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.


Thursday, July 26, 2012

Camoralza Hagler Spahr (1826-1896)

             This rare portrait of  Dr. Camoralza H. Spahr is located in the collection of the Greene 
               County Public Library-Greene County Room-Local History and Genealogy in Xenia, Ohio.

   Every now and then on the site I get a chance to profile an oddly named politician who has virtually no information available online in regards to their life history and public career. Since the founding of this site one year ago I've lucked into the good fortune of beginning correspondence with a number of historical societies throughout the United States, enlisting their help in researching the life of a particular politician I'm going to write about. Today's profile is one of those wonderful occurrences, as I received a great deal of help from some very special people during the course of my research!
  The bearded fellow shown above is one Camoralza Hagler Spahr,  an outstandingly named resident and physician of Greene County, Ohio who served a short term as that county's representative in the Ohio legislature during the mid 1860s. As it stands now, very little exists online in regards to this intriguingly named man, and I'm pleased to relate that upon the completion of his profile here there will be at least one substantial biography of Dr. Spahr available online, courtesy of the help and insight of the Greene County Historical Society and the Greene County Public Library! 
  With that introduction, I'd also like to mention the portrait of Spahr shown above (located in the archives collection of the Greene County Public Library in Xenia, Ohio.) This picture was e-mailed to me a few days ago and the kind folks involved in both of the above mentioned places graciously granted permission for its use on the site here! This portrait is in all likelihood the only picture of Camoralza Spahr you'll ever see, which speaks volumes about the rarity and obscurity of both the man and the picture. I want send a big thank you to Green County Public Library Head archivist Deanna Ulvestad, Greene County Historical Society Director Catherine Kidd Wilson, and Greene County Library Director Karl Colon for all of their help and generosity in regards to this wonderfully named Greene County resident.


   
                From the Hundred Year Book and Official Register of the State of Ohio: 1789-1891, Inclusive.
  
   I'll begin Dr. Spahr's profile with a small bit of background on how this article came about. I first discovered the name of this oddly named Ohioan in an Ohio register that cataloged every member of the state senate and house of representatives up until 1891. Since his discovery three years ago little else could be found on him, with the exception being a small write up in the 1881 work History of Greene County, Together With Historic Notes on the Northwest and the State of Ohio. After exhausting all of the available sources mentioning Spahr, I fired off an e-mail to the Greene County Historical Society, and was soon rewarded with a message from that society's director, Catherine Kidd Wilson. In her e-mail Catherine made mention of the above photograph and also was kind enough to send me two pictures of Dr. Spahr's gravesite in Jamestown, Ohio, as well as a newspaper transcription on his candidacy for the Ohio legislature in 1863. A short time later Greene County Library Director Karl Colon put me in contact with library archivist Deanna Ulvestad, who kindly provided me with access to Spahr's portrait! 
   Camoralza Hagler Spahr's story begins with his birth on January 30, 1826 in Greene County, Ohio, the third of nine children born to Gideon (1788-1856) and Phoebe Hagler Spahr (1798-1867), both Hardy County, Virginia natives who resettled in the Ohio area around 1816. It can safely be said that strange names ran in the Spahr family, with four of Camoralza's siblings being named Bingdella Eddy (1828-1861), Raper Apharaso (killed at the Battle of Stone River in 1863), Barzillai Nelson (later a Methodist clergyman), and Parthena (born 1833). No sources mentioning Camoralza Spahr give mention as to why he was endowed with his highly unusual first name, and it is also a mystery as to the exact origins of the name "Camoralza" (although it sounds like it could be of biblical extraction.)
   The Spahr family resettled on a farm near Jamestown, Ohio in 1832, and young Camoralza received his education in schools local to that area. He is recorded as engaging in farm work during his adolescence, and in 1846 began pursuing a career in medicine, becoming a student under two Ohio physicians, Dr. Ebenezer Owen and Dr. Adamson B. Newkirk. In the late 1840s Spahr enrolled in the Starling Medical College in Columbus, Ohio, and after completing his studies opened a medical practice in Jamestown in February 1854.
   Within a few years of beginning his medical practice, Spahr married Ironton, Ohio native Mary Ann Peters on March 11, 1858. This union eventually produced six children, who are listed as follows: Phoebe (1859-1913), Fannie (born 1864), George R. (1865-1938) and three other children (a genealogical website lists their names as John Peters, Mary Harriett and Homer Mason) who are recorded by the earlier mentioned History of Greene County as dying in infancy.
  In 1863 Spahr (while still a practicing physician) threw his hat in the political ring, launching a campaign for a seat in the Ohio State House of Representatives. An excellent write up on his candidacy was sent to me by Catherine Wilson, and was originally featured in a September 2, 1863 edition of the Xenia Torchlight. The author of this newspaper article, Benjamin F. "Fogy" Shickley, makes special note of Spahr being an "eminent and successful physician" who had received "an excellent education. He is a pleasant and impressive speaker.  He is well posted in the politics of the country. He is a gentleman of excellent morals, and his voice, his labor and his means have ever been employed for the preservation of the Union, and the suppression of the rebellion." "Fogy" goes on to state that during the Civil War, Spahr's "best professional services were promptly given, and without any charge to any and all of the family of volunteers that called upon him."
  Support for Spahr's campaign was marked by "Fogy" as one of "unanimity", with the author noting that "he is the right man!" and that "fellow citizens, my voice is for Spahr." Newspaper write-ups like this one proved to be a boon to Spahr, as he eventually won election to the Ohio House of Representatives in November 1863, "by the largest majority ever given prior to that time to any candidate for the same office in the county.
  Spahr officially took his seat in January 1864 and is listed in his 1896 obituary as having "ably represented Greene County" during his tenure, which concluded in 1866. While still serving in the legislature Spahr is recorded as serving as chairman of a "Union meeting" in 1864 which discussed ongoing events in regard to that year's state and national elections. Spahr (mentioned by his intials "C.H.") is also noted as having been selected to attend a state convention on May 25th of that year. An article on that meeting (which appeared in the Xenia Sentinel) has been posted below.



