"The entire state of Illinois mourns the death of Charles D. Hodges, of Carrollton, one of the ablest among the circuit judges of the state." Thus wrote a Minnesota journalist, and the sentiment was echoed by all who had known this prominent jurist, who for a half century practiced at the bar of Illinois. His name is indelibly inscribed on the pages of the history of our jurisprudence, and at his death the press, the public and the profession united in honoring the memory of one who had ever been an honor to his adopted state. From the memorial addresses delivered we largely cull the following record, as setting forth the opinions of those who were intimately associated with him in the various walks of life.

Charles Drury Hodges was born February 4, 1810, in Queen Anne, Prince George county, Maryland, and died in Carrollton, Illinois, April 1, 1884. He spent his youth in his native city and was an active, intelligent, moral and studious young man. At the early age of nineteen years he was graduated at Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut, and then entered upon the study of law with Alexander Randall, a prominent attorney of Annapolis, Maryland, with whom he studied until careful preparation had fitted him for the bar. He was then admitted to practice, and soon after entering upon his professional career his attention was directed to the west, where he determined to try his fortune. Accordingly he landed in Carrollton in November, 1833, having in the meantime spent a few months in St. Louis, Missouri. Those who remember his arrival in Carrollton tell with interest of the wonder excited by his appearance as he alighted from the stage coach. A young man fresh from an eastern city was a rare sight in those days and his attire and bearing were strange to the dwellers of the little town. From that day until the hour of his death Carrollton was his home, from which he was never away save when called by public duties or for an occasional pleasure trip or vacation. The young attorney did not devote himself entirely to his profession in those first years but was for a time a partner in the dry-goods store of Shackelford, Hodges & Company. This arrangement was only temporary, however, and as a counselor and advocate he achieved a substantial success, his practice steadily growing in volume and importance until it had assumed extensive proportions. For a number of years he was a partner of Judge D. M. Woodson, the firm being dissolved when the latter was elected to the bench in 1849. Subsequently Judge Hodges practiced in partnership with Judge Burr, a relation that was maintained until 1877.

In November, 1853, the subject of this review was chosen county judge, and after serving acceptably for four years was re-elected in 1857 for a second term. In January, 1859, he was elected to congress to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Major Harris and resigned his position on the bench in order to take his place in the council chambers of the nation. In 1867 he was elected circuit judge and performed the difficult duties of that position with credit to himself and satisfaction to his constituents for six years. On the expiration of that period he was elected a state senator for a four-years' term, serving in the legislatures of 1875 and 1877.

From the beginning of railroad building in central Illinois, Judge Hodges was a zealous advocate thereof, and in 1852, when the books were first opened for subscription to the capital stock of the Carrollton & Jacksonville Railroad, as it was then called, he was one of those who had charge of the work in this place. In 1858 he was made treasurer of the St. Louis, Jacksonville & Chicago Railroad, and when the property of this company was leased to the Chicago & Alton Company he became a director of the latter and so continued up to the time of his death. Through his professional and railroad interests be acquired an ample fortune, and during the last years of his life his energies were largely devoted to the management of his extensive property and other interests. As a member of the bar Judge Hodges was a safe, wise, judicious counselor. He was not carried away by his loyalty to his client, but possessed the rare ability of being able to calmly weigh both sides, and hence his advice when given was implicitly relied upon and usually found trustworthy. As a business man he was careful, safe and successful, and by steady growth and skillful management gathered together the property which made him one of the heaviest taxpayers of Greene county. He was public-spirited, and in building fine business edifices and numerous dwellings and contributing to railroad and other enterprises, he did his share toward improving the town in which he lived. In a set of resolutions passed by the Jerseyville (Illinois) bar is the following paragraph:

"Resolved, That we deeply deplore the loss of one of our profession so long and favorably known, and one so universally respected and honored. For nearly thirty years previous to his election to the bench, and dating from the organization of Jersey county. Judge Hodges was constantly in attendance at the bar of this court as an attorney. His attendance upon our court was as certain and regular as that of the judge, and, with the earlier days of our history, was almost indispensable. As a lawyer he stood in the front rank of the profession, and his life and character both as a lawyer and as a man may be pointed out as a model one. From 1867 until 1873 be presided as judge of this court, and he graced the bench as he did the bar. He presided with dignity and urbanity, and be deservedly won the esteem and high regard not only of the members of the bar but also the whole community.

On his retirement from the bench the members of the bar of Morgan county accompanied a handsome gift to Judge Hodges with a letter containing this paragraph: "We need not testify to your integrity as a man, your accomplishments as a lawyer, and your fidelity as a judge, as these are universally acknowledged; but we desire with grateful hearts to thank you for the courtesy and kindness which, through all the trying annoyances that necessarily arise in the discharge of the duties of a judge, have on your part never failed."

