Memorials of Connecticut Judges and Attorneys
As Printed in the Connecticut Reports
volume 32 , page(s) 597-598


Seth Terry, the senior member of the Hartford County Bar, died at Hartford, Nov. 17, 1865, in the 85th year of his age. His habits of systematic industry prevailed to the closing of his life, his mental vigor was fresh to the last short illness, and he but just laid aside the harness to die.

Mr. Terry was born of very respectable family at Enfield, Jan. 12, 1781; he removed to Hartford and entered upon his legal studies with the late Gen. Nathaniel Terry in 1803, and was admitted to practice in 1804. His professional life thus covered sixty-three years. His attention through life was especially directed to a lawyer's office business. He was a favorite draughtsman of wills, deeds, bonds, and contracts arising from the domestic relations, and was highly esteemed as a counselor in matters of property; he also had considerable practice in the collection of claims. He seldom appeared before the court or jury as an advocate, but in the few trials which he did conduct he won a good position in this branch of the profession. He filled for several years the offices of Judge of Probate and City Recorder, and in each case finally declined a re-election.

Mr. Terry's mind was clear, logical and discriminating; he abounded in good sense. It can hardly be said that the scope of his apprehension was broad, that the grasp of his thought was comprehensive, that his reasoning was profound or his study searching. He fully accredited such principles as seemed to his good sense to be reasonable and true, and very little doubted the fundamental ideas to which he had been educated. Thus poised, his inductive reasoning was mathematical and accurate, and his conclusions were usually correct; if wrong the fault was in his premises. His memory was retentive, his power of comparison and illustration was vigorous, his appreciation of the ludicrous was decided and his humor was overflowing. His word and conduct were almost habitually charged with dry and good natured satire.

Mr. Terry's integrity of character was immovable. No corrupt influences could reach it, no slander ever attempted to assail it. This trait, which ran through his whole structure like strength through the oak, wedded to an uncommon accuracy, qualified him to carry out the many trusts committed to him in a very honorable way. Many widows and orphans to whom a kind Providence had left a few thousand or a few hundred dollars, found in Mr. Terry a guardian and friend, whose place can not easily be filled. He was quaint in his devotion to the manners and habits of the last generation. Independent of new fashions, he was not wholly free from affectation in his disregard of innovations. Liberal in benevolence, blessing the humblest poverty and adding to the income of the largest charities, he will still open, almost ostentatious, in habits so plain as to verge upon parsimony.

Mr. Terry was very active in the church and for many years acted as a deacon. His religious views were sharply defined and were of the old school New England stamp. His mind rested upon the language of the Assembly's Catechism, as his heart rested upon the Master's life. He adhered tenaciously to special statements of religious truth, believing that sound doctrine had a form which should be held fast. In later years the flow of heart charity, which was always potent in his practical life, overcame his zeal for the dry bones of theological points and scholastic definitions; the sincere Christian conquered the sincere theologian.

Mr. Terry always esteemed it his duty as a Christian magistrate to rebuke public offences, particularly street profanity and Sabbath breaking.

He will be long remembered for his cheerful word, his courteous greeting, his amusing anecdote, his pleasant reminiscence, as for his undeviating rectitude, his incorruptible truth, his constitutional hate of evil, and his cordial sympathy with misfortune and need--a sympathy which was never satisfied with the simple wish "be warmed, be filled." His death was appropriately noticed by his brethren of the bar.