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Cuyahoga County, Ohio
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of Cuyahoga Co., Ohio
Published by D. W. Ensign & Co.,




Source: History of Cuyahoga Co., Ohio - Published by D. W. Ensign & Co., - 1879 - Page 390
Portrait Source: History of Cuyahoga Co., Ohio - Published by D. W. Ensign & Co., - 1879 - Page 280a

    SAMUEL WILLIAMSON.  The subject of this sketch was born in Crawford county, Pennsylvania, on the 16th of March, 1808.  He is the eldest son of Samuel Williamson, who was born in Cumberland county, Pennsylvania, and removed to Crawford county about the year 1800.  During his residence in that county he was married to Isabella McQueen, by whom he had a family of seven children.  On the tenth of May, 1810, he removed to Cleveland, Ohio, where, in connection with his brother, he carried on the business of tanning and currying, which he continued until his death, which occurred in September, 1834.  He was a man of enterprise and public spirit, highly esteemed as a citizen, liberal in politics, and for many years justice of the peace and associate judge of the court of common pleas.
     Samuel Williamson was but two years of age when he came, with his parents, to Cleveland.  When he attained a suitable age he was sent to the public schools, which he attended until 1826, and then entered Jefferson College, in Washington County, Pennsylvania.  He graduated that institution in 1829, and, returning to Cleveland, entered the office of Judge Andrews, with whom he read law for two years.  In  1832 he was admitted to the bar, and immediately commenced the practice of his profession in connection with Leonard Case, with whom he was associated until 1834, when he was elected to the position of Auditor of Cuyahoga county.  He remained in that office for a period of eight years, at the expiration of which he returned to the practice of law.  This he continued with slight interruptions until 1872, when he retired from its activities to the enjoyment of a well-earned leisure.  During these years his time was not, however, wholly engrossed by his professional interests.  He was elected to a number of responsible positions of public trust, and discharged the duties pertaining to them with unvarying fidelity and marked ability.  In 1850 he was chosen to represent the county in the legislature; in 1859-'60 he was a member of the board of equalization, and in the fall of 1862 was elected to the State senate, in which he served two terms.  He rendered valuable service as a member of the city council and of the board of education, being active in promoting public improvements and educational institutions.  He was a director of the Cleveland and Columbus railroad, and for two years held the office of prosecuting attorney.  He is now president of the Cleveland Society for Savings, one of the largest and best conducted associations of the largest and best conducted associations of this kind in the West, having a deposit of over $8,000,000.
     Throughout his professional career he maintained a high rank at the bar of Cuyahoga county, and while he had a wide and varied experience in every branch of legal practice he was particularly successful as prosecutor's counsel, and was extensively employed in the settlement of estates.
     In all the phases of his career and life he has been thoroughly upright, and well deserves the high respect and esteem in which he is held by all who know him.
Source: History of Cuyahoga Co., Ohio - Published by D. W. Ensign & Co., - 1879 - Page 392
Portrait Source: History of Cuyahoga Co., Ohio - Published by D. W. Ensign & Co., - 1879 - Page 236a

Portrait Source: History of Cuyahoga Co., Ohio - Published by D. W. Ensign & Co., - 1879 - Page 56a


