Sunday, April 29, 2012

Francello George Jillson (1841-1912)

From the Representative Men and Families of Rhode Island, Volume III.

   This oddly named public servant is Francello George Jillson, a man long prominent in 19th century Rhode Island politics. Over the course of his life, Jillson served in a number of public posts, including three terms as Speaker of the Rhode Island House of Representatives and was later named a municipal judge for the city of Providence. In addition to his political and judicial activities, Jillson also distinguished himself on the battlefield during the Civil War, serving under the command of Ambrose E. Burnside.
   Francello G. Jillson was born on September 22, 1841, in Woonsocket, the son of Allen Bennett and Abby Hunt Jillson. He attended schools local to the Woonsocket area and later studied at the New London Literary an Scientific Institution.  During his studies, Jillson began a teaching career in New London, Connecticut and continued in this vocation until the outbreak of the Civil War.  Soon after the firing on Fort Sumter, Jillson enlisted as a Corporal in the First Rhode Island Detached Militia. He served in this unit until August of 1861 and in the following year was made a First Lieutenant in Company G of the newly formed Ninth Rhode Island Regiment. 
  Jillson's service in the military concluded in September 1862 and soon after returning to Woonsocket resumed his teaching career, serving schools in both Blackstone and Woonsocket. He would serve as superintendent of schools in the town of Cumberland, and in 1864 he began pursuing a career in law. Over the course of that year, he studied in law offices located in New Hampshire and in Massachusetts, including one under the tutelage of future U.S. Senator George Frisby Hoar. In February 1865 Jillson passed the bar exam and shortly thereafter became clerk of the Woonsocket Court of Magistrates. Jillson later was named as town clerk of Woonsocket, serving in this position until the mid 187os. In 1868 Jillson married Emma Potter, a Burrillville, Rhode Island resident, and one son was born to the couple, Francello Albert Jillson (1869-1896).
   While still serving as town clerk Jillson was elected to the Rhode Island State Senate, serving from 1870-1871. At the conclusion of his Senate term, he returned to his earlier law practice and in 1876 was elected to a one year term as the President of the Woonsocket Town Council. As his political career continued to rise, Jillson's name also became prominent in Woonsocket civic affairs. During the 1870s and 80s, he served as a trustee of the Harris Institute and was later secretary of the Woonsocket Hospital for a number of years.
   Francello Jillson reemerged on the Rhode Island political scene in 1880 when he was named as President of the Republican State Convention. The following year he was elected to the Rhode Island State House of Representatives, and over the course of the next few sessions would serve as its Speaker in the years 1883, 1884 and 1885. 

    Following the conclusion of his last term in the house,  Jillson returned to active involvement in the civic affairs of Woonsocket, being a founding member of the city's Water Works Company (including drafting the company charter) as well as serving on the Board of State Charities and Corrections. Long an active Mason in Woonsocket, Jillson was honored as a past grand high priest of the M.E. Grand Chapter of Rhode Island. 
   In 1910 Jillson resumed political office when he was appointed to the judgeship of the Municipal Court of Providence, holding his seat until his death on November 6, 1912. Jillson had earlier been stricken with pneumonia in October 1912 while still on the bench, and later succumbed to blood poisoning following the initial onset of pneumonia. Jillson was survived by his wife Emma and was subsequently buried in Woonsocket, although an exact cemetery name couldn't be found at the time of this writing. The portrait of Jillson shown above was featured in his obituary, originally published in the Providence Evening News on November 7, 1912. A portion of that obituary has been provided below.

                                                                       From the Providence Evening News.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Orindatus Simon Bolivar Wall (1825-1891)

