A house is pointed out in Bellefontaine where was born, November 21, 1850, Charles Julius Chambers, author and journalist, now managing editor of the N. Y. Herald.
Logan county is rich to excess in names of men known to the nation as possessed of rare intellect, wide attainments and great force of character. High on this list stands unquestioned that of William H. West. He comes from a class once known to our country that is now extinct. We refer to the hard-handed, knotty-headed sons of small farmers, who from early boyhood worked in the summer for a schooling in the winter, and then taught school half the year to sustain themselves while securing a profession. This class has a brilliant constellation in history to carry its glory into after generations. We have only to mention the names of Clay, Webster, Corwin, Lincoln, Benton, Ewing and a host of others to make good our assertion, and to this roll of honor we add the name of William H. West.
William was born at Millsborough, Washington county, Pa. His father removed to Knox county, Ohio, in 1830. He graduated at Jefferson College, Penn., in 1846, dividing the honors with Gen. A. B. Sharpe. He taught school in Kentucky until 1848, when he accepted a tutorship of Jefferson College, and a year later was chosen adjunct professor at Hampden-Sidney College, Va. In 1850 he entered as student the law office of Judge William Lawrence, Bellefontaine, Ohio, with whom he formed a partnership on his admission to the bar. He was recognized from the start as an able attorney, and so worked his way to the head of his profession.
There were two qualities that rendered Judge West eminent. One of these was his capacity to assimilate the law he studied to his remarkable intellectual qualities, and the other a strange facility and felicity of utterance. When to these we add a delicate organization, that seemed to vibrate to the touch of passion, we have the powerful advocate who in court convinced the judge and won jury, and was so great before a crowd that he won a national reputation under the name of "the Blind Man Eloquent." Small wonder that Judge West has been the marvel of the legal fraternity at the West. He has a wide reputation as authority on civil and corporate law, equaled by few and surpassed by none. While on the Supreme Bench of Ohio, he was so unfortunate as to lose his sight-but with it came no loss of power. His well-trained mind and powerful memory enabled him to dispense with his eyes, and it has been for years one of the most interesting spectacles to the bar to hear Judge West conduct a case in court. Without assistance from any one, he handles facts and law with the greatest accuracy and power. There is no pause, not the slightest hesitation, as he calls up and unravels facts and quotes the law applicable to their case.
Judge West entered politics at an early day, and soon assumed a leadership that was his by force of intellect and character. He made one of the few prominent men who formed the Republican party. It was in 1854 that he joined in an appeal to all parties after the repeal of the Missouri Compromise, that brought out a convention at Columbus, Ohio, when West was one of the most prominent speakers, and Joseph R. Swan was nominated as a candidate for Judge of the Supreme Court of Ohio, and through the aid of another newly formed political organization called the "Know Nothing" was elected by a majority of more than 75,000.
In 1857 and in 1861 Judge West was a member of the State Legislature, serving in the House and in 1863 he was returned to the Senate. Afterward his party in the Logan Congressional district sent him as their delegate to the Chicago Convention, when he took part in the nomination of Abraham Lincoln. In 1865 and 1867 he was chosen Attorney-General of Ohio, and in 1869 tendered the position of Consul to Rio Janeiro, but declined. In 1871 he was elected Judge of the Supreme Court of Ohio, and was making his mark as an able jurist, when his failing sight forced him to resign.
The marked event of his political life occurred in 1877, when he was nominated by his party, in State convention assembled, its candidate for Governor. The great railroad strikes, that arrested the wheels of nearly all the locomotives of 150,000 miles of operating railroads, was on hand, and the newly named candidate for Governor had to meet the issue involved in the strife. It was one Judge West had studied and mastered. He knew what Capital and Labor meant, and he felt keenly all that it signified. He saw then what had developed since, that it was fated to be the great issue of civilization, and had to be faced and solved before the wheels of progress could continue to revolve. To the amazement and horror of his political associates, in his first utterance after nomination, he took the side of toil against the corporations. Of course he was defeated. He lost the proud privilege of appointing notaries public and pardoning criminals, but he carried back to private life the honor that comes of a courageous defence of principle.
Judge West twice married, is the father of an interesting family, and for the sake of his two sons, who inherit much of the father's ability, he continues, at Bellefontaine, the practice of his profession, although in feeble health. There, loved by his friends and family and universally respected and admired, "the blind man eloquent" passes to his honored age.
Historical Collections of Ohio, Vol 2, by Henry Howe. (pub 1888)