Saturday, September 26, 2015

Quida John Chott (1863-1932)

Portrait from the "Public Officials of Chicago, 1895-1896".

   We continue our stay in Illinois for the following biography of Quida John Chott, a lawyer and two-term state representative from Cook County. The origins behind Chott's exotic-sounding first name are unknown at the time of this writing, and other than a brief obituary published in the Chicago Tribune in 1932, few details could be located on him. 
   A son of John F. and Rosalie Dirschmidt Chott, Quida J. Chott was born (depending on the source) in either New York City or Chicago on February 1, 1863. His family resided in Chicago when he was a child, and he attended the public and high schools in that city. Referred to in most period sources by his initials "Q.J.", Chott married in Cook County on December 29, 1888, to Alberta "Bertha" Baumayer, with whom he would have one daughter, Winifred Chott Pretzie (died 1961).
   In the same year as his marriage, the 25-year-old Chott was elected as one of Cook County's representatives to the Illinois General Assembly. Taking his seat at the start of the 1889-90 term, Chott was reelected to that body for the 1891-92 term and during that session was named to the committees on the Judiciary; Corporations; Building, Loan and Homesteading Associations; Printing; and the World's Columbian Exposition.
   Following his terms in the legislature, Chott continued his rise through the ranks of Illinois politics, serving in the administration of Chicago Mayor Hempstead Washburne as the Chief Clerk of the Law Department. Admitted to the state bar in 1889, Chott was named as a Justice of the Peace in June 1895 and in that same year was selected by then-Mayor George Swift as a Police Magistrate for the city of Chicago. Chott served as a police judge for twelve years and was lauded as "an official of acknowledged efficiency" during his time on the bench.
   After leaving the position of police magistrate in the late 1900s Chott practiced law in Chicago and also remained active in Republican Party doings within Chicago, serving as the Secretary of the Republican City Central Committee. Chott was also affiliated with a number of fraternal groups within the city, including memberships in the Veteran Union League, the Bohemian Turners, and for a time held the Presidency of the Bohemian Republican League.
   In 1917 Q.J. Chott was appointed as assistant state's attorney for Cook County, an office that he would fill for fifteen years. His tenure in that office saw him become acknowledged as "the habeas corpus expert in the state's attorney force", and was still serving in that post when he died at age 69 on May 10, 1932, at the Michael Reese Hospital in Chicago. Chott was survived by his wife Alberta and daughter Winifred, with his burial taking place at the Bohemian National Cemetery in Chicago.

Chott's obituary from the May 11, 1932 edition of the Chicago Tribune.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Pence Billings Orr (1883-1947)

Portrait from the 1928 History of Will County, Vol. I.

   The life of longtime Joliet, Illinois attorney Pence Billings Orr is highlighted today, and in addition to practicing law, Mr. Orr made a name for himself in public service, being a high-ranking figure in the Illinois chapter of the American Legion, an assistant attorney general of Illinois, and a two-time candidate for the Illinois State Senate in 1914 and 1922.
   A resident of Indiana for the first two decades of his life, Pence Billings Orr was born in Bartholomew County in that state on March 9, 1883. The son of local Judge John C. and Rose Billings Orr, Pence B. Orr graduated from the Columbus, Indiana High School in the class of 1901. Shortly afterward he began the study of law at the University of Indianapolis, earning his law degree in 1905. Admitted to the bar in May 1905, Orr soon removed to Joliet, Illinois, where he spent several months of further study in the law office of Judge George L. Cowing. Orr later established his own law practice in Joliet which he operated until enlisting for service in the First World War. He underwent training at Camp Gordon in Georgia and upon completion joined Company D., 2nd U.S. Infantry. During his service, Orr attained the rank of sergeant and was honorably discharged in January 1919Within a few weeks of his leaving the Army Pence Orr married to Edith V. Johnson (1896-1996), with whom he would have one daughter, Emilia Rose. 
   Following his marriage, Orr returned to practicing law in Joliet and during the early 1920s served as assistant attorney general of Illinois under Edward Brundage (the state attorney general from 1917-25.) Before serving in the attorney general's office, Orr had made his first step towards elective office, becoming a candidate for the Illinois State Senate in 1914. Running on the Progressive Party platform, Pence Orr was one of four candidates from the 41st district, and on election day polled a respectable 7,069 votes, placing second to Republican nominee Richard L. Barr's total of 9, 569.

