Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Oswin Hart Doolittle Fowler (1857-1939)

From the "Souvenir History of Wallingford, Connecticut:, 1895.

   Recorded by the "Souvenir History of Wallingford, Connecticut" as being one of the youngest practicing lawyers in that city's history, Oswin Hart Doolittle Fowler would go on to further distinction in the mid 1900s when he was elected to serve as judge of the Borough Court of Wallingford, holding that office for several years. Although his reputation was largely confined to New Haven County, Connecticut, it his service as a judge (as well as his unique name) that earns him a place here. 
    Born in North Haven, Connecticut on January 17, 1857, O.H.D. Fowler (as most sources list him) was the son of Henry Baldwin and Lucy Eloise Doolittle Fowler. A family with it's roots in Connecticut extending back to the mid 17th century, the Fowler family could count among its relations one Sir Richard Fowler de Foxley, a crusader Knight who accompanied Richard Coeur de Lion (the future Richard I of England) into battle in the Holy Lands. O.H.D. Fowler's unusual name can be traced back to his maternal uncle Oswin Hart Doolittle (1818-1851), a resident of New Haven County who represented that area in the Connecticut state legislature for three terms in the late 1840s before dying of "lung fever" at the age of 32.
   A student in the local schools of Wallingford, O.H.D. Fowler would attend high school in New Haven and later studied at the Hopkins Grammar School, completing his studies there in 1875. Shortly thereafter he entered Yale University and during the 1878-79  year also taught school in Wallingford. In 1879 he began to study law at the Yale Law School and graduated in the class of 1881. He was shortly thereafter admitted to the state bar of Connecticut and removed to Wallingford in September 1881 to open a law practice. Three years following his removal there he married to Carrie B. Parmelee (1860-1938) and later had three daughters, Mabel E. (birth-date unknown),  Ethel (1888-1953) and Helen (birth-date unknown).
  Over the course of the next twenty years, Fowler's law practice continued to grow "steadily in  volume and importance" and he would gain a reputation as being "numbered among the ablest representatives of the bar in this section of the state." In 1888 he would purchase a palatial home in Wallingford (shown below) and through various renovations built it into one of the city's most "attractive residences".  

                              The Fowler home in Wallingford, from the "Souvenir History of Wallingford."

   Fowler experienced his first taste of political life when he served a two-year term as judge of probate for the Wallingford district, holding that post from 1893-95. Several years later he would win election as Prosecuting Attorney for Wallingford's borough court and occupied that post for the remainder of the decade. During his term, Fowler was a prominent booster for the establishment of a municipal electric light plant in the city and took on the task of authorizing and compiling the resolutions necessary for its construction. 
   In April 1911 Fowler's public profile continued to rise when he was named as Judge of the Borough Court of Wallingford. He would be reappointed to the bench in 1917 and would also serve Wallingford as town counsel, counsel for the town's First National Bank, and was counsel for several businesses in Wallingford. Fowler also maintained affiliation with the St. Paul's Episcopal Church, the New Haven County Bar Association and the Wallingford Club. The Yale Obituary record of 1938-39 also notes that Fowler served in the Connecticut state legislature. Despite this brief mention, I could find no other source that records his service in that body or however long he may have served. 
   Fowler left the office of borough court judge in 1925 but continued to serve as town counsel until 1931. In 1920 he served on the celebration executive committee for Wallingford's tercentenary and pulled double duty as chairman of the reception's committee. Widowed in February 1938, Judge Fowler died just over a year later on March 3, 1939 at age 81, his cause of death being attributed to "arteriosclerosis". He was later interred alongside his wife Carrie at the In Memoriam Cemetery in Wallingford.

O.H.D. Fowler at the 250th anniversary of the founding of Wallingford, 1920.

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