Thursday, April 23, 2015
Early Menominee Lawyers
Menominee County Courthouse (1875)
There’s such an abundance of information available online about the early years of my hometown of Menominee and other Upper Peninsula Michigan communities. Lately I’ve been interested in tracking down biographical information about Menominee’s lawyers from about 1850 to 1910. My dad spent his career as a lawyer in Menominee, and several of his good friends stemmed from family lines that went back two or three generations of lawyers locally.
The times were so drastically different in the 1800’s, and consequently people’s lives were drastically different too. In 1850 the area that was to become Menominee and Marinette was largely a wilderness. The Menominee River logging industry was just getting its start. The first frame house in what was to later become the village of Menominee was constructed in 1852. In 1859, when Eleazor S. Ingalls, Menominee’s first lawyer, settled across the river in Menekaunee, the population of Menominee County was only 500 people, most of them men working in logging camps. By the 1890’s, however, Menominee and Marinette had become the world’s largest logging center, and Menominee County’s population had grown to over 25,000. As you’ll see from the biographical information below, Menominee’s early lawyers played significant roles in the community’s growth.
I think that I’ve identified most or all of the lawyers that practiced in Menominee between 1860 and about 1900. For some there’s very little information available, and for others there’s a lot. Alvah Littlefield Sawyer’s comprehensive work, “A History of the Northern Peninsula of Michigan and its People” (1911) is a particularly rich source, as is the “Memorial Record of the Northern Peninsula of Michigan” (1895), published by the Lewis Publishing Company of Chicago. I’ve provided summaries for the various individual lawyers, but there are often further details available in the original references (see numbers in parentheses for sources listed at end).
Judge Eleazer S. Ingalls
Eleazer Stillman Ingalls was the first lawyer in Menominee County. He was born at Nashua, New Hampshire in 1820. At age 18 he left New Hampshire for Chicago, driving by ox team and accompanied by another teenager. Ingalls settled at Antioch, Illinois, where his father was a farmer. Eleazer learned blacksmithing in Nashua and studied law, eventually entering practice in Antioch. He married his childhood sweetheart, Martha Maria Person, in 1844, and they subsequently had three boys and five girls. Only three survived to 1911 including Mrs. Alvah L. Sawyer of Menominee. The same year that he married, Ingalls, at age 24, founded one of the earliest newspapers in the Midwest, “The Prairie Hen, Jericho Jingle, Land of Nod Loophole and Antioch Pill.” It sold for $1.50 per year. In 1850 Judge Ingalls organized a caravan and crossed the plains with a caravan of four horse teams to California. After two years there he returned east with a plan of bringing his family back to the Gold Rush. However, he changed his mind, and in 1859 he arrived at the Menominee River on the steamer Fannie Fisk, pitched his tent in Menekaunee on the Wisconsin side of the river, and after a few days was “fully satisfied that Menominee had a bright future” (Ingalls, 1876). In 1862 he moved across the river to Menominee, built a small house in the woods that was later to become the village, and quickly became a prominent member of the community. Menominee County had a total population of 496 persons in 1863, most of them engaged in logging and living in logging camps. There was an effort to establish a county seat a few miles from Menominee and have the county known as County Bleeker. Ingalls was sent to Lansing, and he vigorously fought and defeated this attempt, establishing Menominee as the county name. The original town of Menominee was the size of the state of Rhode Island, sixty-one miles long and thirty miles wide. Ingalls was the first Judge of Probate in the new county, serving in this position for several years. He also started the Menominee Herald in 1863 (later the Herald-Leader) and was its first editor, the early issues being printed with a hand press. Ingalls was active in railroad construction interests, and he secured a contract from the state