    Today's profile centers on a very new political name discovery......the wonderfully named Orindatus Simon Bolivar Wall! Wall has the distinction of being the first African-American profiled here on the site, and this unjustly forgotten man forged an interesting political and military career for himself in a time when it was difficult for any black person to receive even the most basic rights, let alone hold public office. Today being the 121st anniversary of his death, Mr. Wall is honored with a profile here not only for his highly unusual name but for his political and military service during the mid 19th century. The rare engraving of him shown above was originally featured in Joseph Thomas Wilson's The Black Phalanx: A History of the Negro Soldiers of the United States, published in 1890 (a year before Wall's death) and this book can be found in its entirety on the website
  Orindatus (or "OSB", as most sources list him) was born in Richmond County, North Carolina on August 17, 1825, the son of a white plantation owner named Stephen Wall. OSB's mother was one of Stephen's slaves, whose given name was Priscilla. Orindatus's unusual first and middle names are historically based, "Datus" being a Latin deviation for the word "given" and "Simon Bolivar" having come from the famed Venezuelan military and political leader Simon Bolivar (1783-1830).
   OSB Wall was granted his freedom by his father at a young age, and in 1838 was sent by him to Harveysburg, Ohio. An excellent up on Wall's life and family, Daniel Sharfstein's The Invisible Line, notes that he was raised and educated in Harveysburg by a family of Quakers. During the 1840s Wall began learning the shoemaking trade and plied his craft in Harveysburg for several years before removing to nearby Oberlin, Ohio in the early 1850s. 
  The town of Oberlin was then regarded as a haven for the abolitionist movement, and within months of his arrival Wall had reestablished his profession as a cobbler. Also during this time, Wall became prominent in the anti-slavery movement in Oberlin and married here in October 1854 to Amanda Thomas, a free woman. Born in Virginia, Amanda was later a classmate of OSB's sister Caroline at Oberlin College. Just seventeen at the time of her marriage to Wall, their union produced eight children. Amanda Wall would forge an important career for herself following the Civil War, teaching newly freed slaves reading and writing skills, and was an advocate for women's suffrage.
   As a prominent cobbler in Oberlin, Wall was afforded an opportunity few blacks had at the time: to make a name for themselves in the realm of business and public affairs. Wall certainly accomplished this with his shoe-making business, as well as his familiarity with Oberlin abolitionists.
   While Wall's stature in Oberlin is of some note, his role as an early civil rights activist is an integral part of his overall life story. In 1858 he became a pivotal player in the Wellington-Fugitive slave rescue. In this case, a group of Oberlin citizens (including Wall) forcibly rescued John Price, a runaway slave from Kentucky who had been captured by slave catchers. After retrieving Price, Wall and the other rescuers (37 people in total) returned with him to Oberlin and within a few days Price had been spirited away to Canada, thus earning his freedom.
  Despite their heroic actions in John Price's rescue, Wall and the other rescuers were indicted for aiding him under the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. Nearly all of the rescuers (Wall included) were soon released from custody, and a daguerreotype of these heroic men was taken in front of the Cuyahoga County jail. The aforementioned portrait (originally published in the 1943 work A History of Oberlin College) has been posted below. In this rare photo, OSB Wall stands second from left and can be identified by his top hat.

   In the years following his actions in Oberlin, Wall became an attorney and during the Civil War served as a recruiter for the famed Massachusetts 54th Volunteer Infantry. In March 1865 Wall gained lasting distinction when he was commissioned as a Captain in the Union Army, one of the first African Americans to be so honored. In that same year, he was named as a Quartermaster for the newly organized Bureau of Freedman, Refugees and Abandoned Lands, located in Charleston, South Carolina.
  In the 1860s the Wall family relocated to Washington, D.C., where OSB found employment as a police magistrate. He also became active in politics around this time, and in 1872 was elected to the Washington, D.C. Territorial House of Delegates. Wall was re-elected to the legislature the following year, and it is noted in the earlier mentioned The Invisible Line that during his two terms Wall represented a district that had a white majority! A roster from the legislative sessions in which he served has been posted below.

   In addition to his terms in the legislature, Wall served in Washington as a notary public, justice of the peace and president of the Howard Hill Aid Society. He also continued with the practice of law, and was praised in an 1890 edition of the Washington Post as "one of the best known colored lawyers in the city". This same newspaper also mentions that in April of 1890 Wall suffered a paralytic stroke while engaged in work at the police court in Washington. He never fully regained his health and died at age 65 on April 26, 1891, at his home. He was subsequently buried in the Graceland Cemetery in Washington but was exhumed four years after his death and was reburied at the Arlington National Cemetery. His wife Amanda was interred alongside him following her death in 1902.

A Visit With O.S.B. Wall

  On May 8, 2o17 I was lucky enough to track down and photograph Orindatus Wall's gravesite at Arlington National Cemetery. One of over a dozen gravesites photographed during my near month-long stay in the nation's capital, other figures photographed on this day were former U.S. Representative and Commissioner of Pensions Green Berry Raum, Assistant U.S. Treasury Secretary Alvred Bayard Nettleton, and former Minnesota Governor and U.S. Senator Cushman Kellogg Davis. And now a photo of the trip!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Alvarus Eleazer Gilbert (1825-1891)

From the History of Waukesha County, 1880.

