Biography of Charles Linsley

LINSLEY, CHARLES, was born in Cornwall, in Addison county, on the 29th of August, 1795. His father, Hon. Joel Linsley, born in Woodbury, Ct., February 7, 1756, moved from there and settled in the town of Cornwall in 1775. The Rev. Lyman Matthews, in his history of Cornwall, says of him: ” Judge Linsley belonged to a class of men whose energy, enterprise and intelligence go far in forming the character of a town. He was, indeed, formed by nature to exert a controlling influence in any community in which he might reside. He was appointed town clerk at the organization of the town and held that office, with the exception of two years, until his decease. He represented the town in the State Legislature, was assistant judge and afterward chief judge of the County Court . . . . . In every office his duties were discharged with marked ability and to universal acceptance. Few men enjoyed with keener relish the pleasures of social intercourse. Possessing an inexhaustible fund of anecdote and humor and unusual conversational powers, he was the life of every circle with which he associated. The aged and the young alike found in him an agreeable companion. To the unfortunate he was a sympathizing friend; to virtuous indigence a cheerful benefactor; and of every scheme of benevolent effort a munificent patron.”

He married, October 18, 1781, Levina Gilbert, born December 28, 1758. Their children were – Sarah, born May 10, 1783; Betsey, born September 10, 1785; Horace, born December 13, 1787; Joel Harvey, born July 16, 1790; Gilbert, born May 9, 1793; Charles, born August 29, 1795; Lucius, born May 11, 1798; and Julius, born February 17, 1801.

Joel Linsley died at Cornwall, Vt., February 13, 1818; his wife, Levina, April 30, 1843. All of their children are deceased.

Abiel Linsley, grandfather of Charles, was engaged previous to the Revolution in trade with the Indians, on the borders of Lake Erie. He settled in Cornwall, Vt., soon after the close of the Revolutionary War, and died there the 17 th of May, 1800, aged seventy years.

Sarah, the sister, who survived childhood and youth, married Rev. Truman Baldwin. Three daughters were born and survived them. They removed to Western New York and died there at advanced ages.

Horace, the eldest brother, a farmer, was a man of great integrity, natural piety, and earnestness of purpose; would have excelled as a teacher or pastor had he possessed the advantages of an early education. But he married early, and kept up the farm of his father during his life, when afterward he removed his family to Western New York. A man of influence, father of a large family; a deacon of the Congregational Church; he died at an advanced age, having been a good and faithful servant in his Master’s kingdom.

The Rev. Joel Harvey Linsley, D.D., a brother of Charles, studied first for the bar, was admitted and practiced for some years, afterward studied for the ministry, commenced preaching at Hartford, Ct., and afterwards was settled over the Park Street Church, Boston, for three years; was president of the Marietta College, Ohio, the next ten years; two years thereafter he devoted to the agency of the Society for the Aid of Western Colleges, making his home in New York city; in 1847 was called to the pastorate of the Second Congregational Church in Greenwich, Ct., and in this relation continued until his death, which took place March 22, 1868. He was a man of position, ability, industry and success from the first, enjoyed in the largest measure the confidence of the wise and good, filled positions which could not be filled by a man of inferior qualifications; in his Christian character, calm, cheerful, sympathetic, accessible to all, meek and long suffering, full of charity and good works.

Charles Linsley grew up to manhood in the county where he was born. He did not enjoy the advantage of liberal studies in early years, but acquired a good, plain education and a useful appreciation of the necessity of something more. In early manhood he engaged in mercantile pursuits, but he soon abandoned the counting-room and commenced the study of law. During his mercantile life, though with few advantages, to acquire some classical knowledge as a foundation, he was often found, when disengaged from business, poring over Virgil. About the year 1819 he commenced studying the law in the office of Peter Starr, esq., in Middlebury, and after remaining there a year or two went to St. Albans and completed his course in the office of Mr., afterwards Chief Justice, Royce, working very hard there in law and classics. In 1823 he was admitted to the bar in Franklin county, returned to Middlebury and began there the practice of his profession. He entered a professional arena such as has been rarely witnessed, when Daniel Chipman, Judge S. S. Phelps, Horatio Seymour, Robert P. Bates and Peter Starr were the leading contestants. Tradition yet speaks of the splendid tournaments of those days, in the Addison County Courts; but only tradition. All the actors have passed away. Mr. Linsley, the youngest of all, survived them all, and survived, also, most of his later associates. To say that Mr. Linsley, then a young man, took at once a respectable standing among such competition; that he gradually but steadily advanced in reputation and public regard till he came to be reckoned among their equals, and that as his eminent seniors, one after another, left the business of the bar, he became one of its acknowledged leaders, and ably maintained that position for many years, is to say much; enough, perhaps, but no more than the truth. The early death of Mr. Edmunds, the retirement of Mr. Chipman, the election of Mr. Seymour to the United States, and of Mr. Phelps to the bench, and the removal of Mr. Bates to New York, as they successively occurred, left him in the foremost ranks of the profession. No counsel was then more sought than his; few causes of any consequence tried there without his assistance, no influence in that part of the State regarded as more effective with juries, or more useful with the bench. His addresses, both to courts and juries, were always pervaded by an elevated sentiment, never descending below a just dignity or appealing to an unworthy prejudice. He excelled in the difficult art of cross-examination. While he never unjustly attacked an honest witness, few dishonest ones were able to escape his acute penetration and cool, imperturbable self-possession. His shrewdness and remarkable reticence in business affairs made him a safe and reliable counselor. In the ardor and solicitude of the advocate he never forgot what belonged to the gentleman, and strove always to elevate the character and dignity of the profession.

