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Crawford County

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Hon. Hiram Lawton Richmond    

Hon Hiram Lawton Richmond, Engraving from the Centennial edition of the Daily Tribune-Republican, 1888. Click to enlarge

HON. HIRAM LAWTON RICHMOND, of Meadville, Penn. Richmond, as a personal cognomen, is an ancient English name. It is of Norman origin, and doubtless came over with William the Conqueror. The great battle of Hastings was fought on the 14th of October, 1066. Immediately after his victory, William vowed to build an abbey on the high grounds where Harold had posted his army, as commemorative of that great event. And soon the magnificent structure arose, and its high altar stood on the very spot where Harold had planted his standard during the fight, and where the carnage was thickest. Hence it took its name of “Battle Abbey.” And to perpetuate the memory of his commanders and companions in arm, who survived the battle, William caused a list of their several names to be made out and preserved among the archives of the abbey, known in history as The Great Roll of Battle Abbey.” In that list the name Richmond is found. The next year, 1067, the name first appears in English necrology, to wit: Alan Richmond, Earl of Brittany. Mr. Richmond’s more immediate ancestors were of Wiltshire, England. In 1638 John Richmond, of Ashton-Keynes, Wiltshire, came over, and became one of the first purchasers of the town of Taunton, thirty-five miles south of Boston. It is believed that nearly all the Richmonds in this country, and they are not a few, are descendants of John, of Taunton. A son of his, Edward Richmond, moved into Rhode Island. From this Edward the subject of this sketch is lineally descended. His father, Dr. Lawton Richmond, was born in Providence, R. I., August 7, 1784. When seven years old, in 1791, his parents moved to the State of New York, and settled in Herkimer County, on what was called the Royal Grant, where he grew up to manhood. The family was a large one, consisting of nine brothers and three sisters, all of whom are now dead; the last one, Freeman Richmond, died December 24, 1880, at the advanced age of ninety-one years, three months and twenty-six days. Having received a good academic education, he

Advertisement from Directory of Crawford County, Pa. for 1871-72

entered the office of Drs. Todd & Hanchet, as a student of medicine, and having completed his course of study, and passed a close and critical examination before the Board of Censors, he received his first permit or license to practice medicine, from the Chancellor of the State. May 23, 1809, he was united in marriage with Miss Sarah Townsend, a beautiful and intelligent young lady of eighteen, of Scotch extraction. That spring, immediately after his marriage, he moved to western New York, stopping for a year or more in the town of Chautauqua, Chautauqua County, where the subject of this sketch was born May 10, 1810, but finally locating where Westfield now is, then known as the Crossroads. The country was new and sparsely settled, yet he soon entered upon a lucrative practice of his profession. But the tide of immigration began to set heavily, still westward. Dr. Richmond was a pioneer by inclination. Fond of the pleasures, the adventures and hazards of frontier life, he too caught the western fever, and taking his little family and small accumulations, he migrated to southern Indiana, the then Eldorado, and settled in Allensville, Switzerland County, a frontier village of half a dozen log-houses, forty-eight miles below Cincinnati, and eight miles back from the river. The State had but recently been admitted into the Union, and its southern portion filled up rapidly with Eastern people. The Doctor and his wife were members of the Methodist Church, active and ardent; indeed had joined that church in its very morning, when they were yet single. He was a local preacher and was ordained an Elder at his own house, while living in Indiana. Well versed in sacred literature, and blessed with an easy flow of language, his heart full of the work, he was a good and effective preacher. When the demands of his profession would permit, he had a series of Sabbath appointments, which he generally filled. But the arduous duties imposed upon him by the practice of medicine, in a new and rugged country, sparsely settled, wore upon his constitution, and his health so failed him that to regain it he deemed it advisable to seek a more northern clime; and in 1829, he, with his family, returned to his old and early home in the State of New York. He remained here until 1834, when he moved to Meadville, Penn, mainly that he might give his two sons the advantages of attending Allegheny College, which had then just come under the patronage of the Methodist Church.

The educational opportunities of Hiram, the elder of the two sons and the subject of this sketch, had been very few previous to the return of the family North—such only as were furnished in the log schoolhouse of the frontier, and one winter’s private instruction under the direction of a worthy young man of the name of Pratt, who was studying medicine with the Doctor. He loved mathematics, and in one winter, without an instructor, he “ciphered” his way nearly through “Old Pike’s Arithmetic.” He thus spent, and in reading such books as fell in his way, his winter evenings and leisure day hours, when there was no school within his reach. On their return to New York, he then being nineteen years old, he entered a private academy, and by close application to study, not wasting an hour, he soon acquired a good English education. He now commenced the study of medicine with his father, and pursued it for two years. But his aspirations were for the legal profession, upon preparation for which he would have entered in the first instance, but for a popular prejudice indulged by his parents, that a man could not be both a lawyer and a Christian; a strange notion indeed, and yet, even in this enlightened age, indulged in by many good people. On their moving to Meadville, as above stated, he entered Allegheny College, as a student, and remained two years. In the winter of 1836 he was registered by the Hon. David Derickson, as a student of law, and in February, 1838, was admitted to the bar.