   The life of obscure Wisconsin political figure Alvarus Eleazer Gilbert is profiled today, and I'm certain that the following article will be one of the more somber ones you'll read here. Mr. Gilbert served two terms in the State Assembly during the late 1870s and was considered a figure of distinction in the county of Waukesha both before and after his election. Gilbert's life ended under peculiar circumstances in August 1891 when he committed suicide by hanging, in what was described by the Waukesha Freeman newspaper as a "fit of insanity". 
   Alvarus Eleazer Gilbert was born in the small town of Alexander, New York on August 17, 1825, one of the ten children born to Daniel and Catherine Showerman Gilbert. The Gilbert family resided in Alexander until August of 1839 when they relocated to Milwaukee. Their stay here was short-lived, and after a few weeks resettled in the town of New Berlin. The History of Waukesha County ( published in 1885), notes that the Gilbert family resided in a single room log house with the ten-member Hiram Hollister family for a short span of time, and this author is amazed that one log cabin could support twenty-two people! It should also be noted that Daniel Gilbert later erected a cabin of his own, and also had numerous acres to go along with it.
   Alvarus Gilbert attended schools local to the New Berlin area and was engaged in farming for most of his adolescence. In October 1849 he married Harriet Hollister (daughter of the aforementioned Hiram Hollister) and eventually became the father to six children: Minnie, Willis, Florence, Herbert, Ernest, and Willie. Alvarus and his family removed to Illinois in the early 1850s and following his settlement engaged in railroad work, being the head of a construction crew. During their Illinois residency, two of Gilbert's young sons (Willie and Ernest) died and in 1861 the family returned to the New Berlin-Prospect, Wisconsin area. Shortly afterward Alvarus purchased a 190-acre farm where he would reside for the remainder of his life. 
  Gilbert first became active in public office during the 1860s when he was elected as New Berlin town clerk. He would go on to serve in other local offices, including stints as town treasurer, town supervisor, and as a member of the Waukesha county board of supervisors. In 1877 he was elected to the Wisconsin State House of Representatives, representing Waukesha County in the session of 1878. In the following year, Gilbert eked out a narrow reelection victory (1476 votes to 1326) over his Democratic opponent, William E. Hennessey. A passage with those election results was featured in the 1879 Wisconsin Blue Book and has been posted in its entirety below. The Blue Book also notes that during his second legislative term, Gilbert held a seat on the committee on Incorporations.

  Gilbert returned to his farm at Prospect Hill, Wisconsin following his term and is mentioned as being involved with the "town insurance society". Little else could be found on his later years with the exception being his death--where his story takes a very melancholy turn. I was lucky enough to stumble across an archived version of the August 27, 1891 edition of the Waukesha Freeman, and this newspaper gives the only available write up on Gilbert's tragic passing. The accompanying information and snippets were located in the aforementioned newspaper.

   The fact that Alvarus Gilbert contemplated suicide was quite surprising to me when I first discovered it, but the reality that he succeeded in going through with the act is still quite a shock. As the Freeman related in its coverage of the incident, Gilbert had been in impaired health for at least a few months before his suicide and notes that he had never been confined to his home because of it. Curiously, the Waukesha Freeman gives no mention as to what his illness may have been but does note that he was "known to be in a serious condition. His family and friends were especially concerned over the deep melancholy  in which he was constantly brooding." This seems to imply that Gilbert suffered from a deep depression for at least several weeks prior to his death.

   In the above passage, we can read that Gilbert's "mind had become obviously affected, and so melancholy and dejected did he become that his family feared suicide, especially as he was wont to discuss the question of self destruction in a manner that left no doubt as to his wishes." Gilbert's disturbed state of mind worried his family to such an extent that they began keeping a "strict watch" on his behavior, but all to no avail.

   The Waukesha Freeman notes that in the early hours of August 20, 1891, Alvarus E. Gilbert dressed, took his hat and cane, and made his way to a barn located on his property. It was here that he hanged himself from a barn timber, using "a rope halter used in tying stock". His body was discovered by a family member a few hours later and a certain Dr. Ingersoll concluded that Gilbert's death was caused "by his own hand while in a state of insanity was rendered."
   One can only wonder what underlying mental illness Gilbert may have had, and one could also venture a guess that monetary or business problems could have been a contributing factor in his taking his own life. The newspaper mentions "illness" numerous times but gives no clue as to whether or not he was ill with cancer or some other malady. While the ending of his life may have been tragic, Alvarus Eleazer Gilbert should be remembered as a prominent figure in 19th century Wisconsin, and now, over one hundred and twenty years after his death, more people will know of his career in the public arena. 

Monday, April 23, 2012

Ippie Purvis Graham (1889-1962)

From the 1949 South Carolina Manual of the legislature.