   Spahr returned to his medical practice after leaving the legislature and throughout his later years was involved in various civic affairs in his native Greene County. His obituary mentions him as being an active parishoner in the local Methodist Episcopal Church, as well as his service as a Sunday school superintendent, and the 1881 History of Greene County denotes that Spahr was a charter member and past treasurer of the Grace Encampment No. 171 of the International Order of Odd-Fellows in 1873.
  Camoralza Hagler Spahr died at age 70 in the early morning hours of August 3, 1896 at his home in Jamestown. He had been a practicing physician for over 40 years, and had maintained his practice until "being laid aside by disease" some years previously.  Camoralza's wife Mary Ann survived her husband by a number of years, dying at age 72 in October 1910, and both were subsequently interred in the old Silvercreek Cemetery in Jamestown, Ohio. Research has also shown that many other members of the Spahr family rest here, including Camoralza's parents Gideon and Phoebe, his children George, Homer, Mary and John, and his brother Raper, who lost his life during the Civil War.


 Spahr's obituary as it appeared in the August 7, 1896 edition of the Xenia Daily Gazette.

   In addition to locating the rare obituary for Dr. Spahr shown above, I was also rewarded with two pictures of his gravesite in the Silvercreek Cemetery, sent to me by Green County Historical Society director Catherine Wilson in one of the earlier mentioned e-mails! These pictures have been posted below, and as one can see that his stone denotes his full name and that he was a "beloved physician in his native county for 42 years."



    As stated in the lengthy introduction to Spahr's profile here, this article wouldn't exist without the helpful research and generosity of Catherine Wilson, Karl Colon and Deanna Ulvestad. Its truly amazing that history (however obscure or forgotten) can connect people, even ones that are hundreds of miles away from one another! Because of the research and help of the above mentioned folks, this article on Camoralza Spahr marks the first time that a proper online "biography" of him has been compiled, and hopefully it will generate some interest in this forgotten figure in Greene County history! 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

An Auxencico Update.....Part III!


   If you've followed this site for any length of time you'll hopefully recognize the mustachioed man above......Auxencico Maria Pena Venezuela Hildreth Dickeson!!!! Dickeson (nicknamed Oxie and "Alphabetical Dick") was a 19th century New Jersey State Assemblyman who hailed from Salem County, and it is he who holds the honored title of "the strangest name" out of the great many politicians I've collected and profiled over the years. Mr. Dickeson's site profile is the most viewed article out of the 170 or so that I've done thus far, with over 180+ views to its credit. You might also remember reading the two updates I wrote for "Oxie" and his article centering on the help of two wonderful blog readers (Frank and Hildy) who volunteered their time to correspond with me and send me the portrait of Oxie above!  
  While many new pieces of information on Oxie came to light, many others remained a mystery, especially in regards to his burial site. Dickeson died at the young age of 36 in 1879 but no available source gave notice as to where his final resting place might be....that is until now!
   Earlier this week I developed some correspondence with Salem County Librarian Beverly Bradway, who related to me that Oxie is buried in the Society of Friends Burial Ground in Salem City, New Jersey. This cemetery (which contains graves that date back to the 1690s) is also home to the famed Salem Oak tree, shown in the picture below. I owe a great debt to Beverly for all of her help, and without her aid I might never have known where Dickeson was interred!



 In addition to the above information, I also received a death notice for Oxie, the closest thing to an obituary that could be found. Beverly found this rare article in a June 20, 1879 edition of the Salem Sunbeam, which states that Auxencico M.P.V.H. Dickeson died "at the residence of his father, Dr. Thos. P. Dickeson, in Hancock's Bridge on the 15th inst." This newspaper is located in the archives of the Salem County Historical Society and is in all likelihood the only "obituary" for Oxie that you'll ever see. While the mysteries of his burial site location and place of death have been solved, only one question remains......what illness claimed A.M.P.V.H. Dickeson's life at the young age of 36?

                                              From the Salem Sunbeam, June 20, 1879.

