Biography of Selden B. Kingsbury

Selden B. Kingsbury
Selden B. Kingsbury

The profession of the law, when clothed with its true dignity and purity and strength, must rank first among the callings of men, for law rules the universe. The work of the legal profession is to formulate, to harmonize, to regulate, to adjust, to administer those rules and principles that underlie and permeate all government and society and control the varied relations of men. As thus viewed there attaches to the legal profession a nobleness that cannot but be reflected in the life of the true lawyer, who, rising to the responsibilities of his profession, and honest in the pursuit of his purpose, embraces the richness of learning, the profoundness of wisdom, the firmness of integrity and the purity of morals, together with the graces of modesty, courtesy and the general amenities of life. Of such a type Selden Bingham Kings-bury is a representative. For eighteen years he has practiced law in Idaho, and for five years has been a resident of Boise.

Mr. Kingsbury was born in Camden, Lorain County, Ohio, on the 29th of October 1842, and is descended from New England ancestry. Members of the family became early settlers of Brockport, New York, and also of Lorain County, Ohio. Lemuel Kingsbury, the grandfather of our subject, valiantly aided the colonies in their struggle for independence, and lost a limb in battle. He attained the age of ninety-six years, and thus long enjoyed the advantages of the re-public for which he made so great a sacrifice. Charles B. Kingsbury, the father of Boise’s well known lawyer, was born May 5, 1812, and between the ages of eleven and thirty-five years sailed on whaling vessels. Later in life he became a prosperous farmer. In his early political affiliations he was a Democrat, but being a great lover of liberty he aided in organizing the Republican Party, formed to prevent the further ex-tension of slavery, and voted for Fremont in 1856. He held various county offices and was an influential citizen in the community in which he lived. He married Betsey Tenant, who belonged to a family of western New York, and to them were born seven children, of whom six are still living.

Residence of S. B. Kingsbury, Boise, Idaho
Residence of S. B. Kingsbury, Boise, Idaho

Selden B. Kingsbury acquired his early education in the public schools, later attended the academy in Oberlin, Ohio, and in 1859 entered Oberlin College, where he continued until the great civil war fell upon the country. At the first call of President Lincoln for volunteers, he, in company with many of the students and one member of the faculty of the college, entered the country’s service, in April. 1861. He was assigned to Company C. Seventh Ohio Volunteer Infantry, which had an enrollment of one hundred and twelve all students of said college and officered by members of its faculty, and on the 20th of April was mustered in at Camp Taylor, Cleveland, Ohio. Three days later they were ordered to Camp Chase, thence to Camp Dennison. Mr. Kingsbury aided in surveying that camp, which afterward became one of the finest and largest camps in the United States. In July 1861, under the call for three years’ troops, he re-enlisted and almost immediately was sent to West Virginia, his regiment being on the advance under General Cox, in charge of the brigade, and General McClellan, in command of the corps. After a forced march of fifty-two miles and a light skirmish, his regiment captured the city of Weston, took a number of prisoners, deposed the rebel forces and captured state funds of Virginia amounting to fifty-seven thousand dollars in specie. This was afterward turned over to Governor Pierpont and was the money with which he was first supplied to carry on the business of the new state of West Virginia, which at that time was organized as a state of the Union. Mr. Kingsbury later participated in the battles of Summerville and Cross Lanes, where his regiment fell into an ambuscade of the Confederate forces under Generals Floyd and Wise. The Union forces were driven from the field and his company, covering the retreat, was badly cut to pieces, most of the men being either killed, wounded or taken prisoners. Mr. Kingsbury was captured and so was every officer of his company who was not killed, and after being incarcerated in Libby prison for a month was sent to Parish prison. New Orleans, where he remained until that city was captured by General Butler, in the spring of 1862, when with some five hundred other prisoners, he was then taken to Salisbury, North Carolina, in which prison he was held until the following July, when he was paroled. Re-turning north, he was sent to Camp Chase, near Columbus, Ohio, and there discharged on ac-count of disability, a year and a half before his complete exchange was affected.

On leaving the army Mr. Kingsbury returned to college and on the completion of the classical course, in 1864, was graduated with the degree of Bachelor of Arts. Later the degree of Master of Arts was conferred upon him by his alma mater. Previous to his graduation he had charge of the Union school of Mentor, Ohio, and after graduation was for two years principal of the city school of Flint, Michigan. He was then elected principal of the Union school of Constantine, that state, a position which he filled with general satisfaction for eight years. During that time he read law was admitted to the bar, and began the practice of law in Constantine, Michigan, where he remained until 1881. In that year he came to Idaho, locating in Hailey, whence he removed to Boise, where he now resides.

Mr. Kingsbury has always been a tireless student, and after choosing the law as his profession he read almost nothing else for three years, giving his entire attention to the mastery of the principles of jurisprudence. While engaged in teaching he attained considerable distinction as a lecturer on scientific subjects, and had the honor of securing and sending to the University of Michigan the skeleton of a large mastodon now on exhibition in the museum of that institution. It is considered the finest specimen of its kind in the United States, and hence was a very valuable acquisition to the museum.- Mr. Kingsbury has one of the finest law offices and largest law libraries in the west. He has attained prestige among the legal practitioners of Idaho, his abilities securing him high rank. As a lawyer he is sound, clear-minded and well trained. The limitations which are imposed by the constitution on federal powers are well understood by him. With the long line of decisions from Marshal down. by which the constitution has been ex-pounded, he is familiar, as are all thoroughly skilled lawyers. He is at home in all departments of law from the minutiae in practice to the greater topics wherein is involved the consideration of the ethics and philosophy of jurisprudence and the higher concerns of public policy. His fidelity to his clients’ interests is proverbial, and therefore his clientage is very extensive.

While in charge of the schools in Mentor, Ohio, Mr. Kingsbury became acquainted with Miss Hulda C. Corning, a native of that town, and in 1865 they were happily married and began residing at Flint, Michigan, where Mr. Kingsbury was engaged in teaching. They have had five children, three sons and two daughters: Nathan C, who is engaged in business in Columbus, Ohio; Lizzie Alice, who died at Constantine, Michigan: Fred and Helen, who are attending Oberlin College; and Ross Selden, a pupil at the public school of Boise. Culture, refinement and intellectual activity characterize this family, and in social circles they occupy a very prominent position. They have a commodious and elegant home, which was erected by Mr. Kingsbury. Socially he is a Knight Templar Mason, a member of the Benevolent Protective Order of Elks, and also of the Grand Army of the Republic. As a citizen and lawyer he stands among the first of the residents of Boise, and his name should occupy a prominent place on the pages of the history of his adopted state.


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

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