Connecticut State Library with state seal

Memorials of Connecticut Judges and Attorneys
As Printed in the Connecticut Reports
volume 52, page(s) 598-560


GOODWIN COLLIER was the son of William and Harriet Collier, born at Hartford, March 3d, 1829. He died suddenly of heart disease October 27th, 1885.

He was descended from William Collier of Plymouth Colony, who came to New England in 1633, and who was a Commissioner of the United Colonies in 1643. His son Joseph Collier was the first of the name in Connecticut. He lived in Hartford in 1668, and his descendants have been well known and respected there.

Judge Collier's early education was at the Albany Academy. He left that school at the age of thirteen years, fully qualified to enter Trinity College: but the rules of the college did not allow of the admission of one so young, and he continued his studies under the late Nicholas Harris, until his fifteenth year, when he entered the Sophomore class at Trinity, at its second term. After leaving college he studied law for about two years in the office of Dean & Newland at Albany, and then returned to Hartford and entered the law office of the late Charles Chapman, with whom he studied for a year, when he was admitted, at the age of twenty-one, to the Hartford County bar. He was afterwards successively recorder of the city court of Hartford and judge of the police court. He was also at one time a clerk of the county court. He was for several years a partner in the practice of law with Hon. William W. Eaton. He went west in 1866, and returned to Hartford in 1871, when he entered into partnership with Charles R. Chapman, Esq., which relation continued until about two years ago, since which time he has had an office alone. He was never married.

Judge Collier had natural endowments of a high order. His personal appearance, while not imposing, bespoke him a man of ability. He was of medium height, had a dark complexion, straight black hair, large dark eyes, and prominent forehead. There was an unassuming dignity and manly port in all his actions which indicated the possession of a good deal of power in repose and stamped him as one of nature's noblemen. His mind was clear, discriminating and acute, so that he readily saw the real merits in any controversy. His moral perceptions were keen, and led him to be intolerant of injustice in whatever guise it might appear, and quickly to discern the true from the false. He had a calm decision of character that gave authority to his words and won unquestioning respect for his opinions. His memory was wonderfully tenacious, so that he seemed able to call to mind at will any fact or incident that had ever come within his knowledge. His reading and acquirements were extensive, and his general information appeared to be almost encyclopedic. This made him a most suggestive and entertaining conversationalist, and enabled him to give a ready answer to almost any question. So well was this understood among his immediate professional friends, that when any debatable point arose in conversation which could not be readily solved, the common expression was - "Ask Collier," and his opinion generally settled the matter. In social life he was chivalrous and deferential to the other sex, sunny and genial to his friends, and had a kindness of heart which was peculiarly manifested in a fondness for children, who in return prized his friendship with childhood's unerring instincts, and now mourn his death as a personal loss.

He had a love of music that was almost a passion, and he became an expert in the theory and science of music, and a recognized authority and critic in the art of singing and performing upon musical instruments. In his early life he was offered an appointment as a cadet in the navy, but the position was declined, much to his regret. He always kept up his interest however in that branch of the government service, its commanders and vessels, and could discuss the lines of a ship with the familiar knowledge of one bred to the sea.

In his chosen profession he excelled in a knowledge of the principles of the law, and in the power to make a philosophic application of those principles to the solution of whatever legal problem he might have in hand, and to seize the salient points of which a case might hinge. He was pre-eminently a pleader and draftsman, and could accurately draw a difficult declaration or plea without reference to a form book. It was a pleasure to try a case before him as a judge or committee because he had that judicial mind, sound judgment and strict impartiality and integrity so essential to a good judge. His fitness for the bench was eminent and acknowledged.

He was well read in ecclesiastical history, and in friendly discussions of a theological character was wont to take the conservative and orthodox side. He always treated sacred subjects with marked respect. For many years he had a seat in the St. John's Episcopal church, in Hartford, to which denomination he belonged. His father died suddenly, like himself, of heart disease, and he was conscious of the family weakness. He had said he did not expect to live to be an old man. Perhaps on this account he refrained from the exciting contests of a more aggressive life. Had he possessed less modesty and more force he would have gained that leadership among men for which he was so well qualified. His sudden death ended the career of a brilliant man.