Wisconsin Biographies

We try and put the data with the county it belongs to, so make sure and check there also.
These biographies are ones that don't specify a location within the state.

James S. Bowen
Source: An Illustrated History of Skagit and Snohomish Counties, Inter-State Publishing Company, Chicago, Illinois, 1906. Submitted by M. K.Krogman.

JAMES S. BOWEN, a respected citizen of Mount Vernon, was born in Tioga county, Pennsylvania, in 1841, the son of William and Elizabeth (Thorp) Bowen. The father, of Scotch descent, was born in Rhode Island, but later moved to Wisconsin, where he engaged in farming till the time of his death, at the age of thirty-eight. The mother, who traced her ancestry back to Revolutionary stock, died in Kansas. Coming with his parents to Wisconsin at the age of two, Mr. Bowen remained there for six years, then returned to Pennsylvania where he lived with an uncle, and there received his education. Returning to Wisconsin, he served an apprenticeship of three years learning the carriage making trade. Thrilled with zeal for his country, he answered her call for volunteers when the war broke out, enlisting December 12, 1861, for three years, assisting in the defeat of the famous Price raid in Missouri. He was discharged February 25, 1865, only to re-enlist in Hancock's veteran corps, in which he served one year, receiving his final discharge in Washington, D. C, in 1866, after which he returned to Wisconsin and there pursued his former occupation until the fall of 1867, when he moved to Cloud County, Kansas, and took up a homestead. Here he spent the next two years, and then located in Concordia, the county seat, that he might the better discharge the duties of the offices to which he had been elected, that of clerk of the court and register of deeds. Here he remained till 1875, when, after serving his third term as register of deeds, and having also occupied the office of under sheriff and United States marshal for a number of years, he retired from public life, came West and settled in Seattle, Washington, where he engaged in various occupations. In 1879 he started on a trip east, made a brief visit in Kansas, and then went on to Washington, D. C, to accept a position in the Pension Department, which he held for fourteen months, at which time he resigned on account of his health. After spending some time visiting points in the east in search of health, he located in Emporia, Kansas, where for two years and a half he was employed in the Pacific express office, and then moved to Shoshone, Idaho, and was there connected with the Oregon Short Line as express messenger. Desirous of changing both his place of residence and occupation, he went to Pendleton, Oregon, and there for a time worked at the carpenter trade, but later resuming the trade of his early manhood, carriage making, which he also followed when he later located in Whatcom, Washington. In 1890 he purchased a farm on the Samish river and resided there till in 1899 he came to his present home. Mount Vernon. After an extended trip to California for his health, he engaged in his present business, that of real estate and insurance.

Mr. Bowen was married, in Wisconsin, in 1860, to Clara Russell, to which union five children were born, three of whom are now living; James M., Benjamin W. and Walter G. In 1887, in Pendleton, Oregon, he was again married, his second wife being Mrs. Rebecca J. Conley, the daughter of Joseph Rob, a native of Pennsylvania, who died in Tacoma at the age of ninety-five. She was born in Ohio, November 21, 1846, but came with her parents to Iowa when quite young, and there secured an excellent education. She taught for several years prior to her marriage to Mr. Conley, a prominent lawyer of Pendleton. Of their three children, two are now living, Cleora F. Smith and Alberta A. Curry. Mrs. Bowen is a member of the Presbyterian church. Always an active Republican, Mr. Bowen is at present police judge and justice of the peace of Mount Vernon. He is an honored member of the Grand Army of the Republic, and in business and political and social circles is held in the highest esteem.


Amasa Cobb
Source: "A Biographical Congressional Directory From the 1st ( 1774) to the 62nd (1911) Congress"; By United States Congress; Publ. 1918; Transcribed for Genealogy Trails by Andrea Stawski Pack

Cobb, Amasa, a Representative from Wisconsin; born in Crawford County, Ill., September 27, 1823; attended the public schools; went to Wisconsin Territory in 1842 and engaged in lead mining; served in the Mexican War as a private in the United States Army; studied law, was admitted to the bar, and practiced; district attorney 1850-1854; member of the state senate 1855-1856; adjutant general 1855-1858; member of the state house of representatives 1860-1861, and served as speaker the last year; entered the Union Army as colonel of the fifth Wisconsin infantry July 12, 1861; colonel forty-third Wisconsin infantry September 29, 1864; brevet brigadier general March 13, 1865, for gallant and distinguished services at the battles of Williamsburg and Goldin's farm, Va., and Antietam, Md.; mustered out June 24, 1865; elected as a Republican to the Thirty-eighth, Thirty-ninth, Fortieth, and Forty-first Congresses (March 4, 1863-March 3, 1871); moved to Lincoln, Nebr., and became a justice of the supreme court of the state; died in Los Angeles, Cal., July 5, 1905.


