History of Erie County, Pennsylvania, 1884

Elijah Babbitt Biography

Elijah Babbitt, attorney at law and Member of Congress, was born in Providence, R. I., July 29, 1795; his father was a mariner, and during many years served as captain of sundry merchant vessels engaged in commerce between New England and the West Indies, and subsequently served as Lieutenant in the continental army during the Revolutionary war.

Some time after the close of that war, he moved to the State of New York with his family, and there died, leaving his son, Elijah, in his minority.

After the decease of his father, our subject went to reside in Northumberland Co., Penn.

Having acquired an academic education, he studied law in the office of Samuel Hepburn, Esq., an eminent and leading attorney in the central portion of the State; was admitted in March, 1824, to the bar in Northumberland Co., Penn., and commenced practice there, where, in due time, he obtained it fair and increasing business.

But thinking Erie, Penn., in many ways offered inducements more in affinity with his aspiring ambition, our subject moved there with a well-selected law library.

By the aid of a spring wagon and team of horses, the journey (a distance of 230 miles), over rough and mountainous roads, was accomplished in nine cold winter days. That was before the advent of railroads. The same journey may now be accomplished in nine hours over the Philadelphia & Erie R. R.

Mr. Babbitt arrived at Erie, January 26, 1836. He very soon rented a suitable office on the west side of French street (then the principal business street), near the corner of Fourth street, put his library on the shelves and hung out his law sign. Erie was then a town of about 900 inhabitants.

Mr. Babbitt was admitted as an attorney at the first court held in Erie after his arrival, and was admitted at each court next thereafter held in the Sixth Judicial District, composed of the counties of Erie, Warren, Crawford, Venango and Mercer, and in due time raised himself to the position of one of its leading attorneys.

On Nov. 28, 1827, our subject was married to Caroline Elizabeth, daughter of John Kelso (deceased), one of Erie County's pioneer settlers. She is still living.

Mr. Babbitt was for many years a Trustee of the Erie Academy; also attorney for the borough, and subsequently for the city of Erie, and drew its charter of advancement from a borough to a city.

In 1834 and 1835, he was Prosecuting Attorney for the commonwealth; he was a member of the House of Representatives of Penn. in 1835 and 1836, and was elected a member of the Penn. Senate for a term of 3 years in 1844, and while discharging the duties of these offices was largely instrumental in affecting and hastening the completion of the Penn. State Canal to the harbor of Erie.

In 1858, the friends of Mr. Babbitt nominated him for Representative in Congress of the Twenty-fifth Congressional District of Penn., composed of the counties of Erie and Crawford; and, after an ardent contest, with an able and popular opponent, he was elected by a majority of over 1,500 votes.

In 1860, he was, after a like contest, re-elected to the same office by a majority of about 2,500.

Our subject was among the first (after the slaveholders had inaugurated their war for the destruction of the Union) to advocate on the floor of the House, the immediate emancipation of slaves, and their employment as soldiers in the army of the United States.

His Congressional record shows him to have been a strict economist in all things, except in those designed for the speedy suppression of the great rebellion, all of which found in him a liberal and constant supporter.

Hon. Mr. Babbitt is now in his eighty-ninth year, in good health, but retired from the practice of his profession.

He survives every attorney, judge, law officer, physician and clergyman who were living in Erie when he arrived there, over 58 years ago. He is parent to giving children and has 8 grandchildren.

In 1828, Mr. Babbitt aided in the organization of the parish of St. Paul's Protestant Episcopal Church in Erie. It was the first organization,(with one exception) of a church of that faith in Northwestern Pennsylvania. It gathered about half a dozen members, and a few others who desired to become such. Mr. B. has ever since been among its constant supporters. It now has about 360 communicants.

In 1849 and 1850, our subject joined with others in advancing money to secure for burial purposes 75 acres of beautiful forest land adjoining this city, on which the Erie Cemetery is located, and in procuring the charter which dedicates it forever to the purpose for which it was purchased, without distinction of religion, class or color.

Source: History of Erie County, Pennsylvania; City of Erie; Chicago; Warner, Beers & Co.; 1884

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