Thursday, January 31, 2019

Euphrates Garrett (1844-1924)

Portrait from the Arkansas Democrat, December 25, 1904.

  Sharing a name with an important river in world history should entitle one to more than just a passing glance, and Euphrates Garrett, a two-term Arkansas state representative and minister from Cleveland County, is in all likelihood the only American political figure to share their first name with that famous river in ancient Mesopotamia. Arguably the most obscure Arkansan profiled in the last few weeks, Euphrates Garrett was born in Tennessee in June 1844. The son of South Carolina natives McDaniel and Mary Ann Garrett, Euphrates Garrett is recorded as a six-year-old resident of McNairy County, Tennessee in the 1850 census.
  Little is known of Garrett's early life or education in the state of his birth. Military records indicate Garrett was a Confederate veteran and following the war became a Methodist minister, work that would later see him settle in Arkansas in 1875. A member of the Little Rock Methodist Conference, Garrett was an itinerant minister, traveling throughout the Little Rock district, and by 1889 held a pastorate in the "Maumelle circuit", which contained three hundred parishioners and was partially located in the neighboring county of Pulaski.
  Remarked as a "lifelong Democrat", Euphrates Garrett entered the political life of his state in 1902 when he was elected to the Arkansas House of Representatives from Cleveland County. He took his seat at the start of the 1903-05 session and during that term sat on the committees on Public Buildings, Public Printing, and Retrenchment.  He would win a second term in November of 1904 and that December was briefly profiled in the Arkansas Democrat, being described as a "hard worker, doing conscientious service for his people and the state." In this profile, Garrett responded to fourteen leading issues that were hot button items facing the Arkansas legislature, amongst which was legislation that would complete the construction of the state capitol and the "question of the segregation of the school tax, according to the proportionate amount paid by the races". In regards to the last named issue, Garrett is revealed to be a product of his time, stating that:
"We have helped the Negro nearly 40 years and I think that long enough. Those we have educated are the meanest of all."
  Garrett's stance on the issue of race and segregation notwithstanding, his time in state government saw him gain press as a firm backer for the passage of a new state constitution, with Garrett himself stating that:
"Yes, I am very much in favor of a new state constitution. I am the man that introduced in the last legislature the bill calling a constitutional convention, to frame and give our great state a new organic law. I fought hard for it, but it failed; but it will go through all right this time."
  Euphrates Garrett's second term concluded in January 1907 and despite his leaving government service continued to serve the legislature in a different capacity, that of Chaplain of the Arkansas House of Representatives. Elected to that post in early 1907, Garrett continued to serve through the duration of that session of the legislature. A resident of Stamps, Lafayette County, Arkansas, in the latter portion of his life, Garrett died in that town sometime in 1924, when he was around 80 years of age. He was later interred alongside his wife Jennie (who predeceased him in 1921) at the Lakeside Cemetery in Stamps.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Storm Onus Whaley (1882-1933)

From the Gentry Journal Advance, November 3, 1927.