  The above mentioned question centering on Oxie's illness/death may never be sufficiently explained, but I can rest easy knowing that over the course of a year a plethora of research was done in regards to the life of this infinitely obscure man, and with the help of Frank, "Hildy" and now Beverly Bradway, more people can now learn of the life and exploits of  this wonderfully named (and sadly obscure) New Jersey resident! And in case you may want to read more, here is a link to the full article on Oxie, originally published (with various updates included) in July of last year. http://politicalstrangenames.blogspot.com/2011/07/auxencico-maria-pena-venezuela-hildreth.html

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Commodore Perry Vedder (1838-1910), Commodore Perry Meek (1851-1943), Commodore Perry Craig (1869-1933), Commodore Perry Stover (1851-1932), Commodore Perry Thornhill (1858-1948), Commodore Bruce Roberts (1875-1941)


  This oddly named New Yorker is one Commodore Perry Vedder, a prominent resident of the town of Ellicottville who was elected to multiple terms in both houses of the New York State Legislature between 1877 and 1891. In his younger years Vedder distinguished himself on the Civil War battlefield, being brevetted as a Lieutenant Colonel. In addition to his political and military service, Vedder also found fame in a variety of business and civic endeavors throughout the New York area.
   I first located the name of Commodore P. Vedder in a 1985 edition of the New York State Red Book that had been discarded from my school library way back in 2001. Since becoming aware of him over a decade ago, Mr. Vedder has been one of my personal favorite strange political name discoveries, not only for his having a naval title for a first name, but also for his being a truly prominent local political figure (he's buried less than forty miles away from my home!)
   Commodore Perry Vedder was born in Ellicottville on February 23, 1838, the son of local farmer Jacob Vedder and his wife Margaret Gouverneur. Young Vedder most likely received his first and middle names in honor of "Commodore Perry", which, as it so happens, is the title of two famed American naval commanders. The first, Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry (1785-1819), the "Hero of Lake Erie", gained lasting distinction during the War of 1812, while the other is Oliver's younger brother Commodore Matthew C. Perry (1794-1858), who helped instigate American diplomatic ties and trade with Japan. Despite both of the Perry brother's prominence, Commodore Oliver  Perry looks to be the most likely candidate, as his status as a naval hero had been known for two decades prior to Vedder's birth in 1838.
   Commodore P. Vedder attended the common schools in Ellicottville and during his youth worked as a boatman on the Erie canal and later went aboard the brig Alert on the Great LakesAfter accumulating enough savings from his various jobs, Vedder returned to Cattaraugus County, New York and entered the Springville Academy in the late 1850s. During his time at this institution, Vedder taught school in the Cattaraugus area until 1862, when he signed on for service as a private in the 154th Regiment, New York Infantry. He is recorded as serving in this regiment until the close of the hostilities and participating in the battles of Wauhatchie, Lookout Valley, Bentonville and Chancellorsville. Vedder was captured at the last named battle and spent nearly two weeks as a prisoner of war in the Libby Prison at Richmond, VirginiaAfter being paroled in the fall of 1863, he went on to serve under General William T. Sherman on his famed march to the sea from Atlanta and concluded his military service as a Lieutenant Colonel of Volunteers.
   After returning home, Vedder began pursuing the study of law at the Albany Law School and in 1866 was admitted to the state bar. In the following year Vedder was named as a register in bankruptcy, and held this post for eight years. In November 1871 he was elected to his first term in the New York State Assembly as a Republican, defeating Democratic nominee Charles Carey by a "majority of 401." Appointed to the judiciary committee during his second year in the assembly, Vedder was noted as a "man of fine personal appearance and unusually pleasing address, and evidently has a brilliant career yet before him." He continued to serve in the assembly until 1875, and it was in this year that he was elected to a two year term in the state senate. 


          This portrait of C.P. Vedder appeared in Volume 1 of The Men of New York, published in 1898.


   Vedder's first term in the senate saw him serve as Chairman of both the committee on Indian affairs as well as Internal affairs. He left the senate in 1877 and three years later was appointed by then Governor Alonzo B. Cornell as New York State Assessor, serving from 1880-1883. Vedder's tenure in the assessor's office was mentioned in the second volume of Genealogical and Family History of New York as one of particular note as "it is asserted that no man ever did more to lighten the burdens of taxation upon those least able to bear them."  In his last year of service as state assessor, Vedder was once again elected to the New York State Senate. Taking office in January 1884, he held a seat on the committee of Taxation and Retrenchment and during his  senate service (which extended from 1884-1891), was the author of "the New York state laws taxing gifts, legacies and collateral inheritances". It was also noted that as a result of Vedder's work in the senate "millions of dollars have been paid into the treasury, and a permanent source of revenue has been provided for the state."
   Within a year of leaving the senate Commodore P. Vedder married Chicago native Genevieve Wheeler in July 1892. This was in fact his second marriage, as his first wife, Bettie Spires, had died in Ellicottville in 1884. Commodore and Bettie Vedder are also mentioned as having a son named John Vedder (born 1868) who predeceased them both in 1882 at age 14.


            Commodore P. Vedder as he appeared in the Genealogical and Family History of New York.


    Even after leaving the senate Vedder continued to be a active participant in Empire State political and business circles. In 1894 he was named as a delegate to the New York State Constitutional Convention and also held the presidency of fourteen corporations in and around the New York area, including: the Bank of Ellicottville (president for 20 years), the State Bank of Norwood (president for 24 years), the Falls Electric Power and Land Company, the New York and New Jersey Ice Lines, and the Elko Milling, Mining and Manufacturing Company of Randolph, New York. In addition to his aforementioned business interests, Vedder is also mentioned as being a major figure on the New York social scene, being a member of the Holland Society for over two decades, an active Mason, and was a member of both the Republican Club and Lawyer's Club of New York City.
   After many years of service in New York public life, Commodore P. Vedder died on December 24, 1910 in his room at the Hotel Majestic in New York City. The 72 year old Vedder had been seriously ill only a few hours and the cause of death (as listed in his obituary below) was heart disease. 


                      Vedder's obit as it appeared in the December 25, 1910 edition of the New York Herald.


