Biography of Roswell Lester Burrows


Burrows, Roswell Lester, was for many years one of the foremost members of the Buffalo bar. His father, Latham Avery Burrows, was a lawyer, a judge of the Court for the Correction of Errors, and a State senator, was located at Owego, Tioga county, N. Y., where his family of ten children were born (Roswell L. being ths second), and where, on the banks of the Susquehanna, he built a fine house of the old fashioned pillared type, which, with its well kept grounds and garden, is still one of the pleasant homes of that quiet, attractive place. Roswell Lester Burrows was born March 12, 1821, and as a boy and young man was remarkable for his great physical strength and mental vigor, and many an entertaining anecdote was told of his boyish courage and prowess or victory in the class-room. About 1889 the family moved to Rochester, where he studied law with General Matthews. He was admitted to the bar in 1842 and began active practice in Albion, Orleans county, where two of his father's brothers lived, and where he formed a law partnership with Judge Burrell. On the death of his elder brother, Latham, in 1847, he moved to Buffalo, where he resided and practiced law until his death. January 6, 1848, he married Maria W, daughter of Rev. Justus W. French, of Albion, N. Y. After removing to Buffalo he shared, for a time, an office with E. Carleton Sprague, and during his earlier residence in this city held many positions of trust. He was a trustee and secretary of the Buffalo Orphan Asylum and secretary of the. Buffalo General Hospital, rendering efficient service during the cholera panics of 1849, 1852 and 1854. He was chairman of the lecture course of the Young Men's Association, city clerk during the years 1854-55, and during the war of the Rebellion was in full sympathy with the North and active in the service of the Sanitary Commission. He was a member of the State Legislature in 1866-67, and while there was the means of securing for Buffalo its State Normal School. In the fall of 1868 he was elected judge of Erie county and served four years, when he resumed his law practice, which he carried on until his death, making a specialty of referee cases. For the most part he practiced alone; but he formed, at different times, partnerships with Judge Green, George R. Babcock, John A. Douglass, and Sheldon T. Viele. He was also for many years a director and the attorney of the Niagara Falls International Bridge Company. Judge Burrows possessed a discriminating sense of justice, keen judgment, and a comprehensive grasp of mind rarely equalled. His fund of anecdote was exhaustless, his sense of humor remarkable. He had pre-emineritly a legal mind, and he so supplemented that quality by training and study as to become a great lawyer, sharp and accurate, but never narrow or technical. His opinions and decisions were ever received with deference and respect. His uprightness of purpose, honesty of intention, and perfect integrity were unimpeached and unquestioned, and he enjoyed in the highest degree the esteem and confidence of alL He was first a Whig and later a Republican, and a member of the Baptist church. He died February 15, 1897; his widow survives him. He had four children: Sarah Lester (Mrs. Charles C. Morey), who died December 15, 1883; Julia Maria, who died September 14, 1878; Miss Anna E., of Buffalo; and Latham Avery, a banker of Saginaw, Mich.

Our County and its people
A descriptive work on Erie County, New York
Edited by: Truman C. White
The Boston History Company, Publishes 1898


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