Walter Henry Sanborn 1845-1928
a brief account of his ancestry and life
By Luther Ely Smith written on the occasion of his 35 years
of service in 1927
Henry Sanborn, son of Henry F. and Eunice Davis Sanborn, was
born October 19, 1845, on "Sanborn's Hill" at Epsom,
Merrimack County, New Hampshire, on the ancestral homestead
where his father, grandfather and great-grandfather before him
were born. The family was of English descent and the name was
originally spelled "Sambourne."
Reuben, the son of Josiah, who was born April 19, 1699, at Hampton,
was known as Reuben "Sanborn." In 1760 he bought 800
acres of land in the town of Epsom, moved upon it, and built
the first Sanborn house, which he occupied until his death.
This farm is on the side of McCoy's Mountain, and was known
as "Sanborn's Hill." It is located in the South Central
region of New Hampshire and commands an excellent view of Mt.
Washington. It has been under cultivation and has descended
to the eldest son of each generation from 1760 to the present
Eliphalet Sanborn, son of Reuben, was born in Hampton July 28,
1730, and removed with his father to Epsom in 1760. He took
an active and prominent part in both civil and military affairs,
serving with the Colonial troops under Wolfe in 1758 in the
French and Indian War. On September 3, 1776, he enlisted in
the Continental Army and served through the Revolution. During
the years 1773, 1775, 1776 and 1777 he held the position of
Town Clerk of Epsom, an office of great responsibility and influence
even in time of peace in a commonwealth governed as New Hampshire
was, largely through the pure democracy of the "town meeting."
In 1772 Eliphalet Sanborn was elected a selectman of his town,
and he was re-elected in 1773 and 1774. He died from lingering
effects of wounds received in the Revolutionary War.
Josiah Sanborn, the great-grandfather of Judge Sanborn, eldest
son of Eliphalet, was born on the old homestead in Epsom, October
4, 1763, and died there on June 14, 1842. In the year 1794 he
removed the first house and erected the house of 16 rooms, which
with three large barns, is still standing upon the estate and
constitutes Judge Sanborn's summer home. He served as selectman
of the town of Epsom for twenty years, as a representative in
the Legislature for eight terms, and as a member of the State
Senate for three terms.
Frederick Sanborn, the son of Josiah, was born on the old homestead
October 27, 1789, and died there on May 9, 1881. On March 20,
1816, he married Lucy L. Sargent, the daughter of Reverend Benjamin
Sargent of Pittsfield, New Hampshire. During a large portion
of his life Frederick Sanborn was a Deacon in the Congregational
Church at Epsom. He left two sons, Henry F. Sanborn, born on
February 26, 1819, and John B. Sanborn, later of St. Paul, Minnesota,
born on December 15, 1826.
Benjamin Sargent, the father of Judge Sanborn's grandmother,
Lucy Sargent Sanborn, wife of Frederick Sanborn, entered the
Continental Army as a drummer boy at the age of fifteen and
served until the close of the Revolutionary War. He then became
a Baptist minister and preached at Pittsfield, New Hampshire,
until his death, which occurred at an advanced age, while he
was in the pulpit reading a hymn.
Henry F. Sanborn, father of Judge Sanborn, entered Dartmouth
College, but typhoid fever and failing health compelled him
to abandon hope of a professional career, and he devoted his
life to education and farming. He was elected selectman of Epsom
for six terms, a member of the New Hampshire House of Representatives
in 1855, and a member of the State Senate in 1866 and again
in 1867, when that body consisted of only twelve members. In
1843 he married Eunice Davis of Princeton, Massachusetts.
Walter Henry Sanborn, the subject of this sketch, was the oldest
child of Henry F. and Eunice Davis Sanborn, and was born in
Epsom October 19, 1845. He spent his boyhood on his father's
farm, attending the common school of the town, and he was a
student during the winter term for two years in the neighboring
academy. In the spring and summer, and at other times when he
was able, he helped his father with the crops.
