Pierrepont, Isham (Hon.)
as found in
HISTORY OF
BENNINGTON COUNTY, VT


WITH ILLUSTRATIONS AND BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES
OF SOME OF ITS PROMINENT MEN AND PIONEERS.

EDITED BY
LEWIS CASS ALDRICH
1889



ISHAM, PIERREPONT HON., the oldest child of Dr. Ezra and Nancy (Pierrepont) Isham, was born in the town of Manchester on the 5th day of August, in the year 1802. Of his early life the writer has no authentic information, but at the age of about nineteen years he commenced a course of law study in the office of his uncle, Richard Skinner, of Manchester, one of the first lawyers of the State, at one time chief justice of the Vermont Supreme Court, and governor of the State. In the year 1823, then being twenty-one years old, Mr. Isham was admitted to the bar, and at once began practice in Bennington county, in the south half shire, a part of the time in Pownal but the greater part in Bennington, where he continued to reside until the year i86o, at which time he left this State and moved to New York. In his chosen profession of the law Pierrepont Isham had such early instruction, and applied himself so diligently to the study of its maxims and principles that he soon acquired the reputation of being one of the ablest lawyers of Southern Vermont, and it is said that he loved the practice of the law, not because he particularly loved litigation itself, but because it was a profession in which men of erudition, high legal attainments, and honorable feelings have full scope for all their powers, and yet can aid in the honest and able administration of justice. His clients knew that he was entitled to their implicit confidence, his professional associates and the bench knew that candor and fairness were his characteristics. But it was as a professional man, and in that character that all members of the same fraternity could more fully appreciate him. His knowledge of law was deep; his oratorical powers fine and persuasive; and his long professional course, at the bar and upon the bench, was a success. His forensic efforts for nearly forty years bear testimony to his power and ability as a lawyer, an advocate, and as a judge.

The life of a lawyer devoted to his profession is inevitably uneventful. The relation to friends and clients, and the issues of controversies at the bar, though they may be absorbing and often dramatic, do not pass readily into biqgraphy. Six years of the professional life of Pierrepont Isham were passed upon the bench of the Supreme Court ofi Vermont. In the fall of 1851 the Legislature of the State elected him to that position, which he held without intermission until the fall of 1857, and then peremptorily declined a re-election that was offered him. During that period the body of railroad law of this country was in its early course of development and as the railroads constructed in Vermont passed almost immediately into litigation many of the most important cases of that time came under the cognizance of that court. Possessing as he did those qualities that placed him high in the profession as a lawyer, Judge Isham was eminently fitted for the more exalted station on the bench of the Supreme Court, and here he was ever self-possessed dignified, courteous, easy and graceful in bearing, firm in his rulings, logical in his reasonings, kind and forbearing, especially toward the younger members of the profession, so that he earned the reputation of being one of the ablest and most popular judges upon the Supreme bench, where, during the term of his incumbency, he was associated with jurists like Stephen Royce, Isaac F. Redfield, and Milo L. Bennett. Very soon after Judge tsham's retirement from the bench he removed to New York, where he lived until his death, on May 8th, 1872. He was always known as a man of scholarly tastes and wide reading, a profound lawyer, a blameless citizen, a faithful friend, a trusted counselor, adequate to every call of duty, though he seldom appeared in court. Thus his was a complete life. It was, however, as a citizen and neighbor, and especially during his latter years, that those who knew Judge Isham best will remember him most fondly. His genial and kindly presence, his liberal heart and free hand, his perfect truthfulness and singleness of mind, his uprightness and purity of life, his thorough contempt for oversubtle methods, his unhesitating assertion and support of his honest convictions, in short his Christian faith and the Christian morals and Christian life by which that faith was evinced, these form the memories of him which will long est endure in the hearts of his friends. He was one to whom death could not come untimely. Upon the occassion of the death of Judge Isham, the New York Herald, commenting upon his life, said: "Judge Pierrepont Isham, an American lawyer, jurist and judicial magistrate of brilliant reputation and the most strict integrity of character, died yesterday. His removal from life sorrows a wide circle of friends and terminates a professional career of great utility. Judge Isham. was for a long period of time an associate with Chief Justice Redfield and Judge Bennett on the bench of the Supreme Court of Vermont in its best period, but of late years a resident of New York and of Vermont. He was rarely seen in court, although he was the counselor of some of our most influential men in matters affecting their largest interests. His reputation was known throughout New York, New England and some of the Western States. He was accepted by the public and by his brethren at the bar as an excellent representative of that class of men, 'old time judges,' who were raised to the bench, as it were, of necessity, purely because of the weight of their professional influence and character, whose decisions, founded strictly on principles of equity and the common law, illumine the reports of the courts of the United States, and are cited abroad with respect, and continue to be quoted long after their authors have given place to younger men. His example in every day life was a useful one, prominent as he necessarily was in society. He was standard• bearer and active member of his church, and one who zealously per. formed every duty of a good citizen."

On the 2d day of October, in the year 1831, Pierrepont Isham was married to Semanthe Swift, daughter of Dr. Noadiah Swift, a distinguished physician of Bennington. Judge Isham raised to maturity a family of three children, viz.: Edward Swift, Henry Pierrepont, and Mary Adeline, the latter the wife of Major Sartell Prentice, U. S. A., of all whom reside in the city of Chicago, Ill.


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