Biography of Charles S. Lester

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CHARLES SMITH LESTER, the son of Charles Gove Lester and Susan Wells Smith, his wife, was born at Worcester, Mass., on the 15th day of March, 1824. He is a descendant of Andrew Lester, who came to this country about the year 1640 from England and in 1651 settled in New London, Conn. Simeon Lester, his grandfather, was born in Connecticut and there married Sally Gove, daughter of Nathaniel Gove, who was a lieutenant in the Seventeenth, Continental Regiment during the Revolution and who marched under Washington, was engaged in the battle of Long Island, taken prisoner and confined on a prison ship in the Hudson where he imbibed the seeds of incurable disease. Simeon Lester and his wife emigrated to Vermont, where his son, Charles Gove, was born. Charles Gove Lester was reared in the State of Vermont and was a graduate, of Vermont University. He subsequently became a leading merchant in Montreal, but the business failures that followed the war of 1812 swept away the capital of the firm to which he belonged and overwhelmed him with reverses, from which he never recovered.

The subject of this sketch was left at an early age to the care of his mother, through whom he is related to some of the best New England families. He was educated at the Washington Academy in Salem, N. Y. In September, 1841, he ettered the law office of Crary & Fairchild at that place as a clerk, and removed to Saratoga Springs in October, 1843, continuing his studies in the office of his uncle, John Willard, then Circuit judge and Vice Chancellor of the Fourth Circuit. On his twenty-first birthday he was admitted as solicitor and counsellor in Chancery by the late Chancellor Walworth, and in May following was admitted as attorney of the Supreme Court He first formed a law partnership with William Cullen Bockes, a talented and eloquent lawyer and the youngest brother of Hon. Augustus Bockes, for many years one of the Justices of the Supreme Court of the State of New York. This partnership was dissolved a few months later by the death of Mr. Bockes.

In 1849 he was married to Lucy L. Cooke, daughter of Timothy Cooke of Milford, N. Y. Her grandfather, James Westcott, was a soldier in the Revolution and was present at the execution of Andre, the sorrowful incidents of which tragedy he was wont to recount to his grandchildren. Mrs. Lester inherited, in a remarkable degree, from her father, who was a soldier of the war of 1812, a calm kindliness of demeanor coupled with inflexible integrity of character. Of this marriage four children were born, all of whom survive. Charles Cooke Lester, Willard Lester and James Westcott Lester, the sons, having studied law in their father's office and been admitted to the bar, have ever since been connected with him as partners in the practice of their profession. Susan Lester, the only daughter, is now the wife of Bernadotte Perrin, professor of the Greek language and literature in Yale University.

In 1859 Charles S. Lester was elected district attorney on the Democratic ticket by a considerable majority, although his party was then in a political minority in Saratoga county. In the presidential campaign of 1860 he was an admirer and supporter of Stephen A. Douglass; but upon the breaking out of the Rebellion, in common with thousands of like political faith, he cast in his lot with those who desired the maintenance of the Union, and has ever since been thoroughly identified with the Republican party. Incapacitated by a serious defect of vision for services in the field he assisted in the labors which devolved upon those who remained at home. He refused, when supervisor, in spite of threats of personal violence, to pay the extravagant bounties which the excited taxpayers of his town thought necôssary to avert a draft; and finally, with great effort and at no small personal risk, filled its quota, thus effecting a saving to 'his town of many thousand dollars. In 1870 he was elected County Judge and filled the office for six years with credit to himself and satisfaction to the public. In 1875 he was named by his political friends as -the candidate of the Republican party for Justice of the Supreme Court, and, after the most hotly contested and exciting nominating convention ever known in his judicial district, was defeated by a single vote.

Judge Lester has enjoyed a large and varied practice. The law firm composed of himself and his three sons, is one of the oldest in Northern New York. Judge Lester's fidelity and devotion to his clients has made him a popular and trusted, as well as a successful advocate. He has found leisure, amidst the cares of an engrossing profession, to perform the duties incident to such public offices of trust and honor as supervisor of the town, president of the village and president of the Board of Education of Saratoga Springs. He has traveled extensively, both in this country and in Europe. He has not neglected general literature. He is a direct and forcible speaker; and many addresses delivered by him on occasions of historical interest, have been publishe4. In 1854 the corporation of Yale College conferred upon him the honorary degree of A. M. He has been for many years a member of the First Presbyterian church of Saratoga Springs and for nearly half a century one of its trustees.

At the date of this sketch, Judge Lester, now seventy-five years of age, is still engaged in the active practice of his profession and has been, for a number of years, the oldest practicing lawyer in Saratoga county.

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