In the summer of 1863, after the hay crop had been gathered,
Judge Sanborn's father and Mr. Cate, father of Ahlmon F. Cate,
a crony of young Walter's, told the two boys that they might
go to a fitting school to prepare themselves for admission to
Dartmouth. They went to Meriden, New Hampshire, and interviewed
the principal of a school there, who informed them that in view
of their scanty scholastic attainments, at least two years more
would be required to fit them for college. This further delay
did not appeal to the boys. They left their trunks at Meriden,
walked seven miles to the nearest railroad station, went to
Dartmouth and requested an immediate examination for admission.
Largely through the kindness of Professor Patterson, afterwards
United States Senator from New Hampshire, they were permitted
to enter college on condition that within the first year they
make up the work in which they were deficient, in addition to
doing their regular work. The boys accepted these terms, and
during their freshman year passed all their entrance conditions,
which included the reading of three books of Homer.
In July, 1867, Judge Sanborn graduated with the degree of Bachelor
of Arts. Taking the course as a whole he led his class for the
entire period, and by virtue of that achievement became, under
the rules of the Faculty, Valedictorian of his class. At the
commencement exercises he delivered both the Greek oration and
the valedictory address.
In order to secure funds to help with his education, he taught
during the winter term of about three months, beginning in December,
in the village school at Princeton, Massachusetts, in 1862;
at Deerfield, New Hampshire, in 1863; at West Westminster, Vermont,
in 1864; at West Boylston, Massachusetts in 1865; and at Stratford,
Vermont in 1866. Just as he returned to college from Stratford,
in the winter that he taught there, the chairman of the school
board at Milford, New Hampshire, came to Dartmouth College and
asked the president if there was not someone in the senior class
whom he could get to take the high school at Milford. The president
recommended "Sanborn, '67," who took the position
of principal and taught there three months, returning to Dartmouth
in time for graduation with his class.
Upon leaving Dartmouth, he resumed the principalship of the
Milford High School, a position he held until 1870. At the same
time he read law in the office of Hon. Bainbridge Wadleigh of
Milford, afterwards United States Senator from New Hampshire.
In 1870, Dartmouth conferred upon him the degree of Master of
In February, 1870, declining an increase in salary, he resigned
his position as principal of the Milford High School and went
to St. Paul, Minnesota. On January 28, 1871, he was admitted
to the Bar of the Supreme Court of Minnesota. On May 1, 1871,
he formed a law partnership with his uncle, General John B.
On November 10, 1874, Judge Sanborn was married to Emily F.
Bruce of Milford, New Hampshire. Four children were born to
them - Grace, wife of C.G. Hartin of St. Paul; Marian, wife
of Grant Van Sant of St. Paul; Bruce W., a member of the law
firm of Sanborn, Graves & Andre of St. Paul; and Henry F.,
General Agent of the St. Louis-San Francisco Railroad at Chicago.
On February 10, 1892, the name of Walter H. Sanborn of St. Paul
to be United States Circuit Judge for the Eighth Circuit was
sent to the Senate, and on March 17, 1892, the nomination was
confirmed and the Commission signed. Judge Sanborn took his
seat upon the bench at the opening of the May session of the
October term in St. Luis on May 2, 1892. On June 3, 1903, upon
the resignation of Judge Henry C. Caldwell, Judge Sanborn became,
by virtue of the seniority of his Commission as Circuit Judge,
Presiding Judge of the Court, and since that date he has met
and discharged with promptness and distinction the full burden
of the duties of that important post. On April 8, 1927, the
Bar Association of St. Louis tendered to Walter Henry Sanborn,
Presiding Judge of the Circuit Court of Appeals of the Eighth
Federal Judicial Circuit and senior Circuit Judge of the United
States, a testimonial dinner in appreciation of his thirty-five
years of distinguished service as United States Circuit Judge.