Norris Galpin Osborn.

Men of mark in Connecticut; ideals of American life told in biographies and autobiographies of eminent living Americans (Volume 4) online

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Men of Mark in Connecticut








Copyright 1904 by B. F. Johnson


Two Copies nhcui^j.

AFK 14 1908

The Case, Lockwood & Brainard Company, Hartford, Conn.


Col, N. G. Osborn, Editor-in-Chief














editor new haten begisteb



New Haven






States Circuit Court, comes of a family that long has held
a prominent place in the university town of New Haven,
where he was born June 12th, 1848.

He is the son of James Mulford and Maria Theresa Townsend.
He was fond of his books and of the companionship of good friends
as well, and youthful characteristics have remained constant. Gradu-
ated from Yale in 1871, in a class that gave not a few eminent men to
the professions, he continued his studies in the Yale Law School, along
the line which nature seemed to have marked out for him. In 1874
he received the degree of LL.B, and immediately was admitted to the
bar in New Haven County, and entered upon the practice of his pro-
fession. For a time he was associated with Simeon E. Baldwin of
New Haven, now Justice in the Supreme Court of Errors, with whom
he had studied law during his course. He quickly gained recognition
as a practitioner and, as part of his work, was employed by the New
York, New Haven & Hartford Eailroad Company as attorney in im-
portant litigation. In 1878 he received the degree of Master of Laws
from the Yale Law School and two years later that of Doctor of Civil

His interest in public affairs and his civic spirit were manifested
in 1880, when he was chosen a member of the New Haven Court of
Common Council, and in 1881 and 1882 he was alderman from his
ward. He has served his city also as corporation counsel. His con-
nection with Yale University as an instructor dates from 1881, when
he was appointed to the chair of Pleading, in the Law school. Sub-
sequently he was selected for the Edward J. Phelps chair on Contracts.
The appointments were of material importance to the school for, aside
from his personal popularity with both students and professors, his
lucidity and force did much to increase the reputation the school had

It was March 28th, 1892, that he was chosen for the responsible



position of judge of the United States District Court, for the district
of Connecticut. The estimate placed upon the discharge of his duties
in that capacity was evidenced when, in 1902, he was promoted to be
judge in the United States Circuit Court, Second District. Some of
his decisions have had far-reaching effect and have contributed in no
small measure to the country's law literature.

In addition the judge has found opportunity to do considerable
outside writing. A widely known work of his is " The Connecticut
Civil Officer," and he is the author of the articles on " Patents,"
" Trademarks," " Copyrights," and " Admiralty," in " Two Centuries
Growth of American Law." Also he has contributed frequently to
tlie magazines.

In politics Judge Townsend is a Eepublican, and in religion a
Congregationalist, He is intensely fond of outdoor life and recrea-
tion, and is an enthusiastic member of the Boone and Crocket Club
of New York and of the Country Club of New Haven. He also be-
longs to the Society of Skull and Bones at Yale, the Graduates Club
of New Haven, and the Yale Club, the Century Club, and the Uni-
versity Club of New York.

Judge Townsend married Miss Mary Leavenworth Trowbridge of
New Haven on July 1st, 1874. They have had three children, one
of whom is now living, George Henry Townsend, 2d, a student in
Yale College. Their home is at No. 148 Grove Street, New Haven.


PLATT, JAMES PERRY, of Meriden, United States District
Judge for the district of Connecticut since March 23d, 1902,
comes of a long line of sturdy, able ancestors. Few family
names in Connecticut have won as much respect and reverence.

Richard Piatt of England arrived in New Haven Colony in
1638 and, foremost in organizing a church society, settled in Milford.
His son, Isaac Piatt, was a captain of militia and held nearly all the
offices of prominence in the town. One of his descendents removed to
Washington, Connecticut, where the Piatt homestead has been main-
tained ever since. In the Revolutionary War a father and son did
their part in behalf of the struggling colonies. In times of peace the
members of the family were hardy, industrious farmers.

Judge Piatt is the son of the late Hon, Orville Hitchcock Piatt,
United States Senator, who was born in Washington. The father lo-
cated as a lawyer in Meriden. His wonderful talents were soon
recognized and he was elected successively Secretary of the State,
State Senator, member of the House of Representatives, of which he
was speaker in 1869, and United States Senator in 1879. This high
office he held until his death in 1905. With what efficiency he served
his state and the nation, in what esteem he was held in council at home
or at the federal capital is a part of Connecticut's proudest history.

