Albert Howell Horton Papers
Microfilm rolls MF 7192 - MF 7193
The papers of Albert Howell Horton, lawyer, judge and politician, consist of roughly one foot of correspondence and other related material concerning Horton’s career and personal life. The papers were received by the Society as three separate accessions. The first part of the collection was donated by the Clark County Historical Society in May of 1971. This accession, which constitutes the largest part of the collection, consists of three quarters of a cubic foot of material dated 1872-1895.
The second accession came from the Pikes Peak Library District in Colorado Springs, Colorado. This Library received the volume of correspondence from a patron, but because it did not fit into the scope of their collection policies they offered it to the Society. This volume consists of letters received by Horton during 1893-1894, which was during his tenure as chief justice of the Kansas Supreme Court. The final donation was received during fiscal year 1987 from Dorothy Stevenson of Montgomery, Texas. Ms. Stevenson received the documents from an unidentified descendant of the Horton family along with the instruction that the material be placed in a facility consistent with their content. The greatest number of these letters are expressions of sympathy to Mary P. Horton upon the death of her husband in 1902. Other letters addressed to Mrs. Horton established the inclusive dates for this accession as 1872-1933.
In each case the donor did not own the copyright of the material, therefore these rights could not be conveyed to the Society. The items were donated without any restrictions concerning use or copying.
Albert Howell Horton was born in Minnisink, Orange County, New York on March 12th, 1837. His education included attending the public schools at West Town, New York; the Farmer’s Hall Academy at Goshen, New York; and two years at the University of Michigan Law School at Ann Arbor.
In 1857 he began his career studying law in the offices of Joseph W. Gott in Goshen. With George W. Beebe as a partner, Horton opened a law office in the Macon-Moscow, Missouri, area in 1859. After an unpromising start in Missouri the partnership moved to Atchison, Kansas, in 1860. Beebe eventually settled in Topeka, however Horton remained in Atchison, calling it home for the rest of his life.
His first instance of public service began in 1860 when he was appointed city attorney of Atchison. In 1861 Governor Charles Robinson appointed Horton judge of the Second Judicial District, a position he held through 1866. He then returned to private practice for one year before he was appointed United States attorney for the District of Kansas by President Ulysses S. Grant in 1867. After resigning this position in 1873 Horton formed a partnership with Batie P. Waggener in Atchison. Horton’s public service began again on January 1, 1877, when he was appointed the fifth chief justice of the Kansas Supreme Court by Governor Thomas A. Osborn. Horton continued to serve on the bench after his election to a full term in 1878 and reelection in 1884 and 1890. On April 30, 1895, Horton resigned and again formed a partnership with Waggener, this time in Topeka.
Throughout his life in Kansas, Horton was politically active, as represented by his political appointments in 1861 and 1867, and his appointment and election to the Supreme Court. In 1868 he served as a presidential elector and was designated messenger to take the electoral vote of the state to Washington, D.C., to be tallied. In 1874 he was elected to a term in the Kansas House of Representatives and in 1876 was elected to a term in the Kansas Senate. In 1876 he was appointed chief justice of the Supreme Court. Many times politics entered the decisions of the court. During the 1890s the Republican Party was challenged by the People’s (or Populist) Party for political control of the state. As a Republican, Horton did what he could to stem the Populists’ tide from his office in the court and his position in the party. Other issues addressed during this period were woman’s suffrage, the enforcement of prohibition in Kansas, and capital punishment, upon all of which Horton had defined views on their outcome.
As chief justice, Horton was renowned for his concise, encompassing and “meaty” decisions. He also had a reputation for not backing down from a controversial issue. It was stated of Horton that his “clear, forceful and logical mind and untiring industry increased the high respect which the Supreme Court reports had obtained.” Horton is also considered to have served on the court during its golden age in Kansas. In an article published in 1914 on the history of the court the following statement was written concerning the early judges and their work: “The decisions of Kingman, Horton, Brewer and Valentine cover a quarter of a century of Kansas history when the state, society, bench and bar were in their formative period, and their work on the Supreme bench reflect the high-minded spirit of Kansas people, while they inspired that spirit to lofty heights by the broad sympathetic equality and justice with which they mellowed the otherwise rigid rules of law to meet the conditions and wants of the people.”
