Harrison Township - Gookins
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Under this head we propose to give extended biographies or personal sketches of a large number of the leading citizens of Terre Haute and vicinity, not only of early settlers, but also of the more modern. The items have been obtained, as far as possible, from the parties themselves, or their intimate friends, and are believed to be perfectly reliable. Many of the subjects have already been mentioned in the preceding pages, but we believe it will add vastly to our work as a book of reference and as a basis for the future historian, to give to this department a most minute detail. As far as practicable, the sketches have been arranged in chronological order or rather than in the order of coming to the township or county.--[Ed.
HISTORY OF VIGO AND PARKE COUNTIES Together With Historic Notes on the Wabash Valley
H.W. Beckwith - 1880
Terre Haute - p. 159
The New England Genealogical Register traces the genealogy of the GOOKINS FAMILY from the days of King John, and the American branch of it from the original emigrants who was contemporary with Captain SMITH. Daniel GOOKIN (as the name was then written) came to Newport News, Virginia, in the year 1620. He brought with him fifty men and established a colonial settlement at that point. Captain SMITH seems to have thought that this settler had a will of his own. During the Indian troubles, which resulted in the captain's capture, and his release through the intervention of Pocahontas, and order was issued requiring the settlers to abandon their settlements and retire to Jamestown. Captain SMITH says that "GOOKIN, at Newport News, having fifty men of his own, refused that order and made good his standing against the saulvages." Newport News had been almost forgotten until its fame as a military point was revived during the late war. In the days of the commonwealth under CROMWELL the Puritans of New England sent their missionaries to the chivalry of Virginia, and a son of the original emigrant, bearing his name, became a convert to the Puritan faith. On the restoration of Charles II the general assembly of Virginia passed a law expelling all Nonconformists from the province. The Puritan convert left and went to Boston, of which he became a permanent resident, and there remained during his life, in the course of which he rendered important public services, as speaker of the general court or assembly, commander of the army, and as assistant of ELLIOTT in his labors for the civilization and christianizing of the Indians. He was the father of the New England branch of the family. Among his descendants was William GOOKINS, father of the subject of this sketch.
SAMUEL BARNES GOOKINS was born in Rupert, Bennington county, Vermont, May 30, 1809. He was the youngest of ten children of William and Rhoda GOOKINS. In 1812, the family, excepting the two oldest children, daughters, who had married and settled in Vermont, emigrated to New York and took up their abode in the town of Rodman, Jefferson county. The father died two years after, leaving the mother and her eight children dependent solely upon a good and merciful Providence and their own exertions to make their way in the world. May 5, 1823, the mother, an older brother of twenty-three and Samuel B. set out for the west. Prior to that time the route of westward emigration had been by wagon across New York and Pennsylvania to the tributaries of the Ohio, thence by boat down the river, and sometimes up the Wabash. By the treaty of 1821 between the United States and the Miamis, Kickapoos and Pottawatomies occupying the northern portion of Indiana, the Indian title to most of that territory was ceded to the general government. Immediately after this session attention was directed to what has been called the northern route. This course was taken by the party in question. They took passage at Sacket's Harbor on the Ontario, and landed at Lewiston, thence around Niagra Falls by wagon, thence to Buffalo by open boat, to Detroit by schooner, to Fort Meigs at the head of Maumee bay by another schooner, to Fort Wayne by canoe, across the portage drawing their canoes by oxen to Little river, down that to the Wabash, and down the Wabash to Fort Harrison and Terre Haute, making the trip in the remarkably short space, for those times, of six weeks and two days, a great improvement upon the old route by way of the Ohio, over which if the emigrant made his way within three months he was fortunate. Northern Indiana was then still occupied by the Indians, but they were more friendly and gave the emigrants no trouble, visiting their camp at every opportunity to exchange their wild game for bread or anything the emigrants had to spare.