   Following on the heels of the April 18th article on Fleetus Lee Gobble, today's write up highlights the life and accomplishments of another North Carolina State Representative--Ippie Purvis Graham. This interestingly named man served alongside Fleetus Gobble in the North Carolina legislature for several years, and one can wonder if these two funny named politicians ever went palling around the state capitol together. I can almost imagine someone falling over with laughter when they were introduced to representatives "Ippie" and "Fleetus"!
   All humor aside, Ippie P. Graham's curious name didn't keep him from pursuing a lengthy career in public service. His story begins on February 3, 1889, when he was born in Proctorville, North Carolina, a son of Charles William and Mary Jane Hedgpeth Graham. Graham received the unusual first name "Ippie" in honor of his uncle, a North Carolina Baptist minister named Ippie Purvis Hedgpeth, and the only available biographical source on Graham is a brief write up in the North Carolina Manual published during his service in the legislature. His birth year is variously given as either 1889 or 1890, although a good majority of the sources mentioning him give 1889 as the correct year.
  Graham received his education at the Stinson Institute and later studied at the King's Business College from 1911-1912. The majority of Graham's life was centered around farming pursuits in his native town, and he is listed by the North Carolina Manual as being the proprietor of a cotton gin. In addition to his being a farmer, the Manual mentions Graham as being a cashier at the Bank of Proctorville and also as a Sunday school superintendent for the Proctorville Baptist Church. Graham later married Ms. Athesia Powell (1895-1974), with whom he had three children, Hal, Paul, and daughter Stennett Graham McLeod (1927-2016).

                                          Ippie P. Graham, from the May 31, 1942 edition of the Robesonian.

   Ippie Graham's first candidacy for public office came during the First World War when he was elected as Mayor of Proctorville, serving from 1917-1919. Graham's obituary in the 1962 Robesonian newspaper also gives note that he served as judge of the Fairmont Recorder Court for six years, 1933-1939. In Graham's last year of service on that court, the citizens of Robeson County elected him to the first of four terms in the North Carolina State House of Representatives, and he began his first term in January 1939. His service in the legislature lasted nearly a decade (with the exception of the 1941-43 session) and during his tenure held seats on a number of committees, including the following: Agriculture; Appropriations; Banks and Banking; Congressional Districts; Counties, Cities, and Towns; Court and Judicial Districts; Drainage; Education; the Journal; Military Affairs; and Printing.

Ippie Graham receiving the Adrian B. McRae Award for Robeson County Man of the Year, 1961.

   At the conclusion of his legislative service in 1949, Graham returned to his home in Proctorville and later held a seat on the Proctorville Board of Education from 1949 until his retirement from public life in 1961. He served as the chairman of this board from 1950 until the fall of 1960. The Robesonian also notes that Graham was honored by his fellow citizens as Robeson County Man of the Year for 1961. In addition to this accolade, Graham was a longstanding member in the Masonic lodge of Proctorville.
  Ippie Purvis Graham died at a hospital in Lumberton, North Carolina on February 10, 1962, at age 73 and was later interred at the Proctorville Cemetery in Fairmont, North Carolina. The obituary below for Graham marks the second picture that I've located of the man, and I'm extremely happy to have located it (via the website!)

Graham's obituary as it appeared in the Robesonian on January 12, 1962.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Fleetus Lee Gobble (1891-1961)

This humorously named man is Fleetus Lee Gobble, a resident of Forsythe County, North Carolina who served nearly 20 years in his states House of Representatives. The North Carolina manual mentioned above is one in a large series of state books which can be located on The state manuals located on said website span from 1917 up until the mid-1970s and over 30 interestingly named political figures have been discovered in them thus far! Of these new "discoveries" the name of Fleetus Lee Gobble is by far the strangest. Mr. Gobble is also notable for being the only politician profiled here thus far who was a barber by trade.

  A lifelong North Carolinian, Fleetus Lee Gobble was born on New Years Day 1891 in Davidson County, North Carolina, a son of John H. and Frances Foster Gobble. He attended schools local to the Davidson County area and in 1911 began studying at the Atlanta Barber College. After completing his studies at that school Gobble married in 1913 to Lena Blanche Evans (1888-1975). Their near fifty-year union produced three children, Juanita (1914-1989), Fleetus Lee (1919-1986), and James Franklin (1922-1989).
   Throughout the succeeding years, Gobble put his education at the earlier mentioned Barber's College to good use, as he became prominent in his field in the Forsythe County area. The North Carolina State Archives (which houses Gobble's papers and business correspondence) gives notice that he was the owner of a chain of barbershops as well as two schools of cosmetology. Gobble held a membership in the Associated Master Barbers of America and also served as the president of the State Association of Master Barbers from 1934-1935.
  In addition to his professional and business activities, Fleetus L. Gobble attained prominence in state politics. In 1941 the citizens of Forsythe County elected him to the North Carolina State House of Representatives to the first of many terms. His service in the state legislature was almost continuous (with the exception of the 1947-49 session), and during his lengthy service Gobble held a seat on multiple house committees, including the following: Appropriations; Banks and Banking; Counties, Cities, and Towns; Enrolled Bills; Expenditures of the House; Health; Insurance; Institutions for the Blind; Manufactures and Labor; Printing; Public Welfare; and Unemployment Compensation.
   Late in his service in the legislature Gobble was appointed by North Carolina Governor (and future U.S. Attorney General) Luther Hartwell Hodges to the position of trustee for the Winston-Salem Teachers College in 1955. He served a four-year term in this post, which concluded on June 30, 1959. In addition to his profession and political service Gobble was active in the local Methodist Church, being its treasurer from 1926-28, and also served a year-long term as president of the Men's Bible Class.
  Fleetus Lee Gobble died of a heart attack in Raleigh on March 1, 1961, at age 70. He was an incumbent representative at the time of his death and was subsequently buried in the Mount Olivet United Methodist Church Cemetery in Davidson County, North Carolina. The portrait of Gobble above was discovered in a 1945 North Carolina manual, and this same picture appeared in subsequent editions of this state book as his official legislative portrait. 

