(Nov. 8, 18l0-Oct. 19, 1882). Born in Sparta, Tennessee, Defrees was eight years old when his family moved to Ohio. At 13 he was apprenticed to a printer and later studied law in Lebanon, Ohio. Having passed the bar, Defrees moved to South Bend, Indiana, in 1831, where he became a newspaper publisher and represented St. Joseph County in the state legislature during the early 1840s.

After selling his newspaper to Schuyler Colfax, his one-time apprentice, Defrees settled in Indianapolis in 1845 and purchased the Indiana journal later known as the Indianapolis Journal, a leading morning daily that he owned until 1854. In 1859, he began publishing the Atlas, a daily which was absorbed by the Journal in 1861.

In 1852, Defrees served as chairman of the Whig state central committee, and four years later he chaired the same committee for the Republican Party. In 1855, he helped establish the Central Bank, serving as its president until it closed, and in 1858 he was defeated in the primary in a bid for election to Congress. Defrees left Indiana permanently in 1861 when President Abraham Lincoln named him government printer, a position he held until 1869 when Republican members of Congress ousted him from the office. Reappointed by President Rutherford Hayes, Defrees served a third term as government printer from 1877 until his retirement in April 1882.

Although he was a natural politician, ending arguments and uniting antagonisms through arbitration and humor, his first love was the press. As a publisher, he was the first Hoosier to use a caloric press engine, a metallic stretching machine for binding, the Bullock printing press, and the Edison light at a business place. He died in Berkley Springs, West Virginia, and was buried in Crown Hill Cemetery, Indianapolis.

Revised February 2021

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