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Hon. Ira Colby, one of the leading lawyers of the State of New Hampshire, was born in Claremont, N.H., January 11, 1831, son of Ira and Polly (Foster) Colby, both of purely English descent. Their families in the various branches number many persons of distinction. On the maternal side he is descended from Reginald Foster, who came from Exeter, Devonshire, England, and settled in Ipswich, Essex County, Mass., in 1638. It has been stated in an account of the descendants of Joseph Stickney, which appeared in the New Hampshire Granite Monthly of July, 1892, that the family of this Reginald is honorably mentioned in “The Lay of the Last Minstrel” and “Marmion.” When Mrs. Colby was eleven years of age, her father removed with his family from Essex, Mass., to Henniker, N.H., to prevent his sons from becoming seafaring men. She there met Mr. Colby, a native of the place. They were married April 17, 1827, and immediately removed to Claremont, where they ever afterward lived. Mr. Colby was one of the most successful and enterprising farmers of his town, and was honored with many positions of trust. He served as a Selectman in the years 1858 and 1859 and as a Representative of the town in the legislature of New Hampshire in 1872 and 1873. He died in 1873, at the age of seventy years.
The subject of this sketch lived at his father’s, and worked upon the farm on “Bible Hill,” so called, until seventeen years of age, his only schooling up to that time having been obtained at the district schools. He then entered Marlow Academy, and, while there, decided to obtain a college education. Finishing his preparatory course of study at Thetford, Vt., he entered Dartmouth College in 1853, and was graduated four years later. During the winter seasons, while at the academy and college, he was engaged in teaching, first in New Hampshire and afterward in Massachusetts. The year after graduation was spent in teaching at Waukesha, Wis. In September, 1858, he began the study of law in the office of Messrs. Freeman & McClure in Claremont. Two years later he was admitted, upon examination, to the Sullivan County bar. For the past thirty-five years he has been engaged in the practice of his profession in the office where he obtained his first knowledge of law.
In giving the particulars of his public career we quote from a contemporaneous history: “He was always a Republican in politics, and in the time of the Rebellion was an active and zealous supporter of the cause of the Union. He was a Representative in the legislatures of 1864, 1865, 1881, 1883, and 1887, a member of the State Senate during the years 1869 and 1870, and of the Republican National Convention in 1876. With the exception of two years he was County Solicitor the entire time from 1864 to 1888. In 1889 he was appointed by the governor and New Hampshire. On the resignation of Judge Allen in March, 1893, he was appointed an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, but declined the appointment. He was for ten years a member of the Committee of the Stevens High School, and has been for many years one of the Trustees of the Fiske Free Library. He has always taken a leading part in public affairs, and has been an active promoter of the public welfare. In his profession he has been a hard worker and close student, and ranks among the best lawyers in the State. He has an extensive and lucrative practice, and for many years has been engaged on one side or the other of all the important causes in his county. As an advocate at the bar and a debater upon the floor of the House of Representatives or the Senate he ranks among the very best.”
He married, June 20, 1867, Miss Louisa M. Way, daughter of Gordon Way, Esq., of Claremont, and sister of Dr. O. B. Way, of that place. Their only child, Ira Gordon Colby, is a graduate of Dartmouth College of the class of 1894, and also a graduate of the Boston University Law School, class of 1897. In religion Mr. Colby is a Methodist, as was his father before him. For many years the father was one of the Board of Trustees of his church; and the son, upon his death, succeeded to, and still holds, the same office.