Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Vitruvius Jackson Kennedy (1841-1890)


  This bearded gentleman is Vitruvius Jackson Kennedy of Tennessee, a physician who served in both houses of the Tennessee State Legislature. Details on Kennedy's life are noticeably absent from the internet and very few sources mention him at great length, with the exception being his service during the Civil War.
  Vitruvius J. Kennedy (most sources list him under the initials "V.J.") is listed as being born on July 9, 1840 in Clinton, Tennessee. His father, Jackson J. Kennedy, is mentioned as being a cabinet maker by trade, and when Vitruvius signed up for military service during the early months of the Civil War, he listed this as his primary occupation. 
  Geneological websites have been quite the blessing when it comes to finding any information on "V.J." One of these sites states that he fought for the Union Army and later deserted during his service! This fact alone is worth mentioning, but it's even more strange to find out that he subsequently reenlisted sometime later, serving until his discharge at the war's conclusion! A statute book also contains Kennedy's name and lists him as a member of the First Regiment of the Tennessee Volunteer Light Artillery. 
  At some point in the years following the war, Kennedy earned a degree to practice medicine (a few sources list him with the title of "Dr.") but no available source states what school he attended or what year he graduated.
  Kennedy was also involved in Tennessee politics, hence his inclusion here. He was elected to the Tennessee State House of Representatives in 1880 and served in the legislative session of 1881-1882. The picture of him shown above was found on the House of Representatives composite picture taken during his service. Vitruvius Kennedy was later elected to the Tennessee State Senate, and served from 1887-1889, representing both Hamilton and Marion County.

 Kennedy's abbreviated name (#28) as it looked on the Tennessee General Assembly roster of 1881-1882.

  A death date originally couldn't be found for Vitruvius Kennedy, until a useful book entitled the Congressional Serial Set (1912) gave a passage on his widow applying for a pension. The book lists him as dying on July 7, 1890 of "cancer of the larger intestine", two days before his 49th birthday. The aforementioned blurb has been posted below. 
  In an aside note, Kennedy's first name "Vitruvius" stems from a Roman architect, writer and engineer named Vitruvius. This obscure Roman figure has been called by some sources as the "world's first known engineer", but it is unknown as to why V.J. Kennedy was endowed with this highly unusual first name. The rare portrait of Kennedy shown above was featured on a legislative composite portrait published during his time in the state house of representatives in 1882.


You Can Help!

  I am currently trying to find more information pertaining to the life of Vitruvius Jackson Kennedy. While a picture of him has been located, as well as information relating to his Civil War service, other aspects of his life remain a mystery. If any reader/lurker/amateur historian wants an interesting project to fill their time with, see what you can dig up on this wonderfully named man. As there is almost next to nothing on the internet about this oddly named politician, maybe someone out there knows more about him than what is already stated in this article!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Lansdale Ghiselin Sasscer (1893-1964)


  This obscure politician is one Lansdale Ghiselin Sasscer of Prince George's County, Maryland, who served in both the Maryland State Senate as well as the U.S. House of Representatives. He was born on September 30, 1893 in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, the son of Frederick Sasscer (1856-1929) and his wife Lucinda Ashton Claggett (1857-1921).  and attended school in the town of Port Deposit.
 After graduating high school, Sasscer continued his education at the Dickinson School of Law in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. He graduated from here in 1914 and passed his bar exam the same year. With three years of opening a law practice, Sasscer signed on to serve his country overseas during World War I. He served as a first lieutenant in the 59th Artillery for over a year and returned stateside in 1919. In that same year he married Ms. Agnes Goffren (1891-1984), with whom he would have three children, Agnes Lansdale, Lucy Claggett and Lansdale Ghiselin Jr. (born 1926).
  In 1922, Sasscer made the jump into state politics, winning election to the Maryland State Senate. He served here until 1938, and was the president of this body during the legislative sessions of 1935, 1936 and 1937. While still serving as a state senator, he was named as a delegate to both the 1924 and 1936 Republican National Conventions.
  Fate intervened in Sasscer's political fortunes in December 1938 when seven term Maryland Congressman Stephen Warfield Gambrill died in office in Washington, D.C. A few weeks following Gambrill's death, a special election was held in early 1939 to fill the vacant seat and as you may have guessed, Lansdale G. Sasscer was elected to fill the vacancy!


                           This painting of Sasscer is in the possession of the Maryland State Archives.

  Sasscer served nearly 14 years in the U.S. House of Representatives, with his final term concluding in January 1953. That same year he launched a candidacy for a U.S. Senate seat that was being vacated by outgoing Senator Hubert Romulus O'Conor, but was unsuccessful in garnering any major support. After this defeat, Sasscer returned to Upper Marlboro, Maryland and reestablished his earlier law practice. It was here that he died on May 5, 1964 at age 70, and he was subsequently interred in the Trinity Episcopal Church Cemetery in that town. Agnes Goffren Sasscer survived her husband by two decades, dying in 1984 at age 93 and was also interred at the Trinity Cemetery.

                                                                  Lansdale G. Sasscer Jr.

   Political tradition continued in the Sasscer family with Lansdale Ghiselin Sasscer Jr. (born 1926) who followed in his father's footsteps and served two terms in the Maryland legislature from Prince George's County. A veteran of World War II, Sasscer served in the Coast Guard and later attended law school. Elected to the House of Delegates in 1954 at age 28, Sasscer Jr. later ran an unsuccessful candidacy for the state senate in 1962.
   Following his tenure in state government, Sasscer returned to the practice of law until his retirement. He was also engaged in banking interests, holding a seat on the board of directors for the Bank of Brandywine for a number of years.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Rolla Coral McMillen (1880-1961), Rolla Covel Griffin (1855-1939), Rolla Clayton Van Kirk (1894-1957), Rolla David Calkins (1859-?), Rolla Wood Coleman (1877-1954), Rolla Miner Chase (1854-1919), Rolla Renfro Rothwell (1874-1931)

From the 1948 Illinois State Blue Book.

