Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Reavy Hawthorne Giles (1896-1936)

Portrait from the 1933 West Virginia Blue Book.

  The political star of Reavy Hawthorne Giles shone briefly during the early 1930s, as he served as both a state legislator and actuary of the state compensation department prior to his death at age 39 in February 1936. The son of Oscar and Mary Etta Giles, Reavy Hawthorne Giles was born in Myndus, Virginia on April 27, 1896. He would attend school in that state of his birth and during adolescence completed a "bookkeeping-secretarial course."
  A veteran of the First World War, Giles was a pilot with the 21st, 85th, and 284 Aero Squadrons. With a brief mention of his war service being given by the West Virginia Blue Book, no other source details the particulars of his military service or area of deployment in Europe. Following his return from the war, Giles married in June 1920 to Juanita Stella Shumate (1896-1981), with whom he had one son, Reavy Hawthorne Jr. (born 1921), who would later lose his life in an airplane crash in France in April 1946.
  A bookkeeper and accountant prior to his entering state politics, Giles won election to the West Virginia House of Delegates from Greenbrier County in November 1932, garnering 9,257 votes on election day. He took his seat in January 1933 and was named to the committees on Insurance, Labor, Medicine and Sanitation, Mines and Mining, Printing and Contingent Expenses, and Railroads. 
  Giles' tenure in the legislature proved to be brief, and just two months after taking his seat resigned in March 1933 to accept the post of actuary for the West Virginia Compensation Department. He would be succeeded by H.L. Van Sickler, who was appointed to his vacant seat. Giles continued to serve as actuary until his death at age 39 on February 28, 1936, at a veterans hospital in Huntington, West Virginia. Despite being in the prime of life, Giles is recorded as having been ill for more than a year and his death was attributed to "a complication of diseases." He was later interred at the Wildwood Cemetery in Beckley, West Virginia. Giles was survived by his wife Juanita, who later remarried to Fred Clark Hardman, who predeceased her in 1953

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Kreider Henry Stover (1873-1928)

Portrait from the History of West Virginia, Old and New, 1923.

   We continue our month-long trek through West Virginia and today focus on the life of Kreider Henry Stover, a longtime railway official in that state. In addition to a lengthy service as agent for both the West Maryland Railway and the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, Stover served one term in his state's house of delegates and in 1922 was an unsuccessful aspirant for the U.S. House of Representatives from West Virginia's 2nd congressional district. A native of the Keystone State, Kreider Henry Stover was born in Coburn, Pennsylvania on July 12, 1873, the son of George Washington and Malinda (Kreider) Stover. Stover's early life was spent on his family's farm and in the late 1880s attended the Palatinate College in Myerstown, Pennsylvania.
  Kreider Stover first entered the workforce at age seventeen, accepting an office post in the A. Pardee & Company, a coal mining outfit in Luzerne County. He remained in their employ until his resignation in 1893, whereafter he returned to his studies, enrolling at the Franklin Marshall College in Lancaster. He would leave school in 1896 to begin a career in railroad work, first joining the Pennsylvania Railway Company, with which he would be affiliated with until 1900. Kreider Stover married in Coburn, Pennsylvania on September 28, 1898, to Bertha Young (1876-1923), to whom he was wed for nearly twenty-five years. The couple had no children of their own, but would later adopt a son, Allen Graham Stover (1910-1958).
  In 1900 Kreider Stover and his wife left Pennsylvania for West Virginia, and, seeing lucrative opportunities in that state's lumber industry, Stover sought out work in that field, eventually becoming the manager for the Hosterman Lumber Company in Pocahontas County. He remained here until 1904, and during his residency in that county served as a delegate to the Republican County Convention of 1902 and was named as U.S. Postmaster at Collins in March 1903. Following his removal to Elkins, West Virginia in 1904 Stover continued his rise through the ranks of the lumber business, founding the Stover Lumber Company. His time in Elkins also saw him publish the West Virginia Lumberman and National Wholesaler newsletter, and from 1904 to 1908 held the presidency of the West Virginia Sawmill Association.
  In 1908, Stover resumed railroad work, joining the Western Maryland Railway Company as its agent at Rolling Creek Junction. Stover would subsequently be posted in several other West Virginia towns during his decade-long tenure with that railway and held additional posts, including telegrapher, operator, and yardmaster. In the late 1910s Stover resettled in Mineral County, West Virginia, and in November 1918 was elected as a Republican to the state house of delegates, defeating Democrat J.O. Lantz by a vote of 1,429 to 527. During the 1919-21 session, Stover chaired the committee on Labor and held seats on the committees on Railroads, and Printing and Contingent Expenses. Remarked as having had an "unusual record of useful service" during his one term in office, Stover introduced the bill that would become the West Virginia Child Labor Law and supported both prohibition and the right for women to vote.
  Towards the end of his legislative term, Stover resigned from the Western Maryland Railway and in 1920 entered into the post of agent for the Baltimore and Ohio Railway at Keyser. He returned to political life in 1922 when he announced that he'd be seeking the nomination for U.S. Representative from West Virginia's 2nd congressional district. In that year's primary season Stover's candidacy (along with his previous experience in the legislature and railroading) were touted in the Railroad Telegrapher, which noted:
"Brother Stover is a member of the O.R.T. and has proven his ability, faithfulness and integrity as a member of the State Legislature. He is no "new hand" at the job of fighting labor's battles, and fighting them ably and well. His experience and ability fit him for the office of Congressman, and his well-known fealty to the cause of the people; his fearlessness and knowledge prove that when you elect him he will serve YOU and not your enemies....If Wall Street desires representation in Congress, let Wall Street vote for Mr. Bower. If you want to be represented vote for Brother Stover, and get all your friends and acquaintences to do likewise."
   Stover's opponent in the 1922 primary was George Meade Bowers (1863-1925), the three-term Republican incumbent. On primary election day in August of that year, it was Bowers who won out in the vote count, polling over 8,000 votes, nearly five thousand more than Stover. Despite his primary victory, Bowers would go on to lose the general election that November to Democrat Robert E.L. Allen, a former city judge in Morgantown.
   Following his congressional defeat, Stover would be elected as the Mayor of Keyser, West Virginia (serving from 1925-27) and also maintained memberships in the Masonic order and the Knights of Pythias. Widowed in 1923, Kreider Henry Stover died on July 20, 1928, in Keyser, eight days following his 55th birthday. He was later interred alongside his wife Bertha at the Queens Meadow Point Cemetery in Keyser.
   
