Preserving the Past, Informing the Future
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Charles Phelps, of Rockville, was born in the southern part of the town of East Hartford, August 10, 1852. He was a descendant of George Phelps who came from England to Dorchester, Massachusetts, about ten years after the landing of the Pilgrims, and who emigrated to Windsor, with the original settlers in 1635. His father was Rev. Benjamin C. Phelps, and his mother was Sarah Parker (Humphrey) Phelps. When he was five years of age, his parents removed to Wethersfield, where he attended the local schools. He prepared for college in the East Greenwich Academy at East Greenwich, Rhode Island, and was a member of the class of 1871. He later matriculated at Wesleyan University, the college from which he received his M. A. degree. He studied law in the office of Hon. Benezet H. Bill, who was state's attorney for Tolland County many years, at Rockville, and was admitted to the bar of this state at Tolland, Connecticut, in 1877. Mr. Phelps practiced law in Tolland for a few months and thereafter he removed to Rockville in the fall of 1878, where he continued the practice of law until about 1930, at which time he retired from active participation in his profession in order to devote his entire time to the attention of personal affairs, banking, and civic interests which fully occupied his energies until his death, February 3, 1940, at Daytona Beach, Florida.
Mr. Phelps was appointed coroner for Tolland County in 1883 and held this office under successive appointments until he resigned in December, 1904, to accept the appointment of state's attorney for Tolland County, which office he held until July, 1915. He was the first corporation counsel for the city of Rockville, serving in this capacity from 1890 to 1892. In the year 1890 he was appointed prosecuting attorney for the city of Rockville and held this position until 1896. Mr. Phelps was a Republican in politics, and in 1885 and 1887 he represented the town of Vernon in the General Assembly and was thereafter, in 1893, elected state senator from the twenty-third district. During his terms in the General Assembly he served as a member of the judiciary committee. He was elected secretary of state in 1897 and held this office until 1899 when he was elected the first attorney-general of the state and served as such until January, 1903. He was a member of the state bar examining committee for some years. He was president of the Tolland County Bar Association for more than twenty years, resigning this office in February, 1937. He was a member of the Connecticut Bar Association and held the office of president thereof for a two-year term commencing in 1914, and for years was a member of the American Bar Association. Mr. Phelps represented the town of Vernon as a member of the constitutional convention in 1902.
Mr. Phelps' career at the bar was marked by devotion to public service. Early in his career he became renowned for his ability as an orator. He was, indeed, a very able and eloquent advocate, gracious and of the old delightful style of a true gentleman. He inspired confidence in his clients and all others who had the opportunity to deal with him in his numerous public and official positions. Despite the demands on his energy and time in ably conducting the affairs of his extensive general law practice in Tolland County, in addition to the zeal and devotion he so willingly gave in the fulfilment of his distinguished service to his state, he actively and extensively took part in the social, fraternal and civic affairs of his home community. He was a charter member of Rising Star Lodge, No. 49, I. O. O. F. of Rockville, and for many years a member of the Union Congregational Church of Christ. He also held membership in the Connecticut Society of the Sons of the American Revolution. He became a director of the Rockville National Bank January 13, 1903, and its vice president June 24, 1915; when the bank merged with The Hartford-Connecticut Trust Company on December 26, 1933, he was appointed vice chairman of the advisory board of its Rockville branch, holding this office until 1938 when he resigned because of poor health. He was also a trustee and vice president of the Rockville Public Library and trustee and president of the George Sykes Manual Training School. In addition thereto he was a member of the Psi Upsilon Club of New York and the Authors' Club of London, England.
On October 10, 1881, he married Leila L. Bill, daughter of Hon. Benezet H. Bill and Kate (Griggs) Bill, who died September 30, 1888. On March 28, 1900, he married Elsie E. Sykes. He is survived by his widow and two daughters: Dorothy, the wife of Hugh E. Jones of Middletown, New York; and Mildred, the wife of Horace W. Jones of West Hartford, Connecticut.
In both professional contacts and those of private life he displayed a genial, sociable and gracious personality. He was always tolerant and understanding. He was truly sincere and loyal to his friends. His memory will long be cherished.