By Dr. B. B. Chapman
Oklahoma State University
Chandler, county seat of Lincoln County, perpetuates the memory of
George Chandler, who was serving as First Assistant Secretary of
the Interior when the townsite was established in 1891. Chandler
served during the administration of President Benjamin Harrison,
1889-1893. The Secretary of the Interior was Gen. John W. Noble
During these four years, three areas of Oklahoma were opened to
settlers by land runs. Contested cases appealed from local land
offices and from the Commissioner of the General Land Office, often
were submitted to Chandler for adjudication. His salary was $4,500
per year. Legal training and six years on the bench of a federal
court in Kansas, prepared him for the position.
Chandler was born at Hermitage, Wyoming County, N. Y., on September
20, 1842. When he was six years old the family moved to Monroe,
Wisc., where he lived until the age of twelve. He then went to
Shirland, Ill., and worked six years on a farm.
He entered Beloit College in Wisconsin in 1860. In 1863 he enroled
in the law school of the University of Michigan, and was graduated
in 1866. The same year he was admitted to practice by the supreme
court at Detroit. Soon thereafter he went into the law office of
Conger and Hawes at Janesville, Wisc., and began the practice of law.
In 1872 Chandler located at Independence, Montgomery County, Kans.,
and continued the practice of law. There he was associated with
George R. Peck formerly of Janesville. These "bright and brainy
young lawyers" were known as the firm of Peck and Chandler.
In 1874 Peck became U. S. Attorney for the District of Kansas, and
the partnership was dissolved. Chandler then became associated with
his younger brother, Joseph, under the name and style of George
and Joseph Chandler. The partnership lasted until 1883. George then
was appointed Judge of the Eleventh Judicial District, which position
he held until he joined the Interior Department in 1889.
As a lawyer and judge, Chandler was "distinguished by an unselfish
devotion to duty, great energy and industry and signal ability."
In the Interior Department he served "with distinction." Chandler
was known best in his home county of Montgomery, Kansas. His
biography is in the "History of Montgomery County," by L. Wallace
Duncan, published in 1903. A copy of the biography was donated
recently to Lincoln County Historical Society and to the Chandler
Public Library. It says of Chandler:
"He was an imposing figure. Nature had moulded for him a massive
frame, symmetrically constructed, and fully six feet tall, or more,
with broad shoulders, and had given him a lofty yet somewhat awkward
carriage. It had also furnished him a very large and perfectly
formed head and strongly, carved features that at once marked him
as a man of extraordinary physical and mental powers.
"With all her lavish gifts, nature had imposed upon him some faults
that detracted from that success which might have been his in the
practice, and shaded his career on the bench, where he displayed
"During his thirteen years of active practice at Independence, his
exceedingly sensitive nature, impetuous disposition and untutored
temper, often made him unpleasant to opposing counsel, and, at
times, disagreeable to his own clients, whom he sometimes severely
lectured for getting into the trouble he was employed to extricate
them from. The high esteem in which he was held by members of the
bar and the implicit confidence his clients had in him - together
with his undoubted sincerity and intense devotion to the interests
of those whom he served - furnished ample reasons in court, bar
and clients, to overlook these faults.
"Judge Chandler never entertained a very exalted opinion of the
ability of a jury to settle 'as of right it ought to be settled'
complicated questions between litigant parties, and for that reason
had a pitiable dread of entering upon the trial of a hotly contested
case to a jury - he always made every case he tried a 'hotly
"During any term of court at which he had cases involving earnestly
disputed questions of fact, he would dismiss, for the time being,
the hilarious and rollicking ways with which he was accustomed to
regale his many friends during vacation, and clothe himself in an
armor of impatience, petulence and irascibility and enter the
struggle and fight the battle or battles with all the vehemence of
a nature 'filled to the brim' with courage, industry, energy,
aggressiveness and unusual ability.
The historian has not yet learned how Chandler spent his late years,
nor the location of his last resting place. In 1903 he was Practicing
law in Washington, D. C., and was "kindly remembered by his old
friends of the Montgomery County bar."