In December after his admission, he was united in marriage with Miss Maria Power Shryock, daughter of Gen. Daniel Shryock, a worthy citizen and leading merchant of the place. She has proven a faithful, affectionate and devoted wife and mother. Popular in his address, he had a smile, a hand­shake and a how-do-you-do for every one worthy the recognition whom he met. His first two efforts as an advocate were of a character that gave him position as a young lawyer of much promise, and he soon entered upon a lucrative practice. As an advocate, he was soon ranked among the first in the State. As a stump and platform speaker he had but few superiors. In politics he was a Whig. Crawford County was then largely Democratic, and continued so for some ten years. In 1847 she for the first time sent Whigs to the Legislature, and in 1848 gave a large majority for Gen. Taylor for President, as against Gen. Cass. Mr. Richmond, from his entry into public life, has always taken great interest in the political issues that sprang up from time to time, demanding consideration. He is no trimmer, is a man of positive ideas, is out­spoken in his convictions, and ready to defend them on all suitable occasions. Perhaps no man contributed more than he to change the political character of Crawford County. After the election of 1848 she continued Whig so long as that party had an existence, and subsequently became still more strongly Republican, and has continued so ever since. In 1872 Mr. Richmond was elected a member of the Forty-third Congress, from the Twenty-fifth District, by the largest majority the district ever gave. The district consisted of the counties of Crawford, Mercer, Venango and Clarion; is the most populous and wealthy in the State—rich in iron, coal and other minerals—and embracing within its limits the great oil-producing territory of the State. Upon taking his seat he was appointed on two important Committees—the Committee on Indian Affairs and the Committee on Public Expenditures. The Indian Committee consisted of twelve members, all of whom, except three, were experienced and able lawyers. He took great interest in Indian affairs, reported several bills on questions committed to him in Committee, each one of which passed the Committee, and both Houses of Congress, without objec­tion or amendment. When the question of appropriations in aid of the Indian came up he made an able speech, which attracted much attention among the friends of the red-man, and was published entire in the Cherokee Advocate, a paper published by the Indians, in the Indian Territory. His idea as to our duty to the Indian is thus expressed in the concluding paragraph of that speech: “Bring him (the Indian) within the embrace of our civilization, elevate him to the proud position of American manhood and citizenship, confer upon him all the prerogatives of a man, equal in rights and privileges to every other man, then will we have made some atonement for the great wrongs we have done him through the ages that are past.”

Mr. Richmond is a life-long Methodist, as were his father and mother before him, and for many years a Leader and Steward in the church, and has done much to advance its spiritual and temporal interests. He was a delegate to and Temporary Chairman of the Methodist State Convention of Pennsyl­vania, which met in Philadelphia October, 1870. By appointment he prepared and presented to the convention an essay on “The Duty of the Christian Citizen to the State as a Political Organization,” which was well received and very highly commended. He is a friend to and promoter of education. For many years he has been a Trustee of Allegheny College. In the celebrated Chamberlain will case, which passed through the courts of the State of New York, the property and domicile of the testator being in that State, Mr. Richmond was the only Pennsylvania lawyer who appeared in the case, and has the merit of having raised the point upon which the case turned, and was ultimately decided in favor of the college by the Court of Appeals. His argument prepared in that case with great labor and research, is a masterpiece of logic and learning. He has one of the largest and best selected libraries in northwest­ern Pennsylvania, and here he may be found almost any day in the year, and almost any hour in the day.

Mr. Richmond is now seventy-four years old, yet he retains his physical and mental vigor to a remarkable degree. He is still in the active practice of his profession. A leading daily of his city thus speaks of one of his recent forensic efforts: “When court convened yesterday morning the case of false pretenses against O. U. Bunting was called, and the Hon. H. L. Richmond, Sr., opened to the jury. Mr. Richmond made a very powerful address to the court. Although one of the oldest practitioners at the bar, and with the weight of years upon him, he conducted the case alone with the keenness and vigor of youth; and in summing up his line of defense, and forging his chain of evidence, with the perfection of every link, which would add laurels to the brow of any of the lawyers who sat around in the pride and prime of life, there was not one sign of weakness in constructive power in argument, not one lack of grace and force of rhetoric and language. The plea was, indeed, one of rare ability, and that in face of the fact that he had a very bad case (in legal parlance), and the effect upon the jury was apparent from the beginning, while the whole crowded court listened in absolute silence, charmed by the splendid scene, its central figure the majestic and snowy-haired orator himself.”

Mr. Richmond has an interesting family of eight children, five sons and three daughters, all living and of adult years. HIRAM LAWTON, his firstborn, an alumnus of Allegheny College, has for many years been in the active and successful practice of the law in his native city, and also connected with the City Government—either as Member of the Council or Mayor of the city— was also for a time Chief of the Fire Department. In 1880 was a delegate to the Republican National Convention at Chicago. He married Virginia Vance, whose father, now deceased, was a leading lawyer of New Lisbon, Ohio. MARIA, married to Col. Charles H. Hawkins, largely engaged in the iron busi­ness in Chicago. DANIEL SHRYOCK, an active, energetic and successful business man, was Supervisor of the Census for the eleven northwestern counties of Pennsylvania, is now extensively engaged in the lumber and ice business, and is Superintendent of and a heavy stock-holder in the Conneaut Lake Ice Com­pany. ALMON GEORGE, an alumnus of Allegheny College, a promising young lawyer, recently elected, by a very large majority, District Attorney of his county, is an amateur artist and admirable caricaturist; married to Mary Grayson, second daughter of Thomas Grayson, Esq., editor and proprietor of the Craw­ford Democrat. ELIZABETH, married to T. Albert Delamater, engaged in railroad and lumber business and second son of Hon. George B. Delamater, a banker. JAMES EDWARD, grocer, is an active and energetic business man, and has a large business. CHARLES FREMONT, a young man of ranch promise, is engaged in the lumber business; and HARRIET, the youngest of the flock, a fine-looking, intelligent and interesting young lady.

NOTE. -- It is claimed by a branch of the Richmond family that John, of Taunton, came over in the “May Flower.” and was also known as John the Puritan. 

History of Crawford County, Pennsylvania: containing a history of the county, its townships, towns, villages, schools, churches, industries, etc., portraits of early settlers and prominent men, biographies, history of Pennsylvania, statistical and miscellaneous matter, Chicago: Warner, Beers & Co., 1885, page 761-765

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