Samuel Metcalf Wheeler
Hon. Samuel Metcalf Wheeler was born in Newport, N. H., May 11, 1823. He
was the only son—having one sister—of Albira and Melinda (Metcalf)
Wheeler, who came of families of remarkably vigorous constitution and
decided longevity; and from his ancestry, doubtless, Mr. Wheeler
inherits the intellectual and physical ability which has made him so
careful in breadth of study, and so successful as a legal adviser at the
bar and in legislative debate and action.
Mr. Wheeler's early education was obtained in the seminary at Claremont,
N. H., the military academy at Windsor, Vt., at Newbury Seminary, Vt.,
and in private instruction in the languages.
In 1844 he entered upon the study of law in the office of Walker &
Slade, at Royalton, Vt.; seven months later he entered that of Tracy &
Converse at Woodstock, Vt., where he remained two years and a half; and
for some months afterwards he read law with Hon. Ralph Metcalf, an
ex-governor of New Hampshire, from whose office he was admitted to the
bar in 1847. He commenced practice in Newport, where he remained about a
year. The next four or five years he practiced in Fisherville, and in
1853 he removed to Dover, where he at once entered upon a large and
successful practice, and where he still remains. At first he was in
business connection with John H. Wiggin. Esq., which lasted for two
years. Subsequently, in 1858, he associated with himself Hon. Joshua G.
Hall, then commencing practice, and the law firm of "Wheeler & Hall"
continued for eight years. Since that time. Mr. Wheeler, while having
the assistance made necessary by his practice, has remained without a
As a lawyer, Mr. Wheeler has long been recognized as a leader. His
natural abilities, strengthened and brightened by patient study, which
has made him familiar with the law and precedents, and his learning,
supplemented by the power to see all the features of a case and a
conscientious devotion to the interest of his client, make him a safe
adviser. His particular success, however, has undoubtedly been in the
trial of jury causes, where his extensive study, quickness of
perception, tact, and forensic ability, and a habit of thought which
grasps particulars into a whole, tending to one strong impression upon
listeners, have been the elements which have made him very strong.
Mr. Wheeler was from the first one of the pillars of Republican strength
in Strafford county; and when the party in Dover has needed some one to
represent it with conspicuous ability it has very often called upon him.
He represented that city in the legislature in 1864, 1865, 1868, 1869,
and 1870, and in 1876 was a member of the constitutional convention of
New Hampshire. In the house, he was on the judiciary committee in 1864,
and its chairman in 1865, also chairman of the finance committee in
1868; and in the constitutional convention was chairman of one of the
four only leading committees, vis., that on the bill of rights.
In 1869 he was chosen speaker of the house, receiving nearly all the
votes of his party in caucus, and much beyond his party vote in the
house. He was rechosen in 1870, again receiving more than the vote of
his party. As a member of the house, he was always recognized as a
leader whose counsel it was safe to follow and whose opposition was
generally fatal; and, as speaker, he was distinguished for his dignity,
courtesy, and knowledge of parliamentary law. He was several times the
leading Republican candidate for congress in the first district, and the
peculiar methods by which other men were put into the place which the
people demanded he should fill have disgraced and weakened the party in
that section ever since.
In the year 1866, Mr. Wheeler received the honorary degree of Master of
Arts from Dartmouth College. He was president of the Dover National Bank
from 1858 to 1874.
Mr. Wheeler married, December 31, 1848, Priscilla E., daughter of Joseph
W. and Phebe (Wheeler) Clement, of Franklin, N. H. They have but one
child,—Helen Maud,—born March 27, 1858. Mr. Wheeler is still in the
prime of successful practice in Dover.