Octagon House Museum • Hudson Wisconsin

Hudson Historical Figure: Herman L. Humphrey Continued

Humphrey ObitThe following biography of Judge Humphrey is from the 1882 publication The Bench and Bar Wisconsin, History and Biography.

Herman L. Humphrey, Hudson, was born at Candor, Tioga county, New York, March 14, 1830. His education was in the public schools with the addition of one year in Cortland Academy. At the early age of sixteen he commenced the business of life as a merchant’s clerk, in Ithaca, New York, where he remained in that employment several years. Developing, with mature years, a preference for professional life, he left mercantile pursuits, and entered upon the study of law in the office of Walbridge & Finch, at Ithaca, where he remained until he was admitted to the bar in July 1854.

Wisely concluding that the new western country offered the better field for a youthful practitioner, he wended his way to the flourishing State of Wisconsin, and selecting Hudson for a location, settled down there, and where he has ever since remained. Here he commenced the practice of the law in January 1855, and soon entered upon the tide of successful business. Not long after this auspicious beginning, a vacancy occurred in the office of district attorney for that county, and Mr. Humphrey received an appointment to the position, holding this office during such vacancy. In the fall of 1860, he was appointed by the governor county judge for St. Croix county, to fill a vacancy, and was elected to the same office at the regular election the ensuing spring, for the full term of four years, commencing January 1, 1862. In the meantime, having been elected state senator in the fall of the last-named year he resigned his office of county judge in February 1862 having taken his seat in the senate.

This was right in the height of the war and Senator Humphrey was found conspicuously acting with those who with voice and vote were active in maintaining the Union soldiers in the field and upholding the hands of the president. After the fall of Fort Donelson, a bill was introduced and passed the assembly to repeal the law of 1861 that gave three dollars a month to the wives of soldiers who enlisted in the infantry. The bill on going to the senate immediately passed to a third reading. At this juncture Senator Humphrey although a new member was the first to come forward with the strong objections to the bill that such action would be an unjust violation of good faith and drive the men of this state to enlist in states holding out better inducements and enforcing these views with such pointed language that the question resulted in increasing the amount to five dollars per month and to include every arm of the service. To meet the payment of the large sum of money this bill would call for the use of the school fund was resorted to. Objections to so using these funds were made by democrats in that the state might at some future time repudiate the debt Senator Humphrey took the floor and among other things said, “Let her repudiate adding that as trustee of the school fund the state would be compelled to make the fund good in any contingency and that this measure would make the war bonds of the state good which proved true.”

He also introduced an amendment to the state constitution to add after the word state occurring in section seven article eight and the United States so that no further discredit could be brought on the bonds on the ground that they had been issued to defend the United States and not the state in time of war the adoption of which would have saved the state much trouble in providing for its bonds in 1865. The senator likewise made a speech in favor of the proposition to permit soldiers in the field to vote which received high commendation at the time both by those who heard it and the press.

In 1865 Judge Humphrey was elected and served one year as mayor of Hudson and in the spring of 1866 was chosen judge of the eighth judicial circuit to which he was reelected in 1872 and resigned in March 1877 having served in the office from January 1867 to March 1877. Although not strictly a politician the judge always has taken a lively and well-informed interest in the political affairs of the country and has wielded a large and healthful influence in the republican party consequently when a successor to congressman JM Rusk was to be chosen in 1876 the republicans of the seventh congressional district with notable unanimity called upon Judge Humphrey to accept a nomination for member of congress. Never a seeker for this or any other political promotion the judge deferred however to the complimentary call accepted the nomination and was elected by a handsome majority. Having served with satisfaction to his constituents for one term he was readily reelected to the second at the close of which he expected to return to private life wisely giving opportunity for others aspiring to the honors of the office to win them. But his many friends otherwise disposed kept his name in the field and on the assembling of the congressional convention in 1880 he was nominated on the first ballot notwithstanding two very strong competitors were candidates for the nomination. His reelection resulted by a majority larger than has ever been given to any member of congress in this state.

Unobtrusive and conservative in his ways of life the purity of character of Judge Humphrey is justly appreciated by those who know him. The soundness of his political views has made him a reliable and valued member of the republican party while the irreproachable moral principle and wide statesmanship range of thought that are his characteristics as a public man has rendered his career in the councils of the nation of enduring benefit to the country reflecting honor upon his immediate constituents and enduring credit to his public career.

Source: The Bench and Bar Wisconsin, History and Biography, with Portrait Illustrations; Parker McCobb Reed; Milwaukee: P. M. Reed, Publisher 1882; pages 172-176

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