Samuel Elbert, 6th Territorial Governor of Colorado

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Samuel Hitt Elbert

Birthdate: (66)
Birthplace: Logan, OH, USA
Death: November 27, 1899 (66)
Galveston, TX, USA
Immediate Family:

Son of John Downes Elbert and Achsa Hitt
Husband of Josephine Elbert
Father of Elbert
Brother of Capt. Leroy S. Elbert (USA) and Benjamin Ficklin Elbert

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About Samuel Elbert, 6th Territorial Governor of Colorado

"The History of Colorado, Page 680

Samuel H. Elbert was born in Logan county, Ohio, in 1833. Iowa Territory. His father, a physician of prominence in his profession, removed in 1840 to the then Territory of Iowa where young Elbert passed his boyhood on his father?s farm. Having made the best of the advantages offered by the pioneer schools in Iowa, he entered the Ohio Wesleyan University at Delaware in 1848 and was graduated with honors there in 1854. He then studied law at Dayton, Ohio, and was admitted to the bar in the autumn of 1856. In the spring of 1857 he located at Plattsmouth, Nebraska, engaged in the practice of his profession, and became identified with the political affairs of the Territory.

In 1860, Judge Elbert was a delegate from Nebraska Territory in the national Convention that nominated Abraham Lincoln for the Presidency; a choice he most earnestly advocated. Taking an active part in the campaign of that year, he was elected to the upper branch of the Nebraska Territorial Legislature, where he served with characteristic ability. In 1862 President Lincoln appointed him Secretary of Colorado Territory to succeed Lewis L. Weld. He arrived in Denver in April of that year and at once entered upon his duties.

During the remainder of his life Judge Elbert was very prominently identified with the political and other affairs of Colorado. While Secretary of the Territory he was, by virtue of his office, frequently the Acting Governor; and, as elsewhere related, was Acting Governor in the winter of 1864-65, when the Indians were so gravely menacing Denver, and has executive charge of the improvised military preparations for the city's defense. An ardent supporter of the government during the civil war, he was a delegate from Colorado in the National convention at Baltimore that re-nominated President Lincoln. In 1865 he took Colorado's admission to the Union, and in the election of Governor Evans and Jerome B. Chaffee as Senators from the prospective new State. His service as Secretary of the Territory terminated in May, 1866, and he then formed a law partnership with the late John Q. Charles and began practice of his profession in Denver. In 1869, he was elected a member of the Territorial Legislature, and became a leader in that body.

In the spring of 1873, Judge Elbert was appointed Governor of Colorado Territory, his term extending from April in that year to July, 1874. Than Judge Elbert, no man more sincere in his efforts to give the Territory a capable and good government ever occupied the executive chair.

Upon Colorado?s admission to the Union in 1876, Judge Elbert was one of the three Justices elected to constitute the State's first Supreme court, and under the provisions of the constitution his term was the one for the six years ending in 1883. In January, 1880, under the constitutional provision, he became the Chief Justice of the court and so served until the close of his term. In 1885 he was again elected a Justice of the Supreme court, for a term of nine years, but owing to the pressure of his private affairs for attention, he resigned in September, 1888. Judge Elbert?s record as an able, conscientious and distinguished Judge has not been surpassed by that of any of the profound men who have served in the highest Court of our State. During his term as Chief Justice of Ohio Wesleyan University conferred upon his the degree of LL.D.; having previously bestowed the degrees of Bachelor and Master of Arts.

The foregoing is but the briefest outline of Judge Elbert?s active life of great and conscientious usefulness to his fellow-men. He devoted its closing years to the affairs of his estate and to extended travel, but his health became much impaired. In the autumn of 1899 he went to Galveston, Texas, expecting to remain there through the ensuring winter. His unexpected death occurred in that city November 27, 1899, and he was buried in our Riverside cemetery on December 3rd.

In June, 1865, Judge Elbert married Josephine, daughter of Governor John Evans. She and their only child, a son, died in 1868, and he did not again marry.

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HON. SAMUEL H. ELBERT, governor of the territory of Colorado 1873-74, chief justice of the supreme court 1876-82 and 1886-88, is one of the most distinguished citizens our state has ever had. Under appointment by President Lincoln as secretary of the territory, he came to Colorado in 1862 and his life since that time has been apart of the history of the state. As the chief executive of the territory, it was his aim to promote the welfare of the people; as chief justice of the supreme court, he was wise, impartial and fearless; as a citizen, he has ever been progressive and public-spirited; and as a friend those who knew him best have found that beneath his dignity of manner and apparent reserve beats a kind, generous, warm heart, untainted by a shadow of dishonor or disloyalty.

The life which this narrative sketches began in Logan County, Ohio, in 1833. The family, while not wealthy, was in comfortable circumstances and the son was given every educational advantage which the schools of Ohio afforded. Dr. Elbert, the father, was an eminent physician and surgeon, with honorary degrees from Cincinnati and Philadelphia medical colleges. In 1840 the family removed to Iowa, but in 1848 young Elbert returned to Ohio, where he took the regular collegiate course of Wesleyan University, graduating in 1854. During the next two years he studied law in Dayton, Ohio, and was there admitted to the bar. In the spring of 1857 he opened an office at Plattsmouth, Neb. His connection with public and political affairs began in May, 1860,

when he was a delegate from Nebraska to the Republican convention that nominated Abraham Lincoln for President, and in the exciting campaign that followed he was an active participant. In 1860 he was elected to the state legislature, his first public position.

