|Portrait Biographical Album of Peoria, Illinois
a book published 1890, Biographical Publishing Company, Chicago
James H Sedgwick. Among the prominent law firms of Peoria County,
may be properly mentioned that of Bailey & Sedgwick.
As Mr Bailey is principally engaged in banking and a large loan business,
the legal transactions of the firm are conducted by Mr. Sedgwick, the subject of this sketch,
who has been practicing in the city of Peoria continuously for the pas fifteen years.
He is fifty years of age, having been born September 4, 1840,
and is a native of Coshocton County, Ohio, the son of Samuel and Ruhama (Knight) Sedgwick,
of whom Ruhama, the mother, is still living in Sandwich, Ill.
Samuel Sedgwick is a native of Connecticut, a descendant of Robert Sedgwick,
one of Cromwell's generals, and at his death, Governor of Jamaica.
It is a family that has produced lawyers, writers, soldiers and statesmen.
Among them were Judge Theodore Sedgwick of Massachusetts, Catharine Sedgwick, the authoress,
Maj. Gen. Sedgwick on whom Gen. Grant relied so implicitly,
and Maj. Sedgwick who was with Washington at Valley Forge.
The father of our subject was reared to manhood in his native state and was educated for the profession of a physician, which he followed first in Oneida County, N.Y., where he married, ans afterward in Coshocton County, Ohio. About 1844 he came with his family to Kendall County, in this state, but only lived three years thereafter, his death taking place in 1847. Young Sedgwick was reared by the mother, and after leaving the common schools became a student in the famous Oberlin College, Ohio, where he pursued his literary studies. He was admitted to the bar in in July, 1861, after a course at Chicago Law School under the direction of Judge Booth. He commenced the practice of his profession in Sandwich, this state, but after the outbreak of the Civil War, entered the Union Army. He participated in several active engagements, was captured by the rebels and taken to Tyler, Texas, where he was confined two years and then succeeded in making his escape. He worked his way North to the Union Lines in Arkansas, where he succeeded in due time in rejoining his regiment, and remained with it until the expiration of his term of enlistment shortly afterward. He was honorably discharged as a Sergeant, Company B, Fifty-first Illinois Veteran Infantry, and bears on his person the scars of a faithful and exceedingly trying military experience.
Returning now to Sandwich, Ill., Mr Sedgwick returned to his law practice, but subsequently removed to Sycamore and in partnership with Judge Lowell followed his practice two years. We next find him in the city of Chicago, where in 1873, he associated himself in partnership with O. J. Bailey, and two years later removed to Peoria, where they successfully followed the profession in which they have attained a goof reputation.
Politically, Mr. Sedgwick, although mingling very little with public affairs, is a decided Prohibitionist, being one of the organizers of the party in this county and their nominee for congress in 1888. But while believing that the total prohibition of the saloon is the true policy of the State, he is by no means a fanatic. He is liberal and progressive in his ideas, the friend of education and reform; he is one of the early members of the Law Library Association in which he has held all the offices, and is now President, being elected in the spring of 1889. This library is a very complete one, comprising fifty-five hundred volumes, furnishing an invaluable store of information to those following the legal profession.
Mr. Sedgwick is a valued member of the Peoria Scientific Society, and his public addresses before that society are highly appreciated. The calls on him for addresses before other associations and on other occasions are frequent. His hearers are wont to remark that "Mr. Sedgwick has always something to say worth listening to." In the National Bar Association he is for the third time Chairman of the Committee on Legal Education and Admission to the Bar, and his annual reports on that subject are anticipated as ans event of the session.
On the 10th of July, 1865, Mr. Sedgwick was joined in wedlock with Miss Maria B. Merritt, daughter of William J. Merritt, a prominent pioneer of DeKalb County. Of this union there have been born four children who are living. The eldest son, Howard, is a practicing physician of Peoria. William C. is a hardware merchant of this city and located on Main Street; Philip and Edna remain with their parents, attending the city schools. The family residence is pleasantly located on the East Bluff portion of the city and is frequented by its cultured and intelligent people. Mr. and Mrs. Sedgwick have ever a hearty welcome for progressive people, those who think and have definite original ideas, whether or not they agree with them.
Mr. Sedgwick held several public offices in the first part of his career, while retainers were scarce and fees small. He consented at one time to act as a Justice of the Peace, afterward for a short time, to fill an interregnum, was County Attorney of DeKalb County. Then he was elected City Attorney of Sandwich, but refused to qualify. He holds that a man who has a good private business is not wise to sacrifice his independence for a public office, and that independence of thought and action is worth more than any office.
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