Francis G. Newlands as born at Natchez, Adams County, Mississippi, on August 28, 1848. He studied at Yale University and the Columbian College Law School (now The George Washington University Law School), Washington, D.C. and was admitted to the bar in 1869. He moved to San Francisco, California in 1870 and came to work for William Sharon, one of the discoverers of the Comstock Lode in Virginia City, Nevada, who was also Newlands's father-in-law.
In 1888 he moved to Nevada to serve Sharon's interests and continued to practice law. He served as a Democratic Representative for Nevada between 1893 and 1903.
While a congressman, he wrote the Newlands Resolution, which was an act of the United States Congress to annex the Republic of Hawai'i and create the Territory of Hawai'i. It was approved on July 4, 1898 and signed on July 7 by President of the United States William McKinley. Newlands became well known for his support of irrigation, land reclamation as well as free silver. Newlands is most famous for the 1902 Newlands Reclamation Act, which funded irrigation projects throughout much of the American West.
Later he became a Democratic United States Senator for Nevada in 1903 and served until his death in 1917.
Newlands's former mansion in Reno would later become a local landmark. Many famous people, such as Barbara Hutton in 1935, stayed at the house while awaiting their divorce paperwork to be finalized by George Thatcher, a local lawyer who had purchased the building.