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Delaware County, Iowa

Biography Directory


A. S. Blair

Attorney at Law



     A. S. BLAIR, attorney-at-law of Manchester, Delaware county, is a native of New York, having been born in the village of Perry, Genesee (now Wyoming) county, August 24, 1831. He is the second child and eldest son of David J. and Margaret (Rockfellow) Blair, the former a native of Massachusetts and the latter a native of New Jersey. His parents were married in New York late in the "twenties" and resided there till 1835, when, joining the great tide of immigration then streaming through western New York and Pennsylvania towards the rich forest lands and broad prairies of the trans Alleghany country, they moved to Ohio, settling first in Loraine and afterwards in Huron county, where they resided till 1855. At that date they came to Iowa, locating in Manchester, Delaware county. Here the father died in 1861, aged fifty one, the mother still surviving. These passed their mature years in the peaceful pursuits of agriculture, leading the industrious, useful lives common to their calling. They were the parents of nine children, all of whom reached maturity and all but two of whom are now living, the full list now comprising seven boys and two girls, by name and in the order of their ages as follows:  Jerusha B., Amos S. (our subject), Abram V., Charles H., Ira, Emoret E., John L, Carrie M. and Miles E.


     The subject of this notice was about four years old when his parents moved to Ohio. He was therefore mainly reared in Loraine and Huron counties, that state. He grew up on his father's farm and his earlier years were spent amid the scenes and marked by the activities characteristic of the average farm boy's life. He went from the district schools of Huron county to Oberlin college at Oberlin, Ohio, and thence to Baldwin University at Berea, Ohio, where he finished a more than ordinarily thorough literary education. Having previously determined to devote himself to one of the liberal professions he selected law as the one best suited to his tastes, and began reading in 1852 with John E. Osborn of Norwalk, Ohio, He read law for two years, continued his other studies of a more general nature, taught school to pay his way along and was admitted to the bar in the spring of 1854 at a session of the supreme court of the State of Ohio, held at Berrysburg, Wood county. He continued teaching for a year after he was admitted, filling the position of superintendent of the public schools at Lexington, Ohio. In the spring of 1855 he started for the new Northwest and located in Prairie Du Chien, Wis., in July, that year, where heat once began the practice of his profession. He continued there successfully engaged in the practice till 1858 when, having married in the meantime and his father having moved to Manchester, Delaware county, Iowa, he decided on a change to the latter place himself and made it in October that year. He has since resided in Manchester, being now one of the oldest members of the Manchester bar as he has always been one of the most active and successful. Mr. Blair is a lawyer by nature as well as by adoption. He has devoted his whole life to his profession and he still pursues its arduous duties with the enthusiasm of youth. He has never held public office except a few positions of a local nature such as every good citizen is expected to fill, the onerous duties of which far exceed the honors connected with them. But he has been active in politics notwithstanding, and he has generally succeeded in making his influence felt. He is an ardent republican and has done his party good service for many years both in council and on the public platform. Up to a few years ago when he, in a measure, retired from politics, he had not missed a party convention of any consequence, whether county, district or state, for twenty-five years and he had been the able champion of the principles of his political faith on the public platform in all the campaigns, local or state, where those principles were involved. He is a ready debater, strong, and forcible, and being well-grounded in the political history of the country and a stanch believer in the doctrines of his party he is a formidable antagonist in the discussion of political issues before the people. He possesses also the acumen of the politician, the ready genius for combining dissimilar forces, reconciling opposing ones and accomplishing through the cementing of these, things apparently impossible of accomplishment. He has a large circle of friends and political acquaintances made in this way and it is probably from a love for the society of these and from a stronger love for the keen, intellectual delights that flow from association with them that he has taken the part he has in politics. Certainly for one of his tastes and his ideas of his professional obligations, he has been exceedingly fortunate in the use he has been able to make of the political machinery of his county and state, making it as he has the means of furthering his political beliefs, and gathering from its associations its friendly rivalries and its more serious contests, some of its highest social and intellectual pleasures, while at the same time he has escaped what has too frequently proved to others its fatally fascinating power. But as already stated it is as a lawyer that Mr. Blair has done his best work. It is as a lawyer that he is best and most favorably known. In his profession he has labored long and earnestly and it is but simple truth and justice to say that his labors have met with the success that they have well deserved. He has always had a large practice, more extensive possibly in early years when the custom was in vogue of "traveling around the circuit" than now, but not so lucrative nor were the cases of such magnitude. Being a country practitioner he has had to deal with every conceivable form of litigation, and whatever his tastes at first may have been or his special aptitudes for particular branches of the profession, he has of necessity and from long practice developed into what is usually known as an" all-round lawyer." The limits set to this article will not admit of even the most general summary of his professional career, extending now over more than a third of a century, and such a summary is possibly not advisable at this time; yet mention may properly be made of two cases in which he has been counsel in recent years and which illustrate no less his methods than they show the value his services have been to the public as well as to his clients. These cases are Wood vs. The Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway Company, reported in the 59th and 68th Iowa supreme court reports and the Washburn & Moen Manufacturing Company and others vs. the Beat-'em-all Barbwire Company and others, tried in the United States circuit court for the northern district of Iowa and reported in volume 33, of the Federal Reporter. The former of these attracted no little attention at the time it was under trial and it established a rule governing the liability of railroad companies as to contracts made by their agents for transportation for shipping purposes, which has since been followed, not only in this state, but in other states as well. There were two trials in the lower court and three in the supreme court, Mr. Blair and his associate counsel winning the case for their client upon a rehearing in the upper court, in which the court reversed its opinion, rendered twice theretofore on the same state of facts, establishing a doctrine at last precisely the opposite of the one announced in the two previous decisions. The question in controversy was as to the liability of a railroad company for damages for injury to perishable personal property by reason of the company's failure to furnish cars for the transportation of the property at a stipulated future time, in accordance with the company's agent's promise that they would be forthcoming at that time. The supreme court held in its first two decisions that whether or not an agent had authority to make such a contract was a matter of fact to be determined in any given case by a jury; but they finally overruled this decision and established the doctrine, more in accordance with public policy and sound judicial discretion, that a railway company by placing its agent in charge of its business at a station and empowering him to contract for the shipment of property holds him out as possessing the authority to contract with reference to all the necessary and ordinary details of the business, he being within the range of that business a general agent, and that therefore the company is liable for damages for injuries sustained by shippers where transportation has not been furnished within the time promised by the agent. Even the unprofessional reader can see the importance of this ruling to the shipping public and the possible saving it involves to all shippers of perishable property. In the other case the issue was as to an alleged infringement of patent by the "Beat-'em-all" Barb Wire Company, then of Waterloo, Iowa, the Washburn & Moen Manufacturing Company, of Worcester, Mass., claiming the exclusive right to control the manufacture of barb wire fences under the Glidden patent, and seeking by injunction to close up the enterprising "infant industry" of Iowa, the latter being Mr. Blair's client. The Washburn & Moen Company had, before the trial of this case, controlled the manufacture of all the barb wire fences in the United States. They had many lawsuits throughout the country growing out of attempts of other companies to enter the field as manufacturers of barb wire fences, all of which suits they had won, thus forcing these companies to pay them a royalty on every foot of fence manufactured by them. But the fact was successfully established in this case that the Glidden patent held by the Washburn & Moen Company was void by reason of prior use; the claims of the Washburn & Moen Company to protection by reason of their patent were thoroughly elucidated and the way thus cleared up for the entry of other manufacturers into the large and lucrative field in which they had long held exclusive privileges under their alleged patents. This case, although still pending on appeal in the United States supreme court, has already been the means of saving to manufactures of barb wire fences and through them to the farmers of the country between two and three millions of dollars by reducing the tribute which these manufacturers were compelled to pay the Washburn & Moen Company for the use of the supposed patent held by that company. In these two cases Mr. Blair displayed to good advantage two of his most marked characteristics as a lawyer; his indefatigable industry and his unswerving tenacity of purpose. Convinced that his clients had good cases, he brought to bear every resource of the law as well as every fact within his reach necessary to establish the legality of their claims and his final success was no less a tribute to his persistent labor than it was to the knowledge that enabled him to perform that labor. In these cases, as well as in many others of lesser note, he achieved popularity before the courts, and won reputation as an advocate and trial lawyer.