  We continue our stay in Arkansas to highlight the life of another oddly named state legislator, Storm Onus Whaley of Benton County. A leading banker and Mason in that state, Whaley was a former president of the Arkansas Bankers Association and in the mid-1920s was selected as Grand Master of Masons of Arkansas. Whaley entered politics with his service as a delegate to the 1924 Democratic National Convention and in 1930 was elected to the Arkansas state senate, serving in that body until his death in a car accident in June 1933. A native of Missouri, Storm Onus Whaley was born in the town of Mount Vernon on May 31, 1882, the son of John L.Whaley and the former Mary Virginia Crawford.
  Little information exists on Whaley's early life in the state of his birth or his education, and in 1910 married in that state to Mabel Etta Prater (1886-1980). The couple later had one son, Storm Hammond Whaley (1916-2011), who would go on to prominence of his own, being the acting director of the University of Arkansas from 1959-60 and from 1970-92 served as the communications director for the National Institutes of Health. 
  Shortly after his marriage Whaley and his wife removed to Sulphur Springs, Arkansas, where he first entered into banking. Accepting the post of bank teller at the Bank of Sulphur Springs, Whaley later became the bank's cashier, holding that post until at least 1927. During his time as the cashier at Sulphur Springs, Whaley and his bank were robbed four times in five years, and in 1926 he authored "The Thrills and Chills of a Much Robbed Banker" for the American Banker's Journal, detailing his experiences of being held at gunpoint and described advice for how to best conduct oneself in the event of a robbery. 
  In 1924 Whaley entered Arkansas politics for the first time when he was selected as part of the Arkansas delegation to the 1924 Democratic National Convention in New York City that nominated former U.S. Solicitor General John W. Davis for the presidency. An active Mason for years prior to his service as a delegate, Whaley was elected as Most Worshipful Grand Master of the Free and Accepted Masons of Arkansas in 1925 for a one year term.
  Active in other areas of public service in his state, Storm O. Whaley was for six years (1927-1933) treasurer of the Ozark Playgrounds Association, an organization established in 1919 to promote tourism throughout Northwestern Arkansas and parts of Missouri and Oklahoma. In this post, Whaley was responsible for originating the Ozark Smile Girl contest and the Flaming Fall Revue, and during this time earned a reputation as a leading orator in his state, "with heavy demands made on his time by calls from many places." In November 1927 Whaley was invited to broadcast from the University of Arkansas' radio station KUOA, and his address, titled The Ozarks and Opportunity, touched on business, agriculture and tourism opportunities for the area. In the address, Whaley related that:
"The steady growth, evidenced during the last few years, is largely a direct result of the effort made by the Ozark Playgrounds Association to sell not only the visitor the wealth and beauty of this region, but in making the resident cognizent of Ozark possibilities."
From the Gentry Journal Advance, November 3, 1927.

     A founding organizer of the Bank of Bentonville in the early 1930s, Storm Whaley would serve as that bank's cashier until his death and in February 1930 announced that he'd be seeking a seat in the Arkansas Senate. He would win election that November and at the start of the 1931-35 session was named to the following committees: Claims, Confederate Pensions, Finance, Public Service Corporations, Mines and Mining, Revenue and Taxation, Roads and Highways. He would also hold the chairmanship of the Banking, Building, and Loan committee. 
   Elected for a four-year term that was to conclude in 1935, Storm O. Whaley died in office on June 16, 1933, having succumbed to injuries he received in a car accident the day prior. On the day of the accident, Whaley and several other men had traveled to Mena, Arkansas to attend a Highway 71 convention and on the return trip the driver of the vehicle, D.W. Peel Jr., swerved to avoid a truck parked partially on the roadway, and in the course of doing so caused the vehicle to go off the pavement and over a steep embankment. The force of the accident caused Whaley and others to be thrown "through the top of the car", with Whaley himself sustaining shock, a broken leg, and hip. He died at an Arkansas hospital on June 16, 1933, aged 51. Memorialized as a leading banker and public figure in newspapers of the time, Whaley's funeral was attended by many noted political figures including Lieutenant Governor Lee Cazort and state bank commissioner Marion Wasson. Following funeral services, Whaley was interred at the Hillcrest Cemetery in Gravette

From the Gentry Journal Advance, June 22, 1933.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Shem Easley Hollabaugh (1869-1957)

Portrait from the Daily Arkansas Democrat, January 26, 1909.