Senator Piatt's first wife was Annie Bull, of the Perry family of
Towando, Bradford County, Pa. She was an earnest worker in the
Congregational Church in Meriden and was possessed of those graces
which endeared her to her friends and commanded the love and tender
respect of her household.

The Judge was born in Towando on March 31, 1851. After a
course at the celebrated " Gunnery " School at Washington, Connecti-
cut — the old family home — he attended the Hopkins Grammar School
in New Haven, where he completed his preparation for college.
Entering Yale immediately, he displayed an aptness for learning and
had a special predilection for boating, football, baseball, and other



manly sports. In later life he has found pleasure and relaxation
in tenuis. On graduating from college in the class of 1873, he went
to the Yale Law School, following his father's wishes and his own in-
clination, and received his degree as bachelor of laws in 1875,

Immediately he joined with his father in the practice of his pro-
fession in Meriden, the firm title being 0. H. & J. P. Piatt. Three
years later he was chosen representative from his town to the General
Assembly. After serving in 1878 and 1879 he was appointed City
Attorney of Meriden, the duties of which office he discharged with
marked ability from 1879 to 1893, when he was chosen by the General
Assembly to be Judge of the City and Police Court of that city. It
was while serving in this capacity, in the year 1902, that he was ap-
pointed United States District Judge. From the beginning of his
term, he has won the highest commendation of his associates and of
the members of the bar.

In politics Judge Piatt is a Kepublican. In religion he is affil-
iated with the Protestant Episcopal Church. He is a member of
Meridian Lodge, No. 77, F. & A. M., and of St. Elmo Commandery,
of Meriden, and at one time was Master of the Blue Lodge, F. &
A. M. He is also a member of the Home Club of Meriden, the Yale
Club of New York, and is a trustee of the Meriden Savings Bank.

He married Miss Harriet White Ives of Meriden on December
2, 1885. They have had two children, one of whom, Margery Piatt,
born December 30, 1886, is living; the other, a boy named after him-
self, died in infancy. The judge's home is at No. 130 Lincoln Street,


RORx\BACK, ALBERTO T., of North Canaan, associate
judge of the Supreme Court, was born in Sheffield, Mas-
sachusetts, August 23d, 1849. His father, John C, was
a farmer, industrious and sturdy of character. He migrated from
Columbia County, New York, to Suffield, Massachusetts, in 1846.
The name of Roraback, as it suggests, is of German origin. Early
in 1700, three brothers from the town of Rohrbach in Alsace, Lor-
raine, settled in what is now known as Columbia County in the State
of New York. During this century the name was spelled Rorabacher,
and about 1800, apparently fpr the sake of brevity and convenience,
it was changed to Roraback. After obtaining such education as the
public schools of his native town could furnish, the boy went to
the South Berkshire Institute in New Marlboro, Massachusetts, and
thence to the Genesee Seminary in New York State. Endowed with
remarkable perspicacity and clearness in reasoning, he had a natural
bent toward the bar.

When he entered the law office of Judge Donald J. Warner of
Salisbury, Connecticut, in 1870, to begin his Blackstone, he entered
upon a career which, through his grit, energy, perseverance, and
kindly disposition, was to give him high place in his State, Ad-
mitted to the bar in 1872, he early won the confidence of a strong
clientele and was welcomed into that circle of lawyers who maintain
the high standard of the Litchfield County Bar. By 1889 he had risen
to the position of judge of the Court of Common Pleas of the County,
which office he held until 1893, and during that period not one of
his decisions was overruled by the Supreme Court of Errors. There
was always a goodly modicum of plain common sense in his opinions
along with the evidence of faithful research and thorough knowledge
of the law. Every reason there was, then, except political, why
he should be continued as judge, but he was a strong Republican
and the Legislature of 1893 was Democratic. In 1897, however,
when the term of his successor expired, the Legislature was Repub-



lican again and Judge Eoraback was re-elected for another term of
four years.

