Judge Thayer Melvin
There have been, and are yet, natural lawyers and jurists as there are natural musicians and natural artists. Judge Melvin was a natural born jurist. He was born at Fairview, Hancock County, Virginia, in 1837, and received a fair English education in the common and high schools of his native and adjoining counties to begin with, and later by study and careful reading of good books he became a really accomplished scholar and litterateur, and a man of broad and general knowledge.
At the age of seventeen years he began the systematic study of the law in his home town, which was the seat of justice of the county at that time, and was furnished books and was counseled by the lawyers of the town. He had a strong, clear mind, and was remarkably industrious. Later he went to New Lisbon, Ohio, where he remained for something like a year, and was tutored by a friend who took a special interest in his advancement, so that in 1853, at the age of eighteen, he passed the required examination, and was admitted to the Bar of Hancock County. During his minority, in 1855, he was elected Prosecuting Attorney of Hancock County. Our present statute prohibits one from receiving license as an attorney at law until he is twenty-one years of age, and it is also mandatory that no man is eligible to hold an office of any kind until he is full twenty-one. We believe these prohibitions existed at that time. If they did it is apparent that no one paid any attention to them, and consequently Judge Melvin was allowed to begin, what turned out to be, a distinguished professional career at least three years ahead of time. Any way "he made good," but it could not be "put over" in these times. In 1856 and in 1860 he was elected and re-elected to the same office, notwithstanding the fact that in 1857 he had moved his residence to Wheeling, Ohio County, where he had associated himself in the practice of the law with Joseph H. Pendleton, a prominent lawyer of that period.
The Civil War came on about this time and young Melvin promptly volunteered to defend the flag as a private soldier in Company F, 1st Regiment, West Virginia Volunteer Infantry. In a very short time he was commissioned an Assistant Adjutant-General of Volunteers, and served in that capacity until the close of the war, when he was honorably discharged. He located in Wellsburg, Brooke County, and resumed the practice of his profession. In 1866 he was again elected Prosecuting Attorney of Hancock County. He was Attorney-General of West Virginia from January 1, 1867, to July 1, 1869, when he resigned to accept the office of Circuit Judge of the First Judicial District of the State, to which he had been appointed by the Governor to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Judge E. H. Caldwell. This was the beginning of the career of one of the ablest and most upright Judges the State of West Virginia has ever produced. Tiring of the "wool sack," however, he resigned from the Bench after serving ably for years, in November, 1881, and returned to the practice in the City of Wheeling until the death of Judge Joseph R. Paull, when he was appointed by Governor Atkinson to fill the unexpired term of the deceased Judge. When his term expired he was elected for another term of eight years without opposition, and died from apoplexy before the term expired. He was a Whig prior to the Civil War, but after the "cruel war was over " he became a Republican, and remained such until his death, but was never a strenuous partisan. In the discharge of his judicial duties he knew no party or creed. He sought only to be just and fair, and rarely, if ever, failed in deciding right. It was a rare occurrence for one of his decisions to be reversed by the Appellate Court. Furthermore he was one of the most courteous, urbane of men, and was at all times absolutely honest and sincere. He died in the City of Wheeling where he had spent the greater part of a long and useful life, mourned by all the people who admired his manly and noble character. He never married.
[Bench and bar of West Virginia edited by George Wesley Atkinson, 1919 Transcribed by AFOFG]
Captain William Stewart
Capt. William Stewart was one of the best known river men of the upper Ohio Valley. He was a grand son of Daniel Stewart who came form the County of Derry, Ireland seven years before the Revolution through which he served. He died in 1830, aged 93 years.
Son, William (2) was born in Washington County, PA, ca. 1796, he married Mary Neil and had the following children: John, Joseph, William, Daniel, Sarah, Andrew J. and Hiram R., of whom Joseph, a physician at Steubenville, Ohio, Andrew J., Sarah and William survive.
The family removed in 1837 to Hancock County, W.Va., where the father died in 1884.
William (3) was born Apr 1, 1828 in the same house in which his father was born. At 15, he began an engagement of four years at fire-brick making and after that he went upon the river. He was first a flat-boat pilot, then a steam-boat pilot and is now making trips from Pittsburg to Louisville. On Aug 28, 1851, he was married to Mary A., daughter of Philip and Mary Monsey, of French descent. She was born in Lancaster, PA. The Captain and his wife have the following children: Andrew C., Sarah R., Frank W., clerk of the court., Hiram C., Mary P., Jesse V., Anna R. and Joseph.
The Captains home (in 1890) is at New Cumberland.
[Source: "History of the Upper Ohio Valley" , p. 659, reprinted in "The Echoer" monthly quarterly and transcribed from that publication here by K.T.]
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