   Earlier today I (as well as the Strangest Names In American Political History book) made a visit to Commodore P. Vedder's final resting place in Ellicottville. After some searching, his impressive monument was found below the sloping terraces of the Sunset Hill Cemetery. And now for some photos from today's visit!




  As one can see by the above photograph, Vedder's tombstone is one that certainly befits a state legislator, businessman and military figure! It's also quite nice to see that someone still cares enough about Vedder's legacy to plant flowers in the large urns on either side of his stone. Although no notice is given as to his service in the senate or assembly, a GAR marker and American flag are prominently situated next to his small burial stone located nearby.


   Getting at Vedder's gravesite also proved to be an adventure in and of itself, as one has to descend down two sloping terraces to stand in front of it. As it had rained earlier today, the ground was nice and slippery, making it even more fun on the walk down!


  This is Vedder's actual gravestone, located about ten or so feet in front of the large burial marker shown in the above photographs. Next to Vedder's gravestone are those of his wife and son, as well as other later descendants of his. Also buried in the Sunset Hill Cemetery is William Grant Laidlaw (1840-1908) a native of Scotland who served as a U.S. Representative from New York from 1887 to 1891.

  In addition to the very active life of Mr. Vedder, there are also four other politicians with the unusual names Commodore Perry. Like the man profiled above,f these men were all named in honor of Commodore Oliver Perry. Read on to find out more!


    Born in Maysville, Missouri on May 12, 1851, Commodore Perry Meek would find distinction in his adopted home state of Wyoming, serving terms in both houses of the state legislature. Meek attended schools in his native Maysville and spent the majority of his formative years helping out on the family farm.
   In 1871 the then twenty- year old Meek removed to Cheyenne, Wyoming and for a number of years engaged in the transport of freight to various towns on the Wyoming frontier. In the late 1870s and 80s Meek also engaged in mining, ranching and the raising of cattle, eventually becoming the proprietor of a large ranch and owner of "sixteen hundred acres of deeded land and over one thousand head of cattle.
   Meek married in 1909 to Ms. Emma Brown, a native of Illinois. The two were married for over twenty years until her death in 1930 at age 63, and the couple are recorded as being childless. Commodore P. Meek made the jump into state politics in November 1912 when he won election to the Wyoming State House of Representatives from Weston County. Meek served one term in the legislature the concluded in 1915, and in 1919 was elected to the Wyoming State Senate. During his senate service he held a seat on the committees on Prohibition and Railroads and Transportation, and later chaired the committee on Stock Raising and Stock Laws.
   After leaving the senate in 1923, Meek returned to his earlier ranching and business interests in his native Weston County. He died at age 92 in 1943 and was buried in the Greenwood Cemetery in Upton, Wyoming.


  This obscure man is Mr. Commodore Perry Craig, a native of Pleasants County, West Virginia who served terms in both the state house of delegates as well as the senate. Craig was born in the town of Sistersville, West Virginia on August 1, 1869, the son of James and Edith Craig. Criag received a common school education and as a youth was employed as clerk in a general store in West Virginia. Craig eventually removed to Liverpool, Ohio during his twenties and here found employment as a stone paving and contracting bookkeeper. 
  Shortly after returning to Pleasants County, Craig began pursuing the study of law and in 1894 married Cora Alice Wilson (1874-1944), with whom he had five children: Iva, Pearl, Vesta, Grace (1906-1967) and Commodore Perry Jr. Within a few years of his marriage, Craig was elected as the Prosecuting Attorney for Pleasants County, serving in this office until 1900.
  In 1904 Craig won election to the West Virginia State House of Delegates and continued to hold his seat until 1908, when he became a State Senator. In addition to serving in the senate, Craig also held the chairmanship of the Pleasants County council from 1908-1910. Other than the preceding information, little else could be found in regards to Craig's life. He died at age 65 on November 26, 1933 and was subsequently buried in the IOOF Cemetery in Saint Mary's, West Virginia. The rare portrait of him above was located in a West Virginia State Legislative manual, published during Craig's time in the state legislature.


 From the Raleigh Register, June 12, 1932.

   Following on the heels of Commodore Perry Craig, Commodore Perry Stover was another man with this odd name that was a member of the West Virginia State House of Delegates. A lifelong resident of West Virginia, Stover was a longtime educator in the county of Raleigh, where he served two terms as superintendent of schools.
  Born in Raleigh County on December 21, 1851, Commodore P. Stover was the son of Silas and Mary Jane Workman Stover. He married on July 28, 1873 to Martha A. Thompson (1855-1941) with whom he had 11 children, Commodore (born 1873), Abagail (1874-1950) Van Buren (born 1876), Virginia Lee (1877-1968), Everett (1880-1973), Morrison (born 1882), Silas (1884-1966), Robert Hugh (1886-1955), Philip (1888-1912) Alethia (born 1890) 
and Mary (born 1894).
  Commodore P. Stover embarked upon a career as a school teacher early in his life and is recorded as following this route for many years afterwards. He served two terms as Raleigh County superintendent of schools from 1885-1889 and was also entrusted to hold a number of county offices, serving as county assessor,  justice of the peace and deputy United States Marshal. In 1895 Stover won election to the West Virginia State House of Delegates and took his seat at the beginning of the new year's legislative term. 
  After leaving the legislature in 1898 Commodore Stover returned to Raleigh County, where he died on May 25, 1932 at age 81. He was later interred at the Workman's Creek Cemetery in Clear Creek, West Virginia.

