FROM VOLUME IX (Pages 405- 409)
WISCONSIN HISTORICAL SOCIETY COLLECTION 1882
Memoir of Hon. Henry D. Barron
By Hon. Samuel S. Fifield
Judge Henry Danforth Barron (1873)
(April 10, 1833 – January 22, 1882)
Henry Danforth Barron, Judge of the Eleventh Judicial Circuit, died at his home in Saint Croix Falls Polk County Wisconsin on Sunday, January 22d, 1882.
He was born at Wilton, Saratoga County, New York April 10, 1833 and hence was forty-eight years, nine months, and thirteen days old, when he departed this life,
He began life a poor self-dependent boy, and not having the means with which to acquire anything better than a common school education; and having a taste for books and a natural thirst for knowledge, he early in his boyhood apprenticed himself to and learned the printer's trade in the office of the Temperance Chief, published by the then celebrated Thurlow Weed Brown at Albany, New York. During his life as an apprentice, he studied hard, and soon found a warm friend in Mr. Brown and his sister Emma Brown, who, seeing in the boy the making of a man of more than ordinary ability, took a warm interest in his welfare, and rendered him such assistance as in after life served him well, for by them was the foundation laid upon which he could build a brilliant career, if he so willed. the three years spent in the printing office fitted him for more advanced schooling; and having chosen law as his future profession, he entered the law school at Ballston Spam N. Y. and graduated there, earning his way by extra labor performed at such times as he could obtain, by working at his trade.
The “Western” fever prevailing, he managed to collect together money enough to bring him to Wisconsin in 1851, and he immediately chose Waukesha, then a small but thrifty village, as the place in which to begin life. Soon making valuable acquaintances and friends, he entered upon the labors of a journalist taking the editorship of the Waukesha Democrat, the name of which he immediately changed to that of Chronotype, and which attained, under his management, a place in the front rank of the weekly press of the State. The Democratic party at this time was progressive, and soon after he commenced his editorial labors he became an able advocate of its principles, and gained a more than local reputation as a leader of prominence in his party.
His influence was such that he was appointed post-master of Waukesha by President Pierce and continued the publication of his paper there until 1857, when the excitement over the rapid settlement of the upper Mississippi valley attracting his attention, with a view of bettering his condition financially, he removed to Dunn County and settled at Pepin (now in Pepin County), and entered upon the practice of law, forming a partnership with Col. Ben Allen, a man since prominent as a lawyer and soldier, Here he remained during the financial crash and consequent "hard times” of that and the following two years, and until 1860, when he was appointed by Governor Randall Circuit Judge of the eighth judicial circuit then comprising the Counties of La Pointe, Burnett, Buffalo, Dallas, Douglas, Dunn, Eau Claire, Polk, Pepin, Pierce, St. Croix and Chippewa, to fill a vacancy caused by the resignation of Judge S S.N. Fuller, whose term he finished in a satisfactory manner.
Receiving an offer from Hon. Caleb Cushing of the position of resident agent for the "St Croix Falls Manufacturing and Improvement Company,” he removed to St. Croix Falls in September, 1861, and immediately assumed its duties.
Meanwhile the great rebellion had paralyzed the business interests of the country. The various political factions had taken position for or against the Union. Men of patriotism everywhere rushed to the Union standard, Notwithstanding Judge Barron had been one of the standard bearers as Presidential Elector on Breckenridge ticket during the canvass of 1860, he immediately joined the "war party,” and gave his most cordial and hearty support to the administration of President Lincoln.
He was immediately tendered a commission as colonel of the Eighth Wisconsin Volunteers by Governor Randall, but owing to defective eye-sight and other causes which he could not overcome, he declined, but was active in the enlistment of men, and the enactment of measures for the defense of National Honor.
In 1862 he was unanimously chosen a member of the Assembly for the district comprising the Counties of Ashland, Barron, Bayfield, Burnett, Douglas, and Polk; and in the discharge of his duties, he soon became a prominent leader in that body, and in the Republican party of the State. He was re-elected to the Assembly in 1863, and again in 1865, 1866, 1867 and 1868.
In April,1869, he was appointed Fifth Auditor in the United States Treasury by President Grant, and served until November, 187,1 when he was again elected to the Assembly by the people of his district, and resigned his position at Washington to serve them. He was re-elected in 1872, and in the fall of 1873 was chosen State Senator for the 24th Senatorial District, serving a full term. He was re-elected Senator in 1875, but having been elected Judge of the Eleventh Judicial Circuit in April, 1876, he tendered his Senatorial resignation, and entered upon the discharge of his judicial duties.