  Marshall, Arkansas received mention in the January 21st write up on Raz Myatt Ferguson, a two-term state representative from that town. Interestingly, three decades prior to Ferguson's election to the legislature that same town was represented by another curiously named man, Shem Easley Hollabaugh. A two-term representative, Hollabaugh was a merchant, educator and newspaper publisher in Searcy County and also made inroads into that county's financial sector, being a bank director and incorporator. The son of Emanuel Fountain (1840-1936) and Frances Anah (Hatchett) Hollabaugh, Shem Easley Hollabaugh was born in Leslie, Arkansas on August 20, 1869. Bestowed the unusual name Shem upon his birth, Hollabaugh's first name is of biblical origin, "Shem" being one of the sons of Noah recorded in the Hebrew Bible
   A student in schools local to Marshall, Hollabaugh was a graduate of the Marshall High School and attended the Valley Springs Academy. Following the completion of his schooling he began a teaching career that extended several years and during the mid-1890s took on an additional post, that of county examiner, an office that saw him have "virtual charge of the educational work of the county, encouraging the grading of schools wherever found possible." This time period also saw Hollabaugh branch into newspaper publishing, being editor and publisher of the Marshall Republican, which had been established in 1890.
  Shem Easley Hollabaugh married on his 27st birthday in 1896 to Theodosia Albertine Sanders (1879-1979) and later had eight children, Gladys (1897-1969), Shem Ernest (1898-1977), Ralph (died in infancy in 1901), Ziff Emanuel (1905-1985), Wilbur (1908-1987) Everett (1910-1913), Marcus (1913-2006) and Simpson Buchanan (1920-1943).
   In the years following his time as county examiner Hollabaugh briefly served as Searcy County deputy sheriff and entered the business life of Marshall when he and a partner formed the mercantile firm of Sooter and Hollabaugh. This was followed by another mercantile business, Hollabaugh and Schultz, in the early 1900s and in addition to those firms "owned other good property" in Marshall and also dabbled in fruit growing and farming. Hollabaugh added the title of bank director to his resume with his connection to the Marshall Bank and was a founding organizer of the Farmer's Bank (subsequently renamed to the Searcy County Bank).
  A member of both the Marshall city council and the local school board, Hollabaugh achieved his first significant political post when he was appointed by President William McKinley as U.S. Postmaster at Marshall, an office he continued to fill until his resignation in 1906. Deciding to seek a seat in the Arkansas House of Representatives in that year, Hollabaugh won the election that November and during the 1907-09 session proved to be busy as a freshman Republican legislator, serving on the committees on Mines and Mining, Public Printing, and Roads and Highways. Hollabaugh's legislative tenure received extensive mention in the 1911 Historical Review of Arkansas, which details that
"He was secretary of the good roads committee and ably agitated the subject of systematic improvement in the thoroughfares of the state as an aid to the business and happiness of the rural populace, as well as to travelers in general. He also urged the appropriation of additional funds for educational purposes and also introduced a bill in the interest of pure drugs and foods, but some of the measures he advocated seemed to be in advance of public sentiment and did not become laws."
   After the completion of his term in 1909 Hollabaugh served as a delegate to the Good Roads Convention held in Little Rock, and in that year saw his brother Fountain Gardner Hollabaugh (1864-1930) elected as a Democrat to the Arkansas House of Representatives. In 1916 Hollabaugh was an incorporator of the Searcy County Hardware Company. Long a leading Mason in Searcy County, Hollabaugh was a member of the Grand Lodge of Arkansas and for several years was its deputy grand master
  Shem E. Hollabaugh was elected to a second term in the Arkansas legislature in August 1930 and served during the 1931-33 session. Little is known of the remainder of his life, excepting note of his death in Arkansas on February 8, 1957, aged 87. His wife Theodosia survived her husband by over twenty years, and following her death at age 99 in January 1979 was interred at the East Lawn Cemetery in Marshall, the same resting place as that of her husband.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Rual Custar Ham (1902-1953)

Portrait from the Shrader Archive via ark-ives.com

   Three-term Arkansas state representative Rual Custar Ham represented Newton County for the entirety of his legislative service and during his terms also held the post of superintendent of the Jasper High School in Jasper, Arkansas. A lifelong native of the "Natural State", Rual Custar Ham was born in the town of Limestone on January 16, 1902, the son of Ulysses Grant Ham and the former Winnie Casey. Referred to by most period sources as Custar Ham or R. Custar Ham, our subject attended schools local to Limestone and was later enrolled at the Newton County Academy.
  Ham would continue higher education at Arkansas Tech and State Teacher's College and in May 1929 married to Goldie Burdine, with whom he had four childrenDennis Custar (died in infancy in 1933), Carl Grant (1934-2016), Dalton Farrel, and Meredith Lynn. He engaged in real estate in Jasper following his marriage and in 1940 was elected to his first term in the Arkansas House of Representatives. During the 1941-43 session Ham was named to the committees on Civil Service,  Public Buildings and Grounds, Reforestation, Roads and Highways, and Temperance. He would also serve as vice chair of the committee on Banks and Banking.
  In November 1942 R. Custar Ham won his second term in the state house and was elected to a third term in 1944. Prior to this term, Ham had taken on the position of Superintendent of the Jasper High School and during the 1945-47 session was vice chairman of the Temperance committee and a member of the Conservation of Natural Resources, Education and Flood Control committees. 
  Following his final term in the legislature, Ham served was Jasper County school supervisor and would begin work on earning his master's degree in education during the early 1950s, studying at the University of Arkansas. While attending a summer workshop for school administrators at that institution Ham was stricken by a heart attack on August 6, 1953, and later died of a second heart attack after being transported to a local hospital. Just 51 years old at the time of his death, Ham was survived by his wife and children and was interred at the Jasper Cemetery.  