   U.S. Representative from Illinois Rolla Coral McMillen is another in a long line of obscure congressmen whom I've known about for years but unfortunately never had a face to place with his name. That fact changed earlier today when I finally located one courtesy of a 1948 Illinois Blue Book. To be totally honest, I was beginning to think I'd never see a portrait of ol' Rolla, and seeing that one has just been found, I believe a write-up on him is in order!
 With that tidbit out of the way, we'll begin with the birth of Congressman McMillen, which occurred in Piatt County, Illinois on October 5, 1880. A son of George E. (1849-1929) and Christina Leatherman McMillen (1850-1922), Rolla attended schools local to the Monticello, Illinois area and later studied at the University of Illinois for a time. He concluded his studies in 1906 when he graduated from the University of Michigan Law School, and a short while later opened a law practice in Decatur, Illinois. McMillen later married fellow Decatur native Ruth Roberts (died 1978), with whom he had three children: Thomas Roberts (1916-2002), Anne Herron McMillen Beall (1918-2012) and Martha Hathaway McMillen Dolan (1922-2003).
  The majority of Rolla McMillen's life was spent in the practice of law, and it is interesting to note that he didn't actively pursue political office until he was nearly sixty years old! In the year that he turned sixty, McMillen was named as a delegate to the 1940 Republican National Convention in Philadelphia. In that same year he was also elected to the Illinois State Housing Board, serving a term of four years.
  In early 1944 Illinois Representative William Howard Wheat died in Washington at age 64. His seat in Congress remained empty until June of that year when a special election was held to fill the vacancy. As you may have guessed, one  Rolla McMillen won the special election to fill the vacant seat and took his seat in congress on June 13, 1944. He was subsequently elected to the house in his own right for three more terms, serving until January of 1951.
   After leaving congress Rolla McMillen returned to his native city of Evanston, Illinois, where he died on May 6, 1961 at age 80. In a funny side note, I've always gotten a laugh out of McMillen's first name, as it is quite similar to the caramel chocolate candy called "Rolo's", which, in case you have forgotten, look like this.



 In May 2012 another politician was discovered who also has the unusual first name "Rolla". Rolla Covel Griffen originally didn't have a picture to be found online, until today! Earlier this week I purchased the 1905 edition of Vermont, A Souvenir of its Government off of Amazon and was rewarded with numerous new additions to the TSNIAPH list. Many of these oddly named men have pictures accompanying their articles, of which Mr. Griffin is one!

From Vermont, A Souvenir of Its Government, 1904-05.

  Possessing one of the most impressive mustaches this author has ever seen, Mr. Rolla Covel Griffin was born in the town of Sudbury, Vermont on October 27, 1855, one of nine children born to Benoni and Sarah Griffin. He attended schools local to the Sudbury area and is listed as engaging in farming for the majority of his life.
  Griffin married in the town of Brandon, Vermont on October 11, 1896 to  Agnes Gertrude Felton. The couple were married for 14 years until her death in August 1910, and they are listed as having a total of five children. Rolla C. Giffin is mentioned as holding the office of "lister" in Rutland County for a few years prior to his election to the Vermont State House of Representatives. He was elected to this body in November 1903 from the county of Rutland, and served one term here, 1904-1906.
  Little could be found on Griffin's life following his service in the legislature. He died in Sudbury on October 5, 1939 at age 83 and was subsequently buried next to his wife in the Willow Brook Cemetery in Sudbury.


   And in a third update to this article (September 26, 2012), a third political "Rolla" has been located......Rolla Clayton Van Kirk of Brunswick, Nebraska! 
  Born in the above mentioned town on February 13, 1894, Rolla Van Kirk was the son of Clay (1859-1941) and Mabel Staples Van Kirk (1870-1961). He received his education in the Brunswick local schools and went on to study at the Yankton College and the University of Nebraska. Van Kirk also found distinction as a private in the U.S. Marines during the First World War and was later named as a lieutenant in the Nebraska National Guard.
   Van Kirk received a bachelor of laws degree from the University of Nebraska in the early 1920s and was admitted to the Nebraska bar in 1923. Shortly thereafter he began a law practice, eventually becoming a partner in the firm of Burkett, Wilson, Brown, Wilson and Van Kirk. He married in 1924 to Ms. Lenora C. Burkett (1893-1966), with whom he would have one son, Clayton B. Van Kirk (born 1929.)
   Rolla C. Van Kirk's political career began when he was in his early thirties, winning election to the Nebraska State House of Representatives in 1927. Here he represented the county of  Lincoln for four years until 1931, when he won a seat in the Nebraska State Senate.
  After leaving the senate in 1933, Van Kirk continued with his earlier law practice and was also active in a number of fraternal organizations, holding memberships in the Nebraska State Bar Association, the American Legion, the Reserve Officers Association, and the Masons. Van Kirk died at age 63 on May 25, 1957 and was survived by his wife Lenora and son Clayton. Both Rolla and his wife (who died in 1966 at age 73) were subsequently interred in the Wyuka Cemetery in Lincoln, Nebraska.


  In this fourth update (December 2, 2012) to the "Rolla" profile, the life of Missouri State Representative Rolla David Calkins is examined. Little could be found on Mr. Calkins, who was born on May 13, 1859 in Livingston County, Illinois. He attended school in Livingston County and as an adolescent was employed as a traveling salesman for a time while pursuing the study of law.
  Calkins married in January 1885 to Mary Weyand in Bloomington and later migrated to Missouri, being admitted to the bar in that state in 1889. He spent the next few years engaged in the practice of law while also being a lecturer with the Lyceum Bureau of Kansas City. He was elected to the Missouri State House of Representatives in 1908 from Crawford County, and during his one term of service chaired the committee on Agriculture. 
   Calkins was unsuccessful in his attempt for a second term in 1910. Nothing else is known of his life, and his date of death is also unknown at this time.

