Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Columbia Lancaster (1803-1893)


  Today's profile highlights Columbia Lancaster, a native of Connecticut who during his ninety years of life went on to serve in the territorial governments of three separate states! The portrait of him shown above (the first one I've ever seen, let alone found) was featured in the first volume of the 1889 work History of the Pacific Northwest: Oregon and Washington, and its also interesting to note that Lancaster was still living at age 86 at the time of this book's publishing.
  Columbia Lancaster was born in New Milford, Connecticut on August 26, 1803, the son of Benjamin and Hannah Knowles Lancaster. The Lancaster family removed to Ohio within a few years of Columbia's birth, and it was in this state that he received his education. In his teenage years he began the study of law under former Congressman Elisha Whittlesey (1783-1863) and after some months of study removed to the Michigan Territory in 1824.  
   After arriving in the territory, Lancaster stayed with the then territorial governor (and later Presidential candidate) Lewis Cass, an acquaintance of Elisha Whittlesey. Lancaster continued the study of law here and in 1830 was admitted to the bar. In 1836 he managed a brief return to Ohio and here married a childhood acquaintance named Rosannah Jones, with whom he had three children, Sarah Lancaster Heitman (1843-1911), Hannah (born ca. 1847) and Wait (1853-1880). 
  Several years after opening a law practice in the village of Centerville, Michigan, Lancaster was appointed by Governor Cass as District Attorney for Michigan and in 1837 was elected to a term in the Michigan Territorial Legislature. Lancaster and his family left Centerville for the Oregon Territory in March 1841 and after a few months journey reached their destination in September of that year. 
  Within a few years of settling in the territory, Lancaster was appointed by Provisional Governor George Abernethy (1807-1877) as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the provisional government of Oregon. His term on this court lasted two years, 1847-49, and in 1850 Lancaster was elected to a two year term as a member of the Territorial Council of Oregon. 
  During the early 1850s Lancaster continued in active political service, being elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1854 as the Washington Territory's first ever congressional delegate (this occurring shortly after the split of Washington and Oregon into two separate territories.) His short term in Congress was noted by the History of the Pacific Northwest as being of lasting notoriety, "as he accomplished more for the territory than has ever been accomplished before or since by any other delegate for any other territory in so short a time." Lancaster served in Congress from April 1854 to March 1855 and was an unsuccessful candidate for reelection.
  A few years after leaving Congress, Lancaster was named as a trustee for the University of Washington at Seattle in 1862, and during this time was also involved in the development and construction of the Puget Sound and Columbia River Railroad. Columbia Lancaster's wife Hannah and son Wait both died in 1880 and he himself died at age 90 on September 15, 1893 in Vancouver, Washington. He and his wife were both later interred in the Old Vancouver City Cemetery, and the rare obituary for him posted below originally appeared in a September 1893 edition of the Bakersfield Daily Californian.


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