R. Custar Ham as he appeared during his final legislative term.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Raz Myatt Ferguson (1910-1990)

Portrait courtesy of the Shrader archives via ark-ives.com

   The dapper looking man featured above is Raz Myatt Ferguson, one of the youngest men elected to the Arkansas House of Representatives in the 1940 election year. Just thirty years old at the time of his election, Ferguson would win a second term in 1942. The son of former Searcy County judge Zebulon Vance Ferguson (1879-1962) and the former Mannie Lee Myatt (1880-1985), who lived to age 105, Raz Myatt Ferguson was born in Searcy County, Arkansas on August 26, 1910. The origins behind the name "Raz" remain unknown at this time, and his middle name extends from it being his mother's maiden name.
  A student in the public schools of Marshall, Arkansas, Raz Ferguson would later enroll at the El Dorado Junior College and in September 1934 married to Anita Katherine Robinson (1915-1990). The couple later had two children, Elizabeth Lee and Richard Myatt (1943-2015).  A farmer and merchant based in Marshall for a good majority of his life, Raz Myatt Ferguson was elected to the Arkansas House of Representatives in 1940 and during the 1941-43 session was named to the committees on Confederate Soldiers and Widows, Corporations, County and Probate Courts, Elections, and Roads and Highways. 
  In 1942 Ferguson won a second term in the state house for a term that extended from 1943-45. Nothing is known of his life after this point, excepting notice of his death at age 80 on October 25, 1990, in Marshall. His wife Anita survived her husband by just two months, and following her death in December 1990 was interred alongside him at the East Lawn Cemetery in Marshall.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Tupper Smyth Malone (1872-1935)

From the Marin County Tocsin, October 22, 1910.

  San Rafael, California resident Tupper Smyth Malone was a transplant to that city from Arkansas, and following his settlement established himself as a pharmacist, a vocation that he continued to follow for a number of years. Active in Democratic politics in the city, Malone would win election to the city board of education and reached his highest degree of political notoriety in 1910 when he was nominated for California state treasurer. Born in Arkansas on January 26, 1872, Tupper Smyth Malone was the son of Spaulding and Theresa (Smyth) Malone
  Malone's early life in the state of his birth largely remains a mystery, with no mention given in regards to his education. In the mid-1890s he was a partner of the jewelry firm of M.C. and Tup Malone in Fort Smith, Arkansas and later decided to remove west, and after settling in San Rafael would become manager and owner of the San Rafael Pharmacy. Malone later returned to Arkansas in February 1897 to marry Lenora Adella Sullivan (1873-1966) in the town of Waldron. In the weeks following their wedding, the couple undertook an "extended tour" of St. Louis, Chicago, Denver, Salt Lake City and Sacramento before settling in San Rafael. The couple's near forty-year marriage would see the births of at least three children, Camilla, George, and James
  After establishing roots in San Rafael, Tupper Malone built up a prosperous pharmacy, and by 1908 owned three additional drug stores in California, located in Larkspur, San Anselmo and Mill Valley. Additional financial success came Malone's way when he became an organizer and stockholder in the Portuguese-American Bank in San Francisco, his full dates of service with that bank being unknown at this time. Malone's business savvy saw he and his family residing in a palatial home on Palm Avenue in San Rafael, which is pictured below.

From the Overland Monthly, Vol. 38, 1900.

