Source: REGISTER OF OLD SETTLERS , BOOK One, page 123, 373
submitted by Lynn McCleary, Sept. 21, 2007

Monday, March 13, 1882

A Few Incidents in the Life of Judge Hastings

The San Francisco Daily Evening Post, of February 25, contained five columns of a finely printed sketch of Judge S.C. Hastings, formerly of this city and brother of Mrs. Suel Foster. From this voluminous narrative we learn that the Judge’s father, Robert C. Hastings was a native of Boston but removed in early life to central new York, where he married Miss Patience Brayton, whose family had been among the earliest settlers of that region. Seven children were born by this marriage, of who only the two above named are now living. Receiving an Academic education, young Clinton came west and studied law for two years in a Lawrenceburg, Ind., office removing to Muscatine, then Bloomington, in 1837. Here he was admitted to the bar and began practice, but was soon appointed Justice of the Peace by Governor Dodge, of Wisconsin Territory, which included Iowa. Squire Hastings used to say that his jurisdiction covered the whole western territory, extending to the Pacific Ocean.

As Justice of the Peace, he had but one case to try during his term. It was a criminal charge. He found the accused guilty of stealing $30 from a citizen and $3.00 from the Court and sentenced him to be taken by the constable to a grove near by to be there tied to a tree and to receive on his back thirty three lashes—thirty for the theft from the citizen and three for that from the Court—then to be transported to across to Illinois and banished from Iowa forever. The sentence was accounted under the eye of the Court in the presence of a large crowd of people.

Mr. Hastings was successively elected as a member of the Iowa Council and House of Representatives and on Iowa being admitted to the Union, he took his seat as the State’s first representative in Congress. At the end of his term he was appointed Chief Justice of Iowa, but after one year of administration, removed in 1849 to California, where six months after his arrival, he was chosen by the legislative Chief Justice of the new Dorado, Retiring from the Bench, he was elected Attorney General of the State in which office, from it’s enormous fees the Post biographer says, he laid the foundation of his great fortune. But Mr. Suel Foster, the Judge’s brother-in-law, thinks he would not have acquired much property in office but that the opportunity came when he acted as agent for parties interested in recovering the large grants of land made by the Spanish and Mexican governments before California was added to the U.S. the Post says that he is worth two and a half million of dollars.

Judge Hastings was married in this place in 1845 to Miss Azelia Bratt, daughter of Delevan Bratt of Moscow. Mrs. Hastings died at Pau, in Europe in 1876. Eight children were born of this marriage, all of who are living except two. Judge has distinguished his later years by founding what is known as the Hastings Law College of California.

*** article found on page 373 ***

Feb. 18, 1893 (hand written)

The Pioneer Iowan and Californian Died Saturday Evening – Sketch of His Career

Two dispatches from William Giselman, at San Francisco, were received in Muscatine yesterday, one by Jayne & Hoffman and one by Judge J. Scott Richman, announcing the death of Judge S. Clinton Hastings at 6:30 o’clock Saturday evening. The announcement will awaken no little interest among the old settlers of Muscatine.

Serranus Clinton Hastings was born in St. Lawrence county, N. Y., on the 14th of November, 1814, and was therefore in his 79th year at the time of his death. He was educated at the Gouverneur Academy, St. Lawrence county, and was principal of the Norwich Academy for one year. He then studied law, was admitted to the bar and removed to Muscatine (then Bloomington) in 1839. Here he occupied a prominent position in pioneer days as a lawyer and politician. He was a member of the Territorial Legislature for several years, president of the Council during one session and one of the first Representatives to Congress, serving from Dec. 29, 1846, to March 3, 1847. He was appointed to the Supreme Bench as Chief Justice, January 26, 1848 until January 15, 1849. He exercised a decided influence on local politics during the formative years of the county, and his name is found in many of the official records and early law documents. In 1849 he removed to California, where he was placed upon the Supreme Bench, and after serving two years was elected Attorney-General of the State. In 1878 he founded and endowed Hastings College of the Law in the University of California. He also paid into the State treasury of California the sum of $100,000 in gold to be used for the legal education of students in every vocation of life. He also gave about $6,000 in property and otherwise contributed to the foundation of St. Catherine academy in Benicia, Cal. He gave and procured funds to classify, print and publish two volumes of botany of the Pacific coast. For several years preceding 1887 he was professor of comparative jurisprudence in the Hastings College of Law.

The Judge amassed a large fortune in the practice of law in California, principally as attorney of Spanish claimants for tulle (swamp) lands, in which he was successful. After acquiring his fortune, he spent much time in travel in Europe and elsewhere, devoting himself largely to scientific pursuits. He frequently revisited the scenes of his early experiences in Muscatine and was always found genial and companionable, especially by those of our citizens who had shared with him the experiences of pioneer life. Many is the laughable and remarkable story told of the Judge’s exploits in those days, for he was almost infinite in his resources and always brimming over with life and fun. He left Muscatine at too early a day to become identified with any of the permanent improvements or business enterprises which remain as monuments of the foresight and enterprise of their founders. …..

The Judge left a wife to whom he was recently married; also, one son and three daughters, all grown and married. His first wife died ten or twelve years ago. She was a daughter of Samuel Bratt, who was a pioneer settler at Moscow, in this county. Judge Hastings also leaves a sister, Mrs. Sarah J. Foster, widow of the late Suel Foster, of this city. The Judge’s brother, Dr. Chas. P. Hastings, was an early and prominent resident of Muscatine. He died about twenty years ago.

We have no information as to the last sickness of Judge Hastings. His friends here had no knowledge but that he was in his usual health till the above dispatch from his business manager, announcing his death, was received.

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