John Fox Potter nicknamed
"Bowie Knife Potter" (May
11, 1817 – May 18,
1899) was a nineteenth century politician,
lawyer and judge from Wisconsin.
Maine, Potter attended common schools and Phillips Exeter
Academy. He studied law and was admitted to the bar in
1837, commencing practice in East Troy, Wisconsin. He served as a judge in Walworth County,
Wisconsin from 1842 to 1846, was a delegate to the Whig National Convention in
1852 and 1856, was a member of the
Wisconsin State Assembly in
1856 and was a delegate to the Republican National
Convention in 1860 and 1864.
Member of Congress
Potter was elected a Republican
to the United States House of
in 1856. He served in the 35th through the 37th
Congresses from 1857 to 1863; there, he served as chairman of the
on Revolutionary Pensions
from 1859 to 1861 and of the Committee on
from 1861 to 1863. In this latter role, his
committee handled the Homestead
Act of 1862
The Fighting Congressmen
On February 8, 1860, the United States House of
were engaged in a common heated debate over
sectional issues.There were more Northerners than Southern, so when
a two-man fist-fight broke out, it turned into a general brawl. The
House floor immeadiately was "strewn with men," according to
Potter. During the fight POtter managed to yank off a Southerner's
wig. A cry was hollered that "Potter's taken a scalp!" A mad rush
of Southerners quickly flooded at Potter. "I struck out right and
left and then fell down," Potter confessed. After things settled
down, Potter was covered with blood and marked by Southerners as an
Potter was defeated in his race for reelection in 1862.
leaving office in early 1863, the Lincoln administration appointed him to be
Consul General of the United
States in the British-controlled Province of Canada from 1863 to 1866,
residing in what was then the Canadian capital of Montreal, Canada.
Potter returned to East Troy, Wisconsin, where he practiced law until his death there on
May 18, 1899.
was interred in Oak Ridge Cemetery in East Troy.