David Davis
Source: The Bench and Bar of Wisconsin, by Parker McCobb Reed, Milwaukee; P. M. Reed Publisher (1882) transcribed by Vicki Bryan

DAVID DAVIS, Bloomington, Illinois, is descended from Welch ancestors, who had resided in this country more than a century at the time of his birth, March 9, 1815.

The home of his childhood was in Cecil county, Maryland, where he pursued his early education until he went to an academy in Delaware to prepare for a regular classical education.

Mr. Davis went from the academic school in Delaware to Kenyon College, Ohio, entering that institution in the autumn of 1828. Ohio was then a comparative wilderness, and for a boy student only thirteen years of age, without a relative to welcome him, the prospect was lonely and uninviting. But there was something of the heroic in the native energy of character and firmness of purpose which revealed the man of after life. In 1832, when seventeen, he graduated, and soon afterward chose the law for his profession. The advantages for its study were few in the west at that time, and he started on a long and difficult journey east, reaching at length the old town of Lenox, Massachusetts, to prosecute his studies in the office of the distinguished lawyer, Judge H. W. Bishop. After two years spent in that office he went to the law school at New Haven, Connecticut, then under the direction of Judges Daggett and Hitchcok, both of who were known as eminent jurists. Here Mr. Davis enjoyed the excellent legal discipline in which had the effect to mould his character into that of a lawyer of clear and accurate knowledge of legal principles and precedents which has since given him his merited prominence. Upon his admission to practice he turned his face again toward the Great West, settling in Pekin, Tazewell county, Illinois. This was the fall of 1835. Pekin was selected because of its geographical position upon the Illinois river giving promise of rapid growth. The prevalence of fever and ague there compelled him to leave the place at the end of a year, and he removed to the town which is now the pleasant city of Bloomington, his present residence. Here he began in earnest to lay the foundation of his future success by hard work, which he ever regarded as a better dependence than genius. Shortly after his settlement in Bloomington he married Miss Sarah Walker, of Pittsfield, Massachusetts, who died in November 1879. Mrs. Davis was a fit companion for him, and left many pleasant memories of charity and kindness.

The proceeds of a considerable fortune were devoted by her to the alleviation of human suffering, and she contributed very much to success of her husband’s life. Mr. Davis was an ardent whig of the Henry Clay school, but had no taste for political life. Without solicitation he was nominated for the legislature of Illinois, and elected, in 1844, and to the constitutional convention in 1847. In both positions, especially the latter, he took a leading part. Upon the adoption of the new constitution, in 1848, a new judiciary had to be elected in the entire state. The circuit in which he lived was largely democratic, but Mr. Davis was not a bitter partisan, and by the common consent of the bar and people of his circuit he was chosen judge. Abraham Lincoln was then in full tide of successful practice, and visited Mr. Davis’ circuit, forming with him a life-long friendship. The judge saw from the beginning evidence of inborn greatness in his afterward famous friend. Judge Davis’ circuit embraced fourteen of the largest and most wealthy counties of the state. It was before the day of railroads, yet neither rough traveling nor bad weather prevented him from always being in his place ready to proceed with the public business. Soon after his settlement in Illinois he began investing in prairie lands, and laid the foundation of that fortune which he now dispenses in acts of unostentatious charity. In 1858, when Abraham Lincoln was a candidate against Steven Douglas for the United States senate, Judge Davis supported Mr. Lincoln with great earnestness. Recognized as Lincoln’s confidential friend, he was selected delegate at large to the republican national convention at Chicago, in 1860, where his management as a leader was very successful. In 1860 and 1861 he counseled a moderate course, in the hope that war might be averted. He formed one the presidential party to Washington, but after the inauguration resumed his duties on the bench which he performed until selected, with General Holt and Mr. Campbell, of St. Louis, to investigate the administration of the department of St. Louis, then under the command of General Fremont and Major McKinstry, during a period of war of the rebellion. In the summer of 1862 a vacancy occurred on the bench of the supreme court of the United States, and Judge Davis was selected in the fall of 1862 as associate justice. At that time Judge Taney was chief justice, and between the two there commenced a friendship which was continued until the latter’s death. Judge Davis served on the bench of the supreme court until February 1877, when he resigned to accept the office of United States senator from the State of Illinois.