                                                                       From the "Local and National Poets", 1892.

  Louisiana attorney Commodore Perry Thornhill is yet another man blessed with the unusual names "Commodore Perry". A practicing lawyer in the parish of Caldwell for many years, Thornhill served as District Attorney for Louisiana's Fifth District for four years and in 1913 was selected as a delegate to the Louisiana State Constitutional Convention.
   Born in Caldwell Parish on June 13, 1858, Commodore P. Thornhill was the sixth born son of John and Matilda Blackburn Thornhill. Commodore's early education occurred in schools local to Caldwell Parish and in 1881 he entered into the study of law. He was admitted to the bar in 1884 and would establish a practice in the city of Columbia. In May of that year he was appointed to the police jury of Caldwell Parish and sometime later became that body's president. Thornhill would also serve a short period as Mayor of Columbia (his dates in office being unknown), but later resigned due to "his duties as an attorney were too pressing to admit of his time being divided."
   Commodore Thornhill married in Caldwell in 1889 to Eva Bridger (1868-1952) and the couple would become parents to two children, John Bridger (1890-1978) and Marion (1892-1945). In 1907 Thornhill was elected as District Attorney for Louisiana's Fifth District (comprising the parishes of Caldwell, Winn and Jackson) and served in this capacity from 1908-1912. In 1913 he served as a delegate to the Louisiana Constitutional Convention and sat on the committee on the Law during his time at the convention.
   While active as an attorney and public official Commodore Thornhill gained additional notoriety as a writer of prose, having a number of his poems published in periodicals of the time. Three of these poems (entitled "A Reflection", "Night" and "Extract") was published in their entirety in the 1893 edition of the "Local National Poets of America" and can be read here
   Following his time at the Constitutional Convention Thornhill continued to reside in Caldwell Parish, dying there on September 7, 1948 at age 90. He was survived by his wife and son and was interred at the Columbia Hill Cemetery in Columbia, Louisiana.
  

   This stern looking individual is Commodore Bruce Roberts, an Indiana resident who found his political and business fortune in Montana. Like the men profiled above, Roberts was endowed with the unusual first name "Commodore" but unlike the four men before him, was not named in honor of Commodore Matthew Perry.
  Born in Fulton County, Indiana on December 9, 1875, Commodore B. Roberts was the first born child of George and Lovina Roberts. "C.B." or "C. Bruce" (as most sources list him) attended school in the town of Knox, Indiana and as a youngster found employment driving a wagon and working in a grocery store. As an adolescent he worked as a traveling salesman for a grocery house based out of Ft. Wayne, Indiana, and later returned to Knox to begin a venture in the restaurant business. Roberts eventually made his way to Chicago, Illinois in the 1890s, where he found work as chief clerk for the Nickel Plate Railway Company.
  Roberts removed to Montana in 1902 and soon after his arrival became engaged in the loan and insurance business. He continued in this profession until 1909, whereafter he began an interest in the manufacturing of lumber. Over the succeeding years, Roberts built up a substantial sawmill and logging railroad for his business and logged many thousands of acres of timber throughout Montana. In 1903 he married an Englishwoman named Annis Elliott, and one son was born to the couple, Elliott John Roberts, in 1904. Commodore and his wife later adopted a second child, Gladys Lucile (1913-1995) in December 1913.
  While still actively involved in the lumber business, Commodore Roberts ventured into banking, founding and serving as the vice president of the Bank of Kalispell, Montana and later purchasing the Cascade Bank located in Great Falls. During this time he was also elected to the Montana State Senate, where he served from 1915-1919, representing the county of Lincoln.
  Roberts continued to be actively involved in business and fraternal organizations during his later years, serving as chancellor commander of the Knights of Pythias as well as being the treasurer of the Great Falls Lodge of Perfection. C. Bruce Roberts died in La Porte, Indiana on June 3, 1941 at age 66 and was buried in the Pine Lake Cemetery in that town. His wife Annis survived him by two decades, dying in Connecticut in January 1963 at age 82. The portrait of Roberts shown above was featured in the the third volume of the 1921 work Montana, Its Story and Biography, edited and compiled by Tom Stout.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Armour Boot (1903-1984)

                                                           From the Iowa State Red Book 1965-1966 edition.

   Possessing one of the more humorous names that will be posted here on the site, Mr. Armour Boot (yes, his name brings to mind armored foot ware!) represented Marion County in the Iowa State House of Representatives from 1965 to 1967. Sadly, like Brownrigg H. Dewey (profiled a few days ago) little exists online in regards to Boot's life and term in the legislature. The majority of the facts contained herein were found on the Iowa Historical Legislative database, a useful site which has been mentioned many times here over the past year or so.
  Boot was born in Jasper County, Iowa on July 9, 1903, the son of William and Alice Reitveld Boot. Armour is recorded as receiving his education in the common schools of his native county and on December 24, 1929 married Pella, Iowa native Susie Zwank, with whom he would have one daughter, Nola Boot, born in 1931. 
  From the few sources that mention him, the majority of Armour Boot's life was centered mainly in the private sector, and he is recorded as having been a farmer for a good majority of his life. Boot was later employed in the selling of farm implements for a number of years, and one particular source (a small write up in a November 1962 edition of the Pella Chronicle) makes note of him being a stockholder in the Vander Zyl Bros. Implement Company. In addition to his farming and business pursuits, Boot was also active in Marion County civic affairs, serving as a member of the Pella City Council and also the local school board. A Iowa legislative journal (published shortly after Boot's death in 1984) also notes that he was a member of the First Reformed Church of Pella both before and after his service in state government.