But liigher position was to be his. When a vacancy occurred on
tlie bench of the Superior Court in 1897, the record Judge Eoraback
had made was sufficient proof of his worthiness for the position and
he was appointed. His decisions in the higher position have been,
like those when presiding over the Court of Common Pleas, most
carefully formed and most clearly expressed. In 1907, Governor
Woodruff conferred the high honor upon Judge Eoraback of re-ap-
pointing him to the Superior Court for eight years, and also appoint-
ing him an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of Errors for a
like period upon the retirement of Judge Hamersley when he reaches
the constitutional age limit of seventy years. The prophecies of
those who have followed his career since his early youth are abun-
dantly fulfilled.

The judge first consented to the use of his name as a candidate
for the Legislature in 1895, and he led his party to its first victory in
thirty years in North Canaan. As a member of the lower House, he
made himself felt and gave such satisfaction to his constituents that
he was re-elected in 1897. In that session his abilities were recog-
nized by his appointment by the speaker to the chairmanship of
the judiciary committee, which carries the party leadership in the
House. His leadership was a success. He never wasted words and
time. His explanations of various measures were sharp and vivid,
his conclusions eminently just and his influence consequently pow-
erful. He also served as representative from the Ninth Senatorial
District on the Eepublican State Central Committee. Since his ap-
pointment to the Superior Court bench, he has taken no active part
in politics.

As lawyer, as representative, as judge, he never has lost interest
in the humblest of his friends, and each step in his advancement has
been applauded heartily by all who knew him, without regard to
party. He is " counselor and friend " to many.

He was married in 1873 to Minnie E. Hunt, daughter of Ed-
ward P. Hunt, an iron manufacturer of Northwestern Connecticut.
Of their seven children, five are now living, Grace M., a teacher in
New Haven ; M. Louise, a graduate of Moimt Holyoke College in the
class of 1899 ; Albert E., B. A., Yale Academic, 1902, B. D., Yale


Divinity School, 1905, and now Assistant Pastor of the Central Con-
gregational Church in Providence, E. I.; J. Clinton, B.A., Yale
Academic, 1903, and LL.B., Yale Law School, 1905 (playing Center
on the Yale foot-ball team in 1903-1904), now practicing law in
his father's oflSce in Canaan, Connecticut, and Catherine Hunt, now
making her home with her parents in Canaan.


THAYER, JOHN MOWRY, lawyer and Judge of the Supreme
Court of Errors, is a resident of Norwich, New London County,
Connecticut, who was born in Thompson, Windham County,
Connecticut, March 15th, 1847, the son of Charles D. and Lucy E.
Thayer. His father was a farmer who held a number of town offices
and through whom the Judge traces his ancestry to Thomas and
Margery Thayer, who came from Braintree, Essex County, England,
and settled in Braintree, Massachusetts, in 1G36.

In his childhood and boyhood John Thayer was strong and well
and when not at school he was busy at work on his father's farm.
His parents encouraged his desires for a thorough education and were
able to supply the means for it. He prepared for college at Nichols
Academy in Dudley, Massachusetts, and under private tutors and in
due time he matriculated at Yale University, where he was graduated
with the degree of A.B. in 1869. Then, in accordance with both
parental wishes and personal choice, he prepared himself for the pro-
fession of law. He read law for two years in the office of Judge
James A. Hovey in Norwich, Connecticut, and was admitted to the
Bar in New London in September, 1871.

After his admission to the Bar, Judge Thayer spent a year prac-
ticing law in Iowa and subsequently returned to Connecticut. He
formed a legal partnership with Judge Hovey in Norwich, which city
has been his home ever since. In 1875 and again in 1876 he was
Judge of the City Court of Norwich. From July, 1883, to July,
1899, he was State's Attorney for New London County. From
July, 1889, to January, 1907, a period of seventeen and one-half
years, he was Judge of the Superior Court and since January 31st,
1907, he has been Judge of the Supreme Court of Errors. This
honorable position tells better than anything else the breadth and ex-
tent of his legal and judicial ability and the mental capability and
powerful personality of the man himself.

Judge Thayer unites with the Democratic party in politics. He
has no fraternal or Masonic affiliations and finds out-of-door life
the best relaxation from work. He is particularly devoted to walking
and automobiling. He is unmarried.




