Preserving the Past, Informing the Future
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Miles Tobey Granger, son of James L. Granger and Abigail Tobey, was born August 12th, 1817, in New Marlborough, Berkshire County, Massachusetts, a town but little north of the Connecticut line. From his earliest youth he had his own way to make, and the story of his fight for an education, told in the history of Litchfield County, is illustrative of the times as well as of the man. He used to say: "I never had but one dollar in my life except what I earned by hard work. My father once gave me a silver dollar - my whole inheritance and patrimony." We condense the following from the biographical sketch in question:
At the age of ten he began to work in a woolen mill at twelve and a half cents a day. After two years thus employed, he hired out to a Norfolk farmer at twenty-five cents a day, and continued to work for various farmers until he was eighteen. He then entered the office of Dr. Benjamin Welch of Norfolk, and began "reading up" to qualify himself to teach a common school. In the fall of that year (1835) he passed the examination and taught a district school at $12.50 a month. After three years chiefly spent as a teacher, wishing to become better fitted for his work, he entered a seminary in Amenia, N.Y. His proficiency as a scholar had so impressed Mr. Davis W. Clark, the principal of the Amenia school, that, on his return in the fall of 1838, after one term's study, he called Mr. Granger up to his room and advised him to fit for college. Following his teacher's advice, he began the studies required to enter the freshman class at Wesleyan University, Middletown.
In 1839 after a year's preparation, he passed his examinations for the freshman class, and for the sophomore year in mathematics. His slender means, derived from the scanty earnings of his farm labor and teaching, were now about exhausted; he therefore obtained a school at Glastonbury where he taught at six months at $20 a month, and kept up with studies at the same time. At the opening of his junior year he not only obtained from the faculty the privilege of taking his junior and senior years together - of doing two years work in one, but taught school for three months besides; and at its close passed his examination in both classes and received his diploma as A. B. in 1842, and the degree of A. M. three years after. While it must not be forgotten that such an achievement was then more easily accomplished than now - the demands, intellectual and pecuniary, being so much lighter then than they are now - nevertheless it was a remarkable feat, even in those days, for a young man to fit himself for, and work his way through college in four years, with but the slenderest means, and those laid by from his own hard earnings.
In 1843 Mr. Granger went to Louisiana as a preceptor in the family of Mr. Francis A. Evans, reading law at the same time. He staid at the South about two years and was admitted to the Mississippi bar in 1845. This visit was of importance, it is believed, as influencing Mr. Granger's political views to a considerable degree. He saw enough of southern life to convince him that the negroes were not, as a rule, unkindly treated, and that the tales of atrocity in "Uncle Tom's Cabin," though possibly founded on facts, gave an unfair idea of the usual workings of the system of slavery. Hence, always a Democrat, he became known as a very bitter opponent of anti-slavery opinion, and, during and after the war, of the emancipation policy of the Republican party.
Returning North in the summer of 1845, he entered the office of Leman Church of Canaan, then one of the most noted lawyers in the county, and was admitted to the Litchfield County bar in October of that year. He remained in Mr. Church's office till the spring of 1847, when he opened an office at Couch's "hatshop," in the old village of "Canaan Four Corners," whence he shortly removed to the depot, where he continued to reside for the remainder of his life. At that time the northwestern corner of this county was a thriving business section, largely engaged in the manufacture of iron. Some of the brightest lawyers were to be found there, and the heaviest cases in our courts came thence.
Mr. Granger was never a "hustler," but a cautious, candid, safe adviser. In the trial of cases he was quick to discern pivotal points, shrewd to avoid pitfalls, a judicious cross-examiner, in argument sound, terse, and never tiresome. Throughout he abounded in dry humor, one of his marked characteristics, but which opponents sometimes found more caustic than pleasant. He soon won the confidence of his townspeople, and in 1849 was elected judge of probate, an office which he continued to hold, one term excepted, until appointed a judge of the Superior Court. He was also town clerk and treasurer.
With the bar he was not only popular, but his witty sayings were constantly flying about. One of these occurs to the writer. Gen. Charles F. Sedgwick, for many years our State's Attorney, used to drive over, every session of court, from Sharon to Litchfield. One term he arranged to take Granger over from West Cornwall to the county seat. The General was an elephant in size; his horse, neither very young nor very fast. They slowly rose many hundred feet from West Cornwall to Goshen, and as they conquered the last hill the General cried triumphantly to his companion, "Now, Granger, there is nothing between us and Litchfield." "No, General, nothing but the old mare." His doggerel was famous. A passage at arms in verse with a former clerk of the Superior Court got into print at the time, was re-discovered years after by some discriminating editor, and again went the rounds of our papers.
In 1857 Mr. Granger was elected to the lower house of the legislature. Then everything was Republican; but in 1867 the Democratic party began to revive, elected its governor and sent Mr. Granger to the senate. In 1868 he was reelected senator, became chairman of the judiciary committee, and was appointed a judge of the Superior Court. He proved a good trier, keen of perception, patient, and, in the sometimes difficult application of the law to the facts, intuitive good judgment supplied the place of great legal learning. In 1876 he was appointed a judge of the Supreme Court of Errors, an office he held until 1887, when, a few months before he would be disqualified by age, he resigned to become a member of Congress, a position to which he had been elected in the fall before. In 1893 he was appointed a State Referee, an office which he held until his death, which occurred on October 21st, 1895.
On October 21st, 1846, Judge Granger married Miss Caroline S Ferguson, of East Sheffield, now Clayton, Mass., by whom he had a son, a promising physician, who died in 1876, and four daughters, who with his wife, survive him.
A grave, honest, shrewd man, he inspired confidence and respect, while his sense, wit and kindly nature won him general esteem, and his loyalty many and lasting friends.