Gobble's obituary as it appeared on the front page of the Rocky Mount Evening Telegram in 1961.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Chenery Puffer (1804-1877)

   A resident of Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts, Dr. Chenery Puffer was a prominent 19th-century physician in Franklin County, Massachusetts who served one term in the Massachusetts General Court. Little information could be found on this obscure man, excepting a small write-up in the Descendants of George Puffer of Braintree, Massachusetts, 1639-1915, published in 1916. All of the information on Dr. Puffer contained herein was discovered in the aforementioned work, as was the portrait of him shown above.
  Chenery Puffer was born in Sudbury, Massachusetts on December 29, 1804, the son of John and Ruth Willis Puffer. Chenery was the eighth and last child born to the couple, who were married in 1786. He attended school in the Dummerston, Vermont area and at age 21 migrated to Three Rivers, New York to begin a teaching career. He soon returned to Vermont and began studying medicine under a certain Dr. Knapp of Dummerston, and later graduated from the Harvard Medical School. 
  Puffer established his first medical practice in the town of Coleraine, Massachusetts, and resided here for some time. He married in Massachusetts in January 1834 to Lucy Alden (1810-1892). The couple were wed for over forty years and had four children: Henry Marvin (1835-1905), Samuel Willis (1837-1912), Charles Chenery (1841-1915), and Lucy Maria (died at age 4 in 1846). Of the four Puffer children, Charles Chenery Puffer can be regarded as the most notable, as he became notable in publishing, and manufacturing in South Carolina and New York.
  Dr. Chenery Puffer eventually removed from Coleraine to Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts, where he resided until his death. In the years following his removal to Shelburne Falls, it is mentioned that he enjoyed "a large and lucrative practice....achieving great distinction with his work." Puffer's inclusion on the site here rests on his service in the Massachusetts State House of Representatives, which he was elected to in 1863. He served one term in this body and during his term served on the Committee on Roads and Bridges.
                           A roster from a Manual of the General Court of Massachusetts from 1863.

    In addition to his medical practice and legislative service, Dr. Puffer was also active in civic affairs in Shelburne Falls, serving on the town school committee for a few terms. He later served as President of the Franklin County Medical Society and is also mentioned as a founding member of the local Baptist church. Dr. Chenery Puffer died at age 73 on March 6, 1877, at his home in Shelburne Falls and was subsequently buried in the Arms Cemetery in Shelburne. His wife Lucy survived him by fifteen years, dying in 1892 at age 82. As a testament to his stature in the Shelburne Falls community, the Descendants of George Puffer memorialized him as "universally respected and beloved in the community he served so faithfully."

Friday, April 13, 2012

Silenus Hulbert Fellows (1827-1905)

From the Plainfield Bicentennial, 1899.

   This obscure gentleman is Silenus Hulbert Fellows, a clergyman from Windham County, Connecticut who served one term in his state's House of Representatives. Information on Fellows' life has proven to be rather scant, but enough has been found to help me write a small biography for him.
  A New Yorker by birth, Silenus H. Fellows was born on August 11, 1827 in the town of Durham, being the son of the Rev. Linus Hulbert (1790-1881) and Lydia Eldred Fellows. Silenus was received into full communion in his father's church in 1845 at age 18 and eight years later married Sylvia Newell, also a resident of Durham. The couple later had two daughters, Ida L. and Carrie Louise Fellows, who was born in June 1858 in Durham. In the year following Carrie's birth, the Fellows family resettled in Windham County, Connecticut. 
   Within months of his relocation Fellows was ordained as a preacher in April 1859 and in December of that year became pastor of the Congregational Church in the town of Wauregan. Fellows continued to hold this pastorate until his death nearly fifty years later! 
  The name of Silenus Fellows grew to be a prominent one in both civic and religious circles in the Wauregan area. For over forty years he was a member of the Wauregan town school board and later served as the Secretary of the Windham County Conference for two decades. Political service also beckoned to Fellows and in 1878 he (along with fellow Windham County resident Reuben Weaver) were elected to the Connecticut State House of Representatives, serving in the session of 1879-80.
  After the conclusion of his legislative service Fellows continued in his pastorate and later served as the director of the Missionary Society of Connecticut for fifteen years. He died at the home of his grandson in McKeesport, Pennsylvania on April 20, 1,905 at age 78 and was subsequently buried in the Westfield Cemetery in Windham County, Connecticut. The Advance, a prominent religious newsletter in the early 1900s, remembered Fellows as "the Apostle John of Eastern Connecticut" and lamented that "a father in Israel has fallen asleep.The portrait of Fellows shown above (and very likely the only one to be found online) was discovered in the Plainfield Bicentennial, a souvenir history of the town Plainfield, Connecticut published in 1899. 
   I also must mention the origins of Fellow's odd first name, Silenus. It is presumed that he was named in honor of the Greek mythological figure Silenus, a friend and tutor of Dionysius, the god of wine. Strangely (especially when one considers Fellows being a man of the cloth) many sources mention Silenus as "a notorious consumer of wine, he was usually drunk and often had to be supported by satyrs or carried by a donkey." Silenus is also reported to have "special knowledge and power of prophecy" when highly intoxicated. One can only wonder why exactly Linus Fellows chose to name his son in honor of this interesting mythological figure!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Mazzini Slusser (1853-1926)

