Saturday, May 26, 2018

Gelon Wilberforce West (1845-1890)

Portrait from the History of Tolland County, Connecticut, Vol. I, 1888.

    Lifelong Connecticut resident Gelon Wilberforce West lived to the age of just forty-four, and for half his life was a prominent jurist in Tolland County, serving as Judge of Probate for the Ellington district for two decades and at the time of his passing also held the post of judge of the city court of Rockville. Born in Columbia, Connecticut on August 31, 1845, Gelon Wilberforce West was one of eight children born to Samuel Ferdinand and Charlotte (Porter) West.
  West's formative years in Columbia saw him working the family farm and attending schools local to the area of his birth. He would graduate from the Ellington High School and at age seventeen left the farm and for two winters (1862-64) taught school. Deciding to pursue a career in law, West began his studies in the Hartford based office of Waldo and Hyde in January 1866 and was admitted to the Connecticut bar in July 1868.
  After receiving his law degree West established his practice in Rockville, Connecticut in November 1868. Just a few months following his settlement he was elected as Probate Judge for the Ellington district in April 1869 and officially entered into his duties on July 4th of that year. Gelon West would marry in Vermont in March 1870 to Ellen Goodwin Adkins (-1920) and later had two daughters, Inez Winifred West Antwis (1872-1944) and Ethel Belle West Black (1877-1946).
  Just 23 years old at the time of his election as judge, West would hold that post until his death in February 1890, continually being reelected "irrespective of party." His lengthy tenure on the bench was later remarked as "being the longest term, or consecutive terms, held by any judge of said district since its formation, in 1826". In addition to his judicial service West would serve in several other political capacities, holding the posts of town clerk, treasurer, and registrar for Vernon, Connecticut (1883-1890), assistant clerk of the Superior Court for Tolland County (1875-), school board clerk, and until the time of his death was municipal judge for Rockville.
  Active in the civic life of Rockville, Gelon West was a leading figure in the planned establishment of the Rockville High School, and " personally paid the expenses attendant upon issuing the first diplomas of that institution." West would be of further service to Rockville as a "prime mover" to see it incorporated and chartered as a city, which it became in 1889. After a number of years of service in Tolland County, Gelon W. West died in Rockville on January 17, 1890, due to a heart attack "following an attack of the grip". Memorialized as a judge of "sound judgment" and "tender sympathy", West was further praised in a Connecticut Supreme Court of Errors report, which noted that
"His faithfulness and integrity were proverbial, and his word was as good as his bond. While often negligent of the duties which he owed to himself, he ever failed in his obligations to his fellowmen. The perplexities of his many duties never tested beyond its strength that serene and abiding patience, which he always commanded, in sickness and in health."
 Gelon West was survived by his wife Ellen and daughters Inez and Ethel, all of whom were interred in the West family plot at the Grove Hill Cemetery in Rockville. 

From the New Haven Morning Journal and Courier, January 18, 1890.

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