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IN THE long list of noted Albanians who have reflected honor upon their native or adopted city, the name of Eugene Burlingame stands in a conspicuous place. He has thus far exhibited a true manhood, an enterprising, industrious and persevering spirit in his private and professional career. He comes from a substantial family of New England, the distinguished Anson Burlingame being a relative of his. He was born on the 24th of January, 1847, in the town of Willet, Cortland County, N. Y. His grandfather, a pioneer from New England, was one of the earliest settlers of that county, and possessed the same adventurous, daring spirit that has characterized the most prominent men of the eastern states. He found his way to his new settlement through a vast and howling wilderness, crossing the Catskill Mountains on horseback in olden times, and finally taking up his residence amid the primeval forests of Cortland county. Here he went to work with strong hands and a brave heart to clear up the wilderness around him. He was a man of more than ordinary physical and mental powers, attaining the great age of ninety-three, when he died honored and respected by all who knew him.
Eugene Burlingame is a son of Westcott Burlingame and Melinda Eaton, both of whom are still living. His earliest years were passed on his father’s farm, where, as soon as he was old enough, he assisted in its cultivation, attending the district schools in the fall and winter months. Though a hard-working farmer’s boy, yet he loved his books more than he did farming, and his young heart was set upon acquiring a thorough education. For this purpose he entered the Cincinnatus academy in Cortland County, where he remained about two years pursuing his studies with great ardor and delight, and so early and well founded was he in the general principles of science and literature that on the expiration of this period he returned home and for one winter taught a district school. Among his pupils were many of the boys and girls with whom he had been reared. He was then but eighteen years of age, but his brief experience as a school teacher was a successful one. Still his thirst for knowledge was not to be satisfied with his previous attainments, and so he determined to advance higher in the pursuit of learning. In the winter of 1866 he was induced by a friend of the family of Dr. Samuel B. Woolworth, then the acting president of the Albany normal school, to come to this city and enter the institution. Soon after this, the late Dr. Joseph Alden was chosen a permanent president of the school. After a diligent course of instruction young Burlingame was graduated with honor from this institution in the summer of 1868. In the autumn of the same year he became principal of the union school at Athens, N. Y. At the close of the first year he wished to resign his principalship, but was prevailed upon by the trustees to remain another year in charge of the school. Under his popular and successful management the school greatly flourished. But the early ambition of Mr. Burlingame’s life was not to continue a teacher, but to become a lawyer, and towards the carrying out of this design he bent all his energies. The books that possessed the most charms for him from his boyhood were elementary treatises on the law and its literature. His brightest hopes were at length realized when in 1870, at the age of twenty-three, he entered the Albany law school. Here he had the very best legal instruction. Isaac Edwards was then the dean of the school, Judge Ira Harris a lecturer on constitutional law, and Judge Amasa J. Parker and Judge W. F. Allen, of the court of appeals, were also of the faculty. Under such learned and eminent instructors, the law students were placed in a position to succeed, and young Burlingame was one of those who eagerly embraced the opportunity offered. His whole heart was in his legal studies, and so rapid was his progress that in the summer of 1871 he took the degree of LL.B.
Desirous of obtaining a more complete knowledge of the law in all its various branches he then went to Hudson and entered the law office of Newkirk & Chace, prominent attorneys and counselors, who had a large and widely extended practice. In this office he remained over a year, and the knowledge, experience and observation he gained there were of great service to him in commencing his own practice of the legal profession. Albany was selected as the field of his labors, and coming here in the summer of 1872, he at once formed a partnership with Charles W. Mead, Esq., which existed about five years. On the dissolution of this law partnership he opened an office for himself at No. 452 Broadway, where he still remains, carrying on a large, lucrative and constantly increasing practice. Before he was in practice a year he argued several cases before the court of appeals, which is an unusual achievement for a young lawyer. While he is frequently consulted and does a great amount of work as counsel for other attorneys, he always tries and argues his own cases, and he has been remarkably successful in winning the most of them. In the trial of causes, for which he has a great liking, he is deliberate and dignified in his manner, quick to apprehend the strong points of his own case and the weak ones of his adversary, and ready with abundant resources to meet the ever-changing phases of a closely contested case. In the earlier years of his practice, unlike the experience of the majority of young lawyers, he was often pitted in the trial of causes against such capable and experienced counselors as A. J. Colvin, Judge A. J. Parker, Rufus W. Peckham, Jacob H. Clute, George L. Stedman, Judge Countryman, N. C. Moak, Robert E. Andrews, Samuel Edwards, now justice of the Supreme Court; Attorney-General Francis C. Barlow, Attorney-General Daniel Pratt, Charles S. Fairchild, late secretary of the United States treasury, and others; and it is remarkable that he was generally successful in his legal contests with such celebrities of the law. Mr. Burlingame has already been engaged in many important causes, among which was the noted trial of John Hughes, charged with the murder of William J. Hadley, Esq., in 1880. This trial was held in the old assembly chamber, which was crowded with spectators during the proceedings. Mr. Burlingame was associated with Hon. John W. McNamara in the defense, while Attorney-General Hamilton Ward and District Attorney Lansing Hotaling were for the prosecution. The plea for the defense was that of insanity.