Rolla W. Coleman, from the Topeka State Journal, Jan. 29, 1918

   Next up  is Rolla Wood Coleman of Merriam, Kansas. Even more obscure than the preceding man, Mr. Coleman served multiple terms in the Kansas State Senate from 1917 until the mid 1940s. Coleman was born in Nemaha County, Kansas on August 23, 1877, a son of Albert Loring and Marietta Coleman. He went on to marry Lina Burgner (1882-1970) in 1905 and later became a lawyer of some repute in Kansas, being licensed to practice law in Kansas, California, Missouri as well as the U.S. Federal Courts.
   Elected to the Kansas Senate from Johnson County in 1917, Coleman served uninterrupted terms until 1923. He was returned to the senate in the election of 1936 and served six more terms from 1937-1949. He died in Kansas City, Kansas on April 17, 1954 at age 76 and was later interred at the Olathe Memorial Cemetery in Olathe, Kansas. He was survived by his Lina, who died in 1970 at age 88.


  In yet another new "Rolla" discovery, its Mr. Rolla Miner Chase of the county of Windham, Vermont. A lifelong resident of that county, Mr. Chase is the only politician profiled thus far who was a dentist by occupation, and in his chosen profession he experienced much success. While being a dentist with an odd name is interesting enough, Chase was chosen to represent his home town of Bethel, Vermont in the State House of Representatives in 1900.
   Born in the town of South Royalton, Vermont on September 4, 1854, Rolla M. Chase was one of four children born to Moses and Rosina Hill Chase. The Chase family removed to Bethel in 1857 and Rolla and his fellow siblings received their education in the common schools of this town. Rolla began studying dentistry in Bethel at age 18 and in 1874 enrolled in the Dental College at Boston.
  Chase graduated from the Boston Dental College in 1876 and soon thereafter returned to Bethel to open a dental office. He married here in 1879 to Susan Elizabeth Newell, with whom he had two children, George Berry Chase (born 1881) and Susan Newell Chase (1882-1900).
  Throughout the 1870s and 80s Chase practiced in Bethel, and in 1890 entered the Baltimore Medical College to study medicine. He graduated from this institution the following year as a Doctor of Medicine. The History of Windsor County, Vermont notes that in addition to his practice of dentistry, Chase was a "patentee of a number of useful inventions in dentistry, prominent among which are Chase's Wedge Forcep, Chase's Combination Plate, and a Rubber Heater, patents of recognized utility and generally by the profession throughout the country."
  While still engaged in his practice Chase also became a founder of the Vermont State Dental Society in 1876, later serving as its president for one year. In 1882 Chase was appointed by then Governor John Barstow to the Vermont State Dental Examining Board, serving here for eighteen years. 
   As a popular figure in the town of Bethel, Rolla Chase was also sought out to serve in many non-medical areas of public life. He was a member of the local school board for a number of years and in 1894-1895 served as a vice president of the National Republican League Convention. In November of 1900 he was elected to a term the Vermont State House of Representatives from Bethel, and is noted by the Genealogical and Family History of Vermont, Vol. II as an "active and earnest legislator and was made secretary of the general committee."
  After leaving the legislature in January 1902 Chase continued in the practice of dentistry while also maintaining involvement in a number of local civic and fraternal organizations, including the Knights Templar and the White River Lodge, No. 90 of the Ancient Free and Accepted Masons. In 1907 he was named as a delegate to the Imperial Council of Masons in Los Angeles. Rolla Miner Chase died in Bethel on June 10, 1919 at age 65. The portrait of him shown above appeared in the History of Windsor County, Vermont, published in 1891.

From the Moberly Weekly Monitor, April 2, 1931.

   For many decades a prominent newspaper man in Moberly, Missouri, Rolla Renfro Rothwell also served as the Mayor of  that city for six terms, the longest tenure of any Moberly mayor up to that time. The son of U.S. Representative Gideon and Bettie Ragland Rothwell, Rolla Rothwell was born in Moberly on October 13, 1874. He attended both the Fleets Military Academy and the University of Missouri, and married in February 1899 to Fannie Fern Sims (1878-1968), with whom he would have one son, Rolla R. Rothwell Jr. (1907-1949).
  Before his career in publishing and politics Rolla Rothwell was employed in the clothing store of William Little, and entered into the world of newspaper publishing in the 1890s, working in the printing plant for the Armstrong, Missouri Herald. The 1931 Moberly Monitor obituary for Rothwell notes that during his time on the Herald he "had his first experience in operating a linotype machine, then a new invention", and his experience here led him to join the staf of the Moberly Daily and Weekly Monitor in 1903, being a partner of J.W. Sydenstricker and later, Hardin Sims (Rothwell's father in law.) Rothwell would become managing editor of the Monitor, which would later undergo a consolidation into the Monitor Index in 1919. Rothwell's obituary in the Monitor notes that even after he attained the office of Mayor he maintained an active interest in the paper's management, noting that:
"While he maintained no financial interest and had no voice in directing the editorial policies of the Monitor Index, he was the most valuable member of the staff."

Mayor Rolla R. Rothwell, from the Ogden Standard, December 6, 1913.