When Hon. John Evans was appointed governor of Colorado to succeed William Gilpin, Mr. Elbert was at the same time appointed territorial secretary, and he came to Denver in May, 1862. The intimate friendship between himself and the chief executive was still further deepened by his marriage to the governor's daughter, Miss Josephine Evans, whose death, with that of their only child, in 1868, was the heaviest bereavement that ever befell Mr. Elbert.

Upon the expiration of his term as secretary, in 1866 Mr. Elbert began to practice law in Denver, in partnership with Hon. J. Q. Charles, and the firm of Charles & Elbert carried on a very large practice. In 1873 he was appointed governor of the territory by President Grant and at once began the forwarding of plans for the development of the state, the enlargement of its resources and the prosperity of the people. He was especially interested in the subject of irrigation, for he realized that Colorado could attain no permanent prosperity unless this problem was satisfactorily solved, he secured a meeting of delegates in Denver from the states and territories west of the Missouri River, in the summer of 1873, and delivered an address in this convention upon the necessity of government aid in the irrigating of the vast tracts in the west.

Bitter political feuds in the summer of 1874 culminated in the removal of Governor Elbert from office. Later President Grant ascertained the real facts of the case and openly acknowledged that he had been misled by unscrupulous persons. With the dignity that always characterized him, Governor Elbert wasted no time in disputes, but withdrew from office, and went abroad, visiting all the prominent cities of Europe and making a careful study of political economy. The people had always been his friends and on his return to Denver they showed their appreciation of his services and their confidence in his integrity in many ways that won his gratitude. When Colorado was admitted to the Union as the Centennial state, he was called to the recently organized supreme bench, and the confidence of the people that he would discharge its duties faithfully was not misplaced. In drawing for terms, he secured a tenure of six years. As chief justice he was noted for impartiality and integrity. The high office he held was never betrayed by him; he was faithful to its smallest duty and to the trust reposed in him. When his term expired in 1882, the people urged him to become a candidate for re-election, but his health had been affected by overwork, and he declined. However, when they again urged him to become a candidate in 1885, he consented to the use of his name and was reelected, his judicial term beginning in January, 1886. After two years, in the latter part of 1888, he was compelled to withdraw from the position, a fact which was deplored, not alone by the public, but especially by the attorneys, who had the warmest admiration for his ability and integrity.

While serving as chief justice his alma mater, which had bestowed upon Judge Elbert the degrees of Bachelor and Master of Arts in previous years, tendered him the degree of LL.D. Since his retirement from the bench he has devoted his attention to the management of his property and has also traveled considerably. He justly ranks among the most prominent men of the state. His services have not been solely of a gubernatorial and judicial nature, but in many ways, impossible to recount, he has been helpful to the increased prosperity of the state and has labored to promote its highest interests. As president of the State Industrial Association, he was all important factor in the development of Colorado's agricultural resources, during the early days of our history. By assisting in the solution of the problems connected with irrigation, he aided every interest, for the advancement of the state has been simultaneous with the introduction of facilities for irrigation. In the annals of the state his name will occupy a position of eminence through the generations to come.


Samuel Hitt Elbert (April 3, 1833 – November 27, 1899) served as Governor of the Territory of Colorado (1873–1874) and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the State of Colorado (1879–1883).

Samuel Hitt Elbert was born in Logan County, Ohio. At age seven, he moved with his family to the Territory of Iowa, where he attended public school and studied agriculture. He graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University with high honors in 1854 and moved to the Territory of Nebraska to practice law. In Nebraska, Elbert became active in the newly formed Republican Party. Elbert was appointed Secretary of the Territory of Colorado and served from 1862 until 1867. Secretary Elbert organized the Republican Party in the Colorado Territory. Samuel Elbert married Josephine Evans, the daughter of his mentor, Territorial Governor John Evans.

U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant appointed Samuel Elbert as the sixth Governor of the Territory of Colorado on April 4, 1873. President Grant became the first U.S. President to visit the Rocky Mountain region that summer. The President stayed at Governor Elbert's home, visited Central City, and met with a group of Ute leaders. Governor Elbert served until June 19, 1874, when his predecessor, Edward Moody McCook, was reappointed Governor. Samuel Elbert was appointed to the Supreme Court of the State of Colorado in 1877 where he served until 1889. Elbert served as the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court from 1879 to 1883. Samuel Elbert died on November 27, 1899.

Elbert County, Colorado; Elbert, Colorado; and Mount Elbert, the highest peak in the entire Rocky Mountains, are named in honor of Samuel Hitt Elbert. Grateful miners named Mount Elbert after the governor because he brokered a treaty with the Ute tribe, which opened up more than 3,000,000 acres (12,000 km2) of Indian reservation to mining and railroad activity.

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Samuel Elbert, 6th Territorial Governor of Colorado's Timeline

Logan, OH, USA
November 27, 1899
Age 66
Galveston, TX, USA