WALTER HENRY 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
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
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.