Roswell Farnham was an American politician of the Republican Party, an officer in the Union Army during the American Civil War, a lawyer, and the 38th Governor of Vermont.
Farnham was born in Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts, son of Roswell and Nancy Bixby Farnham. His father was in business and moved to Haverhill , Massachusetts, where he began manufacturing boots and shoes until 1839. In 1840 Roswell moved with his father and family to a farm on the Connecticut River in Bradford.
Farnham entered the junior class University of Vermont. Graduated in 1849, and earned a degree of A. M. in 1852.
The financial downturn ruined him. The couple had three children, Charles Cyrus, Florence Mary, and William Mills. Farnham taught school at Dunham, Lower Canada.
Was principal of Franklin Academical Institution, Franklin, Vermont. Later taught at the Bradford Academy. He studied law during that time and was admitted to the Orange County Bar 1857.
He formed partnership with Robert McK. Ormsby until 1859 when he began practicing independently. He was elected states attorney 1859, and twice re-elected. During the early part of the Civil War, Farnham was a second lieutenant in the Bradford Guards, a company in the 1st Regiment Vermont Volunteers.
Later, he was a captain and then the lieutenant colonel of the 12th Regiment Vermont Volunteers, and for nearly half the term of his nine months of service was in command of the regiment. After the war, Farnham resumed practice of law at Bradford, and was Republican candidate for representative in the Legislature, but was defeated. He was elected state senator from Orange County in 1868 and 1869.
He was a delegate to the Republican national convention and presidential elector 1876. Farnham was elected Governor of Vermont in 1880 by a majority of over 25,000, the largest majority ever in the state of Vermont. During his tenure, he focused on school and prison reform.
He also sought ways to encourage manufacturing businesses to relocate to Vermont. He died in Bradford and is interred at Bradford Town Cemetery, Bradford, Vermont.
Married Mary Elizabeth Johnson, December 25, 1849.