Thursday, July 21, 2011

Epaphroditus Champion (1756-1834), Epaphroditus Ransom (1798-1859), Epaphroditus Peck (1860-1938), Epaphroditus Champion Bacon (1811-1845)


   This particular posting will be in four parts, as there are four men with the unusual name of Epaphroditus who served their country in the political arena. The first to be profiled, Epaphroditus Champion, is shown above. Of the four, Champion is the only one to have been active in politics at the national level, serving as a U.S. Representative from Connecticut for nearly a decade.
  Epaphroditus Champion was born April 6, 1756 in Westchester, Connecticut, the fifth of nine children born to Colonel Henry Champion (1723-1795) and his wife Deborah Brainard (1724-1789). In an interesting note to his childhood, Epaphroditus was actually the second child of that name born to Henry and his wife. The first Epaphroditus Champion was the second born son in this family and died a tragic death at age 3 in 1752 when he was killed by "being scalded in a vat of malt." It seems that when another son was born to Henry and his wife in 1756, this unusual first name was passed along to him!
   Young Epaphroditus attended common schools in the Westchester area and during the Revolutionary War helped his father (a Colonel) drive a herd of cattle into Valley Forge to feed General Washington's troops. In 1776 the then twenty-year old Champion was made assistant commissary to General Joseph Trumbull (1737-1778), who earned distinction as the first Commissary General of the Continental Army. In 1781 Champion married Ms. Lucretia Hubbard (1760-1836) with whom he had three children, Lucretia Champion (1783-1882) who lived to be nearly 99 years old, Clarissa (1785-1801) and a son, Epaphroditus (1786-1841).
  Throughout the 1780s and early 1790s, Champion served in the 24th Regiment of the Connecticut state militia, working his way up from major to lieutenant to finally, Brigadier General. Also during this time Champion became well known in Connecticut business circles as a merchant, shipowner and both an exporter and importer of goods. He is also recorded as having "successfully conducted trade in the West Indies."
  In 1791 Champion was elected to the first of many terms in Connecticut State Assembly, representing the county of Middlesex. His service here extended fifteen years, and in 1807 won election as a Federalist to the U.S. Representatives, serving for five terms in this body
  After leaving Congress in 1817, Champion returned to Connecticut and soon went back in his earlier business pursuits. In one of his last acts of public service, Champion is recorded as serving as commissary-general of provisions for army pensioners in 1832, two years before his death. He died in East Haddam, Connecticut at the age of 78 on December 22, 1834 and was later interred in the River View Cemetery in that village. His impressive gravestone gives note to his service in the military, and his epitaph notes that "talents, benevolence and integrity characterized his spotless life."




    Next up is Mr. Epaphroditus Ransom, a New Englander by birth who made his political mark in Michigan. Ransom was originally born in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts on March 24, 1798, although the years 1787, 1796 and 1797 are variously given as his birth year. Ransom was one of twelve children born to Ezekiel (1763-1850) and his wife Lucinda Fletcher (died 1836) who were natives of both Vermont and Connecticut.
  Epaphroditus Ransom attended school at the Chester Academy in Vermont and later began the study of law at the Northampton Law School in Massachusetts, graduating from this institution with his law degree in 1823. Shortly afterwards he set up a law practice, and on February 21, 1827 married Ms. Almira Cadwell (1804-1877),with whom he had four children, who are listed as follows: Wyllys Cadwell Ransom (1828-1908), Elizabeth (died aged one in October 1831), Antoinette (born in 1832) and Eugene Beauharnais, who died aged five months in 1837.
  Ransom began his political career in Vermont at a young age, winning election as the District Attorney for Windham County in 1825 at age 27. In the following year he was elected by the citizens of that county to a seat in the Vermont State House of Representatives, and was reelected the following year. In 1834, Ransom removed with his wife and children to the Michigan Territory, following the earlier example of two of his siblings. After arriving in Michigan in November 1834, Ransom set up another law practice, and within a few years time had been elected as a circuit court judge. In 1837 the Michigan Governor appointed Ransom as an Associate Justice on the Michigan State Supreme Court. Ransom served here until 1848, and during his last five years on the bench served as the court's Chief Justice.


                           Another sketch of Ransom, done after his service as Governor.
  
   In 1848, Ransom was elected as Governor of Michigan, subsequently resigning his seat on the court. It is remarked that Ransom was elected "by a majority vote of every county in the state", and he was  also the first Michigan governor to be inaugurated in Lansing (then called Lansing Township), which became the new state capitol in 1847. During the Ransom governorship construction began on the now famous Sault Ste. Marie canal and he was "also active in organizing and getting forward the Michigan quota of volunteers for the Mexican war."
  Ransom served as Governor until 1850, and wasn't renominated by the Democratic Party because of his anti-slavery stances. He was subsequently elected to a term in the Michigan State legislature and held his seat from 1853-1854. Ransom is also recorded by the Historical Outline of the Ransom Family of America as being a prominent farmer in Kalamazoo, and engaged "extensively in the breeding of blooded stock, cattle, sheep, and swine and improving his beautiful estate."
   In 1855 Ransom lost most of his fortune courtesy of an ongoing financial panic, and he eventually removed to Kansas in 1856.  Two years later he was appointed by then President James Buchanan as the receiver for the land office in Fort Scott, Kansas. It was here that Ransom died on November 9, 1859 at age 61, and his body was then returned to Kalamazoo, where he was buried in the Mountain Home Cemetery. Ransom was remarked by the earlier mentioned Ransom family history as being "somewhat reserved, but easy of approach, and had a friendly response to all who greeted him." He was "also noted for his fine social qualities and his home was always open to friends."
  The rare portrait of Epaphroditus Ransom shown above was featured in the second volume of the Historical Outline of the Ransom Family of America, originally published in 1903 and was compiled by his son Wyllys Cadwell Ransom.