   In keeping with the recent theme of oddly named Illinois judges, today's profile centers on Mazzini Slusser, yet another Ohio resident who became a prominent judicial figure in Illinois! Of the three judges profiled within the past few days, Mr. Slusser is arguably the most obscure, with only a few sources mentioning him at any great length. Born in Williams County, Ohio on October 3, 1853 (year also variously given as 1852 or 1854), Mazzini Slusser was the son of Jonas Peter and Mary Prettyman Slusser. It is unknown why Slusser was given the unusual first name of "Mazzini", but he was most likely named in honor of Italian activist, politician and journalist Giuseppe Mazzini (1805-1872), one of the most prominent advocates for Italian unification during the 19th century.
    Slusser married in 1875 to Ms. Ina May Schaffer (a Williams County native) and five children were eventually born to the couple: Carl (born 1880), Thomas Harry (born 1882) Jean Paul (born 1887), Horace Greeley (born 1889) and Herbert R. (date of birth uncertain). Shortly after his marriage, Slusser began law studies at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and graduated with his degree in 1876. He would return to his home in Ohio to establish his practice and in 1885 was elected as Fulton County Prosecuting attorney. 
   Mazzini Slusser's time as prosecuting attorney extended two terms, resigning in 1891. The Slusser family left Ohio during the early 1890s and established roots in Du Page County, Illinois. Within a few years of his resettlement, Slusser was named to the position of prosecuting attorney for Du Page County, serving in this position until 1904. Three years after the conclusion of his term as prosecuting attorney Slusser was appointed to a vacancy on the Illinois Circuit Court's 16th district, the vacancy being occasioned by the death of Judge Linus C. Ruth a few days previously. Slusser's tenure on the Illinois Circuit court extended three terms, the last of which concluded in 1921. The following year Slusser was an unsuccessful candidate for a seat on the Illinois State Supreme Court.
   Little else is could be found in relation to the rest of Slusser's life, although it is known that he died in Eureka Springs, Arkansas in January 1926 at age 73, "having been in failing health for over a year". His remains were later returned to Illinois for burial in Downer's Grove, an exact cemetery name being unknown at this time.

Slusser's obituary from the Illinois True Republican, January 30, 1926.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Colostin DeKalb Myers (1847-1920)

   This mustachioed man is Colostin DeKalb Myers, an Ohio native who gained prominence as a Circuit Court judge for Illinois' 11th judicial district. I first discovered Myers's unusual name in a 1915 Illinois Blue Book two years ago and since that time have been searching for a portrait of him. Fortune has smiled upon me once again, as a picture of Judge Myers has been found, courtesy of a McLean County Historical Society bulletin that was originally published in 1899. 
  Colostin D. Myers received a brief mention in yesterday's profile on Sain Welty (1853-1920), another Illinois lawmaker whom Myers appointed to the position of Master of Chancery for McLean County, Illinois. It's interesting to note that both of these oddly named judicial figures were born in the same state (Ohio) within a few years of one another and both ended up settling in the same city (Bloomington, Illinois) years later. In an even more amazing connection, both men went on to serve as judges in the same district and both died within a few months of one another in the early part of 1920. 
   Colostin D. Myers was born in Racine, Meigs County, Ohio on May 7, 1847, the son of Benjamin and Serena Elliott Myers. At age four Myers suffered the death of his father and following his death, Serena Myers remarried to William Swearingen. Colostin Myers removed with his family to Palatine, Virginia at a young age and during his youth worked the family farm and also at a local tannery
  At age 16 Myers left home and removed back to Ohio, and after a brief residence at his old home at Racine, continued travel to Pomeroy, then the county seat of Meigs County. In early 1864 he took work as a clerk in a local dry goods store, and two months later enlisted in the Union Army. Myers took rank as a private in Co. K., 140th Reg. of the Ohio National Guard, and served with that regiment for three months. He subsequently re-enlisted in Co. B.,  32nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry and continued with that regiment until the conclusion of the Civil War. 
  After returning to his mother's home in Virginia, Myers worked on the family farm while also pursuing his education at the National Normal University in Lebanon, Ohio. His stay at the latter institution was intermittent, as he would leave Ohio to teach school in West Virginia for an unspecified amount of time. Myers returned to his home state of Ohio in 1869 and reentered the National Normal University, graduating from there in 1872. That same year he began pursuing a law degree at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. He married in Michigan in 1872 to Dora Yager (1851-1941) and graduated with his law degree in 1874 after nearly two years of study.