Pence Billings Orr, from the March 5, 1930 Farmer's Weekly.

   Eight years after his unsuccessful bid for the state assembly Pence Orr made another run for the state senate, running in the April 1922 primary. Orr's opponent in that year's primary was incumbent senator Richard J. Barr, the same man who had defeated him several years earlier. On election day (April 11, 1922) it was Richard Barr who again emerged the victor, besting Orr by over 5,000 votes. Barr would go on to serve a total of 48 years in the Illinois legislature, retiring in 1950 at age 85.
   Following this second defeat Orr returned to practicing law and for a time served as an assistant commissioner on the Illinois Commerce Commission. A longstanding member of the Knights of Pythias fraternal organization, Orr served a one-year term as Grand Chancellor of the Knights of Pythias of Illinois from 1924-25. He maintained memberships in several other fraternal groups, including the Joliet Commandery of the Knights Templar, No.4., the Loyal Order of Moose, the Modern Woodmen of America, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, and the Joliet Chapter of Royal Arch Masons.
   In early 1934 Pence B. Orr reemerged on the political stage when he announced that he'd be seeking the Republican nomination for Judge of Will County, Illinois. His record as a lawyer was highlighted in a campaign advertisement in the March 28 1934 Farmer's Weekly, which touted Orr as having "never held public office" whilst also noting that he had:
"A keen perception of human nature. He understands Children and has made an intensive study of the Delinquent Child Problem, which is the major problem of the County Court. He is HONEST, FAIR, PROGRESSIVE and HUMANE."
An Orr campaign notice from the March 28, 1934 Farmer's Weekly.

   Little could be found on the outcome of the 1934 election in regard to Orr's candidacy. What is known is that Orr was unsuccessful in his bid, victory instead going to Democratic nominee George N. Blatt Sr., who took office as Judge in 1935. 
   The remainder of Pence B. Orr's life saw him continue with his Joliet-based law practice, as well as activity in the American Legion. As a veteran of WWI, Orr had attended the "organizing caucus" of the American Legion in 1919 and from 1919-20 served as a member of the American Legion of Illinois' executive committee. He was a charter member of the American Legion's Harwood Post #5 and was named as its commander in 1923. After many years of prominence in Joliet, Pence Billings Orr died at age 64 on September 3, 1947. He was shortly thereafter interred at the Elmhurst Cemetery in Joliet and was survived by his wife Edith, who died on August 19, 1996, just eleven days shy of her 100th birthday.

Pence Orr's death notice from the Sept. 5, 1947 Chicago Tribune.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Achalis Morris Legg (1861-1934)

Portrait from the Banking Law Journal, Volume 34 (1917).