to build the Green Bay and Bay De Noc State road within Menominee County. He was instrumental in obtaining state funding for the first bridge across the Menominee River. Ingalls built and operated two saw-mills on the Menominee River, both of which were destroyed by the Peshtigo Fire in 1871, and he played a major role in extending the Menominee branch railroad to the Iron Range. Shipments of iron ore were begun in 1878. Judge Ingalls was a member of the Constitutional Convention of Michigan and was a Representative in the State Legislature. According to his biography, Judge Ingalls "was very widely known and universally respected." Ingalls wrote a history of Menominee County called “Centennial History: and published in 1876. He died in Menominee on Nov. 1,1879, at the relatively young age of 59, and is buried in Riverside Cemetery. The community of Ingalls in Menominee County is named after him. Judge Ingalls’ daughter Josephine, who married Alvah Littlefield Sawyer, was the grandmother of my father’s Menominee law partner, Richard A. Sawyer. (3, 6, 8, 11, 14)
Thomas B. Rice
Thomas Rice was the second lawyer to come to Menominee. He was born in Franklin County, Vermont, in 1842, He began his legal studies in Glens Falls, N.Y., in 1858, and he graduated from the Albany University Law School on March 4, 1864. He conducted a law practice in Morris, Ill., for two years, then practiced in Aurora for two years, and as a clerk in the Chicago law office of Higgins, Swett & Quigg for three years. In 1871 Rice came to Menominee, where he established his practice in the Post Office Block on Main Street. Rice was the Menominee Prosecuting Attorney for four years and then Judge of the Probate Court for eight or more years. (4)
Benjamin J. Brown, Prosecuting Attorney
Benjamin Brown was born on July 8, 1833, at Mt. Vernon, Ohio. His grandfather was a builder of the Ohio canal. His father, Benjamin S. Brown, was an eminent lawyer and highly regarded orator who was a partner of a Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Brown was educated at the Sloan Academy in Mt. Vernon, spent a year at Kenyon College, and was admitted to the practice of law by the Supreme Court of Illinois in 1855. After stints in Chicago, Green Bay, and Oconto, he moved to Saginaw and joined the Michigan Bar. He and Eliza Hart of Oconto married in 1862, and the couple had seven children. Brown came to Menominee in 1873 where he spent the major part of his professional life. As of 1876, his office was on Brown’s Block at the corner of Main and Quimby Streets. Brown was a leading member of the bar in Menominee County and was well known throughout the Upper Peninsula. He served as City Attorney of Green Bay and Prosecuting Attorney for Menominee County. He took many cases to the Michigan Supreme Court where he was deeply respected. Brown died at Menominee on Jan. 9, 1905. His lawyer biographer says, "Resolved, that the Bar of Menominee County, whose members have been associated with Mr. Brown so long and so pleasantly in the labors of the profession, and in the duties and responsibilities of a common citizenship, and who from their association with him have learned to respect, admire and love him, deploring his loss." (6, 13)
William A. Franklin
William Franklin came to Menominee in March of 1876, and he and E.S. Ingalls formed a partnership that year. The Ingalls and Franklin law office was located on Main Street near Ogden Avenue. (11)
Lewis D. Eastman
Lewis D. Eastman was born on Oct. 18, 1851, in Lisbon, New York, one of nine children of Reverend Morgan L. and Hester (Thorpe) Eastman. Rev. Morgan's family was of English origin and traced back to the colonial days in New England. The family moved to Royalston, Wisconsin, in 1868, where Lewis continued his education in the public schools. He graduated with his Bachelor of Laws degree from Northwestern University in 1888 and was admitted to the bar. He moved to Menominee in 1889 where he served four terms as city attorney. He was appointed circuit-court commissioner and completed two terms in that office. A. L. Sawyer (1911) observes that Eastman "has gained a high reputation as a trial lawyer and as a counsellor well fortified in the minutiae of the science of jurisprudence." Eastman married Clara Baker of Trumbull, Ohio, and, as of 1911, they had three children, Evelyne, Sidney L., and Alice May. Eastman died on Aug. 11, 1927, and is buried in Oakwood Cemetery, Lowell, Michigan. (14)