From the Historical Sketch of the Illinois Wesleyan University, 1895.

   Colostin D. Myers and his wife removed to Bloomington, Illinois in 1874, where he was admitted to the bar in June of that year. He established a law partnership with local lawyer Albert Bushnell in 1874, which continued until the latter's removal to Kansas City. In 1879 Myers established another practice with Isaac Stroud, which lasted until ill health compelled Stroud's retirement in 1881. Beginning in 1880 Myers entered into a position at Illinois Wesleyan University, being a professor on contract law well into the 1890s.
   In 1886 Colostin Myers was elected to the first of three terms as McLean County judge, the last of which concluded in 1897. In the last-named year, he was elected to the Illinois Circuit Court (11th circuit) and served in this position until his retirement in June of 1915. In addition to his circuit court service, Myers was named to the Illinois Appellate Court's 4th district in 1903 and served a six-year term.
  Shortly after retiring from the bench, Myers was called to public service once more when he named by Illinois Governor Edward Fitzsimmons Dunn to the McLean County Examining Board at the beginning of America's involvement in WWI. He served on this board until the war's conclusion and died on January 12, 1920, at age 72. Myers was survived by his wife Dora by over 20 years and both are buried in the Evergreen Memorial Cemetery in Bloomington. Myers was subsequently memorialized by the Illinois state bar as having been "gentle and kind and lovable. He was patient almost beyond measure." Further character assessments were given by his fellow bar members, who noted:
"Retiring, not given to parade or ostentation, he lived a simple, quiet, life. He kept himself aloof from business or social enterprises which he though might in any way tend to affect his judicial duties."

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Sain Welty (1853-1920)

From the Notable Men of the West, 1902.

    After a few weeks of profiling oddly named politicians local to my home county of Chautauqua, today's profile takes us to Bloomington, Illinois and one of that city's more humorously named residents, Sain Welty! This wonderfully named man served as a Judge for the 11th District of the Illinois Circuit Court during the mid-1910s and was also a noted attorney in the Bloomington area for many decades. Over the course of research on the life of Judge Welty, I was quite surprised by the amount of online resources mentioning him and his career on the bench, especially when one considers the overall obscurity of the man! 
   A native son of the Buckeye State, Sain Welty was born near Somerset, Ohio on January 19, 1853, a son of Emanuel and Sarah Ann Welty. The Welty family removed to Marshall County, Illinois when their son was quite young, and Sain Welty is recorded as engaging in farming pursuits during his youth. The 1916 work Courts and Lawyers of Illinois also lists Welty as "attending and teaching country schools" during this time. He married in 1879 to Ms. Gertrude Ball (1859-1934), a Marshall County native. The couple would remain childless for the entirety of their four-decade-long marriage. 
   In 1881 Welty graduated from the Illinois Wesleyan University and two years later received his law degree from the prestigious Yale Law School. During his tenure at the latter institution, Sain Welty received the Jewell Prize (named after former Postmaster General Marshall Jewell) for having the "highest marks in his annual examinations". During the latter part of his life, Welty served as a trustee of his old Alma mater (Illinois Wesleyan University) for over two decades.
   Shortly after returning to Bloomington, Welty established a law firm with another local attorney, John Allen Sterling (1857-1918). Sterling later went on to serve as a U.S. Representative from Illinois from 1903-1913 and their law practice continued on until Welty's elevation to the bench in 1915. The Courts and Lawyers of Illinois give note that in regards to the earlier mentioned law firm, Welty's name "stood high in legal circles." In addition to this law practice, Sain Welty was named to the post of City Attorney for Bloomington in 1889 and served two terms in that post. In 1897 Illinois Circuit Court judge Colostin DeKalb Myers appointed Welty as a Master in Chancery of the McLean County, Illinois circuit court, where he would serve until 1901. In 1908 Welty served as a Republican Presidential Elector for Illinois.

From the Atlanta, Illinois Argus, June 14, 1915.