HIRAM V. WILLSON.  This gentleman, an eminent lawyer and jurist, and the first judge of the United States Court for the Northern District of Ohio, was born in April, 1808, in Madison county, New York.  He was educated at Hamilton College, graduating from that institution in 1832.  Immediately afterward he commenced the study of law in the office of Hon. Jared Willson, of Canandaigua, New York.  Subsequently his legal studies were continued in Washington, D. C., in the office of Francis S. Key, and, for a time, he taught in a classical school in the Shenandoah valley.
     During his early studies he acquired the familiarity with legal text books and reports which in afterlife became of great service to him.  throughout his collegiate course, and during his law apprenticeship, he maintained a close intimacy with the Hon. Henry B. Payne, then a young man of about his own age.
     In 1833 he removed to Painesville, Ohio, but soon proceeded to Cleveland, where he formed a law partnership with his friend, H. B. Payne.  They commenced business under the most disadvantageous circumstances, being almost destitute of means in a land of strangers.  They, however, met with encouragement from some of the older members of the profession, and in a short time established their reputation
as able and rising lawyers.  After a few years years Mr. Payne withdrew from the firm, and it became successively Willson, Wade & Hitchcock and Willson, Wade & Wade. By these partnerships even the extensive business and high reputation of the old firm were much increased.
     In 1853 Mr. Willson was the Democratic candidate for Congress against William Case on the Whig, and Edward Wade on the Free Soil ticket. In this contest Mr Wade was successful, but Mr. Willson received a heavy vote.
     In the winter of 1854 he was selected by the Cleveland bar to labor in behalf of a bill to divide the State of Ohio, for Federal judicial purposes, into two districts.  After a sharp struggle t he bill was successful— mainly through his efforts—and the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio was formed. In March, 1855, President Pierce appointed Mr. Willson judge of the court just authorized; an act which was received with general satisfaction by the members of the bar.
     Until the time of his appointment he had been a strong political partisan, but in becoming a judge he ceased to be a politician, and to the time of his death never allowed political or personal motives to affect his decisions, lie proved himself an upright judge, whose decisions were based entirely on the facts of the case and its legal and constitutional bearings.  The new court did not lack for business.  In addition to the ordinary civil and criminal cases, the location of the court on the lake border brought it a large number of admiralty suits.  Many of his decisions in these cases were regarded as models of lucid statement and furnished valuable precedents.
     Among the most noteworthy of his decisions in admiralty was one regarding maritime liens, in which he held that the maritime lien of men for wages, and of dealers for supplies, is a proprietary interest in the vessel itself, and cannot be divested by the acts of the owner or by any casualty until the claim is paid, and that such lien inheres to the ship and all her parts, wherever found, and whoever may be her owner.
     In the case of L. Wick vs. the schooner "Samuel Strong," which came up in 1855, Judge Willson reviewed the history and intent of the common-carrier act of Ohio, in an opinion of much interest.
     In other cases he supported his decisions by citing precedents of the English and American courts for several centuries.  A very important case was what is known in the legal history of Cleveland as the "Bridge Case" in which the questions to be decided were the legislative authority of the city to bridge the river, and whether the bridge would be a nuisance, damaging the complainant's private property.  Judge Willson's decision, granting a preliminary injunction until further evidence could be taken, was a thorough review of the law relating to water highways and their obstructions. In the case of Hoag vs. the propeller "Cataract" the law of collision was clearly set forth.
     In 1860, important decisions were made in respect to the extent of United States jurisdiction on the Western lakes and rivers. It was decided, and the decision was supported by voluminous precedents, that the admiralty and maritime jurisdiction possessed by the district courts of the United States, on the Western lakes and rivers, under the constitution and the act of 1789, was independent of the act of 1845, and unaffected thereby; and also that the district courts of the United States having, under the Constitution and the acts of Congress, exclusive original cognizance of all civil causes of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction, the courts of common law are precluded from proceeding in rem to enforce such maritime claims.
     In a criminal case the question was whether the action of a grand jury was legal in returning a bill of indictment found by only fourteen members of the jury, the fifteenth member being absent and taking no part in the proceedings.  After reviewing the matter at length and citing numerous precedents, Judge Willson pronounced the action legal.
     In 1858 the historical Oberlin-Wellington rescue case came before him, a case growing out of a violation of the fugitive slave law by certain professors and leading men of Oberlin College and town, who had rescued a slave captured in Ohio and being taken back to Kentucky under the provisions of that law.  Indictments were found against the leading rescuers, and their trial caused great excitement.  They were convicted, fined and imprisoned.  The result caused a monster demonstration against the fugitive slave law, which was held in the public square, midway between the court-house and the jail.
     In this trying time Judge Willson remained calm and dispassionate, his charges merely pointing out the provisions of the law, and the necessity of obeying it, no matter how irksome such obedience, until it was repealed.
     During the excitement caused by the John Brown raid, and afterward on the breaking out of the rebellion, he defined the law in regard to conspiracy and treason, drawing with nice distinction the line between a meeting for the expression of opinions hostile to the government, and a gathering for violently opposing or overthrowing the government.
     At the January term in 1864 he delivered an admirable charge, in which he discussed the questions arising from the then recent act of Congress, authorizing a draft under the direction of the President, without the intervention of the State authorities, and conclusively established the constitutional validity of the act in question.
     The judicial administration of Judge Willson was noticeable for its connection with events of national importance, and our limited space will allow us to quote but few of the important cases which came before his court.  And here it should again be repeated that in all his conduct on the bench he was entirely free from personal or party predelictions.  In 1865 his health began to fail and symptoms of consumptionappeared.  He yielded at last to the persuasions of his friends to seek the restoration of his health in a milder climate, and, upon the approach of the winter, visited New Orleans and the West Indies.  The weather proved unusually severe for those latitudes and he returned without benefit from the trip.  He gradually sank under the attacks of the fell disease, and died on the evening of the 11th of November, 1866.  A few hours before his death he suffered much, but he became easier and passed away without a struggle.  Some months before he had been received as a member of the Presbyterian Church, of which he had long been a member and an active supporter.
     On the announcement of his death the members of the Cleveland bar immediately assembled, and all vied with each other in rendering testimony to the integrity, ability and moral worth of the deceased.  The bar meeting unanimously adopted resolutions of respect, in which he was truthfully described as "a learned, upright and fearless judge, ever doing right and equity among the suitors of his court, fearing only the errors and mistakes to which fallible human judgment is liable."  Not a word of censure was breathed against any one of his acts, and tributes of  heartfelt commendation of his life, and sorrow for his loss were laid on his grave by men of all parties and shades of opinion. he was married, in 1835, to the widow of Mr. Ten Eyck, of Detroit, Michigan, who survived him. He also left a daughter, Mrs.
Portrait Source: History of Cuyahoga Co., Ohio - Published by D. W. Ensign & Co., - 1879 - Page 393



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