Early Evansville Portraits And Biographies
From History of Vanderburgh County, Indiana
by Brant & Fuller

Asa Iglehart

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JUDGE ASA IGLEHART. Levi Iglehart, the fifth son of John Iglehart, of Anne Arundel County, Maryland, was born August 13, 1786; married Anne Taylor, and about the year 1815, crossed the mountains and settled in Ohio County, Ky., where their eldest son Asa, was born December 8, 1816.

In 1823, the family moved to Warrick County, Ind. In later life Judge Iglehart thus described southern Indiana as it was when he moved here: "The country was wild indeed; there were no roads, mere paths, no wagon roads, no wagons to run in them, and no houses but log cabins. There was not more than one or two frame houses in Warrick county. The whole country was a wilderness, in which wild game was very plentiful. Wolves were so bad that the settlers, we could not call them farmers, could not raise pigs enough to furnish them pork, and could not keep sheep at all."

Here he spent his youth, and lived to see great changes in the country; no one contributed more by sturdy character and industrious habits to produce these changes.

The educational advantages of the country in his youth were also described by him: "In that new country, where there were no books, and newspapers were very rare, opportunities for education were very poor indeed; but father and mother, especially the latter, were anxious for the promotion and education of their children. Stimulated by her precept, we all early acquired a taste for books. We subscribed for weekly papers very early, and supplied ourselves with what few school books could be obtained, and went to school, a few months each winter in the improvised rude cabins, which were called school-houses in those rude days. But, in fact, our education was obtained more at home, from the scanty supply of books we had, and from our application, and by stimulating each other. One of the sources of education and stimulation was the early Methodist preachers, who found their way as well to the wild woods of Warrick county, as every where in this country which has been reached by civilization. They were generally better educated than the most of the people in the country then were, and they stimulated us to seek for better educational opportunities; and though none of us ever went to college we obtained all the education which was attainable in those early days without going to college."

At the age of twenty-four, he married Anne Cowle, a lady of intelligence and culture, both literary and social, quite above her surroundings, whom he sought in associations, which he describes: "In the neighborhood adjoining to where the farm of the senior Iglehart was situated in Warrick County, across a neighboring creek in Vanderburgh County, were several families of English people, who were tradesmen in London. Around them were clustered two or three other families of northern Protestant Irish, constituting one of the most intelligent rural communities in all the western country." The influence of this community upon both the country and city of Evansville, may readily be seen to this day.

After his marriage, he says, "by seemingly irresistible passion for learning the law, I commenced the study while on the farm, and pursued it with great enthusiasm, little short of romance, and having been admitted to the bar at thirty-two, changed my location and life, and adopted the profession of the law."

In 1849, he removed to Evansville, and immediately entered the firm of Ingle, Wheeler & Iglehart, where he remained until he was appointed Common Pleas Judge to fill a vacancy in 1854, and subsequently he was elected without opposition to the same position. In 1858, he came again to the bar, after thorough elementary training and four years' experience on the bench, and his success came rapidly and certainly.

His natural capacity, his reputation for learning in the law; his untiring industry, his unyielding will and integrity, which no one ever questioned, all combined to make his success ##full and complete. For many years his income from the practice compared favorably with that of other leaders of the bar of the state. His personal acquaintance with the leading lawyers of the state was very great.

He was active in organizing the first state bar association, and was its first president. He was an original promoter and member of the bar association of the United States. He was for many years an editorial contributor of the Central Law Journal, and his views on interesting legal questions were often expressed through this channel and attracted the attention of the bar throughout the west. He revised "McDonald's Treatise" for justices in Indiana, which subsequently became known as "Iglehart's Treatise." He prepared with great labor an original work on "Pleading and Practice" in Indiana. His was a pioneer work in this state, where the code practice is in force. Subsequently other works of the same general character followed; but the portion of his work on "Pleading," that is an adaptation of pleading as it exists at the common law, to the law in Indiana under the code, is a concise elementary discussion, which has not been, and probably will not be superseded, and is valuable especially to students of law in this state. These, with minor literary labors, were performed in the midst of active practice.

Judge Iglehart's practice in the Supreme Court of Indiana for many years was great, and his opinions were always received by that court with respect. Before the federal court was established in Evansville, he practiced regularly in the federal court at Indianapolis, with men like Hendricks and McDonald, and he conducted successfully a number of very important cases through the supreme court of the United States. Judge Iglehart's mind was distinguished by clearness of perception, incisiveness and discrimination of thought; and such qualities always indicate a superior order of intellect. Not only was his reach and grasp of thought clear and incisive, but it was at the same time broad and comprehensive.

