William Dunn Moseley was born in Lenoir County, North Carolina on February 1, 1795. The son of Matthew Moseley and Elizabeth Herring, and a descendent of colonial official Edward Moseley, William grew up at Rolleston Hall Plantation and graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1818, then went on to receive his Masters in 1821. His roommate at the university was future US president James K. Polk.
Moseley began tutoring at UNC in 1817 while he studied law. After passing the bar, he established a practice in Wilmington. Prior to obtaining his law license, Moseley taught school and farmed. In 1822, he married Susan Hill and fathered six children. Entering the North Carolina Senate in 1829, Moseley represented Lenoir County until 1837, during which time he was elected speaker for four terms.
In 1835, Moseley purchased a plantation and moved his family to Lake Miccosukee, Jefferson County, Florida. Five years later, he won election to Florida’s territorial House of Representatives, serving for four years, then gaining a seat in the Senate in 1844. The following year, Florida became the 27th state on March 3, 1845. Elections for the first state governor were held later that year, with Moseley winning out over territorial Governor Richard Keith Call, a well-known public official.
Now a widower, Moseley was sworn into office on June 25, 1845 and assisted in establishing the new state’s government. During Moseley’s first year, Florida’s Capitol building was completed. His tenure also saw Florida participate in the Mexican-American War as Southern states sent troops in support and the federal government constructed Fort Jefferson and Fort Clinch.
A strong supporter of states’ rights, Moseley also stood in favor of establishing Florida’s public school system. Governor Moseley also supported the state’s agriculture industry; focusing on citrus, avocado, cotton and tobacco crops.
Florida’s state constitution limited the governor to a single term. When his term ended on October 1, 1849, Moseley returned to his plantation. He moved to Putnam County two years later to operate a citrus grove.
William Dunn Moseley died in Palatka, Putnam County, on January 4, 1863 and was buried in the West View Cemetery. After he died, his daughters commissioned a portrait of him which was later hung in the Florida capitol building.