John Lane Buell
John Lane Buell was born to Ann and George Buell at Lawrenceburg, Indiana, just outside of Cincinnati, on Oct. 12, 1836. He studied in the Lawrenceburg public schools, then attended the Norwich Military Institute in Vermont for two years. He moved to Leavenworth, Kansas in 1857 and was one of a small band of youth that were the first from there to travel overland for Colorado. The group settled on the Platte River, near the present site of Denver, and Buell surveyed and platted the present city of Boulder, then engaged in mining at the present site of Leadville. In 1860 Buell travelled to New Mexico, then to Texas which had seceded from the union. Escaping by night, Buell reached the gulf and travelled by ship to New York City. In August 1861 he was appointed a second lieutenant in the U.S. Infantry, stationed at Fort Columbus, New York. He took part in the second battle at Bull Run and had command of two companies at Antietam. He lost 13 of 27 men to rebel fire. After Antietam Buell resigned from the army and returned to Lawrenceburg, serving in the Indiana militia. He entered Harvard College in 1863, studying law for six months, then returned to Lawrenceburg where he married Ruth B. Ludlow, the granddaughter of the first sheriff of Hamilton County. Because of ill health, Mr. Buell sought a change of climate and moved to Menominee in 1866. He practiced law for five years in Menominee as opportunity allowed, operated the Jones mill on the Green Bay shore, farmed, and published the Menominee Journal. In 1871 Buell visited the area later known as the Menominee Range and was the first person to discover iron ore there, naming it the Quinnesec Mine. Buell founded the village of Quinnesec and served as its postmaster, being paid about $300 a year. He was elected to the state legislature in 1872, serving as the representative from Menominee, Delta, Schoolcraft, and Chippewa counties for two years. He introduced the first ten-hour labor bill ever submitted, as well as the Marquette and Mackinaw Railroad bill. John Buell died at home on Oct. 24, 1916, at Quinnesec in Dickinson County in the U.P. (2, 14)
W. H. Phillips
William H. Phillips
W. H. Phillips was born in Lenawee County in southeastern Michigan, on Aug. 7, 1839. He worked on his father’s farm there until age 21. As a young child he walked a mile and a half through the woods to a little log schoolhouse where he sat on a crude slab bench to do his lessons. In 1860 he went to Oak Grove academy where he rang the bell and swept the building to pay his tuition. He studied science at Adrian College for two years and studied law in his spare time. Phillips and Amy R. BeDell married in 1867, and the couple had two children, Etta and Harry. Phillips continued his studies in a law office in Adrian and was admitted to the Michigan Bar in 1879. After practicing for a year in Adrian, he moved to Menominee and became partners with local lawyers named Weter and Thompson. After three years, he practiced alone. In 1882 Phillips was elected Prosecuting Attorney of Menominee County, and in 1888 he was elected to a three-year term as City Attorney. In 1894 Phillips was again elected Prosecuting Attorney. He was also a member and Treasurer of the Menominee School Board and President of the Menominee Gas Light & Fuel Company. The family were members of the Presbyterian Church, and Phillips was one of the most prominent Masons in the state, serving as the first King and as High Priest of the Menominee Chapter for three years. His biographer notes, “Few citizens of Menominee are better known or more highly respected than is W. H. Phillips.” Phillips died on Feb. 13, 1906, and is buried in Riverside Cemetery. (2, 6)
Byron Sylvester Waite
