Putnam County

SHAW, Thomas M.

Hon. Thomas M. SHAW, judge of the eighth judicial circuit of Illinois, comprising the counties of Putnam, Marshall, Woodford, Tazewell, Peoria and Stark, is a man greatly esteemed for his worth’s sake. He is a native of Marshall county, born in Roberts township, August 20, 1836. At that time Marshall was still a part of Putnam county, and white settlers were few and far between. Indians still lingered about, although four years after the close of the Black Hawk war. His parents, George H. and Penelope (EDWARDS) SHAW, were both natives of Kentucky, who emigrated to this section in 1829, making settlement on the section of what is now Roberts township, where they spent the remainder of their lives. Their nearest neighbors were Col. STRAWN on the south and Jesse ROBERTS on the north. With that determination characteristic of the pioneers, they began to make for themselves a home in this wilderness. The wife and mother, however, was not long for this world, her death occurring in 1840, when our subject was but four years old. Later the father married Miss Emma EDWARDS, a sister of his first wife, who passed away in 1871, while he survived until 1877. As a friend and neighbor he was highly respected, having those traits which distinguish the Kentuckian the world over.

The subject of this sketch grew to manhood on the old farm, and from early childhood did his part in the cultivation and improvement of the place. He received his primary education in the common schools of the neighborhood, which was supplemented by partial courses in the colleges of Mount Palatine, Putnam county, and Mount Morris, Ogle county. The profession of law he determined as his life’s work, and in 1855 began reading in the office, and under the instruction of William D. EDWARDS, of Lacon.

In the year 1857, when but twenty years of age, he was admitted to the bar, after an examination by a committee appointed for that purpose by the circuit judge, then holding court at Lacon. Still pursuing his studies he remained another year at Lacon and then removed to Hennepin, Putnam county, and there commenced practice.

After a residence of five years at Hennepin, where he met with as good success as could reasonably be expected, he returned to Lacon richer in experience and better able to cope with the older attorneys at the bar. Mark BANGS, now one of the leading attorneys of Chicago, had been practicing at this place for some years, and with him he formed a partnership, which continued uninterruptedly for seventeen years, to their mutual profit. It is said the two made an excellent combination, the studious habits and close application of Mr. SHAW being supplemented by the oratorical powers of Mr. BANGS, who was always effective in jury trials. On the dissolution of the co-partnership, caused by the removal of Mr. BANGS to Chicago, Mr. SHAW became a partner of Robert B. EDWARDS, that relation continuing until his elevation to the bench in 1885.

In his profession, the judge never made a specialty of any particular line, but attended to general practice, being a good all-around lawyer, a safe counselor in every respect. He never resorted to any of the clap-trap peculiar to some members of the profession, but gave his whole thought, time and attention to the business in hand. Few attorneys have exercised the caution displayed by him in the preparation of a case. He must know he was right before he would proceed. If a client came to him with a case, he must know that it was a good one, and that law and equity was upon his side. Never did he hesitate to tell a client that his case was not good if so convinced. A good, fat fee was no temptation to him, if he knew the law was against him. A point made by him in a trial was seldom overruled by the presiding judge. His practice was not local, but extended throughout adjoining counties in the various circuit and county courts, and in the supreme court of the state, and of the United Sates courts, before which honorable body he argued many cases.

Among his associates at the bar the judge always stood high. They recognized his abilities, knew his studious nature, his conservative opinions and actions, and by them was he first suggested for the bench. In the spring of 1885 he was duly nominated and at the regular June election of that year he was triumphantly elected. After serving his term of six years he was re-nominated and re-elected in 1891. The same points that characterized him as an attorney at the bar have followed him upon the bench. While quick to grasp a point, and with a breadth of perception enabling him to see a case from every point of view, he must feel assured that he is right before a decision is rendered. His impartiality and absolute fairness is acknowledged by every member of the bar comprising the district, and none fear to leave the decision of a case in his hands. But few of his decisions appealed from here have been reversed by the higher courts.

Politically Judge SHAW has always held to the principles of the democratic party, especially as advocated by the fathers. He is not a partisan, however, his judicial mind forbidding it, but in the advocacy of his political views he asks no favor. By his party he was given the nomination for congress in 1878, but the district being overwhelmingly republican, he suffered the expected defeat. Two years later, in 1880, he was nominated and elected a member of the state senate from the district comprising the counties of Putnam, Marshall and Woodford. He served the term of four years with credit to himself and constituents, serving on several important committees, among which was the judiciary. This was the only political office he ever held, unless we except that of mayor of Lacon, an office he held two terms to the satisfaction of all concerned.

On the 24th of December, 1863, Judge SHAW and Miss Nellie F. HIRCH, of Metamora, Woodford county, Illinois, were united in marriage. She is a native of New Hampshire and a daughter of Fred F. and Caroline (STARRETTE) HIRCH, both of whom were also natives of New Hampshire. They came west and settled in Woodford county, when Mrs. SHAW was but twelve years of age. The judge and Mrs. SHAW have one daughter, Daisy, who yet remains at home, and is a musician of fine ability, who often sings in public to the delight of her hearers. Mrs. SHAW and daughter are members of the Congregational church. Fraternally the judge is a member of the Elks. A life-long resident of Marshall county, it can be truly said that no man stands higher in the estimation of his fell citizens, and none more highly deserve the honor. In every question pertaining to its best interest he is always found upon the side of right.

Source: The Biographical Record of Bureau, Marshall and Putnam Counties, Illinois  published in 1896, page 599.

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