Connecticut State Library with state seal

Memorials of Connecticut Judges and Attorneys
As Printed in the Connecticut Reports
volume 66, page(s) 603-604


CHARLES JAMES COLE, the third and youngest son of Abner and Eliza Brown Cole, was born at Chatham, Connecticut, June 19th, 1839, and died at Norfolk in this State on the 16th day of August, 1895. The year after his birth the family moved to Cromwell, and there his boyhood and youth were passed, in close fellowship with the woods and fields and streams, an association which developed an ardent love for, and confidence in, nature.

He was a quiet, persistent, unflinching, delicate child, who made no allowance for physical weakness which would have handicapped most children - of indomitable courage and industry, in play, as in work, thoroughly in earnest.

At the little country school house very near the farm, his early school days were passed, and in 1854 he was sent to a school in East Berlin, of which Professor C. F. Dowd was at that time the principal, where he attended for several years. He afterwards went to Mr. Chase's preparatory school in Middletown, until 1860 - entering the Harvard Law School the following year, and coming to Hartford immediately after his graduation in 1863. At school he displayed marked ability, and the rapidity with which a text-book was taken up and learned was not regulated by the ordinary limitations of school work; interest never flagged until the whole subject was mastered.

By nature intense, nervous and so diffident that he felt it a physical impossibility to speak a piece before the school, his resolute will gained a self-control which many believed was due to a phlegmatic disposition.

He married in 1880 Elisabeth Adams Huntington, who, with the eldest three of their five children, survive him.

The following minute prepared by one who knew and admired his sterling qualities, gives so faithful and discriminating an analysis of Mr. Cole's character, that its reproduction here is altogether appropriate.

"In the death of Charles J. Cole the bar loses a unique and eminent representative. The professional success which he attained was earned, and owed little to fortunate circumstances. Coming from the law school with few friends in the circle of business, he commenced practice alone, and through all the busy years of his professional life fulfilled his engagements without the assistance of a partner, and died in the fullness of strength, carrying as large responsibilities as are often thrown upon an individual lawyer.

"He was naturally, as well as by education, fitted for the law. A thorough, close, and logical reasoner, his early absorption of the underlying principles of jurisprudence was a foundation of solid masonry, for the study, observations, and experience of an active practice. He carried to a high degree the power of convincing statement. He gave little attention to the graces of oratory, but in clear, direct, and forcible words he easily and effectively possessed and convinced the mind of a trier. He shrunk from the study and comprehension of no problem, however complicated or abstruse. With little use of what we call imagination, his resources in analogy and in original thought, unlearned in the books, were many and manifold. In his preparation for trials he was thorough and tactful; in examining, and especially in cross-examining, witnesses, he was masterly. In the play of humor, which was both dry and grim, he had no superior. But in the treatment of witnesses, if he was unsurpassed in disclosing ignorance and deceit, he avoided the manners of brutality and bullying, which are so often the temptation and disgrace of the lawyer who aims at distinction in the perilous path of cross-examination.

"As a counselor Mr. Cole was wise and judicious. And here he often showed a tenderness which his unostentatious nature usually concealed.

"His force of will, self reliance and courage, were more than uncommon. Into whatever duty he entered, he threw his strong personality. He never failed where he ought to have succeeded. He feared no antagonist; he was unfaithful to no client.

"For insincerity, duplicity and sham, he had profound contempt, which often found caustic expression. He declined the highest judicial honors, because he thought his outfit better for the bar; the practice of the profession was more to his taste, and while equally honorable, yielded larger profit.

"He loved nature, and the ancestral acres were pleasant to him, and on them he enjoyed many days of comfort and happiness with his interesting family.

"While averse to public office, his views upon all public matters were written in the lines of well defined convictions, and when it was his duty to express them they were declared in strong words whose meaning was clear. He used no Delphic utterances in his responses.

"Personally he had a side of geniality and sociality, which had to be discovered, but when found was stimulating and refreshing.

"His physical constitution was slender, and he bore it through many a trial by his determined courage and tireless will, but he fell at the last under burdens beyond his strength, and the community is shocked at the loss of an honest, noble citizen, whose counsel in the seats of business and public life were valuable, and the bar mourns at the grave of a distinguished and successful leader cut down when his wisdom was ripest, and his capacity for honorable service was complete."