||Augustine Henry Giddings
Augustine Henry Giddings moved to the village of Newaygo from the city of New York in the year 1857. He was born in the town of Sherman, Fairfield Co., Conn., and, if living, would have been about 50 years of age.
The place of his nativity is situated in a picturesque portion of that State. In the days of his early boyhood he lived in what is termed the Housatonic Valley, and a few miles east of Pauling, Dutchess Co., N. Y. His father sold his farm at Sherman and removed to Berkshire Co., Mass., where he purchased another farm, in the vicinity of Great Barrington. The son was sent to the village school in that place until he was 16 years of age, when he was placed at Union College, Schenectady.
Judge Giddings was never married, and there is an authenticated story from which an inference may be drawn. He had two young lady friends, both of whom were attending school at the Washington Seminary in the State of Connecticut. For one of the he had formed an ardent attachment. She may be called Sophia. In a memorable letter to her in which he addressed her as "Dear Sophia", and ended with "Ever Yours", etc. he made considerable effort to do the occasion full justice, and quoted poetry largely. As a crowning effort he inserted the following, quoting from memory, and incorrectly:
"How sweet is the brier with its soft, folding blossom!
And sweet is the birk in its shimmering sheen;
And sweeter and fairer, and dear to this blossom.
Is lovely Sophia, a flower so green".
In the last line he attempted to paraphrase, and all unconscious of the dreadful blunder and all it implied, he dispatched the letter. Susan, his other fair friend, had claims upon his remembrance, and it struck him as a happy thought that he would copy Sophia's letter and with a change of the name it would be appropriate. The girls were not intimate, and the term of school was so near its close that the chances of mutual confidences were small. He came to a clear understanding of the fallacy of his hopes when, a few days later, he received both his communications in one envelope, without a word of comment. He made every explanation that he could devise, but in vain. This occurrence took place during his freshman year at Union.
Soon after he was graduated, young Giddings went to the city of New York and began the study of law in the office of Truman Smith.
Young Giddings was associated with the leading politicians and statesmen of that period and acquired a rare knowledge of men and affairs. Possessed of a clear, discriminating and strong mind, he seized upon the shrewd political methods of the successful men of that day, and none knew better than he how to enlist the masses in his behalf and cause them to carry out his desires with enthusiasm. He read for his profession a short time with another firm in New York, and in 1857, his father having extensive interests in this county, he came to Newaygo and commenced the practice of law.
In 1858 Mr. Giddings was elected Prosecuting Attorney, and was re-elected in 1860. This was the year of the Presidential campaign; and, although he was a warm friend of William H. Seward, and was disappointed in the action of the convention, yet he became early satisfied that Lincoln would give to the country a conservative administration. During the campaign he made several able speeches in behalf of Lincoln, and at the outbreak of the Rebellion desire to enter the army. He failed in his application for a commission as Major and made no further effort.
During the campaign of 1864 Giddings was especially zealous in the re-election of Lincoln. He was subsequently elected to the office of Probate Judge of Newaygo County, and finally in 1870 was chosen Circuit Judge. His discharge of the duties of the position proved so satisfactory, that in the spring of 1875 he was placed in regular nomination. He was re-elected by a large majority, and continue to discharge the duties of his office with impartiality and ability until the fall of 1876, when he died suddenly at Philadelphia, where he had gone to attend the Centennial. He was 44 years of age. But a short time previous his father had left him quite a fortune, and he contemplated making a tour of Europe during the summer of 1877; but his brothers laid him to his long rest among the scenes of his early childhood, and there he sleeps in "God's first temples," so grandly described by Bryant, who was himself born near Great Barrington.
The last case ever tried before him was Anderson vs. The White River Log & Booming Company. Judge Giddings was a man of accurate and vigorous perceptions. His mind moved in a straight line direct to the point he sought. He early discovered and seized upon the main issue in a case, and usually endeavored to have tried with reference to the same. Perceiving the right of a cause, he tried to guard and protect it for the benefit of the party injured. He held the scales of justice impartially. His charges to juries were clean, lucid and manifested the strength of his understanding and judgment. He was patient in the trial of cases, and gave ample time to elicit the facts that had a possible bearing upon the issues involved. He spoke slowly but with great dignity, distinctness and clearness, and always gave urgent reasons for his rulings. He greatly enjoyed wit and humor as a pastime, and was always one of the most social and genial of men.
"And, as years after his death we write of our departed friend, our memory reverts to the early days of his professional career, and brings back to us in the freshness of youth, pleasant memories of him who, full of hope and aspirations, began the struggle of life when the present was full of pleasure and the future satisfying".
And thus we walk with him and keep unbroken
The bond which nature gives,
Thinking that our remembrance duly spoken
May reach him where he lives."
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