Obit: Doolittle, Betsey Adams Weeks (20 Apr 1851 - 1927)

Contact: History Buffs

Surnames: DOOLITTLE

 

----Source: NEILLSVILLE PRESS (Neillsville, Clark County, Wis.) 05/05/1927; Echo-Eau Claire Alumni by Lois C. Blittersdorf

 

Doolittle, Mrs. Leon (1851? - 25 APR 1927)

 

Mrs. Leon A. Doolittle, formerly well known here (Neillsville, Clark County, Wis.), died at Luther Hospital, April 25, 1927, at the age of 75 years. Mrs. Doolittle (Betsey Maria Weeks) was a native of Vermont, and was educated in St. Lawrence University in New York. In 1879 she was married to L. A. Doolittle. They came soon after to Neillsville, which was their home for eight years. Mr. Doolittle was high school principal here, later practicing law and engaging in newspaper work. He was also County Judge of some time and served on term as County Superintendent. From here Mr. and Mrs. Doolittle moved to Eau Claire where Mr. Doolittle establish a law practice.

 

Mrs. Doolittle was one of the founders and chief supporters of the W. C. T. U. home for girls, becoming through this a foster mother to more than six hundred erring girls.

 

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Bio: Doolittle, Bessie A. Weeks *1851- 1927)

 

----Sources: St. Lawrence University, "Doolittle Weeks Collection"; Echo-Eau Claire Alumni by Lois C. Blittersdorf

 

"Lelon Ansil Doolittle was born July 22, 1853 in Russell, St. Lawrence County, NY. He was educated in Russell, St. Lawrence University Class of 1875 and at the University of Wisconsin where he studied law. Lelon died in July 1930 in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Betsey (Bessie) Adams Weeks was born April 20, 1851 in Vermont, she was educated in Rutland, Vermont and St. Lawrence University Class of 1876. She married Lelon Doolittle May 4, 1880 in Wisconsin. She died April 25, 1927 in Wisconsin. " St. Lawrence University, NY"

 

THE LETTERS OF LELON DOOLITTLE TO BESSIE A.WEEKS
by Lois C. Blittersdorf


Editor's note: Some years ago, Lois Blittersdorf had the good fortune to live out a common fantasy: to find in the bottom of an old desk a secret drawer filled with 135 fragile love letters from an earlier century. The letters were from Lelon Doolittle, a law student at the University of Wisconsin (Class of 1879) to his fiancée, Bessie A. Weeks, during their three-year; long-distance courtship. The letters give a picture of student life at our Law School in the 1870s, and also of the first year of law practice in a newly settled area. Ms. Blittersdorf"s mother was a niece of Bessie Weeks. The following article is based on a research paper presented by Ms. Blittersdorf at a symposium at St. Michael's College in Burlington, Vermont. Marginal notes with background information are by Gargoyle editor Ed Reisner.

 

LELON ANSIL DOOLITTLE

 

Born in 1853 in Russell, New York, grew up on the family farm but was determined not to be a farmer. He set out to be a lawyer, a fitting choice, since his father often complained that Lelon spent more time reading and writing than haying and threshing. To pursue a higher education, Lelon had to earn money by teaching and physical labor. At age 17, Lelon was certified to teach second grade. He entered St. Lawrence College in New York and graduated Phi Beta Kappa with a B.S. degree in 1875. It was there that he met Bessie Adams Weeks, who was studying for her B.S. a rare thing for a woman in those days. Lelon and Bessie became engaged before Bessie graduated in 1876, when she took a position at Goddard Seminary in Vermont as Preceptress and instructor in French, Latin and botany. Lelon taught at various New York schools to pay off his debts and save money for law school. He also found time to read law at the Sawyer & Russell Law Office in Canton, New York.

 

In the summer of 1877, Lelon and Bessie were separated. Lelon became principal of Neillsville High School in Wisconsin through the influence of H. W Sheldon, a college chum. Sheldon and his law partner James O'Neill allowed Lelon to read law in their office during his free time. Despite the separation, Lelon and Bessie continued their courtship through the mail.

 

After a year as principal of Neillsville High School, Lelon moved to Madison, where he entered the Law School at the University of Wisconsin. In 1878 the University was a growing institution; Science Hall had just been completed, as well as a chapel and a library, and former Governor Washburn donated money for an observatory. Lelon liked to walk up Bascom Hill to the observatory to watch the sunsets over Lake Mendota, a popular spot for boaters and fishermen.