 Rolla Rothwell first emerged on the Moberly political scene in 1907, when in that year he was elected Mayor for the first of six terms, spread out over a period of twenty-four years. He was returned to the mayors office in 1909 and during his second term received glowing press in Volume 37 of  the Typographical Journal, which noted that:
"Mayor Rothwell has made the city of Moberly one of the best Mayors the town has ever had. Sewers have been extended, streets paved,  and the city has become the owner of the water system since Mr. Rothwell became the head of our city government. He is a young man and he is at the head of what we call our "young man's rule."
  In 1910 Rothwell (while still the incumbent mayor) launched an unsuccessful candidacy for Randolph County clerk, losing to Republican Green Terrill. Rothwell was defeated for reelection as Mayor in 1911 by Democratic candidate W.P. Cave, but was not out of the political spotlight for long. He was returned to the mayor's office in the 1913 election and in the year following his victory again became a candidate for county clerk, this time being successful. He served as clerk until January 1919, having been defeated in the November 1918 election.
  Five years after his defeat as county clerk Rothwell sought a fifth term as mayor, and made a successful run, serving a term that extended from 1923-25. He wasn't a candidate in 1924 and the new Moberly Mayor, S.P. Towles, suffered the misfortune of dying shortly after being sworn in as mayor. Rothwell lost out again in the special election in 1925 to fill this vacancy. Rothwell was elected to his fifth term as mayor in 1927, his sixth term in 1929, and in 1931 ran unopposed for a seventh term. Sadly, Rothwell did not live to serve out this term, as he died a week before the election on April 1, 1931 at age 56. The mayor had been attending a "paving conference" at the Recreation Cafe in Moberly when he suffered a "cerebral hemorrhage" while having dinner, and was later "carried to a room above the cafe" where he died about thirty minutes later. 
  The loss of the popular mayor was felt throughout Moberly, and the April 2, 1931 edition of the Moberly Monitor featured a large portrait of Rothwell (shown above) along with glowing tributes to his stewardship of the city. Chester Bradley (a Monitor columnist) gave a stirring memorial to the late mayor, writing that:
"Mayor Rothwell lived and died for his friends and his home town. He was thinking and planning for both until the end....The Mayor was sincere as always when thinking and dealing with his home people. He took great pride in his great number of good friends. ''And they are from every strata'', he would always say,''I think as much of a friend if he is a true friend whether he is a a banker or common laborer."
  Following his death Rolla Renfro Rothwell was interred at the Oakland Cemetery in Moberly and was survived by his wife and son. Rothwell later received the posthumous honor of having the 447 acre Rothwell Park in Moberly named after him. The park still exists today, being called "the jewel of Moberly Parks and Recreation."


A portion of Rothwell's obituary from the April 2, 1931 Moberly Monitor.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Mazeppa Thomas Turner (1840-1920)


   A pioneer citizen and politician in the Oklahoma Territory, Mazeppa Thomas Turner served in the first session of the Oklahoma State House of Representatives in 1908. He was originally a resident of Virginia, being born in Greenville County on May 8, 1840 and later removed with his family to Mississippi at age five. 
  Turner removed to Shelby County, Tennessee in the late 1850s and married here in 1860 to Laura Johnson, with whom he would have five children: Elizabeth B. (1865-1901), Edward Bynum (1872-1947), Jack (1874-1890) and Polly (1878-1953). Laura Johnson Turner died in 1890 at age 50, and a few months after her death Mazeppa remarried to Alice Atkins, and three further children (Angie Mae, Reginald and Mildred) were born to this union.
  Turner joined the Confederate Army shortly after the Civil War began and served under the command of Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest (later infamous for founding the Ku Klux Klan). Turner subsequently saw action at the battles of Chickamauga, Shiloh and Selma, and after the hostilities ceased, resettled in the Choctaw Indian Territory.
  Throughout the succeeding years, Turner engaged in farming pursuits and cattle raising in his native Murray County, Oklahoma. The First Administration of Oklahoma (where the above picture of Turner was located) also notes that he served as a Davis, Oklahoma city alderman before going to the legislature. When Oklahoma gained statehood in 1907, Turner was urged by the residents of Murray County to run for a seat in the newly established State House of Representatives. He defeated his opponent J.W. McCall by over 1,000 votes and took his seat in 1908. 
  While serving in the legislature, Turner became a prime mover in the development and construction of the Oklahoma School for the Deaf, and was one of the drafters of the Oklahoma State Constitution. He also held a seat on the committee on Charities and Corrections during his first term. Turner was later elected to a second term in the state house in 1910 before retiring to private life. The earlier mentioned First Administration of Oklahoma sums up Turner's stint in the legislature as being "one of the quiet, conscientious, hardworking members of the house."
  Mazeppa Turner died in Murray County at age 80 on August 29, 1920 and shortly thereafter was interred at the Dougherty Cemetery in Dougherty, Oklahoma. In an interesting side note, Turner Falls (a large waterfall/park located near Davis, Oklahoma) was named in honor of Mazeppa Turner in the years after his death.


                                                            Mazeppa Turner, 1840-1920.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Calistus Asahel Bruer (1885-1949)


  Today's blog profile centers on a very new list discovery, Mr. Calistus Asahel Bruer, a member of the Illinois General Assembly from Livingston County who served nearly thirty years in his elected office!
  Although details on his life are quite hard to come by, it is known that Bruer was born in Oswego Township, in the county of Livingston, Illinois in 1885. As a young man he graduated from Lake Forest University and in the coming years involved himself in local politics, serving as town clerk and supervisor of Oswego Township.
  Bruer made his living as a farmer and stock raiser for the majority of his life, and in 1922 was elected to the first of many terms in the Illinois State House of Representatives. Bruer served a total of 12 terms in the state house (1922-1949) and died in office in October 1949 at age 64.