He very naturally, therefore, took his place as a jurist at the head of his profession. There are certain principles of law that Judge Iglehart traced more fully, and understood more thoroughly, it is believed, than any jurist in our state. He was vast in labors, patient and profound in his researches, The reports of the decisions of our highest court of appeal will preserve the conclusive evidence of all this down into future generations. The following testimonial was, among others, given by a resolution of the Evansville bar: "It was, however, at the bar that he excelled. It was there he made for himself the name which we cherish. As a commercial and corporation lawyer he was without a peer in Indiana. As a special pleader he had no rival. He was master of all the branches and intricacies of our jurisprudence. For twenty-five years he was the leader of a bar, made famous by the names of Blythe, Jones, Chandler, Baker, Law and others, dead and living. In the history of Indiana, Asa Iglehart will always rank with Willard, Judah, Morton and Hendricks, as one of her great men."

The following estimate of Judge Iglehart's character as a lawyer has been given by one who was capable of describing it: "He was no ordinary man. In native breadth and strength of mind, in his accurate and extensive, I might say overwhelming, knowledge of the law, in his unrivaled capacity for work a quality which often supplies the place of genius, which is genius he was one of the most remarkable men with whom I have ever met. This was my deliberate conviction when I first met him, more than fourteen years ago, and years of association with him only strengthen this conviction. The privilege of conversing with Judge Iglehart, of hearing him discuss legal questions in the courts, was in itself, if improved, a liberal education in the law. I never left him, after even a casual conversation upon legal topics, but what I felt I had been the gainer. His grasp upon legal principles was sure and firm. In this day, when the multiplication of report has become an intolerable burden, the tendency in all of us is to become mere case-lawyers. Too many of us bow down to the authority of a case, or a dictum, no matter how ill-considered it may be, with almost cringing servility. Judge Iglehart, without the advantage of early education, who was a self-taught man, might have been pardoned had he shared this tendency. But of all men, he was freest from this bondage. He sought always to found his contention upon the bed-rock of legal principles, and when he had found his sure foundation, he brushed aside the decision, or even the text-writer, which stood in the way of his maintenance of those principles with little ceremony."

On one occasion he persuaded the supreme court of Indiana to overrule Judge Redfield, one of the leading American text-writers. Judge Gresham, several years after he had sat as judge of the United States circuit court, and before whom the leaders of the bar of the country had practiced, wrote of Judge Iglehart after his death: "All things considered, his career was a remarkable one...I have met few men who had greater power of analysis, and, just now, I can recall no one who examined and briefed a case better... His life was honorable and blameless."

In his case the man was greater than his profession. Professions, institutions and states are the work of man, but man himself is the work of God. In the underlying personality of Judge Iglehart were embodied the largest gifts and rarest qualities of a rich and noble manhood. There are immutable moral forces, certain primal virtues upon which family, society and the state must rest; with these he was richly endowed, and these were the sources of his great power.

To him patronage and official recognition could give nothing. His claim to distinction, his titles of nobility, his royal investitures came direct from the hand of God, his faith in the great fundamental principles of revealed religion was as the faith of a little child. He believed that the great verities of religion were established facts, and in those facts his soul rested with utter confidence. To him religion was a matter to be verified by the test of experience, and hence, his was a practical religion. The church of his choice and her interests was ever before him and her prosperity was dear to his heart. He was generous in her support, loyal to her doctrines, and gave, as a most trusted and faithful official, wise counsel and cheering words. His home was ever open to his pastor, and any visiting minister of his church. He enjoyed the services of his church, and was devout and faithful in his attendance. When called upon, he could always in fitting and earnest words give a reason for his faith, and while not demonstrative in words or manner, yet a close observer could catch a glimpse of a heart touched and full of feeling, and see his eyes fill as emotions strong and deep would touch his inmost soul under the spell of speaker or song.

He took an early and abiding interest in educational affairs in Evansville and abroad. He was for several years trustee of Evansville public schools and for many years a trustee of DePauw University, and gave freely of his time, counsel and money to its support. He carried into his daily life, at home and abroad, a pure Christian character, untarnished and unstained. No man's life was more unselfish. His unbounded liberality aided much to extend the sphere of his influence.

In personal appearance Judge Iglehart was commanding. He was very stout in frame, and his massive head was for many years covered with silver white hair, crowning the impressiveness of a noble presence.

Ill health compelled him to retire from his work several years before his death, which occurred February 5, 1886.