ELMEE, HON. WILLIAM THOMAS, lawyer, jurist, and public
man, judge of Superior Court, state referee, and former mem-
ber of Legislature, of Middletown, Connecticut, was bom in
Eome, Oneida County, New York, November 7th, 1834, a member
of an old and substantial New England family. His grandfather,
Theodorus Elmer, was a dairy farmer in Herkimer County, New
York, and his father, Lebbeus E. Elmer, was a pioneer merchant of
Eome, New York, who was United States Marshal, town sheriff, a
prominent Mason and a trustee of the Methodist Church for fifty
years and a man of marked integrity and unswerving Christian
faith. His wife, Judge Elmer's mother, was Charlotte Mudge, a
woman of splendid character and ennobling influence.

In boyhood Judge Elmer was vigorous and fun-loving, full of
ambition and spirit and fond of books and study as well. He was
especially fond of history and the great English novelists. Fielding,
Sterne, SmoUet, Scott, Thackeray, and Dickens. He was able to se-
cure a good education which consisted of public school courses, college
preparation at the Eome Academy, and a college course at Wesleyan
University, where he was graduated with the degree of B.A. in 1857.
He then entered upon his professional study, having chosen the law as
his life work, and after studying a year at The Albany Law School
he was admitted to the Bar in Hartford in 1859. He opened his
legal practice in Suffield, Connecticut, and at the end of a year he
transferred his oflBce to Middletown, Connecticut, where he has prac-
ticed law ever since.

As soon as Middletown became his home and the center of his
professional interests, Judge Elmer became identified with the po-
litical, the educational and, indeed, with all the public interests of
that city. He was appointed State's Attorney in 1863 and remained
in that office until 1875. In 1863 and 1864 he was clerk of the
House of Eepresentatives, serving the Eepublican party, of which he
has always been a staunch adherent. In 1865 he became Judge of Pro-



bate and Clerk of the Senate. In 1873 he was state senator, chairman
of Judiciary, and leader of the Senate. In 1876 he was Mayor of
Middletown and in 1880 he became Judge of the City Court, in which
capacity he served four years. In 1883 he was reappointed State's
Attorney and held that office with great capability and success until
1895, when he relinquished it for his position on the Superior Court
Bench. In the fall of 1894 he was elected to the State Legislature,
this time serving as chairman of the judiciary committee and as
leader of the House. In March, 1895, Judge Elmer was imanimously
elected to his position on the Bench of the Superior Court and h£is
served with his characteristic ability, tact, and success, winning es-
teem and popularity at every step in his career upon the Bench and
a reputation for absolute justice, keen judgment, and fruitful, ener-
getic work. In November, 1904, he was appointed State Referee.

Judge Elmer has been a political leader, an eminent lawyer, and
a light in the legislative and judicial affairs of his state and has had
many other interests in life and many other spheres of usefulness.
He has been exceedingly active and influential in raising the standard
of education in Middletown and has greatly benefited the public
schools in that city. He was a member of the Middletown Board
of Education for many years and its president for a number of
years. He has fraternal connections with St. John's Lodge, F. and
A. M., and when a student at Wesleyan he was a member of the fa-
mous " Mystic Seven." In May, 1862, Judge Elmer married Miss
Katharine Lanman Camp of Middletown, by whom he has had four
children, three of whom, two daughters and a son, are now living.
The son, Avery Theodore Elmer, graduated from Yale Law School
in 1903 and has been admitted to the Bar, and is now practicing in
Middletown and is clerk of the City Court.


ROBINSON, SILAS ARNOLD, Judge of the Superior Court,
and a well-known citizen and ex-mayor of Middletown, Mid-
dlesex County, Connecticut, is the son of Eev. Daniel Robin-
son, a Baptist clergyman, and of Ursula Matilda Arnold Robinson.
He was born in Pleasant Valley, 'Fulton County, New York, Sep-
tember 7th, 1840, and spent most of his youth in the country. He
was strong and healthy and a devotee of all outdoor sports. He was
equally interested in books and his mind developed rapidly under
the strong intellectual influence of his parents, who were persons of
noble character. Their influence in forming their son's character
and shaping his career as well as in quickening his moral and spirit-
ual life was one that he feels cannot be over-estimated.