 

The Law School was only a few years old when Lelon entered. It did not have a building until 1893, so classes were held in various spots around the city, including two rooms over a saloon. Records were kept in the Wisconsin Supreme Court in the Capitol, but many of the early records were lost when the building burned.

 

Lelon did not have much of a social life due to the limitations of time, money and his commitment to Bessie. He entered the two-year law course and completed it in only one year. Lelon belonged to all of the correct organizations of the era as befitted a man of future professional status: the Republican Party, the Masons and the Unitarian Society.

 

Lelon chose to room off-campus, changing locations often. He wanted to learn German, so he found a boarding house run by a German woman. Many immigrants were German or Norwegian, and Lelon felt it would help his law career to speak a second language. In one letter, Lelon described how his boarding house room caught fire after he knocked over a kerosene lamp on his desk. There were no organized athletics at the University, the feeling being that physical activity would detract from academics. Moot court arguments were held for the law students, which included practice trials with a defender and a prosecutor. The most popular activity was the Literary Society, which sponsored lectures and oratorical contests. In 1879, a senior at the University, Robert Marion La Follette, won the state oratorical competition. He then went on to win at the interstate competition at Iowa City, Iowa. Lelon described to Bessie the reception La Follette received when he arrived by train in Madison:

 

He came home on the three o'clock P.M. train, and was met at the depot by the students and a band, and about two thousand citizens. Then they gave him a grand ovation at the Assembly Chamber last evening. I think the oration is not by any means beyond criticism, yet I think it is a very fine production, and he delivers it better than I ever heard one delivered before. There were several speeches made at the Assembly. Oh, and at the last he was called out to repeat the oration, the subject was Iago (the villain of Shakespeare's tragedy Othello.). I will send you a copy of it. I think, on the whole, he must be worthy to be my successor! He is to read law next year and to attend the law school

 

(May 11, 1879 letter)

 

   (More of these letters are available at the St. Lawrence University)

 

As the time neared for Lelon's graduation, he became anxious about his future. A fellow classmate, Fred Hendrix, proposed that they form a partnership to open a law office in some newly settled town. At first they considered Fergus Falls, Minnesota, which was on a railroad line, but Lelon did not approve of the cold climate. The two then considered moving to a new town in the Dakota territory, which would not become a state for two more years. They settled on moving to Neillsville, where Lelon had lived before studying law. Lelon spent that summer working in the office of ].L. Ellis in Eau Claire for the weekly salary of $10, and he and Hendrix moved to Neillsville in August 1879. Lelon and Hendrix opened their law office in one of the best locations in Neillsville, and within their first six weeks they tried three cases and earned $250.They lived in a boarding house where they each paid $3.50 per week in rent. But the partnership was short-lived as Hendrix was lured back to Madison to work in the office of William Vilasfor the yearly salary of $400.

 

Soon politics entered Lelon's life. He was nominated for County Superintendent of Schools for Clark County but lost on a 10-8 vote because he was a newcomer. In October he was talked about as a possible Judge of Clark County since the judge had just resigned. A few Democrats and Republicans vied for this seat, and many of Lelon's Republican friends petitioned the Republican Governor William Smith on Lelon's behalf.

 

By early December, Lelon received word that he had been appointed County Judge of Clark County at the salary of $400. He immediately wrote to Bessie that they could now get married, although the marriage could not take place before May-he wouldn't be paid until April.

 

Oh, you ought to be here with me tonight! I have something good to tell you, and I don't want to write it. Come, Sweet, sit here on my lap and put both arms around my neck. I want to see how glad you will look and I want tofeel your sympathetic happiness when I shall tell you that I am really County Judge!! Now I want you right here in may arms to rejoice with me! God bless my sweet, sweet Bessie! You are glad, aren't you? But now I am going to talk business. It is a fact that just now I am dead broke, and that I shan't get any money out of this County Judge business till sometime in April It will be a pretty close business, but, Darling, aren't you tired of all those troublesome children, and don't you want to come out and board with Miss Tibbetts awhile? Shall we be married right off, or shall we wait awhile? It shall all be just as you say, but if it is to be right away, can't we dispense with most everything except the parson? I refer to wedding cards and invitations and also a lot of people to look on etc. Could we not meet at the Hales' and just have the wedding all to ourselves with no one there but the four of us and the parson?

 

(December 10, 1879 letter)

 

The new 26-year-old judge was still excited the next day:

 

Heigho!! Bessie, do you think you can be dignified (0 enough to be the wife of a Judge? Will you try real hard??