This article on Armour Boot's campaign appeared in an April 1964 edition of the Pella Chronicle.

  Armour Boot first became active in politics during his tenure as Pella city councilman, but it wasn't until 1962 that he launched a campaign for the Iowa State House of Representatives. He was unsuccessful in his initial bid, losing to the Republican incumbent Elmer Vermeer (1920-1989). Vermeer retired from the Iowa legislature in 1964 after over a decade of service and in November of that year Boot won election to Vermeer's old seat. After taking his seat in January 1965, Boot was named to the following legislative Committees: Conservation, Commerce and Ways and Means. Boot served but one term in the legislature, as he was defeated in the September 1966 Iowa Democratic primary by another Marion County native, Lerlia Galvin.
  Little else could be found on Armour Boot's life after his time in the legislature. He died in his native Marion County, Iowa on February 15, 1984 at age 80 and was survived by his wife of nearly fifty-five years, Susie Zwank Boot. Susie Z. Boot lived to become a centenarian, dying on April 5, 2006, four months after her 100th birthday. Mrs. Boot is listed in her obituary as having attended "many political functions" with her husband, both during his time as a councilman and later as a legislator.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Posey Green Lester (1850-1929), Posey Thornton Kime (1895-1958), Posie James Hundley (1888-1961)


    Today's profile is one of particular note, as it centers on Posey Green Lester, certainly one of the most obscure Congressmen on record. This funny named man represented Virginia's fifth district in the U.S. House of Representatives for two terms, serving from 1889-1893, and the following passages on his life are notable as it marks the first time that a picture of Mr. Lester is available online, and quite a bit of searching had to be done to locate one! An explanation as to where this rare picture originated from will be provided at this article's end, and we'll begin with the birth of Mr. Lester, which occurred in the town of Floyd, Virginia on March 25, 1850.
   Lester was one of nine children (five sons and four daughters) born to William Terry and Mary Amanda Simmons Lester. He is listed as attending schools in his native Virginia, and in his youth is mentioned as being engaged as a vocal coach and literary teacher. He was called to religious work early in his life and joined the Primitive Baptist Church in 1873 at age 23. It wasn't long before he began to preach in this church and in October 1876 was ordained as a minister. Lester's obituary gives note that he "traveled and preached in twenty-one of the states, and in Ontario, Canada, traveling as much of 13,000 miles in a single year", and in an earlier newspaper article on his life, it is mentioned that during his travels he made use of "nearly all manner of vehicle of conveyance from a dump cart to a steamboat to a railway car."
    Lester began branching out from his ministry into the realm of publishing in the early 1880s, becoming associate editor of Zion's Landmark, a religious periodical based out of Wilson, North Carolina. He became editor-in-chief of that newspaper in 1920, continuing in that post for the remainder of his life.
   In 1888 Lester was nominated "without his solicitation, and in his absence" for the U.S. House of Representatives, and it is worthy to note that he never held any interest in pursuing political office! Despite never having sought public office, Lester defeated Republican candidate J.D. Blackwell and officially took his seat in January 1889. An article on Lester's election to Congress (published in the Pittsburgh Dispatch) notes that he was the only clergyman serving in the House and that he was "the tallest man in the House, standing 6 feet 2 inches in his stockings, and weighs 205 pounds." This article goes on to state that Lester's "voice conquers space with terrific volume and force, while it really is very musical." 

An article on Lester's renomination, from the August 29, 1890 Richmond Times.

   Lester was reelected to the House in November 1890, defeating Republican candidate S.C. Adams by a substantial margin. Throughout his two terms in Congress Lester served on the Committees on Railroads and Canals, the Committee on Expenditures in the Department of Justice, and the Committee on Alcohol and Liquor Traffic. He refused to be a candidate for a third term in 1892, preferring to return to his church and ministerial work in Virginia.
   After retiring from Congress, Lester served as the moderator and clerk of the New River Primitive Baptist Association and was later the President of the People's Bank of Floyd County for over two decades. In June 1898 he married Emmette Harris, the daughter of one of his fellow church elders. The Lester's are recorded as having three children, Posey Green Jr. (1899-1981), Masten Harris (1900-1970) and Annie Mae (1903-1983). Posey and Emmette were married for three decades and continued active church work until his death at age 78 on February 9, 1929 in Virginia. Emmette Lester survived her husband by several years, dying in 1937 at age 72, and both were buried in the Evergreen Burial Park in Roanoke, Virginia.
   The rare portraits of Mr. Lester shown above are worth mention, as it marks the first time that I've actually seen a portrait of him. The first portrait appeared in a December 1889 edition of the Pittsburgh Dispatch, and this newspaper also gives an excellent write up on Lester's political naivete, as well as his church work. For many years Lester remained one of the "faceless" politicians in the SNIAPH book, and it seemed as if I'd never locate a picture of him. The Library of Congress website Chronicling America (which is entirely devoted to archived newspapers from across the United States) came to my rescue in that regard, and I am extremely happy to have discovered it!

        This obituary for Posey G. Lester appeared in the Danville, Virginia Bee on February 12, 1929.

Posey T. Kime, from the Muncie Post Democrat, November 16, 1934.