Byron S. Waite was born at Penfield in Monroe County, New York, on Sept. 27, 1852. His ancestors had settled in Massachusetts from England during the colonial period. The family moved to Livingston County in Michigan 1n 1856, and Byron grew up there, doing farm work and attending the public schools. He graduated from the Baptist Seminary at age 18, then was the principal of public schools at Rochester, Michigan, saving money for college. He entered the Literary Department at the University of Michigan in 1876 and graduated with his B.A. in 1880. He sawo attended Law School lectures and read the required textbooks. Waite was admitted to the Bar at Ann Arbor in 1879. He became a junior partner in a law from in 1881 in Wayne County, then moved to Menominee a year later and became joined a partnership with Alvah Littlefield Sawyer in the firm Sawyer & Waite. Sawyer & Waite was the largest and most lucrative law firm in Menominee at the time, and they argued important cases at the Supreme Court of Michigan. Waite was Circuit Court Commissioner and United States Commissioner at Menominee in 1884-85, and he was elected as Menominee County's representative to the State Legislature in 1888. He was highly popular and regarded as an important leader in the Legislature. His partnership with Sawyer continued for thirteen years until 1895, whereupon Waite accepted a position as Assistant Prosecuting Attorney of Wayne County and moved to Detroit. He was a Circuit Judge from 1898 to 1900, and, appointed by Theodore Roosevelt, was a judge for the United States Custom Court from 1926 to 1930. One of his judicial colleagues wrote: "Byron S. Waite is considered one of the brightest lawyers that ever practised in the Northern Peninsula...As a citizen he is public-spirited, and while at Menominee was constantly endeavoring to advance the interests of that city." Byron Waite died at home in Yonkers, New York, on Dec. 31, 1930. (9, 13)
A. L. Sawyer
Alvah Littlefield Sawyer
The first American representatives of the Sawyer family arrived from Birmingham, England, in 1648, initially settling in Massachusetts. Alvah Sawyer’s father Hiram and his wife Barbara moved from New Hampshire to Dodge County, Wisconsin, in 1845, becoming among the earliest pioneers in the area. Hiram Sawyer was a farmer and elected member of the Wisconsin legislature. They had twelve children, including three who came to live in Menominee: Mary S. Childs, Ransom, and Alvah (the fourth son). Alvah studied law in his brother's office at Hartford, Wis., was admitted to the bar in 1877, and came to Menominee in 1878 to practice in the office of Judge E.S. Ingalls. Sawyer married Miss Josephine S. Ingalls, daughter of Judge Ingalls, on Apr. 13, 1880. The Sawyers had five children: Kenneth I., Gladys, Meredith, Wilda, and Irma. Sawyer and Byron S. Waite established a partnership in 1882, and, with the addition of W. F. Waite, the firm expanded to Sawyer, Waite & Waite in 1893. When Menominee was incorporated as a city in 1893, Sawyer was elected city attorney, a position he held for five years. Sawyer was also a member of the Menominee school board, president of the Spies Library Board, chairman of the Democratic county committee, secretary of the Shuswap Lumber Co., was involved in U.P. mining operations, in farming, and was an expert horticulturist with a passion for flowers. Sawyer authored the three volumes of “The Northern Peninsula,” a comprehensive history of the U.P., and his wife Josephine, a prolific writer in her own right, collaborated with him on those works. G. I. Reed (1897) wrote: "Mr. Sawyer is a man loyal to all community in which he lives, enterprising and active in support of all measures of a character to advance the general interests and welfare...His beautiful home (at 1701 State St.) is adorned with works of art and furnished with one of the finest private libraries in Northern Michigan...His wife joins him in the entertainment of friends and the exercise of a liberal hospitality." Alvah Sawyer died in Menominee on Feb. 5, 1925, and he is buried in Riverside Cemetery. Alvah Sawyer was the paternal grandfather of my father’s Menominee law partner, Richard A. Sawyer. (2, 6, 8, 13)
Michael J. Doyle