From the Baltimore and Ohio Magazine, April 1922.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Eskridge Hampton Morton (1866-1940)

Portrait from the 1937 West Virginia Blue Book.

  A leading political figure in Webster County, West Virginia for the better part of four decades, Eskridge Hampton Morton began his political ascent early in his life, winning election as county school superintendent at the age of just 23. In the succeeding decades, Morton won election as county prosecuting attorney, served two terms in the state house of delegates, two terms in the state senate, was a delegate to the 1912 Democratic National Convention from West Virginia, and in 1908 and 1922 was an unsuccessful candidate for the offices of state attorney general and U.S. Representative from West Virginia. Truly a man of political distinction!
   The story of this now obscure West Virginian begins with his birth on a Webster County farm on June 16, 1866, the son of George Washington and Hannah (Kyer) Morton. Young Eskridge attended schools local to his home county of Webster and, after deciding to pursue a law degree, enrolled at the University of West Virginia in Morgantown. Graduating with his bachelor of laws degree in the class of 1891, Morton would return to Webster Springs to establish a law practice, forming a partnership with William C. Wooddell that would extend "throughout both men's lives." Morton married on December 24, 1890, to Mary McCray (1870-1947). The couple's near five-decade marriage would produce several children, including Ernest (born 1892, Meta (1894-1911), Mayme Edith (1896-1994), Abbie Dale, Mary Vivian, Eskridge McCray (1903-1984) and Nancy.
  "E.H." Morton (as most sources of the period refer to him) first entered the political life of his state in 1889 when he was elected as county superintendent of schools. He would serve one term in that post and in 1892 advanced to the post of Webster County prosecuting attorney, serving from 1893-97. At the conclusion of his term as prosecuting attorney Morton was selected to serve as assistant prosecuting attorney for the neighboring county of Nicholas (remaining in that post until 1902) and during his service pulled political double duty, as he had been named as Sergeant-at-Arms for the West Virginia House of Delegates for the 1899 session.
  Following his stints as house sergeant-at-arms, Eskridge Morton set his sights on a house seat for himself, and in the 1902 election year was elected to that body as a representative from Webster County. Serving during the session of 1903-04, Morton left office after one term and returned to his law practice, being retained as an attorney for the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Co

From the Men of West Virginia, Vol. II, 1903.