He met with no opposition to his reelection as judge of the state court, the bar and people both being satisfied with the prompt, impartial and honest discharge of his duty. His labors in the federal and state courts extended through period of twenty-nine years, during which time he adjudicated questions of the highest importance affecting life, liberty and property. His option in the celebrated Milligan case is regarded by the profession as one of the ablest expositions of the rights of civil liberty ever announced by a court. It was criticized unfavorably by some, but by the lawyer and the jurist it will ever be regarded as a sound constitutional recognition of personal and individual rights of the citizen. During the first four years of President Grant’s administration much dissatisfaction arose in the republican party, and, as an outgrowth the liberal movement was organized which assumed form in the Cincinnati convention. A considerable portion of the democratic party and a large number in the liberal cause regarded Judge Davis as a proper candidate for the presidency, he having been nominated by the labor reform party in January 1872. His friends presented his name at Cincinnati, but, owing to certain combinations, he was defeated, and Mr. Greeley became the nominee in the remarkable campaign of 1872. In Illinois senatorial campaign of 1876 the balance of power was with the independent party, friendly to Judge Davis; and after a protracted contest by a combination of the democratic party with the independents he received a majority and was elected. His term as senator commenced on the 4th of March 1877, with President Hayes administration.

Elected by a combination of parties, he has identified with none, but has maintained independence, voting for or against measure without reference to party lines. On account of his ability as judge he was selected member of the judiciary committee, in which for more than four years he has been a great worker in the advancement of the public interests. His speech on the Geneva Award bill reported by the committee was regarded as a very able exposition of the law in favor of the underwriters. Judge Davis is not a speech maker, but does a great deal of work in the committee room and in the business detail of the senate. His disposition is to deal with practical questions of legislation, leaving the discussion of mere party politics to others. Upon the reconstruction of the senate at the inauguration of President Garfield’s administration, he was tendered the chairmanship of the judiciary committee, which he declined giving his reasons in a speech worth of the better days of the republic. After the death of President Garfield, Judge Davis was elected president of senate, without having in any way sought that high honor. In accepting it he informed the senate that if the least party obligation had been made a condition, directly or indirectly, he would have declined the compliment.

Independent in thought and in action, Judge Davis has never favored the arts of the politician, nor sought to gain any object by devious courses. Upright and straightforward, he has always moved openly on a given line of conduct, and boldly proclaimed his convictions on public questions; hence the universal confidence in his integrity of character. Although now over sixty years of age, his mind and body are unimpaired in vigor and health. He resides on one of the most highly cultivated farms of the state, adjoining the city of Bloomington, in a mansion of great elegance and taste. His life has been a great success, financially and officially. ”How blest is he who crowns in shades like these; A youth of labor with an age of ease.”


John Marshall Harlan
Source: The Bench and Bar of Wisconsin, by Parker McCobb Reed, Milwaukee; P. M. Reed Publisher (1882) transcribed by Vicki Bryan

JOHN MARSHALL HARLAN, Louisville, Kentucky was born in Boyle county, near Danville, Kentucky, June 1, 1833, and is a son of James Harlan, who was a prominent lawyer of the state. He graduated at Centre College, under the presidency of John C. Young, D.D., LL. D.; studied law with his father; graduated in 1853 in the law department of Transylvania University, at Lexington, under Chief Justices Thomas A. Marshall and George Robertson, and entered upon the practice of his profession at Frankfort, in his native state.  

In 1858 he was elected county judge of Franklin county, and held the office for one year. In 1859, when but twenty-five years of age, he was the whig candidate for congress in the strongly democratic district of Ashland, and came within sixty-seven votes of an election. In the spring of 1861 he moved to Louisville, when he became associated with Hon. W. F. Bullock and practiced with great success. The civil war breaking out soon after, he relinquished practice and recruited and organized the Tenth Kentucky Union regiment, which served under General Thomas. Having served for some length of time in command of a brigade, his nomination for brigadier general was made by President Lincoln, but at that auspicious period in his military career the death of his venerable father necessitated to forego the flattering promotion, resign his commission, and return to civil life.  

In the fall of 1863 he was nominated by the Union party as their candidate for attorney-general; was elected by an immense majority, and occupied the office until 1867, when, as the candidate of the same party, he failed of an election, whereupon he returned to Louisville and resumed practice with much success. In 1871 he was unanimously nominated, against his desire, as the republican candidate for governor; and although there had been considerable falling off of the ranks in the North in 1874, he largely increased the party vote over that of the previous election of chief magistrate of the state. In 1875 he was again the republican candidate for governor. In 1877 Colonel Harlan was appointed by President Hayes one of the Louisiana commission, on the part of the government, to bring about an amicable plan for adjusting the unfortunate political status of that state; and the result of the wise and temperate course of the commission was a matter of congratulation throughout the country. In 1877 he was appointed by President Hayes an associate justice of the United States supreme courts, which office he is still filling. In this capacity Justice Harlan annually held courts in Wisconsin as part of this circuit, and is accounted by the bar of this state as not only a very able, but also an exceedingly impartial, honest dispenser of justice.


