Jonathan Everett Sargent by J. N. McClintock

Judge Sargent, now of Concord, has been well known throughout the state for more than a quarter of a century. Besides an extensive legislative acquaintance, he has, as judge of the different courts and as chief-justice of the state, held terms of court in every shire town and half-shire town in every county in the state. He has been emphatically the architect of his own fortune, and by his energy and perseverance has reached the highest post of honor in his profession in his native state. He is genial and social with his friends; he loves a joke, and belongs to that small class of men "who never grow old." He loves his home, his family, and his books. No man enjoys the study of history and of poetry, of philosophy and of fiction, better than he, while law and theology come in for a share of attention,—a kind neighbor, a respected citizen, a ripe scholar, a wise legislator, an upright judge, an honest man.

In the year 1781, Peter Sargent, the grandfather of the subject of this sketch, moved from Hopkinton. N. H., to New London, at that time equally well known as Heidleburg. This locality had been known by this latter name for nearly a quarter of a century. It was granted by the Masonian proprietors, July 7, 1773, to Jonas Minot and others, as the "Addition of Alexandria." It was first settled in 1775, and was incorporated as a town by the legislature, June 25, 1779. Peter Sargent, who thus moved into the town two years after its incorporation, was one of ten brothers, all born in Amesbury, Mass., who settled as follows: Amasa, Ezekiel, Thomas, and Moses always lived at Amesbury; James settled in Methuen, Mass.; Peter, Nathan, and Stephen came to Hopkinton, N. H., and settled there; and Abner and Ebenezer came to Warner, N. H., and settled there. These ten brothers, with four sisters, were the children of Deacon Stephen Sargent, of Amesbury, Mass.

[Christopher Sargent, an older brother of Deacon Stephen, graduated at Harvard, entered the ministry, and was the first settled minister of Methuen, Mass. His eldest son, Nathaniel Peaslee Sargent, graduated at Harvard, practiced law at Haverhill, and was for many years a judge of the supreme judicial court of Massachusetts, and was chief justice of the state in 1790 and 1791, when he died aged sixty.]

Deacon Stephen Sargent was the son of Thomas, 2d, who was the son of Thomas, 1st, who was the son of William Sargent. Stephen married Judith Ordway, of West Newbury, Mass., September 26, 1730; was chosen deacon of the Second Congregational church in Amesbury, May 10, 1757; and died October 2, 1773.

William Sargent was born in England about 1602, and was the son of Richard Sargent, an officer in the royal navy. It is believed he came to Virginia at an early day, with William Barnes, John Hoyt, and others. He married Judith Perkins for his first wife, who died about 1633, when he, with several daughters, was one of the twelve men who commenced the settlement of Ipswich, Mass., that year. He soon after went to Newbury and helped form a settlement there; and about 1638 he, with several others, commenced a settlement at Hampton. He soon after, about 1640, removed to Salisbury, and was one of the eighteen original proprietors, or commoners, who settled in New Salisbury, since known as Amesbury. His second wife's name was Elizabeth, by whom he had two sons, Thomas and William. He had several lots of land assigned him at different times; was one of the selectmen of the town in 1667. He died in 1675, aged seventy-three.

Peter Sargent married Ruth Nichols, of Amesbury or Newbury, Mass., and came to Hopkinton, N. H., in 1763 or 1764, where they lived some eighteen years, and raised a large family, and when he went to New London took them all with him. His children were Anthony, Abigail, Ruth, Judith, Peter, Ebenezer, Amasa, John, Molly, Ezekiel, Stephen, William, and Lois. These all came from Hopkinton to New London in 1781, except Lois, who was born subsequently in New London.

Ebenezer, the father of the judge, was born in Hopkinton, April 3, 1768, and was, of course, thirteen years old when he came to New London with his father's family. After becoming of age he procured him a farm, and, on the 25th of November, 1792, he married Prudence Chase, of Wendell (now Sunapee), the daughter of John and Ruth (Hills) Chase. They had ten children, as follows: Anna, Rebekah, Ruth, Seth Freeman, Aaron Lealand, Sylvanus Thayer, Lois, Laura, Jonathan Kittredge, and Jonathan Everett. Jonathan Kittredge died young, the other nine lived to mature age, and five of them, three sons and two daughters, still survive. The parents always lived upon a farm, securing what was then considered as a competence, and both died in New London, having lived together more than sixty-five years.

The following, then, is the order of descent:—

1. Richard Sargent, of England.
2. William, son of Richard, born in 1602.
3. Thomas, son of William, born in April, 1643.
4. Thomas, Jr., son of Thomas, born in November, 1676.
5. Stephen, son of Thomas. Jr., born in September, 1710.
6. Peter, son of Stephen, born about 1740.
7. Ebenezer, son of Peter, born in April, 1768.