Mr. Linsley possessed rare powers which the ordinary duties of his profession did not call into exercise. A few fragments of poetry written by him have been preserved, which indicate a fine poetic faculty. His acquaintance with general literature was varied and extensive, and he could have have excelled in almost any of its departments. He was public spirited, sustaining earnestly every movement towards public improvements. He was an early and strong friend of the railroad enterprises of the State; and was connected with Judge Follett, Mr. Conant, Judge Smalley, George T. Hodges, Nathaniel Fullerton and others in the projection and final completion, through many trials and difficulties, of the Rutland and Burlington Railroad.

In politics Mr. Linsley early connected himself with the old Democratic party, and adhered to it consistently through all fortunes down to the general obliteration of party lines in 1861. A strong friend and admirer of Mr. Van Ness, he went with that gentleman in 1827, when he led off General Jackson. He was also associated politically in those days and afterwards with many leading men in the State. Among them were Colonel Hyde, Heman Lowry and Mr. Haswell, of Burlington; Judge Kellogg, of Brattleboro; Governor Robinson, of Bennington, and Judge Williams, of Rutland. A strong bond of political friendship seemed to have been formed among this class of men, by their political connection. During this period of his life Mr. Linsley never held office, except the appointment of United States district attorney, under the administration of President Polk. In 1856, after a brief absence in the West, engaged in some railroad affairs with his sons, he was induced to move to Rutland, where he formed a partnership with John Prout, esq., and entered at once into a very large business, more lucrative, probably, than any he had ever enjoyed. The next six years, the last of his active life, were its busiest. Besides his heavy practice, he held, during the years 1856 and 1857, by appointment of the Supreme Court, the office of railroad commissioner, being the first incumbent of that place after its creation. In 1858 he represented the town of Rutland in the Legislature, and took a leading and useful part in the debates and the business of the session. He was also collector of the district of Vermont, under President Buchanan, in 1860. At the opening of the War of the Rebellion he took the side of the government and gave it his earnest and unswerving support to the day of his death. Those who were admitted to his domestic and social life will never forget his unvarying kindness and courtesy, his cordial hospitality, his genial, playful wit, and his affectionate attachment to those he loved. Honest, kindly, generous, true to his friends, in prosperity modest, in adversity brave, he was a Christian gentleman, every inch.

In 1862 his health had become so much impaired as to render further attention to business out of the question. He returned to Middlebury, to the home where he had spent so much of his life. It was, however, too late for rest to restore him. Though able to be out much of the time, and to engage more or less in the literary employment before alluded to, he gradually declined. He died on the 3d of November, 1863. He was buried from St. Stephen’s Church, of which he was one of the founders, and had long been a member and staunch friend, and from whose doors eleven of his children, out of seventeen who had been born to him, had preceded him to the grave.

Mr. Linsley was twice married. He married, June 27, 1826, Sarah White, daughter of Daniel and Elentheria (Hedge) Chipman. Their children, in the order of their births, were: Daniel Chipman, Sarah Elentheria, Charles Julius, George Lucius, Susan Dunham, Edward Hedge, Eliza Maury and Emma Levina; all deceased except Daniel Chipman and GeorgeLucius. Sarah White Linsley died at Middlebury February 12, 1841. Mr. Linsley married, December 5, 1841, Emeline, daughter of David and Hannah (Bartholomew) Wells. Her father was a native of Brattleboro, Vt., her mother of Harwington, Ct. Children by this union were: David Wells, Mary Elizabeth, Emeline Wells, Joel W., John Gilbert, William, Helena Electa, Julius Gilbert and Richard Wells. Mary Elizabeth, Joel W., William and Julius Glibert are living.


Addison County VT,

Smith, H. P. History of Addison County Vermont: With Illustrations And Biographical Sketches of Some of Its Prominent Men And Pioneers. Syracuse, N.Y.: D. Mason & co., 1886.

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