Image of Emerson, Charles (Emmerson)

Emerson, Charles (Emmerson)

b. April 15, 1811, in North Haverhill, New Hampshire; d. April 16, 1870, in Decatur, Illinois. Charles Emerson attended Peacham Academy in New Hampshire as a youth, and he later attended Dartmouth College but did not graduate. In May 1833, Emerson moved to Jacksonville, Illinois, where he attended Illinois College for several months before he moved to Springfield, Illinois, to read law. After Emerson was admitted to the bar, he moved to Decatur, Illinois, in the spring of 1834, and became Macon County’s first resident attorney. Emerson served as judge of the Macon County Court from 1835 to 1837. On May 25, 1841, Emerson married Nancy Harrell, and together they had seven children. In 1847, Emerson moved to Paris, Illinois, where he continued his law practice, but he returned to Decatur in 1850. Beginning in 1851, Emerson served a term as a Whig in the Illinois House of Representatives. Emerson won election as the judge of the newly created Seventeenth Judicial Circuit in 1853, and held that position until 1867. Although the circuit was strongly Democratic, voters three times elected Emerson, a Whig and later a Republican, as judge of the circuit court. Judge Emerson presided over more than 230 cases in which Abraham Lincoln was an attorney.
Decatur Republican (IL), 21 April 1870, 1:3-4; John W. Smith, History of Macon County, Illinois, from Its Organization to 1876 (Springfield, IL: Rokker’s Printing House, 1876; reprint, Decatur, IL: Macon County Historical Society, 1969), 49, 258-61; History of Piatt County (Chicago: Shepard & Johnson, 1883), 279; Newton Bateman, Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois and History of Piatt County (Chicago: Munsell Publishing Co., 1917), 739. Illustration courtesy of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, Springfield, IL.