During his Legislative service, he held many important and honorable positions. He was Speaker of the Assembly in 1866, and again during the session of 1873. He was Chairman of the Judiciary Committee several sessions in both the Senate and Assembly, and was President pro-tem of the senate during the session of 1875. In 1868 he was one of the Presidential Electors at large on the Republican National ticket, and again in 1872, and chosen President of the Electoral College. In 1863, he was elected by joint ballot of the Legislature, a Regent of the Wisconsin State University, which position he held until 1876. He was for many years a corresponding member of the State Historical Society, of which he was a friend, and patron; and from January, 1869, till his death, he served as one of its Vice Presidents. He was nominated by President Grant, Chief Justice of Dakota Territory in March, 1869, but not wishing to leave Wisconsin, he declined the honor. He was appointed Trustee for Wisconsin of the Antietam Cemetery, by Governor Fairchild in 1871, and represented the State during its organization, and until it was placed in charge of the National Government.
At home, he was a prominent citizen and took an active interest in the local affairs of his town and County and many of the organized business interests and public measures adopted to promote the welfare of both, originated with him, or received his active support and protecting care,
He held several local offices of trust, chief among them the office of County Superintendent of Schools, and District Attorney, and was foremost in shaping local legislation for the protection and aid of the pioneer settlers of his section of the state.
Thus we have sketched the outline of twenty years of active official life and public service, the details of which would fill many volumes.
To no man do the people of Northwestern Wisconsin owe more for their present prosperity and prominence in the State, than to Judge Barron.
He was a man of indomitable energy, clear perception, and strict integrity. He was magnetic in his influence with his associates, warm and abiding in his friendships, and true to his constituents at all times, and under all circumstances. In his capacity as a legislator, he never forgot the fact that he repre sented the pioneers of the "New Wisconsin,” the hard-working “homesteader,” and the hardy lumberman, rather than the more wealthy class. The statute books contain many laws framed by him, designed to aid the new settlers of the State, and to encourage industries, and provide the proper facilities for the people to maintain themselves until the growth and advancement of the country was such as to make them self-sustaining. The legislation in aid of our pioneer rail-roads received his cordial support and active influence, both at the State Capital and at Washington, and much of their success is due to him. His efforts in the Legislature in behalf of the State University, the State Historical Society, and all measures of popular education, were unceasing and effective. In fact, few men in his time, wielded a wider influence in the affairs of State than he, both as a law-maker and politician.
That such a man as he should have hosts of admirers wherever known, is quite natural. He won friends everywhere, and his knowledge of human nature and character was such, that he knew them most thoroughly. And like all men of ability, possessing traits that make them popular with the people, he also incurred the enmity and jealousy of many. hence he had his enemies who followed him through life, but in no instance do we know a single case where he sought or harbored revenge. He was forgiving in his nature, and this trait in his character was one that made him, on the bench, a just and upright Judge, and sometimes caused him to decide in a spirit of what he believed to be strict justice rather than by the “letter of the law.”
That he had his faults, we know full well. That though strong, yet was he weak; but the good in him predominated, and caused his friends to cling to him through good and evil report. So we as his friend of over twenty years, knowing his life, his personal affairs, his triumphs and his trials, feel that it is right to speak of his virtues, and over his faults drawdown the broad mantle of charity, and bury them with him in the grave. The history of his life is closely interwoven with the history of his locality and his State. It will ever remain as a record that he was a useful and honored citizen, — a warm hearted, faithful friend of the people.
His remains were taken to his old Waukesha home for interment, and his funeral was largely attended by prominent citizens of the State, and members of the bar. His last resting place is in a beautiful grove of evergreen, located in a corner of Waukesha’s beautiful “city of the dead.” He rests by the side of his first wife, and where with almost his last breath, he requested to be laid beneath the sod.
The funeral was a most solemn and impressive one. The elements combined to make it so, as it was conducted during a severe thunder shower, and a gale of wind, that piped a dirge through the pines and firs that line the avenues of the Cemetery. It was a fitting close to a stormy, fitful life. As the funeral cortege left the grounds, the storm cleared away, and the bright sun broke through the drifting clouds, brightening the earth, and giving token of peace and pleasant rest to the dead.
Transcribed from the Barron County Shield - March 30, 1877
Judge Henry D. Barron
Donated by Timm Severud
For Judge Barron, and in honoring of him, the County in which we write this, and in which the Shield is published, was named by the legislature upon petition of the County Board of Supervisors of this county.
