Biography of George H. Jerome



Berrien County

Online Biographies


Also see [Railway Officials in America 1906]

GEORGE H. JEROME was born at Pompey, Onondaga Co., N. Y., Oct. 23, 1819. His parents, Ira and Irene (Cass) Jerome, were both of American birth and English extraction. The family tme spreads wide and high on Pompey Hill, which has now become classic ground,_an inland Pilgrim Rock, to which statesmen, poets, and merchant princes are proud to trace their genealogy.

With sinews toughened in this bracing air and a mind inspired in the old academy, George went to Hamilton College, where he graduated in 1842. Hp then entered upon the study of the law. July 9, 1846, he married Miss Charlotte L. Dana, daughter of Eleazer Dana. of Owego, N. Y., and sister of the late Cyrus Dana, of Niles, an accomplished lady of a noted family, including among its members Charles A. Dana, of New York. Soon after his marriage, Mr. Jerome removed to Niles, in the State of Michigan, and entered upon the practice of his profession; but, he soon accepted a magisterial office, which he found more lucrative and pleasant than a practice at Berrien, the remote county seat. As a magistrate he soon achieved the lasting friendship of his brethren of the bar, and the confidence and respect of all his fellow citizens.

In 1851 the growing greatness of Chicago attracted his attention, and he abandoned a profitable business and the most agreeable social relations and cast his fortunes in the’ whirl of that city. He remained in Chicago until 1856, engaging in real estate operations with his proverbial success, when, through some accidental circumstances, he removed to the capital of Iowa, and became the proprietor and managing editor of the Iowa City Republican, which from the oldest then became the ablest political journal of the State. While in this commanding position Mr. Jerome was also for several years chairman of the Republican State Central Committee, and made himself felt in the affairs of the State, and in the policy of his party in the first years of the war. As an express recognition of his services in this behalf; at the personal instance of President Lincoln, he was appointed assessor of internal revenue for a district embracing twelve counties, a position which he filled for four years in the most creditable manner, and then voluntarily resigned in favor of a meritorious and disabled colonel of the Union army. At this period of his life, feeling a desire to withdraw from public employments and engage in rural pursuits, he recollected the enchanting valley of the St. Joseph, for which, although he had wandered so far, he still retained an affection.

Returning to Niles lie selected a home "Sabine Farm” in the southern suburb, overlooking the city and river and the magnificent highlands of the Pottawattamie reservation. Here, like a Roman patrician, he established his villa and tower, and, in great part with his own hands, embellished the surroundings with gardens, vineyards, cascades, and fountains. Reposing from his toils in the shadow of his broad oaks and gorgeous maples, he studied philosophy and the arts, and entertained the friends who sought him with elegant hospitality. Few men have a more extensive personal acquaintance, and none a more attractive retinue of personal friends, embracing men of almost every political opinion and religious creed, for, although firm and positive in his own views and convictions, he is always considerate and tolerant of opposing opinions. Politically, he is a Democratic Republican. He was a delegate from Iowa to the National Republican Convention at Philadelphia in 1856, and has adhered to that party ever since. In’ religious association he seems inclined to the Congregational Church, possibly because his wife is a member of that body. It is quite probable that he does not attach much importance to sectarian distinctions, but rather regards honesty and uprightness of life as the essential elements of Christianity. He is a member of the Masonic fraternity, and perhaps of some other civic societies. Mr. Jerome is eminently social in his habits and tastes; always affable, animated, and cheerful, he infuses vitality wherever he goes. Expert in all games and pastimes, it is a positive pleasure to be the victim of his superior skill. Indomitable energy, ceaseless activity, and executive ability are his distinguishing qualities, adequate to every occasion. If by chance he is called upon to address the grangers at a county fair, he showers upon them wisdom and wit in glittering profusion; or when a centennial jubilee occurs, and he is pushed to the front, he astonishes the assembled thousands of his fellow citizens with a sunburst of magnificent oratory.

In 1873, Mr. Jerome was, as unexpectedly to his friends as to himself; appointed commissioner of State fisheries. He seemed reluctant, but his friends urged him to accept, not dreaming, however, that he had either knowledge or taste in the direction of its duties, but rather regarding the office as a sinecure and the commission as a compliment. Governor Bagley, however, in urging his acceptance, seems to have had a more serious purpose and a better understanding of the fitness of the appointment, for it is as a fisherman that Mr. Jerome is destined to go down to posterity. No matter what honors or distinctions he may hereafter achieve in other directions, his fate is fixed. The smell of the salmonidea is on his garments.

Once installed as superintendent of State fisheries, he entered upon his duties with his accustomed energy and zeal. Throwing aside the pruning hook, he grasped the trident of our inland seas, where, like Neptune, “ He climbed the chariot seat and rode upon the waves. The whales came forth from their deep haunts and frolicked round his way; they knew their king.”

Addressing himself sedulously to his task, he soon made himself not only master of the science of ichthyology but an expert in all the details of fish culture. Abounding in fish of the choicest varieties in all her vast waters, Michigan had hitherto given no care to their culture or preservation. The field was an open one, and success or failure depended upon him. He had great ends to accomplish with limited means. In glancing over his reports one is amazed at the magnitude of his labors and the economy of his expenditures.

It is too soon to estimate the exact value of what he has accomplished, but it is undeniable that he has placed Michigan in the front rank of fish growing States, and reared for himself a monument more enduring than brass, a fame as a naturalist not to be forgotten as long as trout, white fish, or grayling swim in the blue waters around the beautiful peninsula.

History of Berrien and Van Buren Counties, Michigan
With Illistrations and Biographical Sketches
of Its Prominent Men and Pioneers.
D. W. Ensign & Co., Philadelphia 1880
Press of J. B. Lippincoff & Co., Philadelphia.

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