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The life of a good and just man, and the memory of his noble, kindly deeds, are in themselves his true biography. In the life of such an individual the observer of human character may find both precept and example. He may find in such a life sermons that speak more eloquently and leave a deeper impression upon the heart than any human words. The simple goodness and unconscious influence of such a man is a benediction to all with whom he comes in daily contact. Such were the attributes of the late Judge Elwin E. Parmenter, a man highly esteemed and greatly beloved by all who knew him, a man of high integrity and broad charity, a man whose motto was the Golden Rule.
He was born on a farm in Andalusia Township, Rock Island County, June 24, 1843, his parents being Lorenzo and Kezia Parmenter, one of the early families who settled in this county. He received his early education in the public schools of Muscatine, and here he fitted himself for entrance to the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, where he graduated from the law department. A short time after his graduation he entered upon the practice of his profession at Rock Island, which city was his home until his death. In 1872 he was elected state’s attorney for Rock Island County, and held this office for three continuous terms of four years each, his third term ending in 1884. His administration of that office was forceful, vigorous and successful, distinguished not only by the energy and ability of his prosecutions, but also by the careful and painstaking manner in which he prepared his cases for trial. As an example of this latter part of his duty, it may be stated that not once during his long tenure of office did he ever have an indictment quashed because of error or carelessness in its preparation. During his career as state’s attorney he prosecuted one of the most noted criminal cases in the annals of Rock Island’s court history, the famous Heilwagner murder trial, he being assisted in the prosecution by the Hon. William Jackson. The result was a conviction with the imposition of the death penalty. The accused was ably defended by the Hon. Patrick O’Mara, deceased, and J. L. Haas. The sentence of the court was carried out, it being the last execution in Rock Island County.
After his retirement from the office of state’s attorney, Judge Parmenter returned to the general practice of law, and in this he was engaged until 1884, when he was appointed master in chancery by Judge William H. Gest, and this office he held for six years. In 1902 he was elected county judge, and after the expiration of his first term of four years, he was again re-elected in November, 1906, and served until his sudden and untimely death a few months later. His administration of this last office, which involves the supervision of the administration of a large number of estates, besides various other matters, was conducted in the same careful, systematic manner that had marked his career as state’s attorney.
On October 3, 1872, he was joined in marriage to Miss Anna B. Oloff, and to them one child, a son, was born, who died at the early age of five years.
Judge Parmenter was a zealous, earnest Christian man, and although in his early manhood he was not affiliated with any church organization, on March 20, 1892, he was admitted into full membership with the First Methodist Episcopal Church of Rock Island, and of this church he was a consistent member throughout the remainder of his life, and served as one of its trustees.
He was a member of Trio Lodge, No. 57, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons; Rock Island Chapter, No. 18, Royal Arch Masons; Rock Island Commandry, No. 18; Knights Templar, and of Kabba Temple of the Mystic Shrine. He held various honorary offices in the different degrees of Masonry, where he was held, as he was everywhere, in the highest regard and esteem.
Upon December 27, 1906, occurred the sudden passing of Judge Parmenter from the vigor of life to the coldness of death. He had returned home from his judicial duties feeling somewhat ill. In a few brief hours he died, having sustained an attack of heart failure. The news of his demise caused the most pro-found sorrow throughout the entire county, in all parts of which he was so well known. At first it seemed impossible to give the re-port credence, but when sad confirmation left no doubt as to its truth, mingled with the expressions of sorrow and the sense of personal loss to all who knew him, there was the thought that a good man had gone to his reward. No word of eulogy can add any lustre to the memory of Judge Parmenter. He did right as it was given unto him to see the right. He was faithful in all of life’s duties. He did unto others as he desired others to do unto him, and in his simple, earnest Christian life he followed the ” Kindly Light” until at last it led him Home.