  A prominent Pontiac, Illinois businessman during the early 20th century, Achalis Morris Legg's biography here will be a short one, as details on his life remain difficult to come by. The founder of a successful shoe manufacturing company in Pontiac, Legg's inclusion here on the site rests on his service as the Mayor of that city, being elected to that office in April 1901. 
  The son of Virginia natives Jesse and Catherine Legg, Achalis Morris Legg was born in Pontiac on December 12, 1861. Listed in most sources by the initials "A.M.", Legg's early life centered upon "a plethora of arduous work on the home farm", and would attend the district schools. When just thirteen years old he began work at the Pontiac-based drug store of Caldwell and McGregor, and after a short period left that business to take employment with the Lyon Shoe Store.
  Venturing into work at a shoe store proved to have a lasting effect on Achalis Legg's life, as he remained at the Lyon Store for many years, during which he "learned with thoroughness all the details of the business." Store owner D.M. Lyon eventually made Legg a partner in the business, and after several years as a partner Legg left the Lyon store to begin work as a traveling salesman in the employ of the Pontiac Shoe Company, which, as it so happened, was owned by Achalis' older brother, Clark Edgar Legg (1855-1919).
  Achalis Legg would purchase a financial interest in his brother's company and continued to be affiliated with it until 1903 when he became the primary organizer of the A.M. Legg Shoe Company, of which he would serve as treasurer. Achalis' son Clark Lawrence served as company president and another son, Howard W., was vice president. Through the succeeding years, Achalis Legg firmly imprinted his name in Pontiac's business sector, his contributions being highlighted in Volume V of the History of Illinois and Her People, which notes:
"Achalis M. Legg has gained standing and high reputation as a reliable, resourceful and progressive businessman, and is also a loyal and public spirited citizen of the county that has represented his home from his boyhood to the present."
  Prominent in other aspects of Pontiac public life, Achalis Legg became a member of the board of directors of the Pontiac State Bank in 1899. Around this same time, he took on the vice-presidency of the Pontiac Light and Water Co. and for a time was a member of the board of directors of the Bloomington, Pontiac, and Joliet Electric Railway Co. In early 1901 Legg was elected as the Mayor of Pontiac, Illinois, then a city with a population of over 4,200. Little could be found on Legg's tenure as mayor, except that he served for one term, April 20, 1901, to April 25, 1903.
   The remainder of Achalis Legg's life is equally obscure as that of his term as mayor. Around 1917 he is recorded as serving as President of the Pontiac Chamber of Commerce, whilst also holding the post of trustee for Illinois Wesleyan University, his term expiring in 1919. In that same year, Legg saw his son Howard elected as Pontiac's mayor, where he served for two terms, 1919-1923. Little else is known of Achalis Legg's life after this point, except that he died sometime in 1934 and was interred in a mausoleum at the South Side Cemetery in Pontiac.

Legg in old age, from the Pontiac Daily Leader, Sept. 8, 1972.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Loziene Julius Lee (1907-1999)

Loziene Julius Lee, from the 1968-69 Minnesota Legislative Manual.

    A six-term member of the Minnesota State House of Representatives, Loziene Julius "L.J." Lee was for over fifty years a prominent political and community leader in Clearwater County, Minnesota, being a telephone company executive and member of the University of Minnesota Board of Regents in addition to his legislative service.
   The son of Christian Ole and Minnesota Billings Lee, Loziene Julius Lee was born on March 18, 1907, in Glenwood, Minnesota. The origins behind his unusual first name are unknown, and judging by the number of documents that record Lee by the initials "L.J.", one can wonder if Lee had difficulty explaining what those initials stood for! The owner of a Glenwood based meat market, Christian Ole Lee moved with his family to Gonvick, Minnesota in 1914 and young L.J. Lee would attend school in the neighboring town of Berner.
   In addition to working on the family farm in the 1920s, Lee traveled widely during his youth, working in North and South Dakota, Wisconsin, and Michigan. After a short stint working at the Packard Motor Co. of Detroit, L.J. Lee joined his brother Ralph in the latter's steam shovel operation, where he worked as a fireman. For many years afterward, Lee continued in this line of work, operating heavy equipment throughout the United States. On June 3, 1934, Lee married in Clearbrook, Minnesota to Ferol Anderson (1907-1998), with whom he had two children, Catherine and John.
  Following his marriage, L.J. continued work as a heavy equipment operator, and from 1940-45 was stationed in Greenland, helping to build an American Air Force base. For a time Lee was also employed in Great Britain, where he installed "heavy equipment in coal mines." After returning to Minnesota Lee became affiliated with the International Union of Operating Engineers (Local 39) and in 1948 was elected as that union's representative. He would serve in that capacity until his retirement in 1968, and for a time was connected with the Minnesota Federation of Labor, being the 9th Congressional District vice president for that group.
   A prominent figure in the early years of the Democratic Farmer-Labor Party in Minnesota, L.J. Lee was the first chairman of the Clearwater County DFL. In 1952 he was chosen chairman of that party's convention that met in St. Paul and in that same year was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention held in Chicago. Lee continued his rise in local politics in 1958 when he was elected as a Clearwater County commissioner and in June 1960 announced his candidacy for the Minnesota State House of Representatives from the 65th district.
  Lee's candidacy was profiled in the June 30, 1960 edition of the Thief River Falls Times, which notes that:
" In his filing statement Lee said that he feels that his experience gained on the village council and the county  board, he could ably represent the people of thr 65th district. He finished with the statement that he would make every effort to continue the voting record of Walter Day (the 65th district's representative for nearly 40 years.)
  In the September 1960 primary Lee and fellow 65th district candidate Ben Wichterman (1923-1966) were victorious, and in the general election that November both were elected to the legislature, with Lee himself polling 5.872 votes.