 

(December 11,1879 letter)

 

Lelon Doolittle was sworn in as Judge on December 15,1879. He was pleased with his office in the Court House since he did not have to start fires in the morning or clean the office. But the tidiness stopped there-the court records were in disarray when Lelon arrived and he spent much of his term putting them in order. For this service to the court he was highly recommended for the position of County Superintendent of Schools of Clark County, where he served until 1884.

Now that Lelon felt financially secure, his letters to Bessie were full of plans for a May 4, 1880, wedding at the home of Ledyard and Etta Hale in Madison.The couple had not seen each other for three years, and were feeling a little anxious. Lelon was perplexed as to how he should get ready for his marriage and felt that he had no one to advise him. His friend Ledyard Hale told him to just get married and "get ready" later.

 

Lelon bought a client's house for $50 plus a promise to pay the back interest on the mortgage and the back taxes, which totalled $300.The house was miserable, according to Lelon, and he assured Bessie they could rent it out if she didn't want to live there. He also purchased a cook stove and some second-hand furniture from the local hardware store for six dollars. These purchases were the extent of his preparations for his upcoming marriage. Back in Vermont, Bessie prepared her personal property for shipment to Wisconsin and paid $24.90 for a one-way train ticket from Vermont to Madison. She brought with her a secretary desk, a family heirloom, which cost $12 to transport. They married in a small ceremony at the Hales'.

 

Lelon went on to have a successful law career and also published a newspaper, the Neillsville Times, until 1884, when he and Bessie moved to Eau Claire.They both served their new community: Lelon by practicing law and Bessie by founding the Women's Christian Temperance Union Home for Unwed Girls and as a member of the Women's Club. They did not have any children. Their spirit of community and generosity was typical for a couple raised in a society devoted to church, education, service and the work ethic Lelon Doolittle was sworn in as Judge on December 15,1879. He was pleased with his office in the Court House since he did not have to start fires in the morning or clean the office. But the tidiness stopped there-the court records were in disarray when Lelon arrived and he spent much of his term putting them in order. For this service to the court he was highly recommended for the position of County Superintendent of Schools of Clark County, where he served until 1884.

 

Now that Lelon felt financially secure, his letters to Bessie were full of plans for a May 4, 1880, wedding at the home of Ledyard and Etta Hale in Madison.The couple had not seen each other for three years, and were feeling a little anxious. Lelon was perplexed as to how he should get ready for his marriage and felt that he had no one to advise him. His friend Ledyard Hale told him to just get married and "get ready" later.

 

Lelon bought a client's house for $50 plus a promise to pay the back interest on the mortgage and the back taxes, which totalled $300.The house was miserable, according to Lelon, and he assured Bessie they could rent it out if she didn't want to live there. He also purchased a cook stove and some second-hand furniture from the local hardware store for six dollars. These purchases were the extent of his preparations for his upcoming marriage. Back in Vermont, Bessie prepared her personal property for shipment to Wisconsin and paid $24.90 for a one-way train ticket from Vermont to Madison. She brought with her a secretary desk, a family heirloom, which cost $12 to transport. They married in a small ceremony at the Hales'.

 

Lelon went on to have a successful law career and also published a newspaper, the Neillsville Times, until 1884, when he and Bessie moved to Eau Claire.They both served their new community: Lelon by practicing law and Bessie by founding the Women's Christian Temperance Union Home for Unwed Girls and as a member of the Women's Club. They did not have any children. Their spirit of community and generosity was typical for a couple raised in a society devoted to church, education, service and the work ethic.  by Lois C. Blittersdorf

 

 

Side Notes

 

Well into the I920s, reading law was either the exclusive method of legal education or a common supplement to the course of lectures common in law schools. Only when the demand for legal education began to outstrip the number of available law clerk positions did law schools begin to change their curriculum and begin to be the primary source for the training of new lawyers.

