, which annexed the Republic of Hawaii, creating a new territory.[10] He supported a greater federal role in conservation and pushed for federal funding of western arid land irrigation projects.[10][23] He helped pass the Reclamation Act of 1902, also called the Newlands Act, which created what would become the Bureau of Reclamation.[10]

U.S. SenatorEdit

Newlands as a U.S. Senator, c. 1914

Newlands entered the United States Senate in 1903 as a Democrat. He supported the protection of the National Forests under the United States Forest Service in 1905, and the creation of the National Park Service in 1916.[10] He was a member of the Senate subcommittee that investigated the 1912 sinking of RMS Titanic.[24] In 1916, he was the only Democratic senator to vote against the nomination of Louis Brandeis to the U.S. Supreme Court.[25]

Newlands held white supremacist beliefs and spoke publicly in favor of restricting the rights of African-Americans.[6][26][27]

He died in office on December 24, 1917. He died of heart failure in his home in Washington, D.C.[28]


The Francis Griffith Newlands Memorial Fountain is in Chevy Chase Circle, a federal park that divides D.C. and Maryland. In 2014, a member of the Chevy Chase advisory neighborhood commission proposed a resolution calling for the removal of Newlands’ name from the fountain because of his white supremacist views on race, including his desire to remove the vote for African-Americans. Others argued that Chevy Chase should not alter the monument because the change would belittle Newlands' legislative accomplishments.[29][30]

On July 27, 2020, the Advisory Neighborhood Commission of Chevy Chase, D.C., voted unanimously to ask the National Park Service (NPS) to remove the plaque bearing his name from the Francis Griffith Newlands Memorial Fountain and create an exhibit documenting Newlands's racism.[31]

A similar renaming effort has begun around Newlands Park in Reno, Nevada.[32][33]

Newlands' former mansion in Reno is one of six properties in Nevada designated as a National Historic Landmark.[34] Many notable people, including Barbara Hutton in 1935, stayed at the house while waiting for their divorce paperwork to be finalized by George Thatcher, a local divorce lawyer who purchased the home in 1920.