  In August 1908 Eskridge Morton returned to the political forum when he received the Democratic nomination for West Virginia state attorney general. Opposing Morton in that year's contest was Republican William Gustavus Conley (1866-1940), a newspaper editor and former mayor of Kingwood. When the votes were tallied in November 1908 it was Conley who emerged triumphant, besting Morton by a vote of 135, 389 to 113, 823. Conley continued to serve as attorney general until 1913, and in 1929 won election as Governor of West Virginia, holding that post until 1933.
  Despite his defeat in the race for attorney general, Morton refused to let a loss get the best of him, and in 1912 served as part of the West Virginia delegation to the Democratic National Convention in Baltimore that saw Woodrow Wilson nominated for the Presidency. In 1914 Morton entered into the race for state senator from West Virginia's 10th senatorial district and that November won election to that body, handily defeating his opponent, E.A. Barnes, by a vote of 7, 694 to 262. During the 1915-19 session Morton would on the committees on Education; Forfeited, Delinquent and Unappropriated Lands; the Judiciary; Privileges and Elections; Public Printing; and Roads and Navigation.
  In November 1918 Morton won his second term in the Senate, defeating oddly named Republican nominee Otho Hunter Kee by a vote of 6,390 to 5,355. This term (1919-23) saw Morton named to four new Senate committees, those being Federal Relations, Forestry and Conservation, Insurance and Virginia Debt.

Portrait from the 1919 West Virginia Blue Book.

  Towards the end of his second Senate term in 1922, Eskridge Morton was selected by then Governor Ephraim Morgan as the chairman of the West Virginia Code Commission, a body responsible for modifying the West Virginia law code. In that same year, Morton launched a candidacy for the U.S. House of Representatives from his state's 3rd congressional district. His opponent that year was three-term incumbent Republican Stuart Felix Reed (1866-1935), a former member of the West Virginia Senate in the late 1890s. On November 7, 1922, Reed eked out a narrow win over Morton, garnering 32,066 votes to his opponent's 31, 382.
  Following this congressional loss, Morton returned to his law practice in Webster County, and in 1936 was returned to government service when he was elected to the house of delegates for a second term, thirty-two years following the conclusion of his first term in that body. Seventy years old at the time of his election, Morton's final term in the legislature saw him named to the committees on Arts, Science and General Improvements; the Judiciary; Medicine and Sanitation; Roads, and chaired the committee on Railroads. Morton wasn't a candidate for reelection in 1939 and for the remainder of his life practiced law in Webster County, dying there in 1940 at age 74. He was survived by his wife Mary, who, following her death in 1947, was interred alongside him at the Blacks Chapel Cemetery in Camden-on-Gauley, West Virginia. Far from a forgotten figure in Webster County, Morton's massive red brick mansion in Webster Springs (erected in 1912) was added to the National Register of Historic Places in April 1986.

One of many portraits located of Eskridge H. Morton (from the 1922 West Virginia Blue Book).

Friday, June 8, 2018

Haymond Alpheus Alltop (1892-1979)

Portrait from the West Virginia Blue Book, 1941.

  A three-term member of the West Virginia House of Delegates from Marion County, Haymond Alpheus Alltop resided in the same city as former West Virginia Governor Aretas Brooks Fleming (profiled a day or two ago.) While there is a dearth of resources mentioning Alltop at great length, enough has been located to compile a small profile on his life. Born in Gilmer County, West Virginia on June 14, 1892, Haymond Alpheus Alltop was the son of Alpheus and Rebecca (Miller) Alltop. Given the unusual names Haymond Alpheus upon his birth, Alltop's first and middle names may have a connection to Alpheus Forest Haymond (1823-1893), a Fairmont, West Virginia resident who had earlier served in the Virginia House of Delegates, the Virginia Secession Convention and for many years was a judge of the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals.
  A student in the public schools, Alltop would go on to study at the West Virginia Business College and married on May 15, 1912, to Mona Ann Satterfield (1895-1966), to whom he was wed for over fifty years. The couple would have at least four children, including Kenneth Alpheus (1913-1987), Kathleen (born ca. 1916), Theresa Mae (1917-2001) and Ruby (1919-2002).
  Following his marriage, Haymond A. Alltop was employed by the Fairmont Mining Machinery Co. in the mid-1910s and was a member of that company's baseball team, serving as a pitcher. He would later enter into a two-decade-long career as a machinist in the employ of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Co. While little biographical material exists in regards to Alltop's life prior to his legislative service, the West Virginia Blue Book denotes his prominence in labor circles in the state, as he served five years as the president of the Monongahela Valley Trades and Labor Council, and was the vice president of both the West Virginia Industrial Union Council (serving 1937-40) and the West Virginia Federation of Labor. 
   In November 1938 Haymond Alltop was elected as one of three Marion County representatives to the West Virginia House of Delegates, garnering 12,889 votes on election day. Taking his seat at the start of the 1939-41 session, Alltop proved to be busy as a freshman legislator, being named to the committees on Elections and Privileges, Federal Relations, Forestry and Conservation, Insurance, Labor, and the Military. In November 1940 he won a second term in the legislature (receiving 20,039 votes) and in 1942 was elected to his third term with 8,981 votes.
  Little information could be found on the remainder of Alltop's life, excepting mention of his brief flirtation with a run for the state senate in 1952. Widowed in 1966, Alltop survived his wife Mona by thirteen years, dying at age 86 in April 1979. Both were interred at the Mount Zion Cemetery in Fairmont.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Aretas Brooks Fleming (1839-1923)