                                          A Lee campaign notice from the Nov. 3, 1960 Thief River Falls Times.

   Taking his seat in January 1961, Lee served on five house committees during his first term, those being Agriculture; Drainage and Soil Conservation; Forestry and Public Domain; Motor Vehicles and Apportionment. A successful candidate for reelection in 1963, Lee would serve four more terms in the house between 1965 and 1972, serving on several different committees during those terms, including Appropriations; Dairy Products and Livestock; Game and Fish; Insurance; the Judiciary; Law Enforcement and Juvenile Delinquency; Local Government; National Resources and Regulated Industries. In addition to serving on the above-mentioned committees, Lee was selected as assistant house minority leader, holding that post during the 1969-70 and 1971-72 house sessions.
   After serving twelve years in the legislature L.J. Lee announced he wouldn't be seeking a seventh term, his last day in office occurring on January 1, 1973. During his last year in the legislature, Lee was selected by then-Governor Wendell Anderson to fill a vacancy on the University of Minnesota's Board of Regents. Lee was later elected to a term of his own on that Board, his term extending from 1972-79. 

Loziene Julius Lee, from the 1976 Trojan Yearbook.

    Active in local business both during and after his legislative service,  L.J. Lee was elected as a member of the Garden Valley Telephone Company Board of Directors in 1970. Five years later he became the president/chairman of that board, continuing in that office until his retirement in 1992. In the early 1980s, Lee returned to political life when he began service as Mayor of the city of Bagley, having been a resident there since 1939.  
  After many years of prominence at both the local and state level, Loziene Julius Lee died of heart failure on May 9, 1999, at the Clearwater County Memorial Hospital in Bagley. He had celebrated his 92nd birthday a few weeks previously and had survived Ferol (his wife of sixty-five years) by less than a year. Both Loziene and Ferol were interred at the Bagley Cemetery following their deaths.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Ruluff White Hollembeak (1851-1911)