Racial viewsEdit

Newlands was an outspoken white supremacist who advocated for those beliefs as a senator. In a 1909 journal article titled "A Western View of the Race Question" published in the Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Newlands wrote that Black people were “a race of children.”[6][35] He went on to argue that black people posed a threat to the country, "It (the country) should start immediately upon the serious consideration of a national policy regarding the people of the black race now within our boundaries, which, with a proper regard for humanity, will minimize the danger which they constitute to our institutions and our civilizations."[6] In the piece, he also expressed fear that people from Asia would immigrate into the country and take over the West Coast: "Asia, with nearly a billion people of the yellow and brown races, who, if there were no restrictions, would quickly settle upon and take possession of our entire western coast and intermountain region."[6] He continues to describe Chinese and Japanese people using stereotypes saying, "the Chinese, who are patient and submissive, would not create as many complications as the presence of the Japanese, whose strong and virile qualities would constitute an additional element of difficulty."[6] He was also a white nationalist who sought to secure the United States as a homeland for whites. In 1905, he advocated for the paid resettlement of African Americans to the Caribbean.[36] In an article written in the New York Times on June 17, 1912, Newlands wrote, “I believe this should be a white man’s country and that we should frankly express our determination that it shall be.”[37] During the 1912 Democratic National Convention, he proposed for the Democratic Convention platform a “White Plank" that would advocate for repeal the 15th Amendment to the United States Constitution and restrict of immigration to whites.[38]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ NPS: Newlands
  2. ^ a b "My Nevada 5: Admired and Reviled Politicians". University of Nevada, Las Vegas. October 23, 2014. Retrieved October 6, 2015.
  3. ^ Turque, Bill (December 26, 2014). "In Chevy Chase, a conundrum spouts from fountain named after a racist senator". Washington, D.C. The Washington Post. Retrieved October 6, 2015.
  4. ^ Merleaux, April (2015). Sugar and Civilization: American Empire and the Cultural Politics of Sweetness. UNC Press Books. p. 32. ISBN 9781469622521.
  5. ^ Lancaster, Angela, CCHS President. Mary Sheehan, Board Member. Gail Sansbury, Director, Archive and Research Center (December 4, 2014). "Letter, CCHS to Gary Thompson" (PDF). Chevy Chase Historical Society. Retrieved February 13, 2015.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  6. ^ a b c d e f Newlands, Francis G. (1909). "A Western View of the Race Question". Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science. 34 (2): 49–51. doi:10.1177/000271620903400207. S2CID 144515204.
  7. ^ a b c d e f William D. Rowley (1996). Reclaiming the Arid West: The Career of Francis G. Newlands. Indiana University Press.
  8. ^ The Papers of Frederick Law Olmsted: The Last Great Projects, 1890–1895. JHU Press. January 20, 2015.
  9. ^ Flanagan, Neil (November 2, 2017). "The Battle of Fort Reno". Washington City Paper. Retrieved May 17, 2021.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h "Newlands, Francis Griffith". Encyclopedia of American Environmental History. 3.
  11. ^ a b Mark Walston (May 2010). "Call it Ishpiming". Bethesda Magazine. Retrieved October 6, 2015.
  12. ^ Lecture, William Rowley, Emeritus Professor of history at the University of Nevada-Reno. May 6, 2021. A Closer Look at Chevy Chase Founder Francis G. Newlands, retrieved May 17, 2021
  13. ^ a b "Administrative Information". Sterling Memorial Library. Retrieved October 6, 2015.
  14. ^ Atwood, Albert W. Francis G. Newlands: A Builder of the Nation. 1969
  15. ^ Daily Alta California, Volume 42, Number 14249, 9 September 1888
  16. ^ Stephen A. Hansen (2011). Kalorama Triangle: The History of a Capital Neighborhood. The History Press.
  17. ^ a b Margery L. Elfin; Paul K. Williams (2006). Forest Hills. Arcadia Publishing.
  18. ^ a b c Lisa Fadden (July 2, 2012). "The History of Chevy Chase Lake". Chevy Chase Lake. Retrieved October 6, 2015.
  19. ^ Flanagan, Neil (November 2, 2017). "The Battle of Fort Reno". Washington City Paper. Retrieved May 13, 2021.
  20. ^ "Home | Chevy Chase Historical Society". Retrieved October 22, 2018.
  21. ^ "Explore the History of Burlingame". City of Burlingame. Archived from the original on June 6, 2017. Retrieved October 6, 2015.
  22. ^ "SF Bay Area 1893–1929". Timelines. Retrieved October 6, 2015.
  23. ^ Richard O. Davies (1999). The Maverick Spirit: Building the New Nevada. University of Nevada Press.
  24. ^ Titanic Inquiry Project
  25. ^ Confirm Brandeis by Vote of 47 to 22, The New York Times, June 2, 1916
  26. ^ Gary, Frank Boyd (1909). "The Immigration Commission and the Immigration Problem". U.S. Government Printing Office. p. 23. Retrieved February 23, 2015. This pamphlet, consisting mostly of a transcript of a speech by Gary, includes an extract of a statement given by Newlands on February 7, 1909, to the Washington Post that includes the "race of children" assertion.
  27. ^ Fisher, Marc (February 15, 1999). "CHEVY CHASE, 1916: FOR EVERYMAN, A NEW LOT IN LIFE". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved December 16, 2021.
  28. ^ "Newlands Dead of Heart Attack". The New York Times. December 25, 1917. Retrieved October 6, 2015.
  29. ^ "NEWLANDS, Francis: Fountain at Chevy Chase Circle in Washington, D.C." D.C. Memorials. Retrieved October 6, 2015.
  30. ^ Aaron Kraut (December 9, 2014). "D.C. Group Tables Discussion of Newlands' Name On Chevy Chase Fountain". Bethesda Magazine. Retrieved October 6, 2015.
  31. ^ Moyer, Justin Wm. (July 31, 2020). "D.C. neighborhood votes to remove plaque honoring white supremacist senator". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 13, 2021.
  32. ^ "Community petitions to change name of Newlands Park in Reno". KOLOTV. July 23, 2020. Retrieved May 13, 2021.
  33. ^ Cage, Khaliah; Erwin, BinBin; Erwin, Doug (July 22, 2020). "Now is the time to rename Reno's monument to Francis G. Newlands". Reno Gazette Journal. USA Today. Retrieved May 13, 2021.
  34. ^ "Senator Francis G. Newlands House". U.S. National Park Service. Retrieved August 3, 2011.
  35. ^ Turque, Bill (February 17, 2015). "Senators Descendants Urge no change in name of Chevy Chase fountain". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 13, 2021.
  36. ^ Newlands, Francis G. (1905). "The San Domingo Question". The North American Review. 180, no. 583: 885–898 – via JSTOR.
  37. ^ "RACE ISSUE PLANK FOR THE DEMOCRATS; Senator Newlands of Nevada Arrives in Baltimore with One He Will Urge". The New York Times. June 17, 1912. Retrieved May 13, 2021.
  38. ^ D., Rowley, William (1996). Reclaiming the arid West : the career of Francis G. Newlands. Indiana University Press. ISBN 0-253-33002-5. OCLC 32892298.

External linksEdit

  • Francis Griffith Newlands papers MS 371 Manuscripts and Archives, Yale University Library.
  • Video: "A Closer Look at Chevy Chase Founder Francis G. Newlands," the Spring 2021 Chevy Chase Historical Society Lecture by historian and author William Rowley, emeritus professor of history at the University of Nevada-Reno
Party political offices
New office Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from Nevada
(Class 3)

Succeeded by
U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Nevada's at-large congressional district

Succeeded by
U.S. Senate
Preceded by U.S. senator (Class 3) from Nevada
Served alongside: William M. Stewart, George S. Nixon, William A. Massey, Key Pittman
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by Chairman of the United States Senate Committee on Interstate Commerce
Succeeded by
Ellison D. Smith
South Carolina