Thursday, July 21, 2011

Arphaxed Loomis (1798-1885)

                                  The Honorable Arphaxed Loomis, who finally has a picture!!!!!
  One of the best things about this project is the sheer amount of digging and research that goes into finding more about some of these infinitely obscure politicians. The man profiled today, U.S. Representative and judge Arphaxed Loomis, has been on the "Strangest Names In American Political History" list for over ten years, but all the while one thing was sorely lacking.....a photograph of the man. 
  For years and years I have scoured through every resource available to me, both in book form and the various digital archives mentioned in the introduction to this site. While numerous other obscure politicians (such as Epaphroditus Champion and Ner Middleswarth) eventually had pictures of themselves come to light, one thing remained consistent....Mr. Loomis' apparent facelessness. Eventually, I came to terms with the fact that I'd probably never see a portrait of this oddly named man and chocked it up to the possibility that Loomis might have had an aversion to photography, hence why I hadn't found a picture of him yet.
   That remained my firm belief until today when I decided it was time to write an article on the man, his unique name, and his numerous political accomplishments. In a last-ditch effort to find a portrait of Mr. Loomis, I culled through Google books once more and stumbled across a book I couldn't remember looking through. The "tome" in question was a lengthy work entitled the "Descendants of Joseph Loomis In America: And his Antecedents In the Old World", originally published in 1875, but revised in 1908. The book in question looked something like this...

  After finding the name "Arphaxad Loomis" (you'll notice the spelling variation there) listed in the illustrations section at the beginning of this book, I promptly jumped five feet in the air and then did my best impression of Michael Jackson's famous "moonwalk." After years of searching, a picture has finally been found of this curiously named New York congressman, and it now adorns the top of the article you're now reading! With that lengthy introduction out of the way, we'll now take a look at the life and political exploits of Mr. Loomis.
  Arphaxed Loomis was born in Winchester, Connecticut on April 9, 1798, one of ten children born to Thaddeus (1761-1839) and Lois Griswold Loomis (1769-1826). Arphaxed removed to the town of Salisbury, New York with his family when he was three years old, spending the majority of his adolescence helping with the family farm. At age twenty he began the study of law, and in 1822 was admitted to practice law before the New York State Supreme Court.
   In 1825, Loomis moved to Little Falls, New York, and soon after set up a law practice. He married in October 1831 to Ms. Ann Todd (1807-1879), and this union eventually produced five children. In 1831 Loomis was elected as President of the Village of Little Falls and was returned to this office in 1832, 1833 and 1836. In addition to his tenure as village president, Loomis was later named as a judge for Herkimer County in 1835, holding this position until 1840. 
   During his time as a judge, Loomis was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in November 1836, officially taking office in January of the next year. During his congressional service, he was appointed Chairman of the Committee on Patents and later sat on the Committee for Private Land Claims.  He served in Congress until 1839 and wasn't a candidate for renomination. His tenure in the House of Representatives was Loomis's only service in government at the national level, and from 1840 onward the only political offices he held were those in his home state.
   After returning to New York, Loomis was elected to the New York State Assembly from Herkimer County in 1841 and 1842 and later served another term in 1853. He was also a delegate to the New York State constitutional convention of 1846, where he served as a member of the judiciary committee.

        Loomis' name listed amongst fellow members of the NY State Assembly. Also listed is Othniel  
          Looker, who later became Governor of Ohio in 1814.

    One of Loomis' last public offices was his service as a delegate to the New York State Democratic conventions of 1861 and 1863. The "Descendants of Joseph Loomis in America"  work mentioned earlier makes special note of the hearing problems that plagued Loomis from 1818 onward. It states that these problems "grew gradually so that his extreme deafness caused him to retire practically from public life in 1857." While this malady probably caused him some consternation, it did not curtail Loomis' lifespan, as he lived quite a long life by 19th century standards, dying on September 15, 1885, at age 87. He was subsequently buried in the Church Street Cemetery in his hometown of Little Falls, New York.
 Lastly, many are probably wondering about the origins of Loomis' odd first name. The name Arphaxed stems from the biblical name "Arphacshad" or "Arphaxad". This biblical figure was a grandson of Noah, and its translation can be read as "one who releases." Interestingly, the biblical Arphaxad allegedly lived to be 403 years old!

           Arphaxed Loomis's obituary from the Sept. 23, 1885 Morrisville, NY Madison Observer.


  1. Another person doing research on the life of Arphaxed Loomis! What a world!

    You've done a great job of translating old records into an interesting story.


    1. JH,
      Thanks for your comment! Its nice to see that someone else is familiar with this oddly named congressman! I presume your doing research on him as well, and I wanted to ask....have you been able to find anymore pictures of him? The one featured above took me over a decade to find and in all likelihood is the only one to be found online. I was quite amazed to have found one at all, and the years of searching for one eventually yielded positive results!
      I'd be interested to know what research you're doing on Mr. Loomis. Truly amazing that someone else has taken an interest in his life and political exploits. If you have any questions go ahead and leave them here or on the blog Facebook page!

    2. I recently found a civil war carpetbag that has the name A. Loomis on a brass tag. Just like the one seen in the movie Gone With The Wind also has an old paper tag that read Albany. He was a true carpetbagger

  2. Loomis comes up as trying to reconcile Common Law theory from British law, with the Codifying school of thought, in 1840 debates in NY State; this is in Basch, Norma. 1982. In the Eyes of the Law: Women, Marriage, and Property in Nineteenth-Century New York. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press.

  3. I was thrilled to find your photo of Arphaxed Loomis. I have family connection with him. His mother, Ann Todd was a sister to my great-great grandmother, Laura Todd, who married Seth Miller, Jr. In addition, Arphaxed's daughter Louisa married David Hamlin Burrell who had a son Loomis Burrell with whom my aunt corresponded and who took pictures of some of the old family graves back in 1944 which I have. Interesting (to me, at least), Ann's sister Laura Todd Miller had a daughter Emily Sarah who married Isaac Burrell--half brother to David Hamlin Burrell--so my family is connected twice with Arphaxed Loomis. I actually have a very large obituary story of Arphaxed Loomis' life but it has been folded for over a century and is extremely fragile and in pieces along the fold lines. I'm trying to decide what to do with it.