Sunday, July 8, 2018

Roscius Harlow Back (1865-1941), Roscius Back (1837-1921)

Portrait from the Clark County Bar Association newsletter, 2011.

   It isn't often that one stumbles upon an oddly named father-son pair who were both active in public service, but that is precisely the case with Connecticut state representative Roscius Back and his son, Washington state superior court judge Roscius Harlow Back. Both members of a New England family that extended back to the French and Indian War, the first to be profiled is Roscius Harlow Back, who was born in Union, Tolland County, Connecticut on May 28, 1865, a son of Roscius and Harriet Cutler (Robbins) Back.
  A student in schools local to Union, Back would go on to attend the Hitchcock Free Academy in Brimfield Massachusetts and after deciding to pursue a career in law enrolled at the Boston University Law School, during which time he worked as a university librarian. He received his bachelor of laws degree in 1889, and soon after being admitted to the bar Back removed to Massachusetts, where he practiced from 1889 to 1903.
  In November 1903 Roscius H. Back left Massachusetts to pursue opportunities in the Pacific Northwest, and in February of the following year established his law practice in Vancouver, Washington. He would return to the East Coast in October 1906 to marry Ann Phillips (1881-1972), with whom he had three children, Roscius Harlow Jr. (1894-1942), Helen Robbins (1896-1994) and Harriet (1907-1972).
   Just a few years following his settlement in Vancouver Back entered the political life of Clark County when he was elected as City Attorney for Vancouver, serving from 1907-1908. In November 1912 Back was elected as a Superior Court judge for Clark County, Washington, and took his seat on the bench in 1913. He would win a second term in 1916 and left office in 1921. Back's life following his judgeship saw him return to practicing law in Vancouver and was later a member of the Clark County Legal Advisory Board. He died in Vancouver on June 17, 1941, aged 76, and was survived by his wife Ann. Following her death in 1972 at age 91 she was interred alongside her husband at the Park Hill Cemetery in Vancouver.

Portrait from the Connecticut Legislative Souvenir of 1907-08.

   The father of the preceding gentleman, Roscius Back was a prominent son of Union, Connecticut, being a farmer, grist mill owner, lumber merchant and two-term member of the Connecticut General Assembly. A native of Massachusetts, Back was born in Holland, Hampden County on February 4, 1837, the son of Lucius and Sophia Black. He would attend schools in the town of his birth and the Mashapaug district in Tolland County, Connecticut. At the conclusion of his schooling Back farmed and cut lumber with his father and for a time was employed at the Samuel Colt Armory in Hartford, Connecticut.
   Roscius Back married in Massachusetts in August 1863 to Harriet Cutler Robbins (1840-1933), with whom he had two sons, Roscius Harlow (1865-1941) and Harry Eugene  (1869-1956). A year prior to his marriage Back sought his business fortune in Mashapaug, Connecticut, partnering with factory owner Albert Weld to purchase an interest in the latter's mattress business and grist mill. For two years their operation manufactured and sold excelsior mattresses (along with a grain mill) until its destruction by fire in October 1864. Following the fire Back retired from business and ventured into farming, owning seventy-five acres devoted to "farming and dairying interests." Through the succeeding years, Back purchased several hundred acres of timberland in Connecticut and Massachusetts, with his name becoming prominent in the lumber industry in his area, work that occurred mainly during the winter months.
  The holder of several political offices in Union, Back would serve at various times as town assessor, tax collector, constable, and member of the board of relief. In 1890 he was elected to the Connecticut General Assembly as one of several Tolland County representatives and during the 1891-93 session sat on the committee on Agriculture. He was returned to the legislature for a second term in 1906 and during the 1907-08 session was a member of the committee on Roads, Bridges, and Rivers
  After leaving the legislature in 1908 Back and his wife removed from Union to the town of Southbridge, and during the twilight of his life saw both of his sons go on to political success of their own, with Roscius Harlow being a Washington superior court judge and Harry Eugene serving as a state representative,  prosecuting attorney and judge for the town of Killingly. Roscius Back died in Connecticut at age 84 on July 15, 1921. He was survived by his wife Harriet, who, following her death at 92 in 1933, was interred alongside him at the Danielson Cemetery in Westfield, Connecticut.

Portrait from the Commemorative Biographical Record of Tolland and Windham County.

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