In the early years of his residence in Carrollton, Judge Hodges became acquainted with Miss Ellen C. Hawley, of Jerseyville, and they were married on the 8th of January, 1839. She was a daughter of Samuel P. Hawley, and was born in Onondaga, New York, February 20, 1821. At the age of twelve she accompanied her parents to Vermont, whence they removed to Illinois in her sixteenth year. Judge and Mrs. Hodges became the parents of nine children, namely: Virginia, who died at the age of two years; Louise, widow of William A. Davis; Belle, wife of J. D. Wright, a grocer of Petersburg, Illinois; Charles H., a successful grocer of Carrollton; Adele, wife of Charles H. Weagley, a member of the dry-goods firm of McFarland, Weagley & Company, of Carrollton; Morean, who died at the age of nine weeks; Beverly C., a banker of Carrollton; Henry M., ensign in the United States navy; and Hattie, at home.

Judge Hodges was a member of Trinity Episcopal church, which organization was largely sustained by his contributions and by the labors of himself and family. He was always a stanch friend of the public schools, and stood by and defended the system in early days when the popular voice was against it. For many years he ably and efficiently served as school director. He availed himself of every opportunity to aid in the development and progress of the city, and through his last years his fellow townsmen were continually giving evidence of their appreciation of his worth and devotion to the public good. On the occasion of his seventieth birthday his fellow members of the bar assembled at his residence and presented him with a handsome ebony cane, the gold head of which was appropriately engraved. In presenting the gift Judge J. W. English said:

"I know that I speak the honest thoughts of the gentlemen who accompany me when I say that we realize that you have just finished the three score and ten years allotted to the ordinary man, and we rejoice that there is yet the strength in you required to sustain you up to, and we hope beyond, the four score fixed as the limit of human existence. In the life through which you have passed we know of no portion which we could desire to have changed. Commencing your career at a period in American history when purity of life and rectitude of conduct were considered desirable characteristics, we congratulate you that you have been able, amidst the trials and temptations which surround us all, so to live that you may now enjoy the blessings consequent upon a well-spent life and die in the hope of a blessed immortality.

"You have represented us in both branches of our state legislature and in our national congress. You have for years presided over our probate, our county and our circuit courts, and even more, during the whole of your manhood you have lived among our people practicing your profession, and yet in all your actions even the tongue of slander could find no fact on which to fasten that did in any way tarnish your good name. You have as a husband and father distinguished yourself as a man worthy of imitation. You have reared a family which is a credit to you, and we regard each member of it as an honor to us, their fellow citizens. You can take it as a matter to rejoice over that your children's children rise up and call you blessed.

"This cane I now tender you is presented by us in no sense as an idle compliment, nor as a reward for any favor you have rendered us or either of us in the past. But we merely wish you to know that we have watched your career, that we respect and honor you for the course you have pursued, and we wish you to feel the kind and affectionate regard in which you are held by each and all of us."

When the Greene county court first met after the death of Judge Hodges, out of respect to his memory, court was adjourned and remarks were made by many members concerning the one whom they had long known and honored, — the senior member of the profession in Carrollton. The chief speaker on that occasion was Thomas Henshaw, who said: "Man has found it necessary in all parts of the civilized world to institute tribunals called courts for the purpose of protecting human rights and enforcing human laws. In order to aid the courts in performing the great and sacred duties allotted to them, it was found necessary to establish the legal profession, whose members were called lawyers, and who have, since the origin of the court, been officers thereof. When we consider that the members of the legal profession are required to deal with, to care for, and to protect the property, the lives and the honor of their fellow beings; when we reflect that all humanity labors for, lives for and hopes for in this world, is at all times placed under the control and in the hands of the lawyers, we are led to the inevitable conclusion that the true lawyer should be a man whose character is above suspicion, whose legal ability is unquestioned, and whose name is a synonym for honesty and integrity.

"Measured by this standard Greene county is not and has not been without her true lawyers. Among her true lawyers was one whose name is as familiar to the inhabitants of this county as household words, and whose reputation as an able jurist and a good man is held sacred through central Illinois. For half a century Greene county looked to this true lawyer — the Hon. Charles D. Hodges — for counsel and guidance in her affairs. During that period she time and again honored him with official positions, and always found him true and faithful to the trusts committed to his care. Successful as a lawyer, fortunate in business transactions, happy in his domestic and social relations, he was quietly and peacefully enjoying the fruits of his labor when the angel of death called him to the unseen. By the death of Judge Hodges we have a striking illustration of the inevitable in this, — that esteem, admiration, friendship or love can afford no protection against the shafts of death. It has been truthfully said: 'It matters not if every hour is rich with love, and every moment is jeweled with joy, each and every life must at last end in a tragedy, as dark and sad as can be woven from the web and woof of the mystery of death.' "

Extracted 2021 Jul 25 by Norma Hass from Past and Present of Greene County, Illinois, by Ed Miner, published in 1905, pages 257-260.

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