    Several years following his service as a Presidential Elector, Welty won election to the Illinois Circuit Court's 11th district, taking his seat in June of 1915. His service on the bench was cut short by his death (as a result of an attack of angina) on April 14, 1920 at age 67. He was subsequently buried in the Park Hill Cemetery and Mausoleum in Bloomington, Illinois. In the years preceding his death, Judge Welty was praised as a "man of unostentation but sincerity of bearing, and the high esteem in which he is held by bench, bar and the public is generally most deserving." The portrait of him shown above was discovered in the book Notable Men of the West, originally published in 1902.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Woodley Williamson Chandler (1800-1854)

   After a brief break,  I return with another oddly named Chautauqua County resident/politician, Mr. Woodley Williamson Chandler. A Virginian by birth, Chandler died in Levant (located just outside of Falconer) 158 years ago today on April 2, 1854. He is honored by me on the anniversary of his death by being the newest addition to the blog! Although his political achievements are comparatively minor to some of the other individuals posted here, Chandler was nevertheless a prominent citizen of our county for many years.
   Woodley W. Chandler was born in Amelia County, Virginia on February 14, 1800, and during his adolescence resided in a number of different states, including Tennessee, Louisiana and Ohio. He resettled in Chautauqua County in 1823 and soon after arriving struck up a friendship with Elial Todd Foote (1791-1877), a prominent Jamestown resident, politician, and judge. Being the well known Chautauquan that he was, Foote soon helped Chandler find employment in the county, and within a short time Chandler had purchased land (once owned by Judge Foote) and established a "carding and cloth dressing" business. 
   In 1824 Woodley Chandler married Ms. Phebe Winsor and the couple eventually had six children, who are listed as follows: Martin (who later became a Sheriff in Minnesota), Nancy, Phebe, Winsor, John, and Williamson.
   In addition to his connections with local cloth manufacturing, Chandler is also listed as being instrumental in the surveying of streets and village lot designs in the eastern part of Jamestown. During his short life, Chandler was named to local public offices, serving at various times as the Town Supervisor of Poland (1843-1844) and Justice of the Peace. He is also mentioned as an early trustee for the Jamestown Academy. His obituary (featured in the Jamestown Evening Journal in 1854) mentions that Chandler filled these offices "with a conscientious fidelity, and to the satisfaction of the people."
   Woodley Chandler' s main inclusion here rests on his candidacy for the New York State Assembly in 1842. In that year, Chandler (along with fellow Chautauqua residents Elijah Miller and Erastus Holt) faced off against Adolphus Freeman Morrison (who was profiled a few days ago), Odin Benedict, and Emory Force Warren. As you can read for yourself in the snippet below, Chandler, Miller, and Holt ended up on the losing end of the campaign! This blurb on the election appeared in the 1845 work Sketches of the History of Chautauque County, and one should also note that the book was authored by one of the men who defeated Chandler, Emory Force Warren!!

   In the years preceding his legislative defeat, Chandler resettled in the Levant area outside of Falconer, where he eventually built a farm. During his residence here he had a hand in the building of the Levant schoolhouse, as well as the Levant Cemetery, which is located nearby. Woodley Williamson Chandler died at age 54 on April 2, 1854, and was buried in the aforementioned Levant Cemetery. A few days ago I made a trip to his resting place in order to seek out his gravestone. Here are some photos from the trip!

   The Chandler family stone is remarkably well preserved for being nearly 160 years old and contains the names of both Woodley, his wife Phebe, and all of their children. I also must venture a comment on the picture of Woodley located at the top of his article here. This portrait was discovered in Andrew Young's 1875 History of Chautauqua County and is very likely the only picture of him you will ever seeI was absolutely flabbergasted to find that a portrait of this man existed, and I wish I could say the same in regards to two other oddly named "faceless" local politicians (Adolphus F. Morrison and Waterman Ellsworth.)

 Woodley's wife Phebe survived him by a number of years, dying on April 4, 1876, at age 69. Two of the Chandler children also died young like their father. Phebe (the fourth eldest child) died at age 40 in 1865 and Winsor ( the fifth eldest child) died on April 4, 1863, at age 31. Dates of death for the remaining Chandler offspring could not be found.

 All of the children's names are on the side of the stone facing the road. If one decides to drive through the Levant area, one only need glance up the hill of the Levant Cemetery to see the Chandler monument, which is quite conspicuous by its sheer size!

  Woodley and Phebe are actually buried under these two stones, marked "Mother and Father". These stones haven't fared so well in regards to the years of wear. There are also two other stones embedded in the ground in the left of the above picture, one of which is marked "Chandler". No clue is given as to whom rests underneath these stones, but my guess is it may be one of the Chandler children.
 So there you have it (I never get tired of saying that!) Even more obscure Chautauqua history you may not have known about!