Judge Walter H Sanborn


Excerpts from a brief account of his ancestry and life
By Luther Ely Smith written on the occasion of his 35 years of service in 1927

Walter Henry Sanborn, son of Henry F. and Eunice Davis Sanborn, was born October 19, 1845, on "Sanborn's Hill" at Epsom, Merrimack County, New Hampshire, on the ancestral homestead where his father, grandfather and great-grandfather before him were born. The family was of English descent and the name was originally spelled "Sambourne."
Reuben, the son of Josiah, who was born April 19, 1699, at Hampton, was known as Reuben "Sanborn." In 1760 he bought 800 acres of land in the town of Epsom, moved upon it, and built the first Sanborn house, which he occupied until his death. This farm is on the side of McCoy's Mountain, and was known as "Sanborn's Hill." It is located in the South Central region of New Hampshire and commands an excellent view of Mt. Washington. It has been under cultivation and has descended to the eldest son of each generation from 1760 to the present time.
Eliphalet Sanborn, son of Reuben, was born in Hampton July 28, 1730, and removed with his father to Epsom in 1760. He took an active and prominent part in both civil and military affairs, serving with the Colonial troops under Wolfe in 1758 in the French and Indian War. On September 3, 1776, he enlisted in the Continental Army and served through the Revolution. During the years 1773, 1775, 1776 and 1777 he held the position of Town Clerk of Epsom, an office of great responsibility and influence even in time of peace in a commonwealth governed as New Hampshire was, largely through the pure democracy of the "town meeting." In 1772 Eliphalet Sanborn was elected a selectman of his town, and he was re-elected in 1773 and 1774. He died from lingering effects of wounds received in the Revolutionary War.
Josiah Sanborn, the great-grandfather of Judge Sanborn, eldest son of Eliphalet, was born on the old homestead in Epsom, October 4, 1763, and died there on June 14, 1842. In the year 1794 he removed the first house and erected the house of 16 rooms, which with three large barns, is still standing upon the estate and constitutes Judge Sanborn's summer home. He served as selectman of the town of Epsom for twenty years, as a representative in the Legislature for eight terms, and as a member of the State Senate for three terms.
Frederick Sanborn, the son of Josiah, was born on the old homestead October 27, 1789, and died there on May 9, 1881. On March 20, 1816, he married Lucy L. Sargent, the daughter of Reverend Benjamin Sargent of Pittsfield, New Hampshire. During a large portion of his life Frederick Sanborn was a Deacon in the Congregational Church at Epsom. He left two sons, Henry F. Sanborn, born on February 26, 1819, and John B. Sanborn, later of St. Paul, Minnesota, born on December 15, 1826.
Benjamin Sargent, the father of Judge Sanborn's grandmother, Lucy Sargent Sanborn, wife of Frederick Sanborn, entered the Continental Army as a drummer boy at the age of fifteen and served until the close of the Revolutionary War. He then became a Baptist minister and preached at Pittsfield, New Hampshire, until his death, which occurred at an advanced age, while he was in the pulpit reading a hymn.
Henry F. Sanborn, father of Judge Sanborn, entered Dartmouth College, but typhoid fever and failing health compelled him to abandon hope of a professional career, and he devoted his life to education and farming. He was elected selectman of Epsom for six terms, a member of the New Hampshire House of Representatives in 1855, and a member of the State Senate in 1866 and again in 1867, when that body consisted of only twelve members. In 1843 he married Eunice Davis of Princeton, Massachusetts.
Walter Henry Sanborn, the subject of this sketch, was the oldest child of Henry F. and Eunice Davis Sanborn, and was born in Epsom October 19, 1845. He spent his boyhood on his father's farm, attending the common school of the town, and he was a student during the winter term for two years in the neighboring academy. In the spring and summer, and at other times when he was able, he helped his father with the crops.
In the summer of 1863, after the hay crop had been gathered, Judge Sanborn's father and Mr. Cate, father of Ahlmon F. Cate, a crony of young Walter's, told the two boys that they might go to a fitting school to prepare themselves for admission to Dartmouth. They went to Meriden, New Hampshire, and interviewed the principal of a school there, who informed them that in view of their scanty scholastic attainments, at least two years more would be required to fit them for college. This further delay did not appeal to the boys. They left their trunks at Meriden, walked seven miles to the nearest railroad station, went to Dartmouth and requested an immediate examination for admission. Largely through the kindness of Professor Patterson, afterwards United States Senator from New Hampshire, they were permitted to enter college on condition that within the first year they make up the work in which they were deficient, in addition to doing their regular work. The boys accepted these terms, and during their freshman year passed all their entrance conditions, which included the reading of three books of Homer.
In July, 1867, Judge Sanborn graduated with the degree of Bachelor of Arts. Taking the course as a whole he led his class for the entire period, and by virtue of that achievement became, under the rules of the Faculty, Valedictorian of his class. At the commencement exercises he delivered both the Greek oration and the valedictory address.
In order to secure funds to help with his education, he taught during the winter term of about three months, beginning in December, in the village school at Princeton, Massachusetts, in 1862; at Deerfield, New Hampshire, in 1863; at West Westminster, Vermont, in 1864; at West Boylston, Massachusetts in 1865; and at Stratford, Vermont in 1866. Just as he returned to college from Stratford, in the winter that he taught there, the chairman of the school board at Milford, New Hampshire, came to Dartmouth College and asked the president if there was not someone in the senior class whom he could get to take the high school at Milford. The president recommended "Sanborn, '67," who took the position of principal and taught there three months, returning to Dartmouth in time for graduation with his class.
Upon leaving Dartmouth, he resumed the principalship of the Milford High School, a position he held until 1870. At the same time he read law in the office of Hon. Bainbridge Wadleigh of Milford, afterwards United States Senator from New Hampshire. In 1870, Dartmouth conferred upon him the degree of Master of Arts.
In February, 1870, declining an increase in salary, he resigned his position as principal of the Milford High School and went to St. Paul, Minnesota. On January 28, 1871, he was admitted to the Bar of the Supreme Court of Minnesota. On May 1, 1871, he formed a law partnership with his uncle, General John B. Sanborn.
On November 10, 1874, Judge Sanborn was married to Emily F. Bruce of Milford, New Hampshire. Four children were born to them - Grace, wife of C.G. Hartin of St. Paul; Marian, wife of Grant Van Sant of St. Paul; Bruce W., a member of the law firm of Sanborn, Graves & Andre of St. Paul; and Henry F., General Agent of the St. Louis-San Francisco Railroad at Chicago.
On February 10, 1892, the name of Walter H. Sanborn of St. Paul to be United States Circuit Judge for the Eighth Circuit was sent to the Senate, and on March 17, 1892, the nomination was confirmed and the Commission signed. Judge Sanborn took his seat upon the bench at the opening of the May session of the October term in St. Luis on May 2, 1892. On June 3, 1903, upon the resignation of Judge Henry C. Caldwell, Judge Sanborn became, by virtue of the seniority of his Commission as Circuit Judge, Presiding Judge of the Court, and since that date he has met and discharged with promptness and distinction the full burden of the duties of that important post. On April 8, 1927, the Bar Association of St. Louis tendered to Walter Henry Sanborn, Presiding Judge of the Circuit Court of Appeals of the Eighth Federal Judicial Circuit and senior Circuit Judge of the United States, a testimonial dinner in appreciation of his thirty-five years of distinguished service as United States Circuit Judge.