William G. Langford
Born August 8, 1835
Died May 13, 1893
Compiled By His Brother, Oscar Langford, Dayton, Ohio
HON. W. G. LANGFORD
Brief Sketch of His Early Life
His life was gentle; and the elements
So mixed in him, that nature might stand up
And say to all the world, "This was a man!"
Hon. William G. Langford was born in Ohio, August 8, 1835, and died at Spokane, Washington, May 13, 1893.
He was one of eleven children-six sisters and five brothers-whose parents were Charles and Fannie Langford. His mother died in Fredonia, Chautauqua County, N. Y., when he was about seven years old, he having two brothers still younger than himself, and his father died some years afterward. Thus he and his several other little brothers and sisters were left orphans at a very tender age, the youngest (the writer of this article) being only about three years old at the time that this large family were thrown broadcast and destitute upon the uncertain mercies of the world. However, through the humanity and benevolence of a few friendly citizens of Fredonia, the larger proportion of the younger children found homes in different families, young William among the number. As years passed by the numerous family members became widely scattered and separated, several of the elder and grown members finding homes in the (then) thinly-settled Territories of Iowa and Wisconsin.
But little can be learned of the boyhood of William G. Langford. Whatever were the early home care and influences which surrounded him, from the time he became an orphan child up to his young manhood, cannot be ascertained. From subsequent intimations to the writer, however, he traversed a rather thorny path. No one ever filled the place of his lamented mother; no father, by precept or example, ever encouraged him in an upward career. He simply grew to noble manhood through his own innate moral principles, in spite of adverse influences and circumstances.
William G. Langford and the writer met for the first time in the latter's recollection (we being too young to both of us recall the event of our early separation) when he was about 16 years old and I was bordering the age of 13, and then our association together did not extend over a year, or thereabouts. This was, I think, during the years 1850-1851 in Chautauqua County, New York, the home of my boyhood. He soon afterwards went to Iowa, where some near relatives resided, and during the California gold excitement of that period, joined an emigrant train for the gold regions, a portion of these immigrants afterwards changing their destination to Oregon and Washington Territories, himself included. After arriving at his destination he went into the mines, was more or less successful, accumulated a considerable competency, left the mines and engaged in business which turned out disastrously through the dishonesty and misfortunes of others.
His education up to this point had been limited to that obtained at the district school, which he had been compelled to leave to labor for a livelihood when a mere boy. His employment had been heretofore, and for many years afterward, been mostly confined to hard manual labor. He had shown no extraordinary aptness or talent capable of lifting himself above these circumstances. Yet his future career evinced dormant capabilities which he himself had doubtless been totally ignorant that he possessed. After several years of alternate hardship and success, he made a sudden resolution to obtain a higher education. With him, to resolve was to act. He was then at Portland, Oregon, and something over twenty years of age. There were no night schools in Portland at that time to educate young men employed during the day, and he had no means for attaining the desired end except through his own indomitable will and personal application. He finally secured the necessary books for preliminary studies, and for several years applied the "midnight oil" (or tallow candle), and adding to his library as his means and necessities required. Thus, mostly unaided by teachers, he eventually qualified himself and passed examination for school teacher. Still, after entering upon this vocation, he devoted his leisure time to general study, and at the end of his school term he entered upon his law studies. He applied himself to these studies with the same diligence and earnestness which characterized his preparation for school teaching, and his labors were greatly encouraged by the help of the attorneys with whom he was associated. They had no very difficult task in doing this; for William was quick of comprehension, and possessed a retentive memory. When finally admitted to the bar he soon established a reputation which gained for him an increasing practice, until in a few years he became noted as a leading civil and criminal attorney.
William's whole earthly career was guided by strict morality. He had a very sympathetic, charitable and humane temperament, and desired to alleviate human suffering to the extent of his ability. I have often known him to practice much self-denial and inconvenience in responding to the call of needy relatives and friends. His ideas of justice were always tempered by mercy. He was kind and courteous to everybody, and his youthful associates were deeply attached to him. When yet a young lawyer he displayed fluent oratorical abilities as a pleader at the bar, debater and lecturer. When the Indian War broke out, he did heroic service in defense of the white settlers against the depredations of treacherous and murderous savages. He was neither a moral or physical coward. His life, from youth to age, was replete with generous acts, love of country, and an ambition to be of service to his fellow men. He certainly leaves an impressive example of what the most humble or indigent youth can accomplish by study, determination, and a laudable ambition.
Farewell, noble brother, thy life work is done,
But in memory thy labors shine bright as the sun;
Though thy generous heart throbs will pulsate no more,
We remember thy presence as a joy to adore.
Earth's physical pain is no longer thy guest.
Peace to thy rest, brother--peace to thy rest.
Also included in the memorial booklet were articles in the Spokane Review and Spokane Chronicle that appeared near the time of his death. I will include these in a future post.