David Irvin
Source: The Bench and Bar of Wisconsin, by Parker McCobb Reed, Milwaukee; P. M. Reed Publisher (1882)

DAVID IRVIN, Texas, was born in Albermarle county, Virginia, in 1794, and was of blended Scotch and Irish parentage. His father was a Presbyterian minister and a teacher of the ancient languages of much local reputation. David Irvin was educated for a lawyer, and started in life in the Shenandoah valley, in Virginia, in which, in after life, he located many marvelous incidents and anecdotes that it was his delight to relate. As he did not meet with wondrous success as a lawyer in the valley, he applied to his old schoolmate, William C. Rives, who was at that time in high favor with President Jackson, to get him an office, and Mr. Rives suggested the propriety of giving him a judgeship. The term of office of Judge Doty as judge of the additional district for Michigan territory having expired in 1832, that position was tendered him and accepted. Upon the organization of the territory of Wisconsin he was appointed associate justice of the supreme court by President Jackson.

Being a bachelor his residence was not necessarily confined to any particular locality. He always preferred southern society, and as soon as the term of his last office was ended he went to St. Louis, where he remained some length of time, and subsequently went to Texas, where, with the economical accumulations of the principal and interest of his salary as judge, he made large investments in wild cotton lands, which has made him a man of wealth. During the rebellion he espoused the cause of the South, and is still living in Texas.


Mortimer M. Jackson
Source: The Bench and Bar of Wisconsin, by Parker McCobb Reed, Milwaukee; P. M. Reed Publisher (1882) transcribed by Peggy Thompson

MORTIMER M. JACKSON was born in Rensselaerville, Albany county, New York; studied law in the city of New York; came to Wisconsin in 1838; was appointed attorney-general of the territory in 1841, and held the office until 1845. On the organization of the state government in 1848 he was elected judge of the fifth judicial circuit, by virtue of which he was also a member of the supreme court. On the expiration of the term of Judge Stow as chief justice, Judge Jackson was chosen by his colleagues chief justice, but declined to serve, and his term as judge expired in 1852. In 1861 he was appointed United States consul at Halifax, Nova Scotia, and in 1880 was promoted to consul-general of the United States for the British maritime provinces, in which capacity he is now acting, with his residence at Halifax.


George W. Jones
The Bench and Bar of Wisconsin History and Biography, by Parker McCobb Reed (1882); Transcribed for Genealogy Trails by Tammy Clark

George W. Jones was born in Vincennes, Indiana, April 12, 1804. He was educated at the Transylvania University, Lexington, Kentucky, and entered upon the legal profession. He came west and located six miles from Dubuque in the early part of 1827. At the close of the Black Hawk war he was elected judge of the court of the western district of Michigan, now the state of Wisconsin, but there is no record of his having served in that capacity. Upon the organization in 1836 of the Territory of Wisconsin he was elected delegate to congress. Mr. Jones received the appointment, by the United States government, of surveyor-general for the territory, and held the office, with one interruption, until 1848. In 1848 he was elected United States senator from Iowa, and was reelected for a second term ending in 1859. Under the administration of President Buchanan, General Jones was appointed minister to New Grenada, and as such resided at Bagota three years, returning in 1861, and now resides in Dubuque, retired from public life.


Nathaniel P. Talmadge
Source: The Bench and Bar of Wisconsin, by Parker McCobb Reed, Milwaukee; P. M. Reed Publisher (1882) transcribed by Glenda Stevens.

NATHANIEL P. TALMADGE was a native of Chatham, Columbia county, New York, where he was born, February 8, 1795. He received a good early education, and was a graduate of Union College. Directing his attention then to the study of the legal profession, he was admitted to the bar in 1818.

In 1828 he was elected to the assembly of New York. He held the office of State senator from 1830 to 1833, when he was elected to the United States senate from New York, which position he occupied until 1844, having been once reelected. He was appointed Governor of Wisconsin territory by President Tyler, June 21, 1844, whereupon he removed to Wisconsin and entered upon the duties of his office, succeeding James D. Doty, thus becoming the third territorial executive. He held that position a little less than a year; a change in the national administration having occurred. Henry Dodge was appointed his successor by President Polk, April 8, 1845.

The ex-governor, upon his retirement, made his residence at Fond du Lac, and applied himself to the practice of his profession. He was a man of excellent character and acknowledged ability. His death occurred November 2, 1864, at Battle Creek, Michigan.



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