Biography of James Rood Doolittle
Chicago, Cook County, Il Biographies

DOOLITTLE, JAMES ROOD. - Born at Hampton, Washington county, N. Y., Jan. 3, 1815. Eldest son of Reuben and Sarah (Rood) Doolittle. His father was of Englishand his mother of Scotch descent, the father being fifth in descent from Abraham Doolittle, who came from Kidderminster, Eng., and was one of the founders of New Haven. Supposed to be a brother of that Dr. Thomas Doolittle, of Kidderminster, a noted teacher and commentator, who built the first dissenting chapel in London. Abraham Doolittle settled in America about 1640. He was marshal of New, Haven colony, and was one of the purchasers of Wallingford, Connecticut, from the Indians. In 1644, he held the position of sheriff of New Haven county, The father was verily a man of iron so far as constitution was concerned; he was never sick a day in his life until in 1846 when, after a long ride on horseback through the States of Michigan and Illinois in the sickly season, he was seized with malaria, which resulted in a malignant fever, from which he died at Waukegan, at the age of 57. The mother was half Scotch and half English, and lived to be nearly 90 years old. James R. Doolittle attended Middlebury Academy in New York, where he took a preparatory course and entered Geneva College in 1830, graduating in 1834. He studied law in Rochester, and was admitted to the bar in 1837, by the supreme court of New York. He first began his practice in Wyoming county in the Empire state, and met with encouraging success. He became very active in politics, and though a democrat was elected district attorney in a whig county. When, in 1847-8, Gen. Cass was the democratic candidate for president, he advocated the diffusion of slavery over the territories, as a method which lie claimed would be the best to destroy it. Mr. Doolittle was strongly opposed to this idea, and in the state convention at New York, February, 1847, introduced a resolution against it, giving strong and sensible reasons for his opposition. On this "cornerstone resolution" the democratic free soil party of New York was organized, which defeated Gen. Cass. As a consequence Gen. Taylor was elected, and California was admitted into the union as a free state. In 1851 Mr. Doolittle removed to Wisconsin, to pursue the practice of his profession. He gave his support to Gen. Pierce for president in 1852. In 1853 he was elected judge of the first judicial circuit, then the most populous district of the state. In March, 1856, he resigned his office, and retired from the bench. It was in the summer of this year that the "border ruffian" troubles occurred in Kansas. This matter inaugurated a trem endous struggle in both houses of congress, and caused an extended dead-lock between the two houses, on the question whether the army of the United States should be used to enforce the border ruffian slave code of Kansas, At last the law was passed whereby slavery was sustained in the territory; and this gave cause once more for Judge Doolittle to sever his connection with his party. and to help build up the new republican party, which was organized upon the "corner-stone" of the non-extension of slavery. In 1857 judge Doolittle was elected to the United States senate; and in 1863 was re-elected to serve a second term. His period of service, from March, 1857, to March, 1869, embraced the terms of Buchanan and of Lincoln; the breaking out of the war of secession; its triumphant termination; the passage of the amendments to the constitution; the impeachment of Andrew Johnson, and most of the work of reconstruction. After his retirement from the senate in 1869, he engaged in the practice of his profession in Chicago, still living, however, at Racine, Wis. His first partner in business here was the Hon, Jesse O. Norton. After the fire of 1871 this firm was dissolved, and Judge Doolittle formed a partnership with his son, James R. Doolittle, Jr. In 1876 Henry Mckey came into the firm. Mr. McKey has since died, whereupon Mr. John M. Palmer, of Springfield, took his place. Edgar B. Tolman, who had been a law student under Senator Doolittle, had, in 1889, been admitted to partnership, and the firm is to-day Doolittle, Palmer & Tolman. Judge Doolittle is a man of great intellectual powers. As a jurist he stands second to none in any of the courts of the United States. Like his father, he has a constitution of iron. He has never had a fit of sickness, not even a headache, backache or toothache, in his life. Out of the thousands of pothical and professional engagements during his long career, he has never failed to meet one on account of ill health or fatigue. He was thrown from a buggy in September, 1890, breaking his arm and bruising a leg; but in four weeks, with his arm in a sling, he appeared in the supreme court of Illinois and argued two very important cases. judge Doolittle was married July 27, 1837, to Miss Mary L. Cutting, at Warsaw, N. Y.; six children have been born - Henry J., Anson O., James R., Silas W., Mary M. and Sarah L. Three sons, Henry, James and Silas, are deceased. Three children, sixteen grandchildren and one great grandson are still living.

The Handbook of Chicago Biography
Edited by John J Flinn.
The Standard Guide Company
Chicago 1893


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