Photograph courtesy of

   From Ohio and Capell Lane Weems, we journey west to Iowa and Mr. Ruluff White Hollembeak, a two-term representative from Adair County to the Iowa General Assembly. While he may have been prominent in Iowa at the turn of the 19th century, only a tiny amount of information could be found on his life to post here. Hollembeak's name is also on a short list of strangely named political figures who died in odd circumstances, as he was struck and killed by a train in 1911 while driving across the tracks at Casey, Iowa. 
    Born near Genoa, Illinois on June 14, 1851, Ruluff White Hollembeak was the son of Aramont Noble (1816-1908) and Parmella Hollembeak, natives of New York and Pennsylvania who had migrated to DeKalb County, Illinois in the late 1830s. A two term town supervisor of Genoa, Illinois, Aramont N. Hollembeak bestowed the names "Ruluff White" upon his fifth born child,  being in honor of his father, Ruloff White Hollembeak, a native of Vermont who died in Pennsylvania in 1829. One should note that there are two different spellings of Hollembeak's first name, being given as both "Ruloff" and "Ruluff" (the latter being listed in his Iowa legislative biography, as well as his gravestone.) 
   Little is known of Hollembeak's early years in Illinois. He married in Genoa on December 16,  1874 to Emma Brown (1851-1915), with whom he would have two sons, Ralph Harry (1877-1901) and Roy Burr (1882-1946). Around 1876 Hollembeak and his wife removed from Illinois to Iowa, eventually settling in Walnut township in Adair County. For a good majority of his life he worked at farming and is recorded by the 1915 History of Adair County as having owned "a large herd of Hereford cattle at one time."
   Ruluff Hollembeak first entered political life in 1903, when he became a Republican candidate for the Iowa State House of Representatives. On election day that year, he notched up a victory over his Democratic opponent J.G. Powers, 2,011 votes to 1, 148. Taking his seat at the start of the 1904-06 term, Hollembeak proved to be busy as a first-term legislator, serving on the house committees on Agriculture; Appropriations; County and Township organization; Insurance; Normal Schools; Public Libraries, and Representative districts. He also chaired the committee on Horticulture during this session.
   Following his second term Hollembeak was defeated for reelection by Edwin J. Sidey. In 1908 Hollembeak served as part of the Adair County delegation to the Iowa State Republican Convention. In 1901 Hollembeak suffered the loss of his eldest son Ralph, who died aged 24. On February 27, 1911, he himself died in tragic circumstances when he was struck and killed by a "Rock Island train" whilst crossing the tracks at Casey, Iowa. Hollembeak is recorded as "driving" (presumably a horse and buggy) at the time of the accident and was killed instantly. A small write-up on the accident appeared in the Marshalltown Evening Times-Republican and is posted below.
  Remembered as a man "of genial and sunny disposition", Hollembeak was memorialized in his Casey Vindicator obituary as having:
"Touched the life of this community at almost every point of possible human contact, and his touch was indisputably a clean, wholesome, refining and uplifting one."
 Following his death Ruluff Hollembeak was interred at the Oakwood Cemetery in Casey, Iowa. This  cemetery is also the resting place of his wife Emma (who died in 1915), as well as his son Ralph Harry.

From the Marshalltown Evening Times-Republican, February 27, 1911.

***An Addendum: November 28, 2017***

   On occasion I've been forced to put a small "disclaimer" (a fairly apt term considering the following passages) below some of my articles when I discover that months (and sometimes years) after I've completed them, some enterprising individual has copied/pasted a good majority of my research and writing and has passed it off as their own work. The above write-up on Mr. Hollombeak has unfortunately turned into one of those. When I first began compiling his article in September 2015 the Iowa Legislative database (where the above picture was located) had but a scanty bio on him amounting to just a few lines, taken from the 1906-07 Iowa Red Book. Within a year or two of my publishing the article on Hollombeak here, someone at the aforementioned database lifted nearly word for word my write-up (containing information on Hollombeak's parents, his birth in Illinois, and his 1915 death in a train accident).
  What pains me more than not being credited as the writer of what was copied, is the fact that someone who actually works at a state-run government website specializing in history would take it upon themselves to copy someone else's research and not give proper attribution to where the material was found. As you can see with the links in the above article (highlighted in red), I used as one of my sources a scanned copy of the "Casey Vindicator", a newspaper scanned and uploaded to the Iowa Legislative website, and provided several links back to the material that I used for my research. I also credited the same website as the source of the picture of Hollombeak featured in my article. Sadly, whoever pilfered my writings here deemed the prospect of sourcing my site as reference material inconsequential, and not only is that sad, it's a shoddy and lazy way of doing research!! For comparison's sake, I urge you to a peek at the following link to see what was copied.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Capell Lane Weems (1860-1913)

Portrait courtesy of the Public Library of Steubenville and Jefferson County.

