Preserving the Past, Informing the Future
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Judge Epaphroditus Peck, born in Bristol May 20, 1860, died there October 29, 1938. His death was sudden and unexpected. He took a very active part in the annual meeting of the State Bar Association the week before he died and attended church on the preceding Sunday. Seldom, if ever, has the death of an inhabitant of Bristol called forth such a flood of tributes and testimonials. These related to his character, ability and accomplishments, for he was preeminent in all three.
At the time of his death his daughter Mildred was making a home for him. His wife, Grace Brownell, with whom he lived in perfect happiness for nearly fifty years, died in 1931. An older daughter, Margaret (Mrs. Thomas S. McEwan) lives in Winetka, Illinois. Judge Peck was a descendant of Deacon Paul Peck, a member of Thomas Hooker's company that settled Hartford. His father was Josiah Tracy Peck, one of Bristol's most distinguished citizens, and his uncle Professor Tracy Peck, noted latin scholar of Yale University.
Judge Peck graduated from the Yale Law School at the head of his class in 1881 when he was twenty-one years old. His life work from that time until his death was the practice of his chosen profession in the place of his birth. He gained and kept the affection and esteem of his fellow practitioners and thoroughly enjoyed his work.
A country practice could not give adequate employment to the energy and ability of a man like Judge Peck and he sought an outlet for these in many exacting occupations. He was for several years associate judge of the Court of Common Pleas for Hartford County, taught evidence, procedure and domestic relations in the Yale Law School, was the author of a book on the latter subject which is now in its third edition, and was active in the national, state, county and local bar associations. He was a keen and thorough historical student and delivered many addresses on local and New England historical subjects. He delivered the principal historical address at the Bristol centennial in 1885 and at the sesquicentennial in 1935 and in 1932 published a very complete history of Bristol. He was responsible for the founding of the Bristol public library in 1891, was secretary of the board for forty years and its president at the time of his death. He was prominent in the local, state and national affairs of the Congregational Church. He represented Bristol in the Legislature for ten successive years and was one of the most able, respected and influential members of its important judiciary committee. He was always ready to give generously of his time and energy to every worthy cause.
This incomplete list of Judge Peck's activities indicates the breadth of his interests and the extent of his public service. His character can perhaps be best delineated by an excerpt from an address delivered by him which will be recognized by his friends as a sincere expression of his personal belief. In speaking in 1897 on the occasion of the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the founding of his church he made this declaration of faith: "Just as President Washington and his three million followers, in the difficulties which encompassed the infant nation in 1789, were working under the same constitution, to uphold the same union, and preserve the same principles of democratic liberty which his successor of today is sworn to maintain, so our ancestors, strong and sturdy founders of institutions, had the same written guide, the word of God, the same union, the church of God, and the same eternal gospel of God's love and man's redemption, which form the foundation, and structure, and inspiration of the christian church today." Leaders who can honestly say that their conduct has been guided by so worthy a creed are all too rare. Judge Peck's influence will be sorely missed in his town and state.