Governor Aretas B. Fleming.
"As a legislator, judge and Governor he has served the state and his native country with fidelity and reflected credit upon himself and the people he served. Public spirited as a citizen, he carried his enthusiasm for righteousness and efficiency into the offices he has held. He has attracted the attention, especially while governor, of the whole country to the then almost underdeveloped mineral and timber resources of West Virginia, by public addresses and published articles in trade and other papers."   
   While the above description briefly touches on his career in the public forum, it can rightly be said that there were few men more prominent in late 19th century West Virginia than Aretas Brooks Fleming, a two-term member of the state house of delegates and circuit court judge who in 1890 was inaugurated as the Governor of his state. Undoubtedly one of the oddest named men ever to serve as the Governor of West Virginia, Fleming is referred to by me as an "old guard" strange name political figure, as I located his name way back in 2001 via a copy of the Who Was Who In America 1896-1942 edition, which contained biographies of a good majority of American governors elected up to that time.
   Aretas Brook Fleming was born near Fairmont, Virginia (now West Virginia) on October 15, 1839, the son of the Rev. Benjamin Franklin (1810-1876) and Rhoda (Brooks) Fleming. Raised on a farm, Fleming's youth saw him engaged in farm work, and would attend school during the winter months, being a student at "private and select schools" near the area of his birth.  Like many of the men profiled here in the past, Fleming decided to pursue a career in law early in his life, and in the late 1850s enrolled at the University of Virginia. After completing his studies in 1859 he taught school briefly and in 1860, after receiving his law degree, settled in Gilmer County.
  Fleming's stay in Gilmer County proved to be brief, and during his residency there operated a private school "while waiting for clients." This school was later headed by Aretas' brother Robert, and at the outbreak of Civil War Fleming closed his practice and removed to Fairmont, where he would reside until his death over sixty years later. After settling in Fairmont Fleming recommenced with his law practice and in 1863 was elected to his first political office, that of prosecuting attorney of Marion County, West Virginia, which had been admitted as a state in June of that year. He was reelected to that post in 1865 for another two-year term and in September 1865 married to Caroline Margaret "Carrie"  Watson (1844-1931), to whom he was wed for nearly sixty years. The couple's lengthy union saw the births of five children, Gypsy W. (1868-1954), Ida (1872-1906), twins George (1874-1935) and Virginia (born 1874), and Aretas Brooks Jr. (1882-1945)

Fleming as he appeared in the Prominent Men of West Virginia, 1890.

  During his second term as prosecuting attorney Fleming entered into a law practice with Alpheus Forest Haymond (1823-1893), a former member of the Virginia house of delegates, as well as a Confederate veteran. Their law practice extended until 1872 when Haymond was elected to the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, and in that same year, Fleming advanced to higher office himself, being elected to the West Virginia House of Delegates from Marion County. He would be reelected in 1874 and during his two terms was a member of the house committees on the judiciary and finance and taxation (serving as chairman of the latter.)
   Further political honors came Fleming's way in February 1878, when, following the death of sitting judge Charles Lewis, he was appointed as judge of the West Virginia's 2nd judicial circuit court. He would be elected to a term of his own on that court in November 1878 and would continue to be reelected, serving until 1888. In August of that year, Fleming's name was brought forward at the state Democratic convention as a candidate for Governor, and following a unanimous motion from the delegates in attendance on August 17th, officially became the nominee. Fleming's opponent that year was Republican Nathan Goff (1843-1920), former U.S. Secretary of the Navy under Rutherford Hayes, as well as a U.S. Representative. 
  Through the fall of 1888, Fleming's upright character and previous government experience were boomed in Democratic-leaning papers of the state, with the Point Pleasant Weekly Register referring to the candidate as a man of "probity, temperance, and manliness," and further related that:
"As a gentleman we believe he will elevate the office; that he will not simply use it as a stepping stone to gratify his own personal ambition; that he will not be a mere political schemer; that he will not represent a clique or faction, but that he will have the courage to be governor of the whole state; that he will have that concientious regard for the common weal,  and that broad and enterprising spirit toward our public interests that will encourage and assist in the development of our resources and the general development of our state. In a word, Judge Fleming will make a governor of whom we shall not be ashamed, and who will command the respect and confidence of the whole people." 
Portrait from the Men of West Virginia, 1903.