   Multi-term Ohio Congressman Capell Lane Weems takes center stage in the following article, and despite his representing Ohio in the United States Congress for three terms his name is all but forgotten today. While the Bioguide of the U.S. Congress (as well as Wikipedia) offer up two relatively brief biographies of Mr. Weems, the following lines aim to shed a bit more light on the life and public service of this once prominent Ohioan.
   A lifelong native of the Buckeye State, Capell Lane Weems was born in the small Noble County town of Whigville on July 7, 1860, being the eldest of four children born to David L. (a tobacconist and carpenter) and Hester Capell Weems. Inheriting his first name from his mother's maiden name, Capell Weems attended local schools as well as the Normal Academy at Caldwell, Ohio. He began teaching school at age sixteen and followed this vocation for several years, eventually becoming Superintendent of the Senecaville Public School in 1881.
    Weems would later turn his attention to law studies and was admitted to the Ohio bar in late 1881. He began practice with one of the men he had studied law under, J.M. McGinnis, their partnership continued until 1889. On November 6, 1883, Capell Weems married Mary Belle Nay, who died in 1904. The couple would later become parents to three children: Chester Nay (1887-?), Milton (birth-date unknown), and Lillian (birth-date unknown). 
   In 1884 the 24-year-old Weems was elected as Prosecuting Attorney of Noble County and would hold that post from 1885-88. Before the expiration of his term, Weems received a nomination for the Ohio State House of Representatives, winning the election in November 1887. During the 1888-90 term, Weems held a seat on the House committee on the Judiciary and after the session removed from Noble County to Belmont County. Settling in the village of St. Clairsville, he resumed his law practice and in 1893 began the first of two terms as Prosecuting Attorney of Belmont County. Following his time as prosecuting attorney Weems continued in private practice, with the Centennial History of Belmont County noting that:
"His interest in political questions is always active and during important campaigns his services are placed at the command of his party leaders, his oratorical powers making him a valued speaker."
Portrait from the Centennial History of Belmont County, Ohio, 1903.

   Further political honors were accorded to Weems in 1903, arising out of the resignation of U.S. Representative Joseph John Gill of Ohio. Capell Weems was elected to fill the vacancy caused by Gill's resignation and in November 1904 was elected to a term in his own right. During the 1905-07 session, he served on the house committees on Banking and Currency and Elections No. 2. In November 1906 Weems defeated Democratic nominee F.A. Summers to win a third term in Congress, garnering 14,712 votes to his opponent's 11,347. He continued service on the Banking and Elections committees and left office in March 1909. 
   Returning to his law practice after arriving home in Ohio, Weems began service as a solicitor for the Pennsylvania Railroad and continued in that role until his death. Widowed in 1904, Weems had remarried in 1908 to Ms. Emma McNash, with whom he had one daughter, Hester Ann (born ca. 1909.) Four years following his marriage Capell Weems died at his Steubenville, Ohio home on January 5, 1913. Just 52 years of age at the time of his death, the cause was recorded as "valvular heart trouble" in the Washington Times. This same death notice also misspells Weems' first name as "Chapel" not once, but twice! Following his passing Weems was interred at the St. Clairsville Union Cemetery in St. Clairsville, Ohio.

Weems' name is misspelled in his death notice from the Washington Times.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Verus Hope Metzger (1859-1891)

Verus Metzger, courtesy of

  We continue our stay in Pennsylvania to highlight one Verus Hope Metzger, a native of Lycoming County who served a term in the Pennsylvania State Senate in the late 19th century. Metzger holds the sad distinction of being just two months past his 32nd birthday at the time of his death, making him the youngest politician to be profiled here. Despite his lack of years, Metzger grew to be a prominent figure in Lycoming County, being a former county district attorney in addition to his Senate service. 
   A lifelong resident of Lycoming County, Verus H. Metzger was born in the town of Clinton on March 25, 1859, being the son of John Jacob (1838-1900) and Endetta Metzger. A prominent man in his own right, John Metzger served Lycoming County as its district attorney from 1862-1865 and in 1876 was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention. From 1889-1900 he occupied the post of President Judge of Lycoming County, serving until his death at age 62.
  Verus Metzger began his education in the Williamsport, Pennsylvania public school and later attended the Dickinson Seminary. A graduate of the Gettysburg College in the class of 1878, Metzger began the study of law under the tutelage of his father and in 1881 was admitted to the Pennsylvania bar. Verus Metzger married in 1884 to Lulu Conradi (1863-1913) and later had two children.
   Soon after his admittance to the bar Metzger began a law practice in Lycoming County and for a period of about five years was a member of Co. G., 12th regiment of the Pennsylvania National Guard. In November 1883 he was elected as Lycoming County's District Attorney, taking office at just 24 years of age. He served three years as district attorney and in November 1886 was elected to the Pennsylvania State Senate, defeating Republican nominee Daniel Lewis by a vote of 12, 440 to 8, 894.
   Taking his seat at the start of the January 1887 term, Verus Metzger was the youngest man to serve in that session, being just 28 years of age. His four-year stint in the senate saw him serve on the committees on Banks, Federal Relations, the Judiciary, and Retrenchment and Reform. Metzger's term in the senate expired in December 1890 and he "retired with credit."
   Verus Metzger's life after his senate service proved to be short, and for a year before his death he was afflicted with diabetes (mentioned in his death notice below.) He died at his home in Williamsport on May 28, 1891, just two months after his 32nd birthday. Less than two years after the death of her husband, Lulu Metzger remarried in Elmira, New York to one Charles W. Morris, a bookkeeper employed in that city. Their marriage took place on January 12, 1893. Little is known of the remainder of Lulu's life, except for her death at age 50 on December 27, 1913. She was later interred under the name of Lulu Conradi Morris at the Nisky Hill Cemetery in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