Speaking of Mr. Blair, generally, it may be recorded that what success he has attained has been reached by the manner in which he has handled his cases throughout the entire course of their litigation, and it would be hard to say at what stage in the handling of a case he is most at home or has achieved the best results. In accepting cases he is deliberate, exacting sincerity from his clients; in the preparation and conduct of causes on trial he is conscientious and diligent, courteous to adverse counsel, circumspect to the court, logical, clear, compact and convincing to the jury; and in the discussion and analysis of questions of law to the court, he is sound, forcible and cogent, possessing that skillful generalization which readily seizes upon the strong points of a subject; that happy condensation of thought which at once extracts the substance of an opponent's argument, and that clear foresight and comprehension which immediately grasps the angularities of the most intricate legal problems. And in all things is he plain and easy of understanding, making manner subservient to
matter and subduing that manner to pleasant speech, whether upon the public platform, before a meeting of political delegates, a jury or in ordinary .

Mr. Blair has a family consisting of a wife and three children. He married, May 5, 1856, taking to share his life's fortunes a lady whom he met while teaching in the public schools at Lexington, Ohio, and one who was well qualified to bear him the companionship he sought with her hand. His wife's maiden name was Laura Bloomer, a daughter of Coles A. Bloomer, then of Huron county, Ohio, she being a native of that county. The children of this union are: a daughter, Effee M. now wife of George W. Dunham, attorney-at-law and postmaster, at Manchester; and two sons, Charles L. and Frederick B. While Mr. Blair has never courted popularity, being
content with the measure of public praise accorded him for the faithful discharge of his professional obligations, he has nevertheless not been unmindful of his duties as a citizen. He has kept abreast of the general progress of affairs in his community and has lent a helping hand to every worthy enterprise that has sought favor there, and has given the weight of his influence, and, when occasion has demanded, his own personal exertions to the upbuilding of the public schools, churches, and societies and other helpful factors which have contributed to the healthful growth and development of his adopted home. He is a member of a number of the benevolent orders and his charitable impulses frequently take the practical turn inculcated by these.

~ source: Biographical souvenir of the counties of Delaware and Buchanan, Iowa; Chicago : F. A. Battey, 1890. Page 357-361; LDS microfilm #985424

~ contributed by Thom Carlson