James Witherell (1759 - 1838)

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Death: Died
Managed by: Doug Robinson
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About James Witherell


James Witherell (June 16, 1759 – January 9, 1838) was a United States Representative from Vermont. He was born in Mansfield, Massachusetts. After completing preparatory studies, he served in the Continental Army 1775-1783 during the American Revolutionary War. He entered service as a private and rose to the rank of Adjutant in the Eleventh Massachusetts Regiment. He was severely wounded in the Battle of White Plains in 1776.

After the war, Witherell studied medicine and was licensed to practice in 1788. He moved to Hampton, Vermont in 1788 and to Fair Haven in 1789 and continued the practice of his profession.

Witherell was a member of the Vermont House of Representatives 1798-1802. He was associate county judge 1801-1803; judge of Rutland County 1803-1806; and an executive councilor 1802-1806. He was elected as a Democratic-Republican to the Tenth Congress, serving from March 4, 1807 to May 1, 1808 when he resigned to accept an appointment by President Thomas Jefferson as one of the Judges of the Supreme Court for the Territory of Michigan. During the War of 1812, he was in command of the troops at Detroit in the absence of General William Hull, and was taken prisoner when the latter surrendered. He lived in Fair Haven, Vermont while on parole from the British and later was exchanged and returned to his duties in Detroit.

After serving as a Supreme Court justice for 20 years, Witherell resigned in 1828 to accept an appointment by President John Quincy Adams to become Secretary of the Territory. He held the position until May 1830.

Witherell was married on November 11, 1790 to Amy Hawkins and the couple had six children. His son, Benjamin F. H. Witherell, was also a Justice on the Michigan Supreme Court, and his grandson was United States Senator from Michigan, Thomas W. Palmer.

He died in his Detroit home in 1838 and was buried in the Russell Street Cemetery. Later, he was reburied in Elmwood Cemetery.

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James Witherell's Timeline

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Age 79