Michael J. Doyle was born in Memphis, Tennesse, on Oct. 1, 1854, the son and only child of William and Bridget Doyle, both natives of Ireland. William Doyle, a contractor, died at 32, and Bridget Doyle died in childbirth at 28. Michael studied at De LaSalle Institute and Osgoode Hall in Toronto, graduating from the latter with his Bachelor of Law in 1879. He first practiced in Detroit (1879-1887), then moved to Sault Ste. Marie (1887-91), Iron Mountain 1891-94), Menominee (1894-97), and Green Bay (1897-1903). He represented the Chippewa District in the Michigan state House of Representatives in 1891-92. He returned to Menominee in 1903. He was elected prosecuting attorney of Menominee County and served for two terms (1906-1910). He was chosen as chairman of the state Democratic party in 1909, and he was elected Mayor of Menominee in 1918. He was also president of the Menominee school board for two terms, custodian of alien property in northern Michigan, city attorney for Menominee and Iron Mountain, and supervisor of the U.S. census for Michigan’s twelfth district. He was a candidate for state Supreme Court justice in 1922 and for Lieutenant Governor of Michigan in 1924. Doyle married Marie Benedicta Fitzpatrick of Hamilton, Ontario, in 1880, and they were the parents of seven children: Helen, Gerald, Gladys, Kenneth, Thurman, Wilford, and Meredith. A talented author, Doyle published two works of fiction, "Swan Swanson" (1895) and "John Poorfellow" (1898). Michael Doyle died from heart disease at his home in Menominee on July 2, 1928, and is interred at Riverside Cemetery. Doyle’s sons Kenneth, Thurman, and Meredith were Menominee attorneys when my father began his practice there and were colleagues for several decades. Michael J. Doyle was the maternal grandfather of my parents’ close friend, Menominee attorney and Michigan Supreme Court Justice Michael Daniel O’Hara. (7, 8, 10, 12, 14)
Fabian Joseph Trudell
Fabian J. Trudell was born in Green Bay, Wisc., on Dec. 29, 1859, the youngest of ten children of Olive and Theodulph Trudell. The family moved to Menominee about 1869, and Fabian attended the public schools there. He worked as a printer for the Menominee Herald from 1875 to 1878, sold farm implements in Minnesota for one year, and worked for the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad Co. Having taken up law studies, he returned to his parents' home in Menominee and entered the law office of William H. Phillips. He then graduated with a Bachelor of Laws degree from the University of Michigan in 1884, was admitted to the state bar, and became the first attorney in Iron Mountain. He became city attorney there, played a central role in the incorporation of the village and the city, was Dickinson County's first prosecuting attorney, and was elected to two terms as mayor of Iron Mountain. In 1898 Trudell returned to Menominee, forming a partnership with Benjamin J. Brown. He married Mary Josephine Foster of Pennsylvania in 1889, and the couple had two daughters, Olive and Margaret. A.L. Sawyer, wrote of Trudell, "He controls a large and representative practice and is distinctively one of the leading members of the bar of this section of the state. Trudell was appointed Menominee's city attorney in 1907. He died in 1945 and is buried at Riverside Cemetery (14)
William F. Waite
William Fuller Waite was born in Tyrone, Michigan, in Livingston County on Aug. 4, 1860, the sixth in a family of seven children. The family, of English descent, had settled in Massachusetts well before the Revolutionary War. Waite attended school in the winter but worked on the family farm the rest of the year. He received his higher education in the Literary Department of the University of Michigan, attending law lectures as well. He was admitted to the bar at Howell, Mich., on Jan. 18, 1888, and, after prospecting for a while, he located as Escanaba where he practiced law until April 13, 1893. He then moved his practice to Menominee where he joined the firm of Alvah Littlefield Sawyer and his older brother Byron S. Waite, the firm name becoming Sawyer, Waite & Waite. He served as Prosecuting Attorney of Menominee County and then as judge of the Municipal Court of the city of Menominee. Waite married Miss Helen Osgood of Ann Arbor on Jan. 15, 1891, and the couple had two sons, Leslie Osgood and Gordon Tarbell. Mrs. Waite was the class poet at Michigan. According to one biographical statement (13), William Waite "has the care, the application, the disposition and natural ability essential to success." Waite died at Menominee on Oct. 21, 1918. (13, 14)
John Michael Opsahl