   A longtime attorney based in Evansville, Indiana, Posey Thornton Time would go on to a distinguished career as a jurist in the Hoosier State, serving several years on the Indiana State Appellate Court. Born on August 6, 1895 in Petersburg, Indiana, Posey T. Kime was the son of John and Effa Posey Kime. Bestowed his mother's surname "Posey" as his first name, Kime would be a student in the Petersburg public school system and was a veteran of the First World War, serving in France.
  Kime went on to attend Purdue University and in 1922 graduated with his law degree from the Indiana State University Law School at Bloomington. In his small biography in the 1922 Arbutus Yearbook, Kime is recorded as being a member of the yearbook staff and the track team. He also was President of the Senior Law Class and the Gamma Eta Gamma fraternity. Posey Kime married on June 21, 1920 to Marguerite Anne Bollenbacher (183-1990), with whom he would have one daughter, Helen. After obtaining his law degree he established a law practice in Evansville, and for a number of years afterward was a member of the law firm of Kime and Meyer.
   In 1930 Kime made his first foray into Indiana political life, announcing his candidacy for the Indiana State Appellate Court's First Division. He would win election to that court that November and would serve on the bench until stepping down in October 1938. Kime's resignation from the court came about due to his accepting the appointment of chief attorney for the Federal Power Commission in Washington. Kime's tenure with that agency extended until 1941, when he became affiliated with the U.S. Justice Department's Anti-Trust division. His time in that department saw Kime "prosecute some of the top ant-trust cases" in the country, and in 1946 journeyed to Japan to aid American forces in drafting "a set of anti-trust and trade regulatory laws for the newly 'democratic country.'"
   An active Mason of many years standing, Kime achieved the 33rd degree in September 1952 and died in Washington, D.C. on June 8, 1958 at age 62. He was later interred at the Walnut Hill Cemetery in Petersburg, Indiana. He was survived by his daughter Helen and wife Marguerite, who died aged 97 in 1990.

Portrait from the Evansville Courier, January 3, 1952.\


From the August 8, 1923 edition of the Danville Bee.

   Another Virginian blessed with this rather "flowery" first name is Mr. Posie James Hundley of Pittsylvania County. A prominent attorney and one term member of the Virginia House of Delegates, Hundley was born in Sandy River, Virginia on September 28, 1888, a son of John Thomas (1852-1932) and Christian Ada Gravely Hundley (1860-1937). His education was gained at the Leaksville-Spray Institute and went on to study law at the Richmond College, graduating in 1912. Hundley would also attend the Washington and Lee University, graduating around 1913.
   Following his graduation from Washington and Lee, Hundley opened a law practice in the city of Danville in 1913 and two years later became a candidate for commonwealth attorney for Pittsylvania County. Hundley was unsuccessful in his attempt, losing to the Republican nominee Hughes Dillard. Following his loss, Hundley won a seat in the Virginia State House of Delegates from Danville, and served during the legislative session of 1918-1919. During his brief time in the legislature he held a seat on the committees on the Courts of Justice, Federal Relations and Resolutions, Officers and Offices at the Capitol and Public Property.
  After leaving the House of Delegates in 1919 Hundley became connected with the Cooperative Marketing Association, serving as its local counsel for a time. In 1923 he ran once again for commonwealth's attorney for Pittsylvania County and was successful, defeating opponent D.T. Williams with a lead of 732 votes. In December 1930 he married to Ms. Ruth Etta Cashion (1897-1978) and later had two sons, Posie James Jr. (born September 9, 1932) and John Thomas (born December 23, 1934).

From the Danville Bee, March 4, 1945.

   Posie Hundley served a total of eight years as commonwealth's attorney and in 1944 was a Rationing Board member. In the following year he reentered political life when he became a candidate for the Virginia House of Delegates. Running on a platform of "Experience, Character and Ability",  Hundley's candidacy was highlighted in the March 3, 1945 Danville Bee, which also notes that he spoke twice on radio station WRTM Danville in regards to his campaign.
   Hundley's March 1945 candidacy for the House of Delegates ended in a defeat at the polls. In addition to public service Posey Hundley maintained memberships in several Pittsylvania based fraternal organizations, including the Junior Order of American Mechanics, the Improved Order of Red Men and both the Masonic and Elks Lodges. He passed away in Danville on November 27, 1961 at age 74 and was survived by his sons and his wife Ruth, who died in 1978 aged 81. Both were interred at the Chatham Burial Park in Chatham, Virginia. Hundley's first name is also spelled as "Posey", but as his gravestone gives the spelling listed in the introduction to his article here, I've presumed that to be the correct one.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Stogdell Stokes Staples (1859-1949)