   The West Virginia gubernatorial election of 1888 proved to be an electoral quagmire when the votes were tallied in November, with Republican Nathan Goff's vote total being a small margin (just 106 votes) ahead of Fleming. The Democrats of West Virginia could not be swayed, however, and after contesting the electoral results issued a call for an investigation. With then-incumbent Governor Emanuel Wilson declining to step down from office until a clear winner had been decided upon, this investigation would be headed up by a joint committee of members of both houses of the West Virginia legislature. This fact-finding investigation lasted more than a year and in January 1890 the legislature (then heavily democratic), voted along party lines to declare Fleming the duly elected Governor by 237 votes. Despite the brouhaha surrounding votes and rightful claim to the governorship, "no personal animosity" developed between Fleming and Goff, who were referred to as having been "personal friends long before the contest and have been ever since."
   Aretas Fleming officially took the governor's chair on February 6, 1890, and served until 1893. With Republican legislators still bitter over losing the governorship, Fleming's legislative successes proved to be minimal, excepting the successful adoption of the "Australian ballot", which limited the possibility of election fraud. While hampered legislatively, Fleming's administration did much good to encourage future investment in the natural resources of the state, including mineral and timber, mining operations, petroleum fields, and railroad construction.
  After leaving office in 1893 Fleming returned to the practice of law and was affiliated with various coal mining interests in the state, and in 1901 became a director and attorney for the Fairmont Coal Co., which had been organized that year. This company would later develop into the Consolidation Coal Company, with Fleming continuing to serve on its board of directors, and he would also hold the post of general counsel for that company's properties in West Virginia. Other business accolades that came Fleming's way following his governorship include service as a director for both the Cumberland and Pennsylvania and Monongahela railroads, being a stockholder and director for the Watson Company in Fairmont, and also held a directorship in the National Bank of Fairmont.
  Aretas B. Fleming died in Fairmont on October 13, 1923, two days short of his 84th birthday. He was survived by his wife Carrie, who, following her death in 1931 at age 87, was interred alongside him at the Woodlawn Cemetery in Fairmont.

From "West Virginia and Its People", 1913.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Jettes Mollohan (1869-1947)

Portrait from the 1920 West Virginia Blue Book.

   A one-term member of the West Virginia House of Delegates from Nicholas County, Jettes Mollohan served as Nicholas County sheriff and chairman of the Nicholas County Democratic committee prior to his legislative victory in 1918. Late in his life, Mollohan would return to politics, being elected as the mayor of Summersville, West Virginia on the Citizens Party ticket. One of twelve children born to Anson and Anna (Riffle) Mollohan, Jettes Mollohan was born (depending on the source) on either May 28, 1869, or June 20, 1871, in West Virginia. Despite these varying dates of birth, Mollohan's obituary in the Charleston Daily Mail (posted below) lists it as occurring on June 20, 1869, "near Frametown."
   Little information could be located on Mollohan's early life or schooling, excepting note of his marriage on December 29, 1892, to Nancy Elizabeth Tinnel (1874-1941). The couple were wed for nearly fifty years and would have a total of seven children, listed as follows in order of birth: Exie (1893-1905), Ethel Lee (1895-1961), Bertha Maude (1897-1978), Esker Ray (1899-1965), Clara (died in infancy), Thelma Louise (1912-2007) and Russell Dale (1913-2001).
  Residing at Birch River, West Virginia following his marriage, Mollohan and his family later removed to Summersville, where they would reside for the remainder of their lives. Following his resettlement in that city, Mollohan became active in civic affairs of Nicholas County, eventually rising to become Vice President of the Nicholas County Bank. He would enter the political life of that county in the late 1900s, taking office as County Assessor in 1908, and following a four-year term in that post served as Sheriff of Nicholas County from 1913-17. Sources also relate to Mollohan being a farmer and "manufacturer of staves and lumber."
  In 1917 Mollohan was elected chairman of the Nicholas County Democratic Executive Committee and continued in that post even after receiving the Democratic nomination for the West Virginia House of Delegates in the summer of 1918. In November of that year, Mollohan would defeat Republican nominee J.T. Burdette by a vote of 1,609 to 1,400 and took his seat at the start of the 1919-21 session. This term would see Mollohan sit on the house committees on Forestry and Conservation, Immigration and Agriculture, and Medicine and Sanitation, and he wasn't a candidate for renomination in 1920
  Following his term, Mollohan continued residency in Summersville, where he was a member of the Baptist church and the Summersville Lodge No. 76 of Free and Accepted Masons. Late in his life, Mollohan returned to politics when he was elected to the first of six terms as Mayor of Summersville, winning his last term in July 1947, just four months prior to his death. Widowed in 1942, Mollohan would later reside with his daughter Ethel and son-in-law Okey Mearns until his death at their home on November 2, 1947. The 78-year old former legislator and his wife are interred at the Tinnel-Mollohan Cemetery in Birch River, West Virginia.

