Samuel Gray Huntington
Samuel Gray Huntington

Information on this page is from History of Rensselaer Co., New York by Nathaniel Bartlett Sylvester, published in 1880. Many thanks to Bob McConihe for typing this biography.

SAMUEL GRAY HUNTINGTON was descended from a wealthy and honorable ancestry, which dates back to the settlement of New England; and civil and military records make prominent many of the members of the Huntington family in State and national legislation in the struggle for independence, and in public the offices of the country, wherever they have been found. Judge Huntington was the son of Rev. Enoch Huntington, of Middletown, Conn., and was born May 21, 1782. His father graduated at Yale College in 1785 with high honor, receiving the Berkeley premium, as his father before him had done. Judge Huntington was also a nephew and namesake of Samuel Huntington, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, president of the Colonial Congress, and who was afterwards governor of Connecticut for a number of years.

Like most of the youth of his native State, he received the rudiments of a thorough education in the excellent common schools then and still liberally and carefully sustained by the able legislators of that State. After leaving the common school, he received the preparatory education necessary to admission to a collegiate course with his father, and was admitted to Yale College, where he graduated with the honors of that ancient university in the year 1800. His father thought him too young to commence the study of his profession, - the law, - and sent him to Shelter Island, where he was a teacher for two years. Returning home, he became a student in the law-office of his brother, Enoch Huntington, Jr., of his native town. He was admitted to practice at the bar of Middlesex County, where he commenced business in connection with his brother.

He selected the law for his profession, and in making that choice he felt that the legal profession yielded to no other in dignity or importance. At that day, too, the great lights of the bar and bench of his native State beckoned him onward in a course of honorable distinction in his profession. Such men as Reeve and Swift adorned the bench, while Pierrepont Edwards, Goddard, Daggett, and Gould shone at the bar.

In the year 1806 he removed to the State of New York, and settled in practice in the village of Waterford, Saratoga Co. Here he soon rose to eminence as a lawyer, and ranked among the ablest of the many distinguished men who have graced the bar of that county. He removed to Troy in the year 1825, where, during the remainder of his life, his professional business was among the largest and most lucrative. His counsel was sought in the most important cases, particularly in those relating to real estate. In this branch of the law he was a perfect master, as well from his intimate acquaintance with the decisions of the English courts as from the fact that the period of his practice, reaching to upwards of half a century, embraced that space in the history of our country during which not only the system of our law of real estate, but in fact almost the entire body of American common law, has been formed. When he commenced practice there was no American commentator on the law, and the reported cases, either in Connecticut or New York, did not exceed half a dozen volumes. Under the administration of Governor Clinton he was appointed to the office of judge of the court of Common Pleas of Rensselaer County, and discharged its duties with great ability and impartiality. His decisions always commanded respect, as they were felt to be the result of an honest conviction of the right of the case, in a mind guided by patient research and stored with legal lore.

In the death of Judge Huntington, July 5, 1854, his brethren of the bar mourned the loss of one in whose counsels they had often confided, whose legal acquirements did honor to their profession, whose professional relations to them all were kind, courteous, and honorable, and whose social intercourse so often helped to strip labor of its drudgery, relieve life of its tedium, and to strew our pathway with pleasant and harmless trifles and gay flowers.

Judge Huntington was a man of very commanding personal appearance. He had a large frame, a clear, florid complexion, and possessed very considerable beauty of feature. His bright and cheerful eye, when he was engaged in conversation, lit up with more than ordinary brightness. He possessed ready wit and a very keen sense of the humorous, and in his social hours he was a most charming companion. He should be ranked with the best-trained and most accomplished lawyers in the county and State.

He married for his first wife Mary Johnston, of Middletown, Conn., who died Nov. 23, 1823, leaving one daughter, now Mrs. John H. Whitlock, of Troy, N. Y., a lady of refinement and rare natural artistic attainments. For his second wife he married Mrs. Jannette C. Cheever.

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