John M. Opsahl was born in Christiania, Norway, on Feb. 7, 1863, the son of Michael C. and Louise C. Opsahl. The father moved to Menominee in 1870, and Opsahl, his sister Agens, and his mother joined Mr. Opsahl in 1872. John Opsahl attended public schools in Menominee, earned a Bachelor of Philosophy degree at the University of Michigan, and matriculated in the department of law there as well. He was admitted to the state bar in 1886 and returned to Menominee to begin his law practice. Specializing in real-estate and commercial law, Opsahl's Main Street office was "one of the finest and best equipped offices north of Milwaukee" (Memorial Record, 1895). In 1903 Opsahl married Anna Hansen, and the couple resided on Ogden Avenue. Opsahl was elected Circuit Court Commissioner for Menominee, justice of the peace, and municipal judge. He was also secretary and treasurer of the Menominee Land & Investment Co., an organizer of the Menominee Electric & Mechanical Co., and U.S. Commissioner for the Western District of Michigan. He was one of the founders of Menominee's first military organization, the Third Regiment of Michigan State Troops, in which he served from 1885 to 1887. He also organized the benevolent association, "Sons of the North," to assist fellow Scandinavians and was a prominent member of the Odd Fellows, the Knights of Pythias, and the Uniform Rank. Opsahl died in 1925 in Contra Costa, California. (6, 14)
George Barstow of Stephenson, Mich., was born on Sept. 6, 1882, in Algoma, Wisconsin, the third of ten children of blacksmith Adolph Barstow, a Hungarian immigrant, and his wife Margaret. Adolph Barstow came to Menominee County in 1886, establishing his blacksmith trade there. George spent his summers as a teenager in pound-net fishing, received LL.B. degrees in 1905 from Valparaiso University and in 1906 from the Detroit College of Law, practiced in Detroit and was admitted to the bar in 1906, and located in Stephenson in Menominee County in 1907. According to A. L. Sawyer's (1911) account, he "is fast winning for himself a lucrative practice and an honorable name in the legal profession." Barstow married Bessie Woessner of Stephenson in 1909. He moved to Menominee in 1917, joining the firm of Doyle and Barstow. Among other clients, Doyle and Barstow were attorneys for the Bank of Stephenson, the Daggett State Bank, and the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad. According to A.L. Sawyer, "Politically Mr. Barstow is a sound Republican, and fraternally he belongs to the Menominee Lodge of Knights of Pythias." George Barstow died in 1960. He and his wife were the parents of Menominee lawyer Steven Barstow, one of my father's friends and contemporaries, and it turns out that the legal management of our family property in Menominee County continues to be done by the firm founded in 1925 by George Barstow. (1, 14)
(1) _____. The American Bar. J. C. Fifield Co., 1921. www.books.google.com.
(2) _____. Find a Grave, “John Lane Buell,” “William H. Phillips,” “Alvah Littlefield Sawyer”. www.findagrave.com.
(3) _____. The genealogy and history of the Ingalls family in America. www.archive.org.
(4) _____. History of Northern Wisconsin, Containing an Account of Its Settlement, growth, development, and resources. Chicago: Western Historical Co., 1881. www.archive.org. (Menominee, pp. 601-611, with history and short biographies.)
(5) _____. The Ingalls Inquirer, “Ingalls in America.” www.home.comcast.net.
(6) _____. Memorial Record of the Northern Peninsula of Michigan, Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1895. www.quod.lib.umich.edu.
(7) _____. Michigan Biographies, Including Members of Congress. www.icweb2.loc.gov.
(8) _____. Political Graveyard, “Doyle family of Michigan.” www.politicalgraveyard.com.
(9) _____. Wikipedia, “Byron Sylvester Waite.” www.wikipedia.org
(10) Burton, C.M., Stocking, V., & Miller, G.K. (eds.), “The City of Detroit, Michigan, 1701-1922, Vol. 4. www.books.google.com.
(11) Ingalls, Eleazer S. (1820-1879) Centennial History of Menominee County. Menominee, Mich.: Herald Power Presses, 1876. www.books.google.com
(12) Moore, Charles (1855-1942). The History of Michigan. Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1915. www.onlinebooks.library.upenn.edu.
(13) Reed, George Irving [Ed.], Bench and Bar of Michigan: A Volume of History and Biography. Chicago: Century Pub. and Engraving Co., 1897. www.archive.org.
(14) Sawyer, Alvah Littlefield. A History of the Northern Peninsula of Michigan and its People. Chicago: 1911. www.quod.lib.umich.edu.