Mollohan's obituary from the November 3, 1947 Charleston Daily Mail

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Sescoe Curry Isaacs (1897-1967)

Portrait from the West Virginia State Blue Book, 1948.

  The Strangest Names In American Political History begins its month-long stay in West Virginia for a look at the lives of several oddly named men who were elected to public office in Mountain State. The first of these profiles takes us to Lincoln County and Sescoe Curry Isaacs, a World War I veteran, road contractor and real estate dealer who served one term in the West Virginia House of Delegates. Born on May 1, 1897, in Sheridan, West Virginia, Sescoe Curry Isaacs was the son of  Greeley Horace and Annie Victoria (Midkiff) Isaacs
  Isaacs' early education occurred in both "public and private normal schools" in his home state and is mentioned as having been a veteran of the First World War. Despite the mention of his service in the West Virginia Blue Book (as well as his 1967 Charleston Gazette obituary) no information could be located on the duration of his service or his area of deployment.
  Sescoe C. Isaacs married on Christmas Day 1920 to Mae Damron (1901-1979). The couple were wed for over forty years and had several children, including:  Ivan Cecil (1920-1993), Virginia Marie (1922-1935), Sescoe Curry Jr. (1926-2000), Betty Jo (1931-2009), Don Chafin (1932-1989), Alma Mae (1934-2011), Anna Margaret (1935-2015), and Harold Greeley (born 1938). A self-employed road contractor prior to his service in state government, Sescoe Isaacs was also an oil and gas well driller, being affiliated with the Ray Gas Co. He is also mentioned as having been a real estate agent in his brief West Virginia Blue Book biography, being "engaged in buying, building and selling homes." 
  Isaacs entered the political life of his state in November 1948 when he won election to the West Virginia House of Delegates from Lincoln County, besting Republican nominee B.R. Osborne by a vote of 4,473 to 4, 108. Serving during the 1949-51 session, little is known of Isaac's term or his life after leaving office, excepting notice of his being a member of the Welcome Home Baptist Church in Pleasant View, West Virginia.
   Sescoe C. Isaacs died at a hospital in Huntington, West Virginia on April 11, 1967, at age 69. He was survived by his wife Mae and several of his children and was later interred at the Sloan Cemetery in Lincoln County.

Frome the Charleston Daily Telegraph, April 1967.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Gelon Wilberforce West (1845-1890)

Portrait from the History of Tolland County, Connecticut, Vol. I, 1888.

    Lifelong Connecticut resident Gelon Wilberforce West lived to the age of just forty-four, and for half his life was a prominent jurist in Tolland County, serving as Judge of Probate for the Ellington district for two decades and at the time of his passing also held the post of judge of the city court of Rockville. Born in Columbia, Connecticut on August 31, 1845, Gelon Wilberforce West was one of eight children born to Samuel Ferdinand and Charlotte (Porter) West.
  West's formative years in Columbia saw him working the family farm and attending schools local to the area of his birth. He would graduate from the Ellington High School and at age seventeen left the farm and for two winters (1862-64) taught school. Deciding to pursue a career in law, West began his studies in the Hartford based office of Waldo and Hyde in January 1866 and was admitted to the Connecticut bar in July 1868.
  After receiving his law degree West established his practice in Rockville, Connecticut in November 1868. Just a few months following his settlement he was elected as Probate Judge for the Ellington district in April 1869 and officially entered into his duties on July 4th of that year. Gelon West would marry in Vermont in March 1870 to Ellen Goodwin Adkins (-1920) and later had two daughters, Inez Winifred West Antwis (1872-1944) and Ethel Belle West Black (1877-1946).
  Just 23 years old at the time of his election as judge, West would hold that post until his death in February 1890, continually being reelected "irrespective of party." His lengthy tenure on the bench was later remarked as "being the longest term, or consecutive terms, held by any judge of said district since its formation, in 1826". In addition to his judicial service West would serve in several other political capacities, holding the posts of town clerk, treasurer, and registrar for Vernon, Connecticut (1883-1890), assistant clerk of the Superior Court for Tolland County (1875-), school board clerk, and until the time of his death was municipal judge for Rockville.
  Active in the civic life of Rockville, Gelon West was a leading figure in the planned establishment of the Rockville High School, and " personally paid the expenses attendant upon issuing the first diplomas of that institution." West would be of further service to Rockville as a "prime mover" to see it incorporated and chartered as a city, which it became in 1889. After a number of years of service in Tolland County, Gelon W. West died in Rockville on January 17, 1890, due to a heart attack "following an attack of the grip". Memorialized as a judge of "sound judgment" and "tender sympathy", West was further praised in a Connecticut Supreme Court of Errors report, which noted that
"His faithfulness and integrity were proverbial, and his word was as good as his bond. While often negligent of the duties which he owed to himself, he ever failed in his obligations to his fellowmen. The perplexities of his many duties never tested beyond its strength that serene and abiding patience, which he always commanded, in sickness and in health."
 Gelon West was survived by his wife Ellen and daughters Inez and Ethel, all of whom were interred in the West family plot at the Grove Hill Cemetery in Rockville. 

