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 continuing until 1889. On November 6, 1883 Capell Weems married to 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 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 at the conclusion of his term 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 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.