  Tupper S. Malone first entered San Rafael politics in 1899 when he was an unsuccessful candidate for city treasurer. A candidacy for supervisor for San Rafael's 1st district followed in 1906, and around 1900 was elected to the city board of education for the first of several terms. His time on that board saw him chair the building committee, "which remodeled the old and built several new schools, getting good sites and buildings, and using home architects and builders to do the work." 
  In June 1910 Tupper Malone entered into the Democratic race for State Treasurer of California and in August of that year won the Democratic primary. In the latter part of that year, he took to the campaign trail and would "tour the northern counties" promoting his candidacy, as well as that of gubernatorial candidate Theodore Bell. Through the 1910 election year, Malone's candidacy was touted in several California newspapers, including the Marin County Tocsin, which remarked that:
"Mr. Malone is one of our most substantial citizens and has been a resident of this city and county for many years. At present he is one of our capable school directors. For many years he was the proprietor of the San Rafael pharmacy. During all of his residency here he has made many friends and has won for himself the reputation as a fair-dealing, efficient, painstaking businessman and a faithful public servant."
  Malone's Republican opponent that year was incumbent treasurer William A. Williams, who had taken office in 1907. On election day in November it was Williams who was victorious, and in an electoral shellacking trounced Malone, 204,922 votes to 103, 426. In the years following his defeat Malone continued work as a druggist, operating the Blackburn Pharmacy in Petaluma, and in 1914 is recorded as being the manager of the Cooks' Water Company. He later moved his pharmacy to Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood in 1921, but remained here only a year, removing his store to Bell, a suburb of Los Angeles in 1922. 
   The final years of Malone's life saw he and his wife residing in Bell and in the 1927 primary election year was an unsuccessful aspirant for the Los Angeles City Council. In the year prior to his death, Malone again was a candidate for state treasurer but failed to get his candidacy to extend past the August Democratic primary. Tupper S. Malone died on January 17, 1935, shortly before his 63rd birthday. His wife Lenora survived her husband by over thirty years, and following her death at age 93 in 1966 was interred alongside her husband at the Rose Hills Memorial Park in Los Angeles.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Beverly Lacy Hodghead (1865-1928)

Portrait from Pacific Municipalities, 1910.

 Featured on this site's Facebook page in September 2017, Beverly Lacy Hodghead is one of those male political figures unfortunately saddled with a truly girly sounding name. Despite his receiving not one, but two, female names, Hodghead didn't let his unusual name curb his ambitions, as he went on to be a distinguished Berkeley, California attorney and member of that city's board of freeholders. Hodghead's service on that board saw his aid in the development of a city charter for Berkeley, and, following its adoption, was elected as the first mayor of that city in 1909.
  A native of Rockbridge County, Virginia, Beverly Lacy Hodghead was born on March 21, 1865, the son of Alexander and Mary (Moore) Hodghead. His early education was obtained in the state of his birth and at age seventeen relocated to California. In the late 1880s he enrolled at the Hastings College of Law in San Francisco, and in 1891 graduated with his law degree. Soon after he established his first law practice in that city, and in June 1894 married to Nellie Eckles (born 1866). The couple later had two children, Evelyn Elizabeth and Beverly Eckles (1913-1997).
  Elected to the Berkeley, California Board of Freeholders in the mid-1900s, Hodghead later served as vice-president of that board, and as such was a leading figure in the development of a city charter for Berkeley, which had been incorporated as a town in 1878. Despite its thirty-year existence, the town lacked a mayor, and with the adoption of the 1908 charter, Berkeley officially became a city. Amongst the charter's new tenets were:
  • The election of a mayor for the city.
  • A primary election where all nominations were made by non-partisan petition, rather than offices being handed out as patronage.
  • A city council with councilmen elected at large. These councilmen would also head various city departments.
  • "Ultimate veto power to the people." 
  In March 1909 Hodghead's name was put forward as a candidate for mayor of Berkeley on the "good government ticket" and after accepting the nomination spoke at a rally for the New Charter club, where he intoned the positive attributes of the new charter, noting:
"One advantage 0f the new charter is the fact that it gives the people the right to elect their own officials, a right that is unique and has not long been enjoyed. It re-enfranchises the people. The old method was simply a clearing house for programmers. The charter abolishes the patronage system. It induces good men to run for office instead of deterring them. They are not bound and shackled by outside political interests as of old."
From the San Francisco Call, March 27, 1909.