From the New Haven Morning Journal and Courier, January 18, 1890.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Costello Lippitt (1842-1924)

From the Genealogical and Biographical Record of New London County, 1905.

  For many years a distinguished banker and financier in New London County, Connecticut, Costello Lippitt didn't enter the political life of his state until well into his sixth decade, winning election as the Mayor of Norwich in 1908. Lippitt would achieve further distinction as a high ranking Mason in the state, and in 1911 began a term as State Treasurer of Connecticut.  Born in East Killingly, Connecticut on December 12, 1842, Costello Lippitt was the only child of Norris Greenleaf (1817-1887) and Eliza (Leffingwell) Lippitt (1819-1863).  He would attend the public schools of East Killingly and the Norwich Free Academy and later enrolled at the Wesleyan University in Middletown, earning his master's degree in 1867. 
  Costello Lippitt married in August 1864 to Emily Hyde Standish, to whom he was wed until her death in 1889. The couple would have two children, Mary Bell (1865-1908) and Norris Standish (1867-1928). Norris Lippitt would later follow his father into finance, serving as the assistant teller for the Norwich Savings Bank. Following his wife's death in 1889 Lippitt remarried in 1891 to Gertrude Hopkins Lamphere (1858-1922), whom he also survived.
  Lippitt first entered into the world of finance in 1864 when he entered into a clerkship at the Thames National Bank, continuing in the role into the following year. In 1865 he took on a similar post at the Norwich Savings Bank, and by 1881 had succeeded to the post of secretary and treasurer of that bank, which would grow to become the second largest in Connecticut. In addition to this bank, Lippitt also was a trustee and director of the Norwich Savings Society and was president of the Merchant's National Bank, the former having a "savings deposit of nearly $15,000,000" during his tenure.
  With his name firmly established in Norwich's financial sector, Lippitt would achieve further distinction in the civic affairs of Norwich, being the first president of the board of trustees for the Norwich Hospital for the Insane. He would occupy similar posts on the boards for the Norwich Free Academy and the Eliza Huntington Memorial Home, and in the late 1890s served as a director for the Norwich Street Railway Company. A Mason of high standing in New London County, Lippitt became a Master Mason in the Somerset Lodge No. 34 in Norwich and would not only attain the 33rd degree but also became an Eminent Commander of the Columbian Commandery No. 4, Knights Templar and was a Past Grand Commander for Connecticut in 1892.

From the Norwich Bulletin, December 13, 1911.

   Costello Lippitt refrained from pursuing public office until well into his sixties. In early 1908 he was induced to run for Mayor of Norwich and in June of that year defeated longtime Democratic mayor Charles F. Thayer in a close race, with a "majority of only 75." Lippitt would serve a two-year term as mayor (his term concluding in June 1910) and would be succeeded by the man whom he had bested in 1908, Charles Thayer. 
  In April 1910 Lippitt announced that he'd be seeking the Republican nomination for State Treasurer, and throughout the succeeding months various Connecticut newspapers profiled Lippitt's candidacy, while also booming his past successes in banking and as mayor, with the Litchfield Inquirer remarking:
"It would be hard to imagine a man better equipped for the state treasurership. For many years he has held responsible positions connected with money institutions and his integrity is as strong as his executive ability is pronounced."
  In November 1910 Lippitt won the treasurer's office, defeating Democratic nominee Edward T. Brown by a vote of 79, 383 to 73, 511. Lippitt's tenure as treasurer extended until 1913, and in December 1911 was honored with a surprise birthday party by members of his staff, receiving multiple gifts and roses, as well as a humorous letter, stating:
"Costello Lippitt is hereby sentenced to a life term in the state treasurer's department, or else he should hang on to his present office for forty years. The culprit is hereby directed to choose which sentence he will take, and in either case the office force wishes him long life and much happiness."
  Following his leaving the treasurer's office Lippitt continued prominence in Norwich, being elected as grand treasurer for the Grand Commandery of the Knights Templar of Connecticut. He would continue involvement with the Norwich Savings Society (being vice-president, secretary, and treasurer), and in December 1921 marked 57 years of affiliation with that institution. Widowed for a second time in 1922 with the death of his wife Gertrude, Costello Lippitt died in Norwich on August 21, 1924, at age 81. He was survived by his son Norris and was subsequently interred alongside his wives and daughter Mary at the Yantic Cemetery in Norwich.