   An obscure 19th Pennsylvania legislator, Stogdell Stokes Staples further distinguished himself in the business community of his home county of Luzerne. He was born in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania on March 7, 1859, the son of Monroe County native Richard S. Staples, who himself served as a state representative from 1872-73. Stogdell received his education at a seminary in Claverack, New York and later studied at the Wyoming Seminary in Kingston, Pennsylvania.
   While still a young man, Staples is recorded as helping his father publish the Monroe Democrat, and after a year in publishing removed to Trenton, New Jersey. Once settled, Staples found employment at the Trenton China Works, and eventually became the Superintendent of this company for four years. In the mid 1880s he returned to Pennsylvania, where in 1885 he purchased the Luzerne Ochre Manufacturing Company. A portrait and biographical souvenir of the Pennsylvania legislature (published in 1895) notes that Staples was "given immediate management" of the plant, and he later became president of this business, as well as holding "a half interest in its enterprise". This business is also noted as "furnishing material to four-fifths of the oil-cloth manufacturers in the country."
  Staples married in March 1886 to Stroudsburg native Hattie Raubenald, and it is unknown at the time of this writing if any children were born to them.
  While his business exploits are of note, Staples also began seeking local political offices, eventually winning election as Burgess of White Haven, Pennsylvania for two terms. He would later be named as Postmaster of the town of Moosehead, and was still the incumbent in this post at the time of his election to the Pennsylvania State House of Representatives.
  Staples was elected as a Democrat to the Pennsylvania State House in November 1894, defeating Republican candidate Ellsworth L. Riley by only fifty-two votes! Two other candidates (representing both the Prohibition and People's parties) also ran for this seat, and the blurb featuring those election results has been posted below.



   Staple's election to the legislature is recorded as a "great triumph in view of the demoralized condition of the Democratic party" and during his one term in the legislature held a seat on the following committees: Rules, Railroads, Iron and Coal, Insurance, and Corporations. His two-year service in the legislature was characterized by the earlier mentioned legislative souvenir as one of "close attention to the details of law making, and displayed to advantage his unusual business qualities".
  After leaving the legislature in January 1897, little else could be found on Staples's life. It is known that he died in 1949, aged either 89 or 90, and it is presumed that he was buried in his home county of Luzerne. The portrait of him shown above was found in the Portraits and Biographies of the members of the Legislature of Pennsylvania, published in 1895.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Brownrigg Hefferron Dewey Jr. (1917-1992)


    Outstandingly named Texas state representative Brownrigg Hefferron Dewey Jr. is proof that oddly named political figures weren't just confined to the 19th and early 20th centuries. Nicknamed "Browny", Mr. Dewey served a decade in the Texas legislature, representing Brazos County from 1953-1963. Finding information on B.H. Dewey (as some sources refer to him) has proven to be quite difficult, and, when one considers that he died in fairly recent times, the distinct lack of biographical information on him comes as quite the suprise!
    B.H. Dewey was born on December 16, 1917 in Wilmington, North Carolina, being one of three children born to Brownrigg H. Dewey Sr (1892-1980) and Esther Dewey. Some time following their son's birth the Dewey family removed to Texas, where "B.H." attended Texas A & M University. He was later a graduate of the University of Texas Law School and was admitted to the state bar in 1941. 
   A veteran of WWII, Dewey served in the U.S. Army and following his service returned to Brazos County to practice law. The Big Spring Daily Herald gives note that Dewey served as the secretary treasurer of the Brazos County Democratic Executive Committee for a number of years and later made two unsuccessful attempts for a seat on the Bryan city council. Dewey was also an alternate delegate to the 1948 Democratic National Convention from Texas. He was first elected to the Texas State House of Representatives in November 1952 and is mentioned by the Herald as defeating four opponents in his bid for a legislative seat.
    After taking his seat in January 1953, Dewey was named to thefollowing housec committees: Appropriations, Congressional and Legislative Districts, Conservation and Reclamation, Privileges, Suffrage and Elections, and lastly, Public Printing. Dewey was reelected to the Texas House of Representatives in 1955, 1957, 1959 and 1961, and during his final term was appointed to the Executive Board of the Southern Regional Education Board. A brief write up on this appointment was featured in the 1962 edition of The Alcalde, and is posted below.


   In addition to the aforementioned appointment, B.H. Dewey also was selected as the President of the Brazos County Bar Association in 1961, although no source could be found that details how long he served in that post. He continued to be a very busy man during his later legislative terms, holding the chairmanship of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Education, the committee on Examination of Comptroller's and Treasurers Accounts, and Representation Before the Legislature. Dewey's last term in the legislature concluded in January 1963 and he chose not to run for a sixth term. Dewey was dubbed the "Bull of the Brazos" during his tenure in the legislature and in regards to his odd name, he was recorded as saying "Call me B.H., nobody knows about Hefferron."
   A few  years following the conclusion of his time in state government  Dewey was elected as Justice of the Peace for Precicint 4 of Bryan, Texas, and he is noted in a 1991 Bryan Eagle newspaper as holding this post for nearly 27 years! Other than the preceding information, little else could be found that gives note to Dewey's life and political career. The Texas Legislative Reference Library's website (where the above picture of him was found) lists Brownrigg Hefferron Dewey Jr as dying on November 18, 1992 at age 74. A lifelong bachelor, a burial location for Dewey remains unknown at this time.


B.H. Dewey, from the May 1994 Texas Bar Journal.

                                                                   YOU CAN HELP!
   Although a portrait of him has been located, along with other facts on his service in the Texas legislature, many other aspects of Brownrigg H. Dewey's life remain a mystery! With that out of the way, it's time for one of my famous "You Can Help" segments, and in the case of Mr. Dewey, it is sorely needed! I am currently in the process of trying to find more information on the life of this interestingly named man, and if any readers, lurkers, descendants or amateur historians have any time on their hands and want an interesting project to fill your time with, see what you can find in terms of information on this oddly named politician! I'd appreciate anything and everything you might be able to dig up on this uniquely named Texas resident. As there is next to nothing available online regarding Mr. Dewey, my hope is that someone out there knows more about him than what is already stated in his article here!