  On May 2, 1909Beverly Lacy Hodghead was elected as Berkeley's first mayor under its new city charter, polling 2, 521 votes. Officially taking office on July 1, 1909 (when the charter went into effect), Hodghead's term also saw him serve as President of the League of Pacific Municipalities from 1910-11 and would lose in his bid for a second term as mayor in 1911, being defeated by Socialist candidate J. Stitt Wilson. Following this loss he continued prominence in Alameda County, serving as president of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific from 1919-20 and in 1922 was master of ceremonies at a Commonwealth Club banquet that honored ex-President (and then Chief Justice) William Howard Taft and Scottish judge Thomas Shaw (Lord Shaw).
  Late in his life, further honors were accorded to Hodghead when he held the post of president of the San Francisco Bar Association (1924-26), and in 1924 was the representative of the California Bar Association at the American Law Institute in Washington, D.C. He would also hold the presidency of the Berkley Music Association from its inception in 1910 until his death on October 16, 1928, aged 63. A burial location for both he and his wife remains unknown at this time.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Bethune Beaton McKenzie (1837-1915)

Portrait from the Memorial Record of Alabama, Vol. I, 1893.

  Lifelong Alabaman Bethune Beaton McKenzie was a Confederate soldier and farmer prior to his brief foray into politics, being the youngest delegate to the Alabama state constitutional convention of 1865. Following his service, he was the director of a large lumber company in Eufaula, and later assumed ownership of the Chewalla Cotton Mills. Born of Scottish descent in Barbour County on October 11, 1837, Bethune Beaton McKenzie was the son of Daniel and Amanda (Burch) McKenzie
   A student at the Louisville Academy in Barbour County, McKenzie later enrolled at Howard College in Birmingham, where he graduated in 1858. In that same year, he married to Caroline Elizabeth "Bettie" Flournoy (1840-1927), to who he was wed until his death in 1915. The couple's near sixty year union saw the births of ten children, Amanda (died in infancy in 1861), Callie (1862-1899), Georgianna (1866-1893), Amanda Burch (1866-1904), Daniel Burch (1870-1950), Frances Flournoy (1872-1948), Mary Lou (1874-1951), Kenneth (1875-1952), Jennie (died in infancy in 1877), and Susan (1888-1974).
  Originally planning to follow a career in law, ill health compelled McKenzie to take up farming, which he continued in until the outbreak of Civil War in 1861. Siding with the Confederacy, McKenzie enlisted in Co. H., 7th Alabama Infantry as a private, and after twelve months of service with that regiment entered Co. C. of the 39th Alabama Infantry, where he became first lieutenant. Ill health and physical limitations later compelled McKenzie to resign from service and he later returned to service after raising a cavalry company that joined the Jeff Davis Legion in the Department of Virginia. McKenzie and his company saw action at the second battle of Cold Harbor, Reams Station, Bell Field, Bentonville. McKenzie would also be present at the surrender of Gen. Joseph E. Johnston to Gen. William T. Sherman in Durham, South Carolina on April 26, 1865.
   Several months following his discharge from service Bethune McKenzie was elected as a delegate from Barbour County to the Alabama Constitutional Convention that was to begin in September 1865. Remarked as being the youngest delegate to attend the convention (being 27 years old at the time), McKenzie's convention service proved to be uneventful, with the Memorial Record of Alabama noting that
"While his diffedence and inexperience prevented his taking a prominent part in that convention, he was an active worker, and although two conventions have been held since, our present constitution contains many clauses grafted thereon by his watchfulness."
   Bethune B. McKenzie's life following the state constitutional convention saw him undergo a career change, foregoing farming to become a surveyor and civil engineer. He would hold the post of chief engineer for the Georgia Central Railroad and later was the assistant engineer for the Louisville and Nashville Railroad "having charge of the track department from Decatur to Mobile." He remained in their employ until 1881, when he entered into the lumber business, and by 1882 had partnered with  H.S. Perkins and W.S. Morton to form the lumber firm of McKenzie, Morton & Co., which existed until 1884. 
   McKenzie and Perkins later purchased their partner's interest and established the Durham Lumber Co., which through the succeeding years accumulated vast land holdings, including "10,000 acres of timberland, sixteen miles of standard gauge railroad" as well as a sawmill. Late in his life, he assumed ownership of the Chewalla Cotton Mills in Eufaula, Alabama, with which he was affiliated until his death. Bethune B. McKenzie died in Barbour County on June 29, 1915, aged 77. He was survived by his wife Bettie, with both being interred at the Fairview Cemetery in Eufaula.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Ozora Pierson Stearns (1831-1896)

Portrait from the Stearns Genealogy and Memoirs, Vol. II, 1901.