His first school days were spent at the Lewis Academy in South-
ington and he afterwards studied at the Bacon Academy in Col-
chester and finally at the Brookside Institute in Sand Lake, New
York. His strongest ambition was to follow the legal profession and
as soon as he finished school he entered the law office of Gale Alden
in Troy, New York. He was admitted to the Bar at Albany, New
York, in December, 1863, and the following year he came to Middle-
town, Connecticut, which has been his home and the center of his
professional practice ever since.

In 1878 came the first tribute to Mr. Robinson's great ability
along judicial and legal lines, for in that year he was elected Judge
of Probate for the District of Middletovm and served two years in
that office. In 1880 and 1881 he was mayor of Middletown and for a
long period he served with great efficiency and faithfulness on the
school board of the city and the town of Middletown. On February
11th, 1890, Judge Robinson became a Judge of the Superior Court
and still holds that high and distinguished office.

In politics Judge Robinson is a Republican and has never
changed in his allegiance to his party. For relaxation from profes-
sional and official cares he prefers out-of-door life to club or fra-
2 23


ternal interests and he is not connected with any Masonic or fraternal
order. He is an enthusiastic devotee of walking, bicycling, and trout
fishing. His family consists of a wife and three children, though
four have been bom to him. Mrs. Eobinson was Fannie E. Norton
of Otis, Massachusetts, and the date of their marriage was June 13,

Judge Eobinson is a man of keen sagacity and broad capability
in his professional work. In personal habit and manner he is direct,
modest, and a man of simple tastes. He gives his time and ability
to his work with the singleness of purpose and interest that always
wins success and high place.


WHEELEE, GEORGE WAKEMAN, of Bridgeport, as-
sociate judge of the Superior Court, comes of a family
of judges. Stephen Wheeler of Easton was a judge of the
County Court. His son, Charles, held various public oflBces, including
that of representative from his town in the lower House of the
General Assembly. George W. Wheeler, son of Charles, was graduated
at Amherst College in the class of 1856. In 1857 he went to Woodville,
Mississippi, where he was principal of a large school. Eetuming
Forth in 1868, he located in Hackensack, N. J., and while residing
there was appointed judge of the Court of Common Pleas. His wife
was Miss Lucy Dowie, daughter of Henry Dowie of Andes, New
York. They had two children.

George Wakeman Wheeler, the elder of these two children, was
bom in Woodville, Mississippi, December 1st, 1860, and he spent
his early life in that State, during the stirring days of the Civil War,
coming North in 1865. When the family returned North, he studied
at home, in the schools of Hackensack also, graduating from Hacken-
sack Academy in 1876. Then he went to Williston Seminary, where,
after one year, he received his diploma with the class of ^77.

Immediately thereafter, choosing law for his profession, he began
his studies in the office of Garret Ackerson, Jr., a prominent lawyer
of Hackensack. Mr. Wheeler entered Yale University in the class of
1881 and obtained his degree of Bachelor of Laws in 1883.

Bridgeport offering a good field he opened an office there, and,
in partnership with Howard J. Curtis, under the firm name of
Wheeler & Curtis, entered upon a lucrative practice. Mr. Wheeler
was employed in several notable cases which he conducted in a way to
win high commendation.

In July, 1890, he was appointed city attorney of Bridgeport, an
office which he held for two years. The partnership of Wheeler &
Curtis continued until 1893, when Mr. Curtis was made judge of the
Court of Common Pleas and Mr. Wheeler was appointed by Governor



Luzon B. Morris to be associate judge of the Superior Court. While
he was the youngest man ever selected for the bench in this State,
the appointment elicited many favorable comments from the Bar and
the press, and the judgment of the Democratic Governor has been ap-
proved by Eepublican successors and confirmed by the judge's record.

Judge Wheeler was a vigorous Democrat and as an efficient
manager his services were of great value to his party, but on his acces-
sion to the bench he ceased from political activity. He is a profound
student, going carefully into the details of every case tried before him
and devoting most of the time he has for himself to reading of wide

Online LibraryNorris Galpin OsbornMen of mark in Connecticut; ideals of American life told in biographies and autobiographies of eminent living Americans (Volume 4) → online text (page 1 of 24)