Biography of Edward J. Curtis

Among the eminent men of the northwest whose life records form an integral part of the history of Idaho was numbered Hon. Edward J. Curtis. In his death the state lost one of its most distinguished lawyers, gifted statesmen and loyal citizens. As the day, with its morning of hope and promise, its noontide of activity, its evening of completed and successful efforts, ending in the grateful rest and quiet of the night, so was the life of this honored man. His career was a long, busy and useful one, marked by the utmost fidelity to the duties of public and private life, and crowned with honors conferred upon him in recognition of superior merit. His name is inseparably interwoven with the annals of the Pacific coast, with its best development and its stable progress, and his memory is cherished as that of one who made the world better for his having lived.

Edward J. Curtis was born in Worcester, Massachusetts, in 1827 and acquired his preliminary education in public schools and under the instruction of private tutors in his native town. He was thus prepared for college and entered Princeton, where he was graduated with high honors. On the completion of his collegiate course he returned to Worcester, but soon after went to Boston, where he began the study of law in the office of the renowned jurist, Rufus Choate, but after a short time the news of the discovery of gold reached the east, and in company with a number of young men he started for California, crossing the plains to San Francisco, where he arrived early in 1849. Soon, however, he went to San Jose, where he entered the law office of Judge Chipman, and later removed to Sacramento, where he continued his studies under the direction of Judge Murry. In 1851 he removed to Yreka, where he became editor of a paper, and was elected to the legislature from Siskiyou County, serving for two terms. In Sacramento, in April 1856, he was admitted to the bar, beginning practice in Weaverville, Trinity County, California, where soon afterward he was elected judge of the court of sessions of northern California. He also owned and published the Trinity County Journal.

At the outbreak of the civil war Judge Curtis was commissioned a second lieutenant by Governor John L. Downey, in a company of the Second Brigade of California Volunteers, but his command was never ordered to the front. When his property in Weaverville was destroyed by a flood he removed to Virginia City, Nevada, where he formed a law partnership with Hon. Thomas Fitch, the famous orator. In 1864 he went to Silver City, Idaho, with Hon. Richard Miller and the noted Hill Beachy, of stage-line fame. In that new and prosperous mining camp Judge Curtis and Mr. Miller opened a law office. In 1866 the latter was appointed by the president judge of the second judicial district of the territory, and the former was elected district attorney, after which he became a resident of Boise. From that time forward he was prominently connected with the events which form the history of the commonwealth, with its business interests and political life, and at all times was a leader in public thought and action. In 1869, while in Wash-ington city, he was appointed by President Grant to the position of secretary of the territory of Idaho, and in 1872 he was elected a delegate to the Republican national convention at Philadelphia, where he cast his vote for the re0nomination of the hero of Appomattox. Later he was reappointed territorial secretary, which position he held for eight consecutive years, and during four years of that time was acting governor of Idaho. At the breaking out of the Indian war of 1877-8 he was adjutant-general of the territory, and as such made treaties of peace with several hostile chiefs in southern Idaho. Such was the excellent record which he made in these various positions, and so high was his standing in Washington circles that President Arthur appointed him, entirely without solicitation on the part of Judge Curtis, and even without his previous knowledge, to the office of territorial secretary, and by President Harrison he was reappointed in 1889, holding that position until Idaho was admitted to the Union and passed under control of the new officials, in November, 1890.

His efforts in behalf of Idaho were by no means confined to his political services. He was the advocate of all measures which tended to advance her social, moral, material and intellectual welfare, and it was through his instrumentality that the Territorial Library was established. He went to Washington, D. C, to get an appropriation for that purpose, and through the cooperation of Senators Edwards and Sumner he secured the sum of five thousand dollars, the full amount asked for. This library grew and prospered under his fostering care and would now do credit to any state in the Union. After his retirement from office Judge Curtis resumed the private practice of law, in which he continued until his last illness. He was one of the most distinguished members of the bar of this state, and on account of his wonderful command of language and his persuasive eloquence was irresistible before a jury. His arguments, too, were based upon the facts in the case and the law applicable to them, and displayed a profound knowledge of the principles of jurisprudence.

In 1856, while in Sacramento, California, Judge Curtis married Miss Susan L. Frost, of New Haven, Connecticut, who at that time was one of the popular schoolteachers in Sacramento. The marriage was a most happy one, and their union was blessed with five children. E. L. Cur-tis, the eldest, served as territorial secretary, acting governor and register of the land office, taking a leading part in public affairs, but his brilliant career was terminated by death in 1890. Anna, the only daughter, is the wife of Dr. J. K. DuBois, a physician of Boise; and the younger sons are William R., John J. and Henry C. Mrs. Curtis and her children, with the exception of the eldest son, survive the husband and father and are yet residents of the capital city, where the Judge made his home for thirty years. He was a life-long Republican in his political affiliations, was a member of Ada Lodge, No. 3, I. O. O. F., and of the Pioneers of the Pacific Coast. His death occurred December 29, 1895. Faultless in honor, fearless in conduct, stainless in reputation, such was his life record. His scholarly attainments, his statesmanship, his reliable judgment and his charming powers of conversation would have enabled him to ably fill and grace any position, however exalted, and he was no less honored in public than loved in private life.



Illustrated History of the State of Idaho. Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company. 1899.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Discover more from Access Genealogy

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading

Scroll to Top