Metzger's death notice from the Bloomsburg Columbian, June 4, 1891.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Survellon Burr Holcomb (1871-1952)

Portrait courtesy of

    The proud possessor of a truly unusual first name, Survellon Burr Holcombe served twelve consecutive years as Sullivan County's representative in the Pennsylvania State Assembly. The son of Pierson Alonzo and Sophia Elizabeth Mott Holcombe, Survellon B. Holcombe's birth occurred in the town of LeRoy, Pennsylvania on March 16, 1871. Unfortunately, I have no interesting tidbits to share with you as to where the name "Survellon" originated from. Despite this, it looks as if Survellon himself preferred going by the abbreviated name 'Vell", as most of the period resources mentioning him record this name.
   Holcombe resided in the county of his birth until reaching age ten, whereafter he and his family relocated to Sullivan County. He attended school here for a period of three years, after which his family returned to LeRoy. A graduate of the Elmira School of Commerce, Vell Holcombe removed to Dushore, Pennsylvania in 1893, where he would take on the position as bookkeeper under Samuel Cole, a prominent local businessman. He remained in the employ of Cole until 1898, when he decided to go into business for himself. 
   In December 1898, he and Holcombe and Henry Obert partnered and purchased a furniture and undertaking business formerly owned by E.F. Taubach. Holcombe purchased his partner's interest the following year, and afterward the business would operate under the name Holcombe and Lauer. Vell Burr Holcombe married on November 29, 1900 in Dushore to Ms. Rosanna Jane "Jennie" Cook (1876-1969), to whom he was wed for over fifty years. The couple's lengthy union would see the births of five childrenPauline Cook (1903-1992), Alice Elizabeth (1905-1955), Pierson Joseph (1907-2002), Vell Carl (1913-1999), and Richard L. (1915-2014), who died just short of his 99th birthday
   Through the succeeding years, Holcombe built up a reputation as one of Dushore's most well-known businessmen. As a notable citizen in the town, Holcombe held several local offices, including stints as a member of the borough council, school board and board of health. In November 1920 he was elected to his first term in the Pennsylvania State House, garnering a total of 2,251 votes on election day. During the 1921-23 term, he served on several house committees, including Ways and Means, Mines and Mining, Education, Forestry, and Federal Relations. Sources relate that as an assemblyman Holcombe was an advocate of prohibition and favored "good roads for everybody" as well as "preserving the forests and game protection." 
   Vell Holcombe would continue to represent Sullivan County in the state assembly until 1933, having been an unsuccessful candidate for reelection the previous November. He continued to own and operate his furniture and undertaking business until 1947, when he retired and turned over the operation to his sons Richard and Vell Carl. Survellon Burr Holcombe died in Dushore in May 1952 at age 81 and was later interred at the St. Basil's Cemetery in that town. His widow Jennie survived him by nearly two decades, dying in 1969 at age 92.

Survellon and Roseanna Holcomb, courtesy of "Endless Mountains" on Rootsweb.