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Biography of Mansfield M. Sturgeon

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One of the most brilliant and astute attorneys practising at the Rock Island County Bar is Mansfield M. Sturgeon, senior member of the legal firm of Sturgeon. Stelck & Sturgeon, a man whose great ability and profound learning as an attorney has been demonstrated in the trial of many important suits, as well as in sound counsel and legal advice.

He was born September 10, 1843, at Letart Falls, Ohio, his parents, being Oliver Hazard Perry Sturgeon and Mary Ellenor (Summers) Sturgeon. The father was born March 14, 1818, at Sistersville, Virginia, the date of the marriage of the senior Mr. and Mrs. Sturgeon being December 25, 1839. The death of the father occurred at Windom, Kansas, in 1902, he being then in his eighty-fifth year. The mother was born in Morgantown, Virginia, June 11., 1819. She is still living, and is in her eighty-eighth year.

The grandfather of our subject, William Sturgeon, was a soldier in the war of 1812, and was with the land forces at Lake Erie when Commodore Perry won the memorable naval battle there. Hence when his son was born he bestowed upon him the somewhat lengthy name of Oliver Hazard Perry Sturgeon, in honor of his hero. This rather cumbrous cognomen was abbreviated by his boyhood companions to simply “Perry “, and by this name he was known throughout his life.

The Sturgeons were of Scotch-Irish ancestry, one of the members of that family settling in Uniontown, Pennsylvania, in an early day. The great-grandfather of our subject was born in Uniontown. When a young man he erected a grist mill on the banks of Union Creek, and was engaged in the milling and general merchandise business for many years.

After the war of 1812 William Sturgeon was commissioned colonel of militia by the then Governor of Virginia. Under the old militia laws of that state, annual drills or musters were held, which all the able-bodied men subject to military duty were required to attend. Colonel Sturgeon held these musters either at Morgantown or else at Wheeling, at that time included in old Virginia, but now one of the principal cities in West Virginia. Colonel Sturgeon died at Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1855.

The family of our subject’s mother was noted for longevity. His great-grandmother lived to be one hundred years old, and his great-great-grandmother was one hundred and one years of age at the time of her ‘death.

In 1849, when Mansfield M. Sturgeon was six years of age, his parents removed from their Ohio home to St. Joseph, Missouri, and afterward to Rock Island, arriving in the latter city in 1851. This city has been Mr. Sturgeon’s home ever since, with the exception of a few years just prior to, and during the first years of the Civil War, when his parents lived upon a farm in Buffalo Prairie Township in this county. He attended the public schools of Rock Island, and while his parents were upon the farm he attended the country schools of the lower end of the county and also a private academy at Edgington. After the close of the war he took a one year’s course in the Rock River Seminary at Mount Morris, Illinois.

In June, 1862, he enlisted in Company F, Sixty-ninth Regiment of Illinois Volunteer Infantry to serve for three months. The regiment was assigned to duty at Camp Douglas, Chicago, guarding rebel prisoners, of which there were about eight thousand detained at that camp. The time of Mr. Sturgeon’s enlistment expired the following September, and upon its expiration he, together with others whose enlistments had. expired, volunteered, before being mustered out of service, to guard rebel prisoners from Camp Douglas to Vicksburg, Mississippi, where they were to be exchanged. This expedition from Camp Douglas to Vicksburg took in all about six weeks.

In the early winter of 1863-1864 Mr. Sturgeon again enlisted, this time in Company H, Forty-fifth Regiment of Illinois Volunteer Infantry, through Sergeant Wallace, who was then in Edgington upon recruiting service. After signing the enlistment roll Mr. Sturgeon heard nothing further in regard to the matter until the spring of 1864, when he received orders to report at Camp Yates, Springfield, Illinois. Upon reporting at Camp Yates he was assigned to the extremely unpleasant task of drilling raw recruits, which proved so exceedingly irksome and uncongenial that he longed to get away. Racking his brain in an endeavor to plan some way to obtain relief from the distasteful duty with the awkward squad, he one day chanced to meet Colonel E. M. Beardsley of the One Hundred and Twenty-sixth Illinois Volunteer Infantry. Colonel Beardsley had formerly been first lieutenant of Company F of the Sixty-ninth Illinois Volunteer Infantry, the company and regiment to which Mr. Sturgeon was attached upon his first enlistment, and the two men were also old friends. Mr. Sturgeon told the colonel how anxious he was to leave Springfield. Colonel Beardsley proposed that Mr. Sturgeon accompany him, as he (Beards-ley) was about to leave Springfield to join his regiment which was then located at De Valls Bluff, Arkansas. This invitation was eagerly accepted by the young man, and they then set about arranging for the transfer of Mr. Sturgeon to Colonel Beardsley’s regiment. That same afternoon Mr. Sturgeon received orders to report to the adjutant general of the state. Arriving at his office he found Colonel Beardsley already there. Here Mr. Sturgeon’s enlistment papers were changed from Company H, Forty-fifth Illinois Volunteer Infantry to Company B, One Hundred and Twenty-sixth Illinois Volunteer Infantry. This concluded the necessary formalities, and Mr. Sturgeon accompanied Colonel Beardsley to De Valls Bluff, Arkansas. On the twenty-third of June, 1864, Mr. Sturgeon was in the engagement at Clarendon, Arkansas. Shortly afterward he was detailed for special duty in the provost marshal’s office at De Valls Bluff, where he served as clerk until September of that same year. Then he was ordered to report to the provost marshal general of the Department of Arkansas, at Little Rock. He was assigned to duty in this office, and remained there until the close of the war.

After the close of the war, Mr. Sturgeon again resumed his residence in Rock Island County and has never changed it since. From 1866 to March, 1869, he taught school in the town of Milan. In the latter month and year he was appointed county superintendent of schools, to fill out the unexpired term of the Hon. Wm. H. Gest, who had resigned. Mr. Sturgeon studied law with the legal firm of Gest & Hawley and was admitted to the bar of Illinois in June, 1872. The fourth of July of that year he celebrated by opening a law office of his own and hanging out his sign “Mansfield M. Sturgeon, Lawyer.”

On June 23, 1870, occurred the marriage of Mansfield M. Sturgeon and Miss Jennie B. Mattison, a young lady of Mount Morris, Illinois. To them four children were born; Grace M., the wife of J. S. Freeman, who re-sides in Moline; Mansfield, who died at the age of three and a half years; Rollin S., a graduate of Northwestern University and of Harvard Law School, and who is now a member of the law firm of Sturgeon, Stelck & Sturgeon; and Miss Jennie B. Sturgeon, who is also a graduate of Northwestern University and who is now principal of the English Department of the Monmouth High School.

In politics Mr. Sturgeon has always been a staunch Republican, and he is recognized as one of the leaders of his party in Rock Island County. He has several times been honored by his party, the first time by the appointment as county superintendent of schools and afterwards by election to that office three successive terms; then by his election to the office of state’s attorney for Rock Island County in 1888 to fill the unexpired term of Patrick O’Mara, who died a short time after being elected to office. Mr. Sturgeon served as state’s attorney until 1892. He was a vigorous and efficient prosecutor and conducted the affairs of the office in a competent and lawyer-like manner. In 1892 he was elected a member of the state board of equalization for the Eleventh Congressional District of Illinois, and served until . December 1, 1896.

As a lawyer Mansfield M. Sturgeon is beyond question the peer of any attorney practicing at the Rock Island County Bar. Al-though a brilliant man and a talented lawyer he is modest and unassuming, and without the slightest trace of ostentation in his manner. He has a large number of friends throughout Rock Island County, and is counted one of the good, substantial citizens in the community in which he resides.


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