Monday, January 23, 2012

McKaskia Stearns Bonnifield (1833-1913)


   A pioneer citizen in both the Kansas and Nevada Territories, McKaskia Stearns Bonnifield was originally born in West Virginia on September 14, 1833 (the year 1834 is also given by some sources as his year of birth.) The Bonnifield family moved to Iowa when McKaskia was three, and it is interesting to note that he was one of 15 children born into the Bonnifield family before his father's death in 1838. The few sources that detail Bonnifield's life mention him by the initials "M.S.", and when he was originally discovered by me, I had to do quite a search to find out what his first and middle names actually stood for!
   McKaskia Bonnifield attended the Alleghany College in Meadville, Pennsylvania, and married in this town in 1855 to Laura Ames, with whom he had three daughters, Emily (1882-1927), Delia and Dora (1872-1928). After graduating from Alleghany, Bonnifield removed to Kansas, where he passed the state bar exam in 1856. During his stay in Kansas, Bonnifield was active in the Free-Soil Party movement and was elected to a term in the Kansas State Senate in the late 1850s. Strangely, considering the notability of this office, no sources mention how long his service was. He eventually left Kansas and resettled in Humboldt County, Nevada in 1862.
   Within a few short years of his moving to Nevada, Bonnifield became known as one of the leading lawyers in the territory, and also staked a claim in the state's vast mining industry. Public office also beckoned to Bonnifield, and in 1868 he was elected to the Nevada Territorial Senate, where he served until 1872. In 1887 Laura Ames Bonnifield died after thirty-two years of marriage and two years later McKaskia remarried to Nellie Lovelock, a widowed resident of Winnemuca. In 1892 Nellie gave birth to a son, McKaskia Jr., who died a little over a year later in February 12, 1894.
   Further political honors were accorded to him in 1892 when he was named as a Democratic presidential elector, and is remarked by the History of Nevada: Her Resources and People as carrying "the vote of the state to Washington, the three electors casting their ballots engraved on silver plates." Three years after his service as an elector, Bonnifield was elected as an Associate Justice of the Nevada Supreme Court, and served on the bench for six years. 
  After his retirement from the court in 1901, Bonnifield reestablished his earlier law practice in the city of Winnemucca, Nevada, and also maintained active involvement in the Masons, Independent Order of Odd-Fellows and was a member of the local Methodist Episcopal Church. He died in Winnemuca on July 14, 1913 at age 79, and was survived by his second wife Nellie. The portrait of McKaskia Bonnifield shown above was discovered in the 1904 work A History of the State of Nevada: Her Resources and People. This book also stands as one of the few available resources that gives a proper biography of Bonnifield and his political/judicial career.


                                                              Bonnifield in his later years.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Lispenard Stewart (1855-1927)


   This unusually named member of the New York State Senate was born on June 19, 1855 in Westchester County, New York, the son of Lispenard and Mary Rhinelander Rogers Stewart. Being a child born into wealth (one of his relatives was famed dry goods merchant and millionaire Alexander Turney Stewart), Lispenard Stewart received his education at private schools in New York City and later attended Yale University, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in 1876. After his tenure at Yale, Stewart began the study of law at the Columbia College Law School, receiving his law degree in 1878. Stewart is also recorded as being a lifelong bachelor, making him one of the few politicians profiled thus far to have never married.
   The name of Lispenard Stewart eventually grew to be a very prominent one in New York social circles during the late 19th century, and he was often named to various positions of the public trust. In 1885 he was named to the Committee of 100 important New York citizens to accompany President Ulysses Grant's body from his home in Saratoga, New York to its resting place in New York City. Stewart was also named to the Citizen's Committee that put together the celebration for the 100th anniversary of President Washington's inauguration in 1889.
  While still active in the social life of his native city, Lispenard Stewart was also acknowledged as a skilled politician. Periodicals on Mr. Stewart mention him as a staunch Republican, and for many years he was selected as a frequent delegate to New York Republican party conventions. In 1888 he was named as a Presidential Elector for New York, and attended the Republican National Convention in Chicago that nominated Benjamin Harrison for the Presidency.
   In the year following his service as Presidential Elector Stewart was nominated for a seat in the New York State Senate. He would win that election, and in that year (1889) became the only Republican State Senator elected in New York. During his senate service Stewart gained lasting notoriety by introducing the bill that created the Rapid Transit Commission for New York City. An excellent write up on Stewart's senate tenure was given in the 1890 Annual Record of the Assemblymen and Senators from the City of New York, which notes that he:
"is a man of large means, and spends most of his time attending to real estate matters, practicing law incidentally." Stewart's character is also attested to, with passing mention going to his opinions "being sought with respect", and that "already a useful member, Mr. Stewart could,  with greater independence, easily wield a weighty influence for good."
   Following his stint in the state senate Stewart continued to be very politically involved, serving again as a Republican National Convention delegate in 1896. He also was named to a seat on the New York State Commission of Prisons, and would serve as its President from 1895-1902. A biography on Stewart (featured in the 1898 work Representative Men of New York, Volume II) states that he also enjoyed traveling and hunting, visiting countries such as Tunis, Russia, Mexico and Egypt. The book further attests that "many heads of moose, elk, caribou, bear, manitou sheep and deer testify to his skill with a rifle."
   Stewart spent his final years engaged in business and charity endeavors, dying at age 72 on October 15, 1927. He was subsequently interred in a lavish mausoleum at the Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York. The rare portrait of him shown above was discovered in the earlier mentioned Representative Men of New York, Volume II. In addition to that portrait, another rare picture of this man appeared in an 1890 edition of the Frederick, Maryland News in an article about "eligible bachelors of New York." That picture has been provided below.





         This Lispenard Stewart obituary appeared in the Oct. 22, 1927 edition of the Newport Mercury.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Treverious Glorian Price (1846-1922)

From Stone's History of Colorado, Volume III.

