Biography of Colonel Henry Curtis

One of the prominent citizens of Rock Island, and a man of high standing in the legal profession, was Colonel Henry Curtis, deceased.

He was born at Boston, Massachusetts, August 13, 1834, the home of his parents. Henry and Rebecca L. (Everett) Curtis, and in that city he spent his boyhood and received his preliminary education. This was finished by a course in the English High School of his native city, which fitted him for entrance into the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute at Troy, New York, where he pursued an engineering course, and graduated in 1855 as a civil engineer.

In 1856 Mr. Curtis came to Rock Island, where, one year later, December 15, 1857, he married Lucy R. Osborn, the daughter of Marcus B. Osborn.

He continued his practice as a civil engineer in Rock Island until October 8, 1860, when, having fitted himself for the legal profession, he was admitted to the Rock Island County Bar. Upon taking up the practice of his new profession, Mr. Curtis entered into partnership with his brother-in-law, Charles M. Osborn, under the firm name of Osborn & Curtis, and this partner-ship continued until 1880, when it was dissolved, Mr. Osborn removing to Chicago and Mr. Curtis continuing in the practice alone until his death. During the continuance of the firm they were attorneys for the Rock Island Road. In 1887 Mr. Curtis was appointed master in chancery for Rock Island County by Judge George W. Pleasants, which office he held continuously for nearly twenty-five years. A staunch Republican, Mr. Curtis never aspired to an active career in political life, and the office of master in chancery was the only one he ever held during his long and honored career in Rock Island.

Soon after Mr. Curtis came to Rock Island the Civil War broke out, and he, together with Major Charles W. Hawes and others, organized a company of volunteers, consisting of one hundred and sixteen men. During the first year of the war this company was mustered into the Thirty-seventh Illinois Volunteer Infantry, Mr. Curtis bearing the rank of lieutenant, M. S. Barnes of Rock Island being captain of the company, which was known as Company A. This company was mustered into service at Camp Webb, in Chicago; Julius White of that city being the first colonel of the regiment to which they were assigned. M. S. Barnes, the captain of Company A, was made lieutenant-colonel, and this created a vacant captaincy to which John A. Jordan was elected. He served for three months and was then succeeded by Lieutenant Curtis, who continued as captain of the company until March 7, 1862, when he was severely wounded at the battle of Pea Ridge, Arkansas. He was granted leave of absence, and upon his recovery again rejoined his company and shortly afterward was chosen assistant adjutant-general by the former colonel of his regiment, who had meanwhile been appointed brigadier-general.

The remainder of Colonel Curtis’ military service was in the Eastern Army. One notable incident in this service was the siege and surrender of Harper’s Ferry, in which he took a very prominent part. His war record throughout was distinguished by bravery and loyalty. At the end of the war he was brevetted a lieutenant-colonel.

At the close of the war Colonel Curtis returned to Rock Island and again resumed the practice of law together with his partner, Mr. Osborn. As has been stated, his career as a lawyer was a long and honorable one. He achieved and maintained an exalted position in the forefront of his profession, and was held in confidence and high esteem by all who knew him. After the firm of Osborn & Curtis was dissolved, Mr. Curtis formed a partnership with his son, Hugh E. Curtis, for the purpose of drawing abstracts of title, and this firm, under the active management of Hugh E. Curtis, continued until the death of Colonel Curtis, when the son assumed full charge of the business.

On November 17, 1902, Colonel Curtis was bereaved by the death of his wife. Of this marriage four children were born: Henry R. Curtis, St. Paul, Minnesota; Osborn M. Curtis, New York City; Hope G. C. Jones, wife of Commodore H. W. Jones, United States Navy, residing at Washington, District of Columbia, and Hugh E. Curtis, of Rock Island.

On September 12, 1905, death brought to a close the long and useful life of Colonel Henry Curtis, his demise occurring at Marblehead, Massachusetts. He had been in failing health for some years and had retired from active professional and business life. His death was a distinct loss to the community in which he had spent the best years of his manhood, and in the tributes paid to his memory by his fellow members of the bar and others who were intimately associated with him the sentiment was general and profound that Colonel Henry Curtis was a character above reproach. an honorable, sincere and upright gentleman.


Biographical Publishing Company. Portrait and Biographical Album of Rock Island County. Illinois; Chicago: Biographical Pub. Co.

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