Henry D. Barron was born in the town of Wilton, Saratoga County, New York on April 10, 1833. His advantages of education found in the common schools of N.Y. thirty years ago. His early life was that of rural boyhood, which included hard work, little schooling and little play. With the few dollars saved from his earnings, and a little help from relatives, he entered Ballstown Spa Law School, where he pursued a course of studies, lasting one year. He had written more or less for the press; he had a tolerably extensive knowledge of the science of law; and he possessed barely sufficient money to pay the expenses of a journey to Wisconsin, where he settled in the village of Waukesha, a thriving county seat, twenty miles west of Milwaukee. Not being of age he could not be admitted to the practice of the law, but he was able to buy a newspaper - the Waukesha Democrat - on advantageous terms, for credit, and he became its editor and proprietor. He changed its name to the Chronotype, and under his charge it assumed a place in the front rank of the Weekly Press of the State. At that time the Democratic Party was the only political party throughout the Northwest. In Wisconsin it was extremely radical and progressive. It had adopted land reform, anti-banking, or the Bentenian financial policy, slavery restrictions, homestead exemption, liberal suffrage laws and the civil rights of women, as cardinal principles. It was a party of young blood, new ideas and sanguine hopes, and thrilled by the impulses of a broad humanity. A grand career of progress and development, full of most useful and most beneficial fruits, appeared outspread before it. To this party with the humanitarian and benevolent impulses of which he was in exquisite sympathy, Mr. Barron attached himself, and notwithstanding his youth, he became one of its most prominent members, and most eloquent advocates. How this party subsequently fell under the malign influences of a reactionary and conservative policy is a history, which belongs to other pages. Mr. Barron's ardor in support of the distinctive principles, which it possessed when he embraced it never cooled or weakened. He was appointed postmaster in Waukesha by President Pierce, and continued the publication of the Chronotype until 1857, when it passed into other hands, and he removed to this part of the State. He had in the mean time been admitted to the practice of law in all the courts. In 1860, when he was twenty-seven years old, he was appointed, by Governor Randall, Judge of the Eighth Judicial Circuit. He served a short term in that office, when he was retained by Caleb Cushing, to take charge of the latter's large interests at St. Croix Falls. That has continued to be his place of residence since that time, from which, however, he has been frequently called in discharge of public duties.
At the outbreak of the war, Judge Barron took a position in the support of the war measures, and would have been appointed to a military position but for defective eyesight. He was prominent in the councils of the war party of the State. He supported Lincoln's administration, and became gradually identified with the Republican Party, of which he has continued to be an active and influential member. In 1862 his legislative career commenced, and he was unanimously, elected a member of the State Legislature for this northwestern district of the state. In November of 1871, while in Washington, discharging the duties of Fifth Auditor of the United States Treasury, he was again elected to the Legislature, and, at the solicitation of neighbors and friends, in the following January resigned his office in Washington to accept the seat in the Legislature, where his district had large and important interests to be guarded, and which the district believe he, in preference to all others, could best protect. He is an admirable presiding officer of a deliberative body, discharging its responsibilities, and often trying and delicate decisions, with uncommon tact, urbanity and decision. He was a model legislator, possessing a rare proficiency in parliamentary law and usage; is a man of the most stubborn integrity, whose industry is indomitable, and method, sincerity and zeal enter into all his business habits. He was always found familiar with the process of all-important measures, knew the condition of every bill of importance, and the nature of all conflicting interests pertaining to subjects of legislation. He was not a great talker, though exceedingly effective in debate from thorough acquaintance with every topic, from his well developed logical powers, from the candor and sincerity in which he approaches all subjects of discussion, and from a knowledge of the temper of public bodies, which seems like intuition. He rarely failed to carry with him a majority of the body of which he was a member, and his successes in this department of public life have had a few parallels. There are host of important laws on the statute books of this State, which bear the marks of his skillful hand. He was unanimously elected member of the Assembly for the Counties of Ashland, Bayfield, Burnett, Barron, Douglas and Polk, in 1863, reelected in 1865, 1866, 1867, 1868, 1871 and 1872: was the Speaker of the Assembly of 1866 and again in 1873; was one of the presidential electors at large in 1868, and president of the Electoral College of that year; was a presidential elector again in 1872, and president of the Electoral College; was elected by a joint ballot of the Legislature, Regent of the State University, which position he recently resigned; is one of the Vice Presidents of the State Historical Society; was nominated in March 1869, by President Grant for Chief Justice of Dakota Territory, and declined the same; was appointed the Fifth Auditor of the United States Treasury, by the President in April 1869, which office he resigned January 1, 1872; was appointed by Governor Fairchild a trustee for Wisconsin of the Antietam Cemetery in May, 1871, was elected to the Senate in 1873 and reelected in 1875; was chosen President Pro Tem in 1875. Last spring the people of this, the Eleventh Judicial Circuit, comprising the counties of Ashland, Barron, Bayfield, Burnett, Chippewa, Douglas and Polk, without regard to party, in large numbers signed calls upon him to become their candidate for Circuit Judge, which requests he complied with, and was elected by a handsome plurality vote, for six years, ending July 1, 1882. He thereupon resigned his seat in the State Senate. Thus far his discharge of judicial duties has been as credible to him, as satisfactory to the public and the bar appearing before him, as his previous record to his constituents. If he should live to serve this term out he will have been in the active and untiring service of the public twenty-two years; for which his recompense will have been but little until, at least the commencement of his judgeship.
Judge Barron is one of our few incorruptible men. His private fortune is small. It has not been swelled by illicit gains, although he charters of wealthy corporations, and laws from which mammoths pecuniary interests derive there protection and support, owe their origin and enactment to his labors. He is without declared enemies in his party, or in the politics of his State; thoroughly familiar with political history and current events, and is one of the best 'self-made men' in the Northwest. He is in the prime of life and the maturity of his powers, and has before him a long career of honor and usefulness.
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