   The third Epaphroditus to be profiled here is the most obscure of the three. His name is Epaphroditus Peck, born on May 20, 1860, and like Epaphroditus Champion before him, hailed from Connecticut. Epaphroditus's parents Josiah and Ellen Barnard Peck, were both residents of Bristol and had a total of four children, Epaphroditus being the third born. 
   Peck is listed as graduating as valedictorian from Yale University in the class of 1881 and ten years later became a founder of the Bristol Public Library. He married in 1895 to Ms. Grace Brownell and during the course of their marriage became the parents of three daughters, none of whom survived past the age of four. They are listed as follows: Grace (1892-1896), Dorothy (1897-1899) and Eleanor (1904-1907).
    After graduating from Yale, Peck opened a law practice in Bristol, and over the next few decades became one of the most prominent members of the Connecticut bar. His career in the public affairs began in 1895 he won election as Prosecuting Attorney for Bristol. He served in this post for a decade and also during this time held a seat on the Hartford County Court of Common Pleas from 1897-1912.
  In addition to the above activities, Peck served as a instructor at the Yale Law School from 1903-13, teaching courses in both civil procedure and domestic relations. Late in his life Peck won election to the Connecticut State Assembly, his first term beginning in 1925. Peck won re-election to the assembly in 1927, 1929, 1931 and 1933, representing the town of Bristol throughout his service.
  Peck was also highly regarded in his hometown as a knowledgeable man who could converse on a variety of subjects relating to New England history. In 1932 he authored a lengthy work relating to the history of his native town of Bristol and in 1935 delivered the main address at the 15oth anniversary of Bristol's founding. He is also listed as being a major contributor to the second edition of the English and American Encyclopedia of LawEpaphroditus Peck died on October 29, 1938 at age 78, and it is noted by some sources that he had attended a Connecticut State Bar Association meeting the week before his death. The rare portrait of Peck above appeared in the 1903 edition of Geer's Hartford City Directory and Hartford Illustrated. 

 And in a January 11, 2013 update, another political Epaphroditus has been discovered. Read on to find out more!


 From the Litchfield Historical Society's Litchfield Ledger webpage.

  Pictured above is Epaphroditus Champion Bacon of Litchfield, Connecticut. Named in honor of his uncle Epaphroditus Champion, Mr. Bacon died at the young age of 33 in 1845 but not before having carved a notable (yet short) career for himself in Connecticut political circles. Listed by most sources of the time as "E. Champion Bacon",  Epaphroditus was born in Litchfield on September 2, 1811, the son of Asa and Lucretia Champion Bacon. Lucretia Bacon (1783-1882) was the daughter of the previously profiled Epaphroditus Champion and died aged nearly 99 in 1882!
   Epaphroditus C. Bacon attended school in Litchfield and later enrolled in the prominent Litchfield Female Academy from 1821-1823. Bacon continued his education at the Goshen Academy in 1829 and four years later entered from the Yale Law School. Sources also mention that Bacon studied medicine for a short time in addition to his law studies. After receiving his law degree Bacon removed from the confines of Litchfield to Mobile, Alabama in 1835, where he soon after opened a law practice. His stay in Mobile was short lived, as a bout of ill health and "weakness of the lungs" caused him to return to Litchfield in 1838. 
  Bacon began to venture into politics in 1839, when he became a delegate to the 1839-1840 Whig National Convention that nominated Gen. William Henry Harrison for the Presidency. Bacon pulled double duty at this convention by also serving as the secretary of the proceedings. In 1840 Bacon was elected to the Connecticut State House of Representatives from Litchfield County, and won a second term the following year.
   Bacon's continuing health troubles eventually got the best of him, necessitating a trip to Europe to better his health. While traveling in Seville, Spain in January 1845 Bacon suffered a strangulated hernia that led to his death on January 11. He was only 33 years old and his demise certainly curtailed an already promising political career! His body was eventually returned to Connecticut some weeks following his death and he was later interred at the Strangers Cemetery in Litchfield. Bacon never married and was survived by both his mother Lucretia and father Asa.
  The rare painting of Bacon shown above (completed by Anson Dickinson, 1779-1852) was located via the Litchfield Historical Society's webpage, which gives a brief but highly informative overview of Bacon's short life. This webpage also contains a color painting of the portrait of Epaphroditus Champion shown at the very top of this article. For those interested, the name Epaphroditus originates from an ancient figure (Saint Epaphroditus) in the Orthodox and Catholic churches. 

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