Samuel Beach Axtell Genealogical Biography

b. Oct. 14, 1819, married Adaline S. Williams of Summit Co., Ohio, Sept. 20, 1840. In 1843 he moved to Mt. Clemens, Mich. We have from the pen of Ralph Emerson Twitchell the following: Samuel Beach Axtell was born in Franklin County, Ohio, October 14, 1819. An ancestor was an officer in the Revolutionary army and his grandfather was a Colonel of a New Jersey regiment during the war of 1812. His father was a farmer. Governor Axtell was a graduate of the Western Reserve College at Oberlin and was admitted to the bar in Ohio. In 1851 he went to California and engaged in gold mining and upon the organization of counties of the state was elected district attorney of Amador county, holding this office three terms. He removed to San Francisco in 1860, was elected to congress in 1866 and 1868 as a democrat. He changed his political faith at this time and allied himself with the republican party of which he was a staunch supporter to the time of his death. In 1874 he was appointed governor of Utah by President Grant and in the following year was transferred to New Mexico, being inaugurated governor July 30, 1875. He was superseded in this position by General Lew Wallace, appointed by President Hayes in 1878. In 1882 he was appointed chief justice of the supreme court of New Mexico, assuming the duties of the office in August of that year. In 1885, Grover Cleveland having been elected president, he resigned the office in May of that year. He was a man of high principles, absolutely without fear. On the bench he endeavored at all times to secure what he saw fit to designate as "substantial justice" for all litigants, and judicial precedents which interfered with the main object of trials in his court, or with equity from his standpoint, were ruthlessly cast aside. In 1890 he was elected chairman of the territorial republican committee. He died August 7, 1891, at Morristown, New Jersey. Conditions, methods, and practices obtaining in the courts of New Mexico during Judge Axtell's incumbency, and the fearless character of this jurist are well exemplified in the relation of incidents occurring in one or two cases tried before him. In a celebrated criminal trial at Las Vegas, although Judge Axtell had been warned that his life would be forfeited if he dared to sit in the case, promptly on time he opened court. On this occasion he compelled the sheriff to search all of the court attendants and the spectators before he allowed the case to proceed. As a result forty-two revolvers were piled on the table, some having been taken from the attorneys in the case. Each man carrying a weapon into the court room was fined ten dollars for contempt of court, and no show of resistance was made when the fine was collected. In another case before him the defendant, a poor young man, whose farm was in jeopardy, had no attorney. Seeing that the case was going against the man unless he could obtain legal counsel, Judge Axtell descended from the bench and began conducting the cross-examination with the remark: "It takes thirteen men to steal a poor boy's farm in New Mexico." Upon the conclusion of the submission of evidence, he instructed the jury to find a verdict in behalf of the defendant. When the foreman announced a disagreement, the judge discharged the jury, announced a verdict in behalf of the defendant, and told the sheriff never to allow any one of the discharged jurymen to serve again in Miguel county. His wife died in July 1893.

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Last revised 9-12-1995 by Dan Axtell