|HON. JOSIAH ALEXANDER VAN ORSDEL.|
An eminent American statesman has said that the
strongest men of the country, the men who are molding public thought
and action and shaping the course of policy of the nation, are the
men who have been born and trained in the east but who have sought
the growing west as their field of labor. In such districts their
initiative and ability have found full play and in such districts
perhaps, more than in the older east, men are judged by their real
worth and their possibilities for successful achievement.
The life record of Judge Van Orsdel shows him to be a native of Pennsylvania although for many years a resident of Wyoming. He was born in Lawrence county of the former state on the 17th of November, 1860, and his youthful experiences were those of the farmbred boy, while his early educational opportunities were those afforded by the public schools in the vicinity of his father’s farm. He afterward became a student in the academy at Grove City, Pennsylvania, and then entered Westminster College at New Wilmington, Pennsylvania, where he completed a classical course and won the Bachelor of Arts degree. Having thus gained broad literary learning to serve as a foundation upon which to rear the superstructure of professional knowledge, he entered upon the study of law in the office of Dana & Long, well known attorneys of Newcastle, Pennsylvania.
Weighing the opportunities of the west against those of the east, he concluded that the former offered a more attractive field and after completing his law studies he removed to Nebraska, where he was admitted to the bar. He then entered upon the active work of the profession in Blue Springs and at the same time filled the position of manager of the large milling plant owned by Black Brothers. His time was thus passed until 1891. when he became a resident of Cheyenne, Wyoming, where he opened a law office. He entered into partnership with Hugo Donzelmann and later was senior partner in the firm of Van Orsdel & Esteb, which association was maintained until 1894. His ability in analyzing and handling intricate law cases was at once evident. His retentive memory has ever excited the surprise and admiration of his professional colleagues and the clearness and force with which he has presented his cause, combined with the incontrovertible logic of his arguments, have been salient features in his continuous advancement as a representative of the bar. In 1892, he was elected prosecuting attorney of Laramie county and discharged the duties of that position in a most satisfactory manner for two years.
Judge Van Orsdel was then called upon to become one of the law makers of Wyoming, being elected to represent his district in the lower house of the general assembly in 1894. He became one of its recognized leaders and did valuable work as chairman of the committee on irrigation, being in active charge of the measure which accepted one million acres of land from the United States government, granted to Wyoming under the Carey act, which was the most important piece of legislation passed by that body. In 1895 he was appointed by the governor chairman of a commission “To revise, compile and codify the laws of Wyoming.” This arduous work was completed and the report was accepted in 1899 and now constitutes the revised statutes of the state. While in the Wyoming legislature in 1895, Judge Van Orsdel entered into partnership with Charles W. Burdick and the firm of Van Orsdel & Burdick was successfully continued until April 15, 1905. His term in the legislature over, Mr. Van Orsdel was appointed attorney general of Wyoming in January, 1898, to fill out the unexpired term of the Hon. Benjamin F. Fowler and in April, 1899, he had made so creditable a record that he was reappointed for the full term of four years. His course in that office was characterized by wise and just service for the state and it was without opposition that he was reappointed in April, 1903. Without seeking honors but endeavoring always to do his full duty, honors have yet been multiplied unto him as the years have passed. On the 15th of April, 1905, he received appointment from Governor B. B. Brooks of Wyoming to the position of associate justice of the state supreme court to fill a vacancy caused by the death of Chief Justice Knight. He remained on the bench for a year and then, his fame extending to the east, the government sought his services as assistant attorney general of the United States and he was appointed to the office on the 1st of February, 1906. In June of the same year Grove City College of Grove City, Pennsylvania, conferred upon him the honorary degree of LL. D. and in 1912 Westminster College confer-red upon him the same degree —an honor which he had richly earned. After the death of ex-Senator Louis E. McComas, of Maryland, who in his later years was associate justice of the United States court of appeals of the District of Columbia, Judge Van Orsdel was appointed by President Roosevelt to succeed Judge McComas. His appointment was well received in Washington, where his splendid record in the department of justice had made him a popular favorite in legal and official circles of the capital city.
In 1891 Judge Van Orsdel was united in marriage to Miss Kate Barnum. of Blue Springs, Nebraska, who has been a prominent social figure in Wyoming and later in Washington, her attractive appearance and manner bringing her to the front socially in the capital city. Judge Van Orsdel and his wife are members of the Presbyterian church, in the work of which they take an active and helpful part, and for many years the Judge was a trustee of the church at Cheyenne and is now ruling elder in the Church of the Covenant in Washington. He belongs to the Chevy Chase Club and also to the University Club of Washington, and along the strict path of his profession he has connection with the American Bar Association, which appointed him Wyoming delegate to the Universal Congress of Lawyers and Jurists, held in St. Louis in September, 1904. He has long been a recognized republican leader and for four terms served as chairman of the Wyoming republican state central committee, in which connection ht.: displayed marked ability and achieved notable success. Carefully systematizing and directing the work of the party in Wyoming, he succeeded in wresting the power from the democratic and populist parties in 1898, and in the campaigns of 1900, 1902 and 1904 every county in the state was carried by the republican forces. A contemporary writer has said of him: “He makes the ideal judge, for his mind has been trained to weigh justly in judgment. Kind-hearted and genial, his personality is a pleasing one and great things are expected from him while on the bench as associate justice of the United States court of appeals for the District of Columbia.”