8. Jonathan Everett Sargent, was born at New London, October 23, 1816. He lived at home, working upon the farm until he was seventeen years of age, and, being the youngest child, his father had arranged for him to live at home and take care of his parents, and have the farm at their decease. The son, however, had little love for the farm, and, as soon as the care and support of his parents could be provided for in another way, he arranged with his father that he was to have the remaining four years of his time till twenty-one, was to clothe himself, and pay his own bills, and call for nothing more from his father. He fitted for college at Hopkinton Academy, and at Kimball Union Academy, Meriden, and in 1836 entered Dartmouth College, having paid his way by teaching school winters and laboring in vacations. By teaching school every winter and two fall terms in Canaan Academy during his college course, he earned enough to pay all his expenses in college with the exception of $200, which he borrowed of his father, and repaid the same, with interest, within two years. Though out of college two terms, besides winters in teaching, and another term on account of sickness, yet he was always ready at each examination to be examined with his class. He was elected a member of the Phi Beta Kappa Society, and graduated, in 1840, among the first in his class.

Mr. Sargent had long before this made up his mind to turn his attention to the law as a profession, and he accordingly began the study of the law at once with Hon. William P. Weeks, of Canaan, and remained with him till the spring of 1841, when he was advised by his physician to go South for his health. He went first to Washington, soon after to Alexandria, D. C., where he taught a high school, then to Maryland, where he remained a year in a family school, when, having regained his health, he returned to New Hampshire in September, 1842. He had, upon his arrival in Washington, entered his name as a law student in the office of Hon. David A. Hall of that city, and continued the study of the law under his direction, while engaged in teaching, and he was admitted to the bar in the courts of the District of Columbia in April, 1842, only about twenty months after leaving college. By the rule of that court any one might be admitted upon examination, without regard to the length of time he had studied; and he was examined in open court by Chief-Justice Cranch and his associates upon the bench, and was admitted.

After returning home, he continued his legal studies with Mr. Weeks until the July law term, in Sullivan county, in 1843, when he was admitted to the bar in the superior court of judicature in this state. He then went into company with Mr. Weeks at Canaan, where he remained till 1847, when he removed to Wentworth and opened an office there. He had been appointed solicitor for Grafton county in November, 1844, while at Canaan, and he at once commenced a lucrative business at Wentworth; was re-appointed solicitor in 1849 for five years more, thus holding the office for ten years, to 1854, performing the duties to the entire acceptance of the county and the people. He declined a re-appointment.

In 1851 he was first elected a member of the legislature from Wentworth, and served as chairman of the committee on incorporations. The next year he was re-elected, and was made chairman of the judiciary committee; and in 1853 he was again a member, and was nominated with great unanimity and elected speaker of the house of representatives. He served with ability and impartiality and to the general acceptance of the members. The next winter a new man was to be selected as a candidate for senator in his district, and he was nominated, and was elected in March, in a close district, by about three hundred majority. He was elected president of the senate in 1854. He was renominated in the spring of 1855, but the Know-Nothing movement that year carried everything before it, and he was defeated, with nearly all the other Democratic nominees in the state.

On April 2, 1855, he was appointed a circuit justice of the court of common pleas for the state. But in June of that year the old courts were abolished, mainly upon political grounds, and new ones organized, and new judges appointed. Judge Sargent received a request from Gov. Metcalf that he would accept the second place on the bench of the new court of common pleas. This offer had not been expected, but upon consultation with friends it was accepted, and Judge Sargent was appointed an associate justice of the court of common pleas. He acted as judge of the new court of common pleas for four years, until 1859, when, by a statute of that year, that court was abolished, and one new judge was to be added to the supreme judicial court, making the number of supreme judges six instead of five, as before. Judge Sargent was immediately appointed to that place on the supreme bench. He was then the youngest member of the court in age, as well as in the date of his commission. He remained upon the bench of that court just fifteen years, from 1859 to 1874. In March, 1873, upon the death of Chief-Justice Bellows, Judge Sargent was appointed chief-justice of the state, which place he held until August, 1874, when the court was again overturned to make room for the appointees of the prevailing political party. Chief-Justice Sargent, at the time of his appointment as chief-justice, had become the oldest judge upon the bench, both in age and date of commission. His written opinions are contained in the sixteen volumes of the New Hampshire Reports, from the 39th to the 54th, inclusive, numbering about three hundred in all. Many of these are leading opinions upon various subjects, and show great learning and research.

After the repeal of the Missouri Compromise, and the attempt to make Kansas a slave state, Judge Sargent acted with the Republican party.

