Monday, December 9, 2013

Weed Simpson Chelf Sr. (1858-1913)

From the 2005 book "Elizabethtown", by Meranda Caswell .

    Dying shortly before his 54th birthday in 1913, Kentucky circuit court judge and attorney Weed Simpson Chelf Sr. may have lacked length of years but for two decades was a man of distinction in Hardin County.......whilst also possessing a very unusual name! Despite his obscurity, I was pleasantly surprised to find that Judge Chelf did have a picture tucked away in the vast archive of Google Books. The above portrait of him (featured in the 2005 book on the history of Elizabethtown, Kentucky entitled "Elizabethtown") is listed in said work as being "courtesy of Mike Sisk", and I'm grateful that there was at least a few people who took the time to publish a small biographical snippet and photograph of this oddly named Kentucky jurist!
   Weed S. Chelf Sr. is recorded as being born in Green County, Kentucky on March 15, 1858, a son of Judge William Hobart and Melissa Patton Chelf, and it is unknown at this time why the couple bestowed the unusual first name "Weed" upon their son. Weed Chelf married for the first time in 1882 to Ella Winterbower, who died within a few years of their marriage.
   Shortly after Ella Winterbower Chelf's death Weed Chelf remarried in 1887 to Hallie Wrather (1865-1908) and later became the father to several children, including Wrather (born 1889), Lloyd Newman (1891-1952), Glovie (1892-1954), Weed Simpson Jr. (1894-1996), Henry Lee (1898-1962), Mary (1900-1984) Walter Brengle (born 1903-1945) and Frank Leslie (1907-1982). Of these children Frank Leslie Chelf became the most well known, as he followed in his father's footsteps and became a prominent attorney and public official. A decorated veteran of WWII, Frank Chelf was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from Kentucky in 1945 and subsequently served 11 terms, losing his reelection bid in 1966.
   Despite having little in the way of biographical material on his life available, Chelf is remarked by the Breckinridge News as having relocated to California to practice law in the mid 1880s, even serving as assistant district attorney of Los Angeles County for a time. He eventually returned to Kentucky, where in 1890 he established a law practice in the city of Elizabethtown. In 1892 Chelf was elected as Commonwealth Attorney for that state's Ninth District. He served in this capacity until 1903, and in that year won election as Circuit Court judge for Kentucky's Ninth Judicial District. 
  Weed S. Chelf was reelected as judge in 1909 but is recorded as being in a state of impaired health, causing him to miss a few sessions of court proceedings. A write up on Chelf's reelection (and health concerns) appeared in the June 30 1910 edition of the Berea Citizen, with the judge himself stating that he "wasn't dead yet and would come around all right." Despite being ill, Judge Chelf maintained an upbeat sense of humor, stating:
"It is all wrong for a man to get sick, in fact, any one who would do a thing like that should be shot, but nature, somehow or other, has so arranged things in this world that we must sometimes lay up for repairs."
  While having a bright outlook on things may have improved his spirits, Judge Chelf's health continued to sink, so much so that the Breckinridge News later reported in his 1913 obituary that during the preceding four years he had been "unable to occupy his place on the bench as a circuit court judge" and that "a number of other judges throughout this district have held this court, having been designated by the governor." The end came in February 1913, when Chelf was struck down by a "stroke of apoplexy" and died a few days later on the morning of February 5. He was later interred at the Elizabethtown City Cemetery and was survived by his wife and seven children.

From the Breckinridge News, February 5, 1913

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