 

Legal education at our Law School was not an expensive undertaking, particularly if the student was also employed part-time in a local law office. From the School's opening in 1868 until the I930s, tuition and fees for residents ranged from $10.00 to $21.50 per year! Current tuition is more than $8000. Interestingly, a UW Law graduate, Andrew A. Bruce, Class of 1892, is credited with being the "father of football" at U\N. Actually, the second year was not added to the curriculum until 1889 and the third year in 1895. Since graduation from law school was not a requirement for admission to the bar until the middle of the 20th century, regardless of the length of the program, many students entered law school only to supplement their independent study and left when they felt prepared for the bar exam Robert La Follette, Sr., did, in fact, enter law school. But, like so many students of his era, he left after a few months to complete his legal education in a local law office. He did, however, encourage his wife, Belle Case La Follette, to enroll. She completed her degree here in 1885, becoming the first female graduate. More than half of the graduates in our early classes left Wisconsin. Many moved west and became prominent in the new states and territories. The Dakota territory (which later was split into two states) was a popular location, because the population was growing and there were few lawyers to compete with. Among Lelon's classmates were Otto Peemiller, a U.S. Marshall in South Dakota; Joseph Ivey, Collector of Customs in Sitka, Alaska; and John Olin, who went on to join the UW Law School faculty and suggested the famous «sifting and winnowing" language to the Board of Regents in 1894.

 

How economics have changed! Associates today make six-figure salaries in some locations. But then not many people can find a place to live for $3.50 per week.

 

Lelon continued to practice in Eau Claire for at least 30 years. He is listed there in our 1914 Alumni Directory but by the time the next directory was issued, in 1935, he had died. Bessie and Lelon remained married for 47 years, until Bessie died in 1927. Lelon lived until 1930, dying at the age of 77 years.  by Lois C. Blittersdorf

 

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Bio: Doolittle Memories (1930)

Contact: History Buffs

 

Surnames: Doolittle

 

----Source: Canton, NY, Tuesday, July 22, 1930; Echo-Eau Claire Alumni by Lois C. Blittersdorf

 


RECALLS STORY OF PIONEER FAMILIES
JUDGE LELON A. DOOLITTLE HAD INTERESTING ANCESTRY


Eau Claire County History Relates Story of Remarkably Successful Career.


We are indebted to Mrs. Leland D. Clark of Rural Delivery Route No. 1, Hermen, for the following story of the life of Judge Lelon A. Doolittle, - a notice of whose death appeared in this paper last -week. What is given appears in The Memory Book of the Old Arsenal School Association of Russell, and in the History of Eau Claire County, Wisconsin.

 

From the Memory Book Ansil Doolittle, father of Celon, first settled on a farm located on the Town Line road between Russell and Canton. Their four children were born there. His farm joined the farm of Edmund Clark, Jr. Mr. Doolittle and Mr. Clark married twin sisters (Jane Ann and Janette Smith). They were both teachers, both taught school in Blanford, Mass., near their mother's old home.

 

The Doolittle boys never forgot their first home or the old swimming hole as Marshall called it on my father's farm and when they came back from the West they would go over to both places .and call on their old neighbor, Julius Clark, and talk of the good days they had spent together.

 

Lelon Doolittle taught school in the Old Arsenal the winter of '73-74. He joined the Association two years ago I think. Judge Doolittle's grandfather, Rollin Smith, came to Russell in 1808 and taught the first school in
the town, bought a farm of 200 acres and built a log house on it, then returned to Massachusetts and studied
to, be a doctor.

 

Mr. Smith was married Dec. 2, 1817 to Olive Gibbs of Blanford, Mass. He paid a man $50 to move him to Russell. He took his bride to the log house he had built some years before. Six children were born to them, and they were educated at home. Lucius, John, Jane Ann, Janette, Mary and Clarissa. They paid for their farm twice, after they got it paid for first, a man came on with a mortgage saying they must pay the mortgage or leave. Mr. Smith was discouraged and wanted to leave but Mrs. Smith cheered him up and told him they had provisions enough to last them a year and if they went away they would have nothing. She had money her father had given her and she let him have it to pay up the mortgage.

 

When fortune favored them they built a framed house and moved into that. With the exceptions of Benjamin Hutchinson, who lived a few rods away, Mr. Smith's nearest neighbor was Elihu Phelps, two miles distant toward Russell and Edmund Clark, Sr., nearly three miles toward Canton at Clark's Corners, now the home of Leland Clark. 

 

Mr. Smith died in '67 and Ansil Doolittle bought his farm.  This was the last home of the Doolittle boys.

 

Mrs. Smith lived with her son-in-law, Ansil Doolittle, the rest of her days but died at the home of Mrs. Edmund Clark, Jr., with the measles the day she was 90 years old. Judge Doolittle loved his grandmother Olive, and was always telling what a wonderful woman she was, and how much she helped them when they were in college., He said Helen Smith made him think of her in many ways.