Upon leaving the bench, in August, 1874, he was solicited to go into the practice of the law in Concord with William M. Chase, Esq., whose late partner, the Hon. Anson S. Marshall, had recently been suddenly removed by death. Judge Sargent accepted this offer, and thus at once stepped into an extensive and lucrative practice. This arrangement was made for five years.

In 1876 he was elected a member of the constitutional convention of this state. In this convention he acted a prominent part. He was made chairman of the judiciary committee, the same place held by Judge Levi Woodbury in the convention of 1850. He took an active part in the debates and discussions of that body, and wielded an influence probably second to no one in the convention. He was also elected, by his ward in Concord, a member of the house of representatives for the years 1877 and 1878.

Early in 1877 steps were taken for a revision of the statutes, and Judge Sargent was appointed chairman of a committee, with Hon. L. W. Barton of Newport, and Judge J. S. Wiggin of Exeter, to revise and codify the statutes of the state. Their work was completed and the statutes enacted by the legislature, to take effect the first of January, 1879. The volume was prepared and printed by the committee before the day appointed. It is the largest volume of statutes ever printed in the state, and it is believed not to be inferior to any other in any important particular.

In the fall of 1878, Judge Sargent was invited by a committee of the citizens of New London to prepare a centennial address, to be delivered on the one hundredth anniversary of the incorporation of the town. He at once accepted the invitation and set about the work, and on the 25th day of June, 1879, he delivered his address, and the occasion was distinguished by a larger collection of people, probably, than ever met in the town upon any former occasion. The address was published in the Granite Monthly, in the numbers for July, August, and September, 1879, and has been favorably noticed as a work of great labor and research.

Dartmouth College conferred on him the degree of Master of Arts, in course, three years after graduation; also, the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws, at its centennial commencement, in 1869. In compliance with a request from a committee of the trustees, he prepared and delivered at the commencement of 1880 at Dartmouth College a memorial address upon the late Hon. Joel Parker, formerly chief-justice of this state and afterwards professor of law in Harvard College. This duty Judge Sargent performed in a manner creditable to himself and satisfactory to the friends of the late Judge Parker. His address has been printed with other similar addresses in memory of other deceased judges, graduates of Dartmouth, by other distinguished sons of the college.

In 1864 he was elected grand master of the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons for the state of New Hampshire, and was re-elected the next year. After this he declined a re-election. He has for many years been an active member of the New Hampshire Historical Society, and for the last five or six years has been one of its vice-presidents. For some years past he has been connected with the National State Capital Bank as one of its directors. The Loan and Trust Savings Bank at Concord commenced business August 1, 1872, and in the nine years since then its deposits have increased to over a million and a quarter of dollars. Judge Sargent has been president of this bank, and one of its investment committee since its commencement, and has given his personal attention to its affairs. In 1876 the New Hampshire Centennial Home for the Aged was organized and incorporated, and January 1, 1879, a home was opened in Concord. Judge Sargent has been president of this institution four years, and has taken a deep interest in its prosperity and success.

About the 1st of September, 1879, at the end of five years from the commencement of his partnership in business, he retired from the practice of law. Since he commenced the practice of the law, in 1843, his residence has been as follows: In Canaan four years, to 1847; in Wentworth twenty-two years, to 1869; and in Concord since. The judge has acquired a competency, has one of the finest residences in the city, and is enjoying life with his friends and his books.

Judge Sargent married, first, Maria C. Jones, of Enfield, daughter of John Jones, Esq., November 29, 1843, by whom he had two children. John Jones Sargent, the elder, graduated at Dartmouth College in 1866, and died in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, October 3, 1870, just as he was ready to commence the practice of the law. The second, Everett Foster, died young. For his second wife, he married Louisa Jennie Paige, daughter of Dea. James K. Paige, of Wentworth, September 5, 1853, by whom he has had three children,—Maria Louise, Annie Lawrie, and George Lincoln. The second died young; the eldest and youngest survive.

Judge Sargent is a leading member of the South Congregational church in Concord, and, while decided in his own opinions, he is liberal and tolerant in judging of the faith, and charitable in judging of the conduct, of others. As a lawyer, he was always faithful and true to his clients, a wise counselor and an able advocate. As a legislator, he has been conservative and safe. As a judge, he always studied to get at the right of the case, to hold the scales of justice evenly, to rule the law plainly, and to get the questions of fact, and the evidence as it bore upon them, clearly and distinctly before the jury. Any one who attended the courts where he presided as a judge could see at once that he was patient and painstaking, industrious and persevering, vigilant and discriminating, impartial and fearless; and any one who reads his written opinions will see that they exhibit great research, learning, and ability.