  Native New Yorker Ozora Pierson Stearns found success in business and politics in Minnesota, where he resettled in the early 1860s. Regarded by this author as an "old guard" strange name political figure ( his name being found via the Congressional Biographical Dictionary in 2000), Stearns served as Olmsted county attorney and as mayor of Rochester, Minnesota before fleeting involvement on the national political stage in 1871, when he was elected to the U.S. Senate to fill a vacancy. Three years later he was appointed as a Minnesota district court judge and served twenty years on the bench.
  Born in the small St. Lawrence County town of De Kalb, New York on January 15, 1831, Ozora Pierson Stearns was one of eleven children born to Asaph and Lovisa (Smith) Stearns. The origins behind his unusual first name remain unknown at this time, and at one year old survived an injury at home that saw his feet severely burned after walking on hot coals. Saved from further harm by his parents, Stearns' feet were remarked as having been "thoroughly cooked", and was "carried three weeks in the arms of his parents and others" following the incident. Stearns would still bear the scars of that burning late into his life.
  At age two Stearns removed with his family to Lake County, Ohio. His formative years were spent on his family's farm and his early education was obtained largely at home. Resolving to better himself, Stearns hired himself out for farm work in 1848 and after accumulating enough income enrolled at the Madison Seminary, where he earned a teaching certificate. He taught a term at a district school in the winter of 1848-49 and in the last named year began a trek to Chicago via wagon, and later resided with a brother in Monroe, Wisconsin, where he worked in the lead mines and farming. 
  Following a stint teaching school in Wisconsin, Stearns relocated back to Ohio in 1850 and worked his father's farm, while also teaching in the district school. Embued with a case of wanderlust, Stearns caught the Gold Rush bug, and in December 1852 began the trek to California via the Isthmus of Panama. Taken ill during the journey, he arrived in Diamond Springs, Calfornia in January 1853 and would stake a claim near Placerville. His stay in California extended several months and, having accumulated one thousand dollars, returned to Ohio, where he enrolled at the Grand River Institute in Austinburg. His time at that institution extended from 1853-54, and during his studies caused a minor uproar by attending a prohibited Oddfellows lecture, which subsequently drew the ire of the school's president
  Ozora Stearns later attended Oberlin College from 1854-55 and in 1856 enrolled at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. It was during his time in Michigan that Stearns joined the nascent Republican Party, taking to the campaign trail to deliver speeches for the candidacy of John C. Fremont and William Lewis Dayton, the first ever Republican candidates for president and vice-president. Graduating from the University of Michigan's literary department in 1858, Stearns returned to that school to begin law studies and earned his law degree in 1860.
  Following his graduation, Stearns relocated to Rochester, Minnesota where he opened his first law practice, and soon became active in Republican circles in that area. In late 1861 he entered politics for the first time when, without his solicitation, he was nominated for county attorney of Olmsted County. He would win that election and served until 1862, when he joined the ongoing war effort, being commissioned as a second lieutenant and raised a company of volunteers, Co. F. of the 9th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry. In short order, Stearns was made first lieutenant, and by late 1862 was serving as adjutant general at Ft. Ridgely in southwestern Minnesota.

Ozora Stearns, courtesy of the Congressional Bioguide webpage.