From Taylor's Legislative History and Souvenir of Connecticut, 1912.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Beppo Rolff Johansen (1909-1946)

From the St. Petersburg Times, January 19, 1939.

  Oddly named Clearwater, Florida resident Beppo Rolff Johansen is another curiously named American diplomat I've discovered recently, and despite his length of years (he died aged 37 in 1946) was a prominent member of the foreign service, serving as U.S. Vice Consul in Yokohama, Japan, as well as in Harbin, Manchuria and Shanghai and Tientsin, China. The son of Valdemar Simon and Margrethe (Glent) Johansen, Beppo Rolff Johansen was born in Manhattan, New York on March 9, 1909. Born of Danish descent, Johansen was given the unusual name Beppo upon his birth and in the late 1920s began attending the University of Florida
   Following his graduation from that school Johansen decided upon a career in the diplomatic service, and in the mid-1930s enrolled at the Italian Diplomatic School in Florence, Italy. He passed the foreign service examination in the fall of 1934 and following the conclusion of his studies in Florence in late 1935 entered into his first diplomatic role, that of a language officer at the American Embassy in Tokyo
  By October 1937 Johansen had advanced to the post of Vice Consul and was stationed in Yokohama, Japan. His time in that post extended until February 1939, when, after a visit home to Clearwater, Florida, was appointed as Vice Consul in Harbin, Manchuria. While serving in Manchuria Johansen married to Lucy "Penny" Norton (1910-2005) in 1939, who had been born in Korea to American missionary parents. The couple would later have two children, Rolff and Karin. 
   Johansen's consulship at Harbin ended in early 1941 and in January of that year entered into the post of Third Secretary of the U.S. Embassy in Peking, China. In December 1941 he saw the U.S. flag lowered at the embassy at the dawn of the war with Japan, and the Tampa  Times gives note as to his later being captured by the Japanese and held as prisoner for six months. Johansen was later freed, and after traveling to East Africa was returned stateside on the passenger ship Gripsholm in June 1942. 

Beppo Johansen returns to China, from the Foreign Service Journal, Jan. 1946.

  In September 1945 Johansen returned to diplomatic service when he and Richard Porter Butrick (1894-1997), along with other diplomatic personnel, traveled to China to begin reopening America's Asian consulates that had been freed from Japanese occupancy. With headquarters in Shanghai, the group set about reestablishing consulates in Tientsin, Hankow, Canton, Hong Kong and Tsingtao, and February 1946 Johansen saw the American flag hoisted once again over the American consulate in Peking (Peiping), China. 

From the Harrisburg Telegraph.

   In February 1946 Beppo Johansen entered into the post of Vice Consul in Tientsin, China. He continued in his duties as consul until his death in Tokyo on July 22, 1946, his cause of death being attributed to "thrombosis". Just 37 years old at the time of his passing, Johansen was memorialized by his friend and fellow diplomat Richard P. Butrick as having been "effective without being aggressive" and "unassuming without being scheming", and further related: 
"Always ready and willing to be of assistance, Beppo would frequently anticipate the wishes of the department and of his chief. Gifted with common sense far beyond the average and genuine modesty, he was respected and beloved alike by all his associates, of whatever grade. The ranks of the service may close up, but for another generation there will always be a gap where Beppo stood.
 Following his death, Johansen was interred at the U.S. Army Cemetery in Yokohama, Japan. He was survived by his wife Lucy, who, in the wake of her husband's death, entered into the diplomatic service herself, being employed as a receptionist in the office of the U.S. Political Advisor in Tokyo. She would also see service in Switzerland, Canada, and Italy, and was later a resident of both Maine and Belgium, dying in the latter country in July 2005, aged 95.


From the St. Petersburg Times, July 24, 1946.