The emigrants located on Fort Harrison prairie, about two miles from Terre Haute, wither other members of the family had three years before preceded them. In January, 1825, the mother died and the family was broken up. S.B. lived for a time in the family of Captain Daniel STRINGHAM, father of the late Commodore Horton STRINGHAM of the United States navy; afterward, in the families of a married sister and older brother. In July, 1826, he apprenticed himself to the late John W. OSBORN, editor and publisher of the "Western Register," the first newspaper that was published at Terre Haute. At the end of four years, having finished his apprenticeship, he went to Vincennes, and, assisted by the late John B. DILLION, brought out the "Vincennes Gazette," under the proprietorship of Samuel HILL. One year later he returned to Terre Haute, took the position of editor of the "Western Register" and continued in that position until June, 1832, when the "Register" office was purchased by Thomas DOWLING, who established the "Wabash Courier" as its successor.
Having in view the profession of journalist, Mr. GOOKINS made arrangements for pursuing his advocation in Washington city, and had gone so far as to pack his trunk, and was ready to depart for his new field of labor. He had for several years been on very intimate terms with Hon. Amory KINNEY, a lawyer of high standing, then judge of the circuit court. He had often endeavored to convince the young printer and journalist that he was fitted for the legal profession, but hitherto without success. Returning home from a circuit on a Saturday evening, and learning of the preparations made for the departure for Washington on the following Monday, and aware also of another fact, - that a matrimonial engagement existed between him and his present wife, daughter of John W. OSBORN, - another, and this time a successful, effort was made to convince the young man that he was predestined to be a lawyer, the consequence of which was that on the next Monday, instead of departing for Washington, he entered the office of Judge KINNEY and sat down to the study of Blackstone's Commentaries. Regretting the lack of a classical education which he had had neither the means nor the opportunity of acquiring, he consoled himself with the fact, which he learned from his instructor, that a CADY had from the shoemaker's bench attained eminence in the legal profession, with other similar examples, to which, had they sooner occurred, might have been added those of LINCOLN from the farm and JOHNSON from the tailor's bench. He remembered, too, the opinion of the model of his life in his former occupation, Dr. FRANKLIN, upon the inexpediency of wasting so large a portion of one's life in the acquisition of a multiplicity of languages, when one, he thought, would serve for all practical purposes; and, upon these considerations, in which the engagement already mentioned cut no small figure, he decided to make the venture upon the capital invested in an English education, considerably above the average, acquired in the country schools, which had been very materially improved and developed by his work at the printer's case and the editor's table, than which, if rightly improved, there is no better school. But, young man, do not take this as an example. If you have the opportunity for a collegiate course, avail yourself of it by all means. Admitted to the bar of the Vigo circuit court in 1834, and to that of the supreme court in 1836, when he gained his first case in that court (4 Blackford, 160), he pursued his chosen advocation until 1850. Residing in Terre Haute, his practice included a large circuit of courts of Indiana and Illinois. In 1850 the Hon. John LAW, then judge of the circuit including Vincennes and Terre Haute, retired from the bench, and Mr. GOOKINS was appointed by Gov. Joseph A. WRIGHT, of opposite politics, to fill the vacancy. The legislature, at their next session, did not approve of the course of Gov. WRIGHT, and chose one of their own political sentiments instead. In 1851 a new constitution having been adopted, making very radical changes in our judicial system, and requiring the enacting of a civil code, Mr. GOOKINS was induced to represent Vigo county in the legislature, the chief object of which was to aid in that work. It was the "long session," extending from December, 1851 (with a forty days' recess for committee work), to June, 1852, during which time a code was enacted which has formed the basis of our judicial system from that time to the present. Mr. GOOKINS served on several committees, the most important of which was that for the organization of courts. The new constitution made the judiciary elective by the people. Mr. GOOKINS, cooperating with prominent members of the legal profession belonging to the two leading political parties of that time, made a vigorous effort to keep the choice of judges, especially those of the supreme court, out of the field of politics. In this they were unsuccessful. The politicians took the matter in hand, and the democrats first, then the whigs, in state convention, nominated each a full ticket for judges of the supreme court, instead of two from each party, as had been proposed. On the whig ticket the nominees were Charles DEWEY, David McDONALD, John B. HOWE and Samuel B. GOOKINS. They were beaten by a majority of over 15,000. Two years later, a vacancy having occurred, consequent upon the repeal of the Missouri compromise, Mr. GOOKINS was again nominated, and was elected by a majority as large as that of his opponent two years before. In the securing of neither of these nominations did he take any part, believing that the judiciary should be kept free from party power and influence, a principle excellent in theory, but unavailing in practice under the workings of the present system.