   On February 18, 1863, Ozora Pierson Stearns married to Sarah Burger (1836-1904), one of the first women to apply for admission to Stearns' alma mater, the University of Michigan. The couple would have four children, Susan May (born 1867), Parker (died in infancy in 1868), Victor Alonzo (born 1870) and Stella Burger (born 1872). Following their wedding Sarah Stearns went on to prominence as a social reformer, being a founder of the Minnesota Women's Suffrage Association. She would serve as that group's first president (1881-83) and also was a candidate for public office, successfully winning election to the Duluth, Minnesota school board.
  Stearns' later service in the Civil War saw him promoted to Colonel of the 39th Regiment, U.S. Colored Infantry, that had been organized at Baltimore, Maryland in March 1864. Stearns and this regiment would see action on the last day of the Battle of the Wilderness and had further action during the siege of Petersburg and the following Battle of the Crater under General Ambrose Burnside. In January 1865 the 39th took part in the bombardment and subsequent capture of Fort Fisher in North Carolina, and Stearns himself would remain in service well after the surrender of General Lee, being "in command of the forts at the mouth of the Cape Fear River, headquarters at Smithville."  
  Mustered out at Baltimore in December of 1865, Ozora Stearns returned to Rochester, Minnesota and was soon after returned to the office of Olmsted County Attorney for a second term. In 1866 he was elected as mayor of Rochester (serving until 1868) and in 1866 and 1868 was even promoted as a potential candidate for Congress. While still serving as mayor Stearns was named as a U.S. Register in Bankruptcy for Minnesota's 2nd district in 1867, and in 1870 achieved his highest degree of political prominence when a vacancy occurred in the U.S. Senate due to the death of Minnesota senator Daniel S. Norton.  In January 1871 the Minnesota legislature appointed Stearns to fill that vacancy and he held his senate seat until March 3. While his service may have been brief, Stearns had an impact in that body, being:
"Successful in getting through several bills for the relief of Minnesota soldiers. His bearing in the senate was such as to secure the good-will of his fellow senators, and he got bills through that old senators declared no other senator on the floor could have gotten through."
Portrait courtesy of the Rochester Public Library.

  A year after the conclusion of his senate term Ozora Stearns and his family removed to Duluth, Minnesota, where Stearns would establish a law practice with Josiah D. Ensign, who'd later win election as mayor of that city in 1881. Their practice continued until 1874, and in that year Stearns was tapped by then Governor Cushman K. Davis to serve as judge for the recently established 11th Judicial District of Minnesota. Entering into his duties in January 1874, he would win a second term as judge in 1881 and a third in 1888. He retired in January 1894, having served twenty years on the bench, and was later lauded as a: 
"True son of the people, he ever retained the pure and simple habits and stury patriotsm of his youth, and warmly espoused every measure which would advance the best interests of the people."
   In addition to political and judicial service, Stearns would serve as a regent for the University of Minnesota from 1890-95 and held directorships in the Duluth Electric Light and Power Company, the Duluth Building and Loan Association, and the Duluth Union National Bank. In the final years of his life Stearns and his wife wintered in California, and in 1895 permanently removed to that state. He purchased a lemon ranch in Pacific Beach and would reside there until his death on June 2, 1896, aged 65. He was later cremated and his ashes returned to Minnesota for inurnment at the Forest Hills Cemetery in Duluth. 


From the Worthington, Minnesota Advance, June 11, 1896.

Friday, January 4, 2019

Nymphas Mastings Wright (1850-1934)

From Taylor's Legislative History and Souvenir of Connecticut, 1907-08.

  We're now four days into 2019 and with a new year comes the inaugural posting of 2019, which centers on the life of one term Connecticut state representative Nymphas Mastings Wright. Hailing from a state that has been well represented here on the site, Wright held several political offices in his native town of Hartland and was for many years a farmer in that area. The son of George W. and Charlotte Phelps Wright, Nymphas Mastings Wright was born in Hartland on July 26, 1850.
  Wright would attend school in the town of his birth and at age nineteen married to Edna May Atwood in August 1875. The couple was wed until Edna's death in January 1901 and two years later remarried to her sister Florence, who he also survived. Described as a "prosperous farmer" in Hartford in his legislative biography, Wright served in several local offices prior to his legislative service, including being tax assessor,  Deputy Sheriff and had a lengthy stint as town constable, serving for twenty-five years. He would also maintain a longtime connection to the Connecticut Humane Society, being its agent in Hartland for twenty-three years. 
  Elected to the Connecticut House of Representatives from Hartford County in 1907, Nymphas Wright served in the session of 1908-10 and was a member of the committee of Constitutional Amendments. Following his term, he returned to farming in Hartland and was honored on his 63rd birthday in 1913 with a surprise party, which featured a barn dance and fireworks. He again served as a deputy sheriff in 1919 and was widowed for a second time in December 1933 with the death of his wife Florence. Wright himself died less than a month later on January 14, 1934, aged 83, and was interred at the Granby Cemetery, the same resting place as that of his wives.