  This intriguingly named man is Treverious Glorian Price, an obscure resident of Iowa who made his name (politically speaking) in the Colorado Territory. Despite his prominence in Colorado political circles, little information could be found on Price, and the majority of the information herein was discovered in the third volume of Wilbur Fisk Stone's master work History of Colorado, published in 1918 and the History of Clayton County, Iowa, published in 1882. Price's unusual first name is also recorded as being spelled three different ways, including "Trevereous" and "Trevious". With all of these spelling variations floating around, its easy to see why Price's name is abbreviated by a good majority of period literature as "T.G. Price."
   Treverious G. Price was born on June 27, 1846 in the town of Jefferson in Clayton County, Iowa, the fourth born son of Judge Eliphalet (1811-1880) and Mary Cottle Price. While Eliphalet Price himself had an odd name, he obviously believed his children were bound for great things, and decided to bestow fascinating names upon each of them. Besides our subject Treverious Glorian there was Realto Exzeque (born 1840), Valmah Valentine (1842-1864), Avalo Jersey (1844-1871), Eliphalet Inthe (born 1851) and Alpine Wherin (born 1855)......a truly impressive brood of interestingly named offspring!
   T. G. Price attended school in Clayton County and spent the majority of his adolescence working on his father's farm. In 1862 he entered the Upper Iowa University and after one year of study left to enlist in Co. A of the 47th Iowa Infantry. He was later deployed to Mississippi, where he was "principally on garrison duty" in the town of Holly Springs. After being mustered out of service in 1865, Price returned to Clayton County and studied law for a time before finding employment with the Northern Pacific railroad, helping to construct telegraph lines in the Dakota territory. In 1873 he took on a job as a railway postal clerk/mail agent and served in this capacity until the end of the 1870s. In November 1873 Price married Ms. Mary Hawn (1843-1879), with whom he had one son, Avalo Price. Treverious and Mary were married for only six years before she died at age 36 in Elkader, Iowa in August 1879.
   In 1878 Price made an attempt at his first political office, running as a Republican for the position of recorder for Clayton County. Although he was "defeated at the polls by a coalition of Democrats and Greenbackers", Price eventually won out, later being appointed as the Postmaster for Elkader in February 1881. He served in this post for an indeterminate length, and in 1887 Price left Clayton County and relocated to the Colorado Territory. He would eventually settle in the area that became Kit Carson County and resided here for the remainder of his life.
   Price built a frame house in the town of Burlington and thereafter began the raising of cattle on his property. It was also during this time that he was elected as judge of the newly established Kit Carson county. Price later was elected to the Colorado State House of Representatives in 1892, and served in the next two sessions of the legislature in 1893 and 1894, holding a seat on the house committees on the State Penitentiary, Revision and Constitution, Stock, the World's Fair, and chaired the committee on Fees and Salaries.
  "T.G." Price was returned to the state house in the 1896 election year and served another term in the legislature from 1897-98, being named to the committees on Elections and Appointments, Insurance and Banking, and Road and Bridges. Following this term he won election as the Mayor of Burlington, Colorado and serving two terms in office. Price also held the posts of President of the Kit Carson County Board of County Visitors, County Judge for Kit Carson County and was a notary public for that county from 1907-1911.  In addition to being a prominent public official in Kit Carson, Price was a active mason, being a longstanding member of the Burlington Lodge #77. 
   The latter portion of Price's life are a total mystery, although it has been found that he died sometime in 1922 (via a Find-a-Grave listing) when he would have been around 75 years of age. He was later interred at the Riverside Cemetery in Denver, Colorado.


From the Davenport Democrat Leader, April 30, 1922.

You Can Help!
  I am currently searching for more information on the life of Mr. Treverious Glorian Price and I am in need of your assistance. If any readers, amateur historians or Strangest Names In American Political History Facebook friends want an interesting little project to fill their time with, see what you can dig up on this uniquely named Colorado legislator! I'd appreciate any and all new tidbits on the life of this wonderfully named man!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Wankard Pooser (1893-1978)


  I'm sure anyone who is reading this article got an immediate chuckle out of the goofiness of this man's name, but make no mistake, Florida politician Wankard Pooser was an actual person! One can wonder if this two term Florida state legislator had to endure some teasing about his very funny name. The rare portrait of him shown above was discovered via the Florida Memory historical website, and is in all likelihood the only portrait of him to be found online!
  Wankard Pooser was born on September 27, 1893 in DeFuniak Springs, Florida, and little else could be found in relation to his early life, with the exception of a WWI draft registration card denoting that he had attended "rural schools". Pooser married his wife Maude in the mid 1910s and eventually had a family that included eleven children! One of his sons (and namesake) Wankard Lucius Pooser died at age 91 in 2008 and was a noted attorney for five decades, being a member of both the Florida and New York bar.
  As mentioned before, there is a dearth of resources mentiong Pooser at great length. It is known that he was a house-mover by trade and that Jackson County, Florida elected him to two terms in the State House of Representatives, where he served from 1945-1949. The following Florida Humanities Council link denotes that Pooser was elected on a single campaign promise, which was to vote no on every single bill that passed before him. It is also mentioned that he broke this promise only once (it isn't elaborated on what bill he voted for), and that the "voters rejected him at the next election". 
   Pooser's two terms in house weren't with out controversy, however. In May 1945 Pooser began preparations to introduce a constitutional amendment that aimed to "abolish the Florida legislature and turn its duties over to the Governor. Pooser noted that his bill would save "many thousands of dollars to the taxpayers of the state formally endowing the executive with the complete lawmaking powers he already is exercising and abolishing entirely the figurehead body now known as the legislature." 


From the May 11, 1945 Sarasota Herald.

    Later in May 1945 the Saint Petersburg Times reported on a remark Pooser had made during a debate in the house with fellow representative John Lambe. In this debate, Rep. Lambe had made known his objections to a bill Pooser had introduced that proposed "strict regulation" of the Jackson County Hospital, located in Pooser's hometown of Marianna. During the debate proceedings between them Pooser made a remark about the death of one of Lambe's children two years previously. Lambe is recorded as becoming emotional and being unable to continue in his debate with Pooser, who was later admonished by his fellow representatives for his remarks. The legislature then "immediately killed his bill by a loud voice vote."
  Pooser is later quoted in the same paper as excusing himself from further house proceedings, noting that "I'm withdrawing from politics, for which I feel myself totally unfitted anyway." As noted earlier, Pooser was elected to two terms in the house, which proved that he did not make good on his statement. During his second term Pooser continued to be the "great dissenter" of the house, and sources of the time frequently picked up on his consistent voting pattern. In the Miami News edition of July 2, 1949, an editorial referred to Pooser as "out of tune" with the times, noting that:
" Representative Pooser went to great lengths during the legislative session to explain practically all of his votes. There is no telling how much it cost the state to have spread in the legislative journal, his lengthy explanations for saying either aye or nay, and yet, with all of his explanations, his service to the state was negligible."
  After many years of being out of the political spotlight, Wankard Pooser died on February 22, 1978 at age 84 and was subsequently buried in the Pope Cemetery in Sneads, Jackson County, Florida. 