 

Olive Gibbs Smith traces her ancestry back to one William Gibbs of Lenharn, Yorkshire, England, who for signal services, obtained a grant from the King of England of a tract of land four miles square in the center of the town Hr. Gibbs had three sons. The oldest remained at home and inherited his father's property. The two younger sons learned the ship carpenter's trade, and when they became of age, their elder brother gave them money, and they came to Boston.

 

Israel, ancestor of Olive Gibbs, settled upon the Cape, and the other in Newport, R. I.  Mrs. Leland Clark

 

Lelon Ansil Doolittle, a prominent attorney of Eau Claire, was born \n Russell, St. Lawrence County, New York, July 22, 1853, a son of Ansil, Jr., and Jane Ann (Smith) Doolittle. His great grandfather, Abraham Doolittle, was one of five brothers who were representative farmers, merchants and mechanics of their day in the town of Cheshire, New Haven County, Connecticut. The grandfather, Ansil Doolittle, married Maria King, and they were the parents of three sons and three daughters. The eldest son, Ansil, Jr., father of Lelon Ansil, married Jane Ann Smith, and they were the parents of three sons and one daughter; the latter married Edgar E. Davis. The Marshall Erwin, was eldest son, practicing physician. The youngest son, Rollin Edson, is a lawyer, and is also our subject. Lelon Ansil was reared on the farm, attended the district school, and at the age of seventeen secured a second grade teacher's certificate and made and a success as a school teacher. At the age of twenty-two years he had completed a regular college course and was graduated from the St. Lawrence University with the class of 1875, paying his tuition by teaching as principal of graded schools, selling subscription books and farm laborer.


The practice of awarding honors at graduation had not then been adopted in this institution, but his good work and conduct were recognized by electing him to membership in Phi Beta Kappa. Through the influence of friends he came to Wisconsin in 1877 and settled at Neillsville, where, during the summer of that year, he accepted the position as principal of the high school of that city. After serving one year, he resigned and entered the law department of the University of Wisconsin, finishing the two-year course in one year. After graduating with the class of 1879, he returned to Neillsville appointed and was soon county judge thereafter of Clark County. Up to that time no indexes had been made of the probate records; there was no court calendar, minute book nor court record in the office; all the papers except such as had been lost or destroyed were in a heterogeneous mass, but within six months every paper entitled to record "was recorded, and all the records of the office were as complete and as perfect as it was possible to make them. Before his term of office as judge had expired he was elected county superintendent of schools, a position he filled with honor to himself and to the satisfaction of his constituents until he moved to Eau Claire in January, 1885.  While much of his time at Neillsville was taken up with his official duties, he built up and conducted a successful law business, and in 1879, in company with Hon. James O'Neill, founded the Neillsville Times, which they edited jointly until Judge Doolittle moved to Eau Claire, and which, under their management, became the leading weekly paper of the county.

 

Judge Doolittle came to Eau Claire to avoid newspaper work and politics, and after his arrival gave his sole attention to the practice of law, and has since been engaged in the general practice of his profession.  He served as city attorney for three years, and for several terms as president of the Associated Charities.  He had been one of the directors of the Eau Claire Public Library for many years, and for several terms had been president of the board.  Since 1903 he had been largely interested in real estate in Northern Wisconsin, being president of the Traders Land Company, which is capitalized at $10,000.00, and also of the Guaranteed Investment Company, with a capital of $76,000.00, both of which were incorporated in 1904.

 

Judge Doolittle was married May 4, 1880, to Bessie Adams Weeks (1851-?), daughter of Friend and Betsey Maria (French) Weeks, of Clarendon, Rutland, Vt., and they have one adopted son, Maxson Rusk Doolittle.  The judge is a member of the First Congregational Church of Eau Claire, Wisconsin.

 

His adopted son, Maxsom, died December 15, 1922.

 

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BioM: Weeks, Bessie Adams (4 May 1880)

Contact: History Buffs

 

Surnames: French, Smith, Weeks

 

----Source: Wisconsin Marriages, 1836-1930

Groom: Lelon Ansil Doolittle; white American male
Occupation: Lawyer Residence: Neillsville, Clark, Wis.
Birthplace: Russell, St. Laurence, N. Y.
Father's Name: Ansil Doolittle, male
Mother's Name: Jane A. Smith, female
Bride: Bessie Adams Weeks, white female
Father's Name: Friend Weeks, male
Mother's Name: B. Maria French
Marriage Date: 4 May 1880
Marriage Place: Madison, Dane, Wisconsin, United States

 

 


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