Saturday, February 15, 2014

Rutilleous Britt Basford (1836-1916)

Portrait from the St. Paul Globe, January 11, 1897.

    A New Englander by birth, Rutilleous Britt Basford later resided in Wisconsin where he was a merchant in the Jefferson County area. In the mid-1860s he relocated to Minnesota, where he was subsequently elected to a number of local political offices in Winona County, and in November 1896 was elected to one term in the Minnesota State House of Representatives.
  Born in Guilford, Maine on June 2, 1836, Rutilleous Basford was the son of Pliny Britt (1808-1890) and Sarah Stephens Basford (1806-1896). His unusual name has a variation in spelling, being listed by more than one source as "Rutillus Brett Basford", while also being abbreviated as "R.B. Basford". However, both the Minnesota Historical Society and the Minnesota Death and Burial Index give the spelling as it is given in the title to this profile. Whichever spelling is the correct one, it certainly doesn't change the fact that Basford's name is one of the more intriguing ones to be found amongst the annals of past Minnesota legislators!
   Removing to Watertown, Wisconsin with his family while still a child, Basford attended common schools in that area and in March 1858 married Jennie Snow (1839-1916). The couple is recorded as being childless through the duration of their nearly sixty-year marriage. In the early 1860s, he did his patriotic duty and became a sutler (civilian merchant) to the 16th Wisconsin Infantry, providing various provisions to soldiers of the regiment. While still a resident of Wisconsin Basford served as a U.S. Revenue Agent for the county of Jefferson, continuing in this post until removing with his wife to Winona, Minnesota around 1866.
  Early in his Winona residency Basford became involved in real estate dealings as well as the sale of insurance, continuing along this route until 1875. In that year he was elected as the Treasurer of Winona County, serving two terms in office. In 1880 he won election as county auditor and later occupied the office of Fire Inspector for Minnesota's southern district for thirteen years. Active in fraternal clubs in addition to his civic doings, Basford became a member of the Coeur de Leon Commandry, No. 3 of the Knights Templar in 1874 and served as the group's Captain General in 1879 and its treasurer four years later. Basford is also the first strange name political figure to have been a druid, being a charter member of the Oak Grove Lodge, No. 15, Ancient Order of Druids in Winona in August 1877.
  After retiring from the position of Fire Inspector in the mid-1890s Basford continued in his real estate dealings, and in 1896 was nominated by his fellow Winona county citizens to be their representative in the Minnesota State Legislature. Running as a Republican, he went on to defeat his Democratic opponent John Nagler in the November election, 1,295 votes to 963. Taking his seat at the start of the 1897-99 term, Basford was named to the following standing committees of the house: Appropriations, Railroads, Insurance, Banks, Legislative Expenses. He served as chairman of the committee on Manufacturers and left office in January of 1899.
This portrait of Rutilleous Basford is in the collection of the Minnesota State Historical Society.

    After leaving the legislature Basford returned to his early business interests and in 1907 is recorded as opening another insurance office in Winona with W.E. Stanton, operating under the name of Basford and Stanton. Basford died three months before his eightieth birthday on March 3, 1916 in Winona. His wife of 58 years Jennie followed him to the grave two months later on May 15th, and both were presumably buried somewhere in the Winona County vicinity, an exact place of burial being unknown at this time.

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