                                           Would you vote for a man named Wankard Pooser?

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Brown Nurse (1804-1869)


  This humorously named gentleman is Mr. Brown Nurse, an influential resident of Troy, New Hampshire during the mid 19th century. Nurse was originally born in Harvard, Massachusetts on June 24, 1804 and was the son of Deacon David Nurse, a clergyman and captain during the Revolutionary War.
  Brown Nurse migrated from his native Massachusetts to New Hampshire in 1829, settling in the town of Troy. It was here that he embarked upon career as a school teacher, but then removed again to the city of Richmond, where he engaged in business. Nurse married on December 15, 1831 to Mary Wheeler (died October 1865), with whom he would have one daughter, Mary Jane Nurse, in August 1833. Two years following the birth of his daughter, Nurse returned to Troy and subsequently went into the trade business with the help of his father in law. Nurse also was named to the position of town post master, serving fourteen years in this office. He later was elected to multiple terms as Troy town clerk and served in 1837, 1838 and 1845-48.
  Throughout the succeeding years Brown Nurse became regarded as one of Troy's most respectable citizens, so much so that in 1850 the town elected him to the New Hampshire State House of Representatives, serving here until 1851. At the conclusion of his legislative service Nurse returned to his native town and in 1859 was named to a committee that aided in writing and publishing a history of the town of Troy, stemming from its founding in 1764 until the year 1855. 
  Brown Nurse died while attending a church service in the village of Fitchburg on February 21, 1869 at age 64. The portrait of him shown at the top of this article was discovered via the Historical Sketch of the Town of Troy, New Hampshire and Her Inhabitants, published in 1897. This work offers up the only available "biography" of Mr. Nurse and his public life in the Troy vicinity.


Saturday, January 14, 2012

Azarie Zenobe Coutu (1872-1941)


  A one term member of the Massachusetts State House of Representatives, Azarie Zenobe Coutu was born in Lanoraie, province of Quebec, Canada on April 29, 1876. Little could be found on his early life, with the exception of his attending Joliette University in his native Quebec.
 Coutu immigrated to the United States sometime after his college graduation and settled in Lowell, Massachusetts. It was here that he decided upon a career as a newspaper editor and was still engaged in this vocation when he was elected to the Massachusetts state legislature in 1927. He served a one year term in the house (1927-28) and died at age 69 on October 7, 1941 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. 


You Can Help!
I am currently seeking more information on the life and career of Azarie Zenobe Coutu. If any readers/lurkers/amateur historians want an interesting project to fill their time with, see what you can dig up on this uniquely named Massachusetts representative!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Civilion Fones (1836-1907), Savilion Chapman (1816-1894), Savillion W. Longley (1841-1912), Sevellon Fowler Channell (1848-1923


  The first part of today's trio of oddly named political figures centers on the curiously named Civilion Fones, a resident of Bridgeport, Connecticut. Fones was one of the most prominent men living in Connecticut in the later period of the 19th century, and although his main occupation was that of a dentist, it is his brief tenure as the Mayor of Bridgeport that earns him a place here.
   Civilion Fones' birth occurred in Belleville, Ontario, Canada on October 1, 1836, a son of Christopher and Sarah Marigold Fones. His parents were both natives of the United States who were residing in Canada at the time of their son's birth. Fones received his early education in Canada and later New York City, and during his adolescence studied to become an architect (his father's line of work) but abandoned it after a short time. On October 21, 1863 Fones married to Ms. Phoebe Wright, with whom he would have three children, George (died in infancy), Grace and Alfred Civilion.
  In 1858 the then twenty-two year old Civilion Fones relocated to Bridgeport, Connecticut and there embarked upon the study of dentistry, later attending the Baltimore College of Dental Surgeons. In 1873 he graduated from the Maryland College of Dentistry and over the succeeding years gained recognition as one of the preeminent dentists in New England, lecturing and publishing scholarly articles on teeth care. 
   In addition to his dental practice, Fones became active in Bridgeport politics, being elected as an alderman on the Bridgeport City Council in 1884. Two years later he was elected as Mayor of Bridgeport, and it is noted in 1886's The History of the Old Town of Stratford and the city of Bridgeport that Fones enjoyed "unusual support from both political parties" after taking office. His term in office is highlighted by the History of Bridgeport and Vicinity, Volume II as being a "businesslike and progressive administration that resulted in the inauguration of various needed reforms and improvements", including the erection of a new post office building in the city.


                                                                   Fones during his term as Mayor, ca. 1887.


   Fones served as Bridgeport's mayor for two terms (1886-1887) and after the conclusion of his second term served as the President of Connecticut's State Dental Association. Further honors were conferred upon him when he was appointed to the first Connecticut State Dental Commission in 1892. Fones died in his native Bridgeport on September 20, 1907 at age 70, and was later interred at the Mountain Grove Cemetery and Mausoleum in that city. In addition to Civilion Fones' impressive stature in Bridgeport, attention must also be given to Civilion's youngest son, Alfred Civilion Fones (1869-1936). Alfred C. Fones is often regarded as the "father of dental hygiene" and was the creator of the term "dental hygienist".  He also is notable for being the founder of the first school of dental hygiene in the United States.