Mr. GOOKINS held the position of judge of the supreme court for three years and then resigned. Two causes led to this: First, the insufficiency of the salary to support a family and pay current expenses, the legislature having fixed it at $1,200 per annum. Second, the imperative necessity of a change of climate, consequent upon a serious impairment of his physical constitution, resulting from a violent attack of pneumonia while in the legislature, from which he had never been able to rally. He went to Chicago, where he practiced his profession from 1858 to 1875. Mr. GOOKINS retained to the last his interest in literary affairs acquired in earlier days. He has been a not infrequent contributor to the press, and an occasional one to the magazines, among which were the "Knickerbocker" and the "Continental," both popular in their day. In the latter will be found a political satire entitled "Tom Johnson's Bear," written and sent to that magazine in June, 1862. It was addressed to Mr. LINCOLN, and its object was to show the absurdity of holding the negroes in slavery while their masters were seeking to destroy the government. It had been read at a public meeting in Chicago. After it was sent to the "Continental," and before its publication, the emancipation proclamation was issued. It then seemed to its author inappropriate, and he endeavored to recall it, but the editor would not consent, and it came out in October of that year. This was supplimented by another, following the proclamation of emancipation, entitled "How Mr. Lincoln Became an Abolitionist," published in the same magazine, June, 1863, to which any persons interested can refer. Two other productions of his pen have been given to the public, one entitled "Tippletonia," and the other "The White House, a Natural Drama," in which the presidents wife and the secretary of state are the dramatis personce. They are designed to exhibit some of the features of social life in their true colors. Some have said that literature, especially the poetic, is incompatible with law. This is a mistake. Moses, David and Solomon were legislators, judges and poets. John Quincy Adams and Daniel Webster wrote poetry, and none stood higher in the legal fraternity than the latter. But if the assumption were true, there was not probably in the case under consideration enough of the literary or poetic inspiration to seriously interfere with the labors of a lifetime at the bar and on the bench.
Judge GOOKINS died as he lived, an honorable, upright christian gentleman, at his home in Terre Haute, June 14, 1880. He had been for months engaged upon the work of preparing a history of Vigo county, and only a few days before his death announced that this, his last literary work, was complete.
The following resolution was passed by the Terre Haute bar:
�����Again we meet to mourn the loss of a member of the Terre Haute bar. Judge Samuel B. GOOKINS, the oldest member of this bar, died suddenly at his residence in this city Monday evening. Judge GOOKINS was born in the State of Vermont on May 30, 1809. He emigrated with his widowed mother to Vigo county, Indiana, in 1823, and from that time had resided here the greater part of the time until his death. As a journalist, lawyer, legislator, judge of the circuit court, judge of the supreme court, as a neighbor, a friend and a christian, in all the walks and all the relations of life, Judge GOOKINS stood without fear and without reproach among the foremost and most honored of the citizens of Indiana. It will be the duty of the biographer and historian to do full justice to the memory of our departed brother, and when that is done, high on the roll of honor and merit, and among the most worthy and illustrious men of Indiana, will appear the name of Samuel B. GOOKINS, clarum et venerabile nomen.
As evidence of our regard, be it
Resolved, That the bar of this court attend the funeral of the deceased in a body.
Resolved, That copies of this memorial and resolution be presented to the court of this county with the request that the same be spread upon the records thereof; that proper copies be delivered to the family of the deceased accompanied by the assurance of our sympathy in their affliction, and that the press of the city be requested to publish the same.
The Chicago bar, at a meeting held a few days subsequently, passed similar resolutions of respect and regret.
HISTORY OF VIGO AND PARKE COUNTIES Together With Historic Notes on the Wabash Valley
H.W. Beckwith - 1880
Terre Haute - pp. 159-164
View a history of Terre Haute.
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