Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Vespasian Warner (1842-1925), Vespasian Smith (1818-1897)

  The first part of today's two-part posting centers on Vespasian Warner of Illinois, a man who served in a variety of public offices during his 83 years of life. He was born on April 23, 1842 in De Witt County, Illinois and served with distinction during the Civil War in the Illinois Volunteer Infantry. In 1865 he was promoted to Major and was mustered out of service the following year. 
   After the war's conclusion, Warner began the study of law and attended Harvard University, from which he graduated in 1868. He was admitted to the bar following his graduation and began the practice of his chosen vocation in his hometown of Clinton, Illinois.  
  In March 1868 Warner married his first wife Winifred Moore and this marriage eventually produced five children, who are listed as follows: Paul (died four days after birth in 1872), John (1873-1945), Clifton (1875-1952), Vespasian (1880-1912) and Winifred (1882-1976). Winifred Moore Warner died in 1894 and four years later Vespasian remarried to De Witt County native Minnie Bishop.
   In the year's following the start of his law practice, Warner built a reputation as a lawyer of stern integrity, and during the 1880s served as the judge advocate general of the Illinois National Guards. Later in 1888 Warner was named as a Republican Presidential Elector for Illinois. Warner's political profile continued to rise in 1895 when he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, where he served capably for five terms (1895-1905.) During his congressional tenure, Warner was chairman of the Committee on the Revision of Laws for a number of years.

                                   Warner during his tenure as U.S. Commissioner of Pensions.

   While still serving in Congress, Warner was tapped by then-President Theodore Roosevelt to be U.S. Commissioner of Pensions. Warner accepted the position and served in this post until his resignation in November of 1909. After leaving this post he returned to Clinton, Illinois and began involving himself in banking and realty interests. He died at age 83 on March 31, 1925. Warner was survived by his second wife Minnie, who died at age 81 in 1942 and both are buried in the Woodlawn Cemetery in Clinton, De Witt County, Illinois.

   A short time ago I discovered the name of Vespasian Smith (the bearded fellow above) in a Google book entitled the Magazine of Western History, Volume 9, published in 1888. Smith was a physician by trade, being born in Ohio on October 21, 1818. He studied medicine in his hometown of Mt. Vernon and graduated from the Western Reserve college in 1851 with a degree in medicine.
  Vespasian Smith spent the next twenty years practicing medicine throughout Ohio, Wisconsin and eventually Duluth, Minnesota, where he and his family settled in 1870. He retired from his medical practice in 1877 and it was in Duluth that Smith began to venture into the field of politics. He was elected as Mayor of that city in 1873 and served two terms in office. In his later years, Smith was named as a member of the Minnesota State Board of Health. He died shortly before his 79th birthday on October 11, 1897 in his native city of Duluth.
  For those who may be wondering, both of these gentlemen were named after the prominent Roman Emperor and military commander Vespasian (full name Titus Flavius Caesar Vespasianus Augustus), who ruled Rome from 69 to 79 A.D.

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