  Next up is Mr. Savilion Chapman of Connecticut. Of the three individuals profiled within this article, Chapman is certainly the most obscure. Only one biographical resource could be found mentioning him at great length, and is located in Duane Hamilton Hurd's History of New London County Connecticut, published in 1882. The information contained herein was found in the aforementioned book. 
  Savilion Chapman was born on September 12, 1816 in the village of East Lyme, the son of Moses and Polly Church Chapman.  The History of New London County notes that Chapman received "limited advantages for education" and soon after his father's death in 1837 began a career as a stone cutter in the town of Waterford. In addition to his stone cutting profession, Chapman managed some success in dairy farming as well as the raising of Devonshire cattle. In 1840 Savilion married Ms. Mary Ann Smith, and two children were eventually born to the couple, Robert W. (1843-1913) and M. Anna (1848-1888).
   Research has shown that Chapman was quite the prominent figure in the Waterford community, and he was named as a town selectman on numerous occasions. In 1868 the town of Waterford honored Chapman by electing him to a seat in the Connecticut State House of Representatives, and he was reelected to this body the following year. After the conclusion of his term in the legislature in 1870, Chapman returned to his native town where he died in 1894 at age 78. He was subsequently buried in the Jordan Cemetery in the town of Waterford. His wife Mary survived him by three years, dying in 1897 at age 78.




  In an update to Savilion Chapman's article, some new information on him has come to light, courtesy of an incredibly helpful site fan named Vivian. As it turns out, I wasn't the only one who was researching Savilion's life and exploits! Because of Vivian's helpful research I now have a definitive death date for Chapman (December 15, 1894) and she also graciously provided me with the above photograph of his gravesite in the Jordan Cemetery. In an interesting side note, Vivian mentioned to me that Savilion lacked an actual gravestone for over 50 years until one was laid (by the widow of Chapman's son Robert), in 1945!


From the 1910 Souvenir of Massachusetts Legislators.


    The mustachioed man shown above is Mr. Savillion W. Longley of Shirley, Massachusetts. Even more obscure than the preceding gentlemen, Longley was born in the town of Leominster, Massachusetts on July 7, 1841, one of two sons born to James Parker and Lucy Chaplin Longley. He relocated with his family to the town of Shirley when still a child and later graduated from the Shirley High School. His early life was spent as a traveling salesman and later as a railroad station agent in Shirley and Boston. 
   During the 1880s he became a book keeper and office manager for the Pepperell Manufacturing Company, serving in these positions for eight years. After returning to Shirley, Longley started his own insurance company, and was still engaged in this profession when he was elected to the Massachusetts State House of Representatives, officially taking office in 1910. Prior to his election Longley had occupied the offices of town assessor in Shirley as well as being chief engineer of the town fire department.
   His one term in the state legislature was Longley's only foray into the political arena, and during his service held a seat on the house committees on towns. Within a year of leaving the legislature the life of this oddly named Massachusetts political figure came to an end in rather unusual circumstances. The Turner's Spirit newspaper from January 6th of that year notes that three days previously Longley (having prepared himself for bed) got up to blow out a kerosene lamp in his room. A flame (which had made its way underneath the lamp's burner) subsequently caught his nightshirt on fire, and within moments the majority of his body (as well as his room) were afire. After smoke was discovered in the home, a downstairs neighbor and Savillion's brother Harriman (who lived in an adjacent room) sounded the alarm. The initial prognosis was not good, with Longley receiving severe burns over all his body, whilst also losing nearly all his hair to the flame.
   After surviving the initial fire Longley received prompt medical attention and was given morphine to ease his pain. The Turner's Public Spirit newspaper of Ayers, Massachusetts mentions that Longley lingered for a few hours before succumbing to his burns the following day (January 4, 1912) early in the morning. He is recorded as being a lifelong bachelor and was survived by his brother Harriman. Longley was later interred at the village cemetery in Shirley following his death.
 Also note that the above biography of Longley was copied nearly verbatim and pasted on the "Eastern Americana" auction site, one of a few times my writings here have been pilfered without proper citation! 


           A portion of the original article from the "Turner's Public Spirit"  newspaper, January 6, 1912.


From the Corning, New York Evening Leader, March 22, 1923.

   Another public figure with this odd first name is Judge Sevellon Fowler Channell of Tioga County, Pennsylvania. A lifelong resident of the Keystone State, Channell served as President Judge of the Tioga County Court for several years and had earlier been a prosperous attorney in that county. His first name is a variation on the preceding gentlemen's names, and is recorded as being spelled as "Sevelion" and "Sevellon", the second one being the name etched into his gravestone.
  The eldest of five children born to William and Sarah Wright Channell, Sevellon Fowler Channell was born in Bradford County, Pennsylvania on November 21, 1848. He attended schools local to his home town of Canton and later went on to study at the Susquehanna Collegiate Institute in the city of Towanda, whilst also clerking in a general store to gain income to further his schooling.
  Channell studied law in Wellsboro beginning in 1877 and in 1879  graduate from the Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania. In the following year he was admitted to the state bar and began a practice in Tioga County, practicing alone for four years. Sometime later he formed a partnership with attorney Henry Foote, which dissolved in 1889. Channell married in September 1888 to Eliuzabeth Fairman and the couple later had one son, Malcolm (1891-1910). Follwing Elizabeth's death in 1920 Sevellon remarried the following year to Wellsboro widow Mary Young, who died in 1934.
   Channell continued to operate a law firm (both alone and with partners) until 1915 and in addition to practicing law was prominent in other areas of interest in Tioga County, being a member and president of the Wellsboro school board and was later elected as the Burgess of Wellsboro in 1897. In 1915 he won election as Tioga County judge and served in this capacity until his death at age 74, caused by "cancer of the liver", on March 22, 1923. He was later interred at the Wellsboro Cemetery in Wellsboro, Pennsylvania.