At 8:22 p.m. on the night of September 2, 1902, Judge Albert H. Horton died after a prolonged illness. Through his dying days the judge kept abreast of what was occurring in Kansas. It can be argued that Horton and the State of Kansas grew up together, with Horton doing what he could to see that the State’s history was one to be proud and respected.
Horton was first married to Anna Amelia Robertson in 1864. To this union four children were born: Carrie Robertson (April 22, 1865), Mary Bennett (July 12, 1868), Rosa Sayer (June 2, 1871), and Albert Howell (April 1, 1874). Carrie Howell was born in Middleton, New York, whereas the youngest three children were born after the family moved to Atchison, Kansas. Anna Amelia died March 24, 1883 in Atchison. On November 16, 1886, Horton married the widow Mary A. Prescott. To this union the new Mrs. Horton brought three children, one son and two daughters. She was previously married to Topeka banker Addison Prescott for 18 years before his death in 1883. Well known to Topeka society, Mrs. Horton did not have much difficulty adapting to her new role as wife of the chief justice of the Supreme Court from that of being wife of the president of the Central National Bank of Topeka.
Mary Horton was, like her second husband, very active politically. Among her list of achievements was her hand in organizing the Woman’s Kansas Day Club and the Good Government Club, the latter addressed the issue of women suffrage. After Judge Horton’s death in 1902, Mary remained active in Republican Party circles with her work for equal suffrage and enforcement of prohibition. Mary Prescott Horton died on January 7, 1933, at the age of 91.
The inclusive dates for this collection are given as 1872 - 1933, but they are deceiving. The greatest portion of the material in this collection pertains to the years 1892 - 1895, with small groups of letters for 1880 concerning Horton’s candidacy for the United States Senate and letters of condolence dated August - September of 1902 to his widow, Mary Horton.
The greatest strength of this collection is the series of letters concentrating on the period of 1892 - 1895. At that time in the history of Kansas many important social issues and movements were in full swing. Kansas was a testing ground in 1894 for a nationwide effort to pass women suffrage in the Sunflower State. Prohibition was the law in Kansas, but it was not strictly enforced and the political status quo was in turmoil with the emergence of the Populist Party, a result of the struggling agricultural economy. Horton’s collection consists of a “Who’s Who” of correspondents from these movements.
Horton had defined opinions on these issues which are reflected in his papers. He was very much in favor of giving women the vote, which resulted in his being acquainted with such suffragettes as Laura M. Johns and J. Ellen Foster, equal suffrage advocates as Henry B. Blackwell and William A. Johnston, and suffrage organizations like the Suffrage Campaign Committee, Kansas Women’s Republican Association and Massachusetts Women’s Suffrage Association. Correspondence from these persons and groups do much to document this important social issue.
During this period in history, the position of justice in the Supreme Court was far from a non-political office. A result was that judges were affiliated with a political party and its platform. Among the Republicans who corresponded with Horton were David J. Brewer; Charles Curtis; Charles S. Gleed; George W. Glick; Edward H. Hoch; Cyrus Leland, Jr.; Chester I. Long; John Martin; and Sol Miller to name but a few. During the “Legislative War” of 1893 many letters were received by Horton from fellow Republicans concerning his decision in the Gunn Case, which settled the conflict in the Kansas House of Representatives in favor of the Republicans over the Populists.
The letters Horton received in 1880 concerned not only his candidacy for the U. S. Senate, but also the attack on same by his fellow Republican candidate, John J. Ingalls. Through a series of speeches and newspaper articles Ingalls attacked Horton’s character and questioned his ability to be a lawmaker on the national level. The letters Horton received admonished Ingalls’ tactics and pledged their loyalty to Horton’s campaign.
The other block of correspondence consists of letters and telegrams Mary Horton received in August and September of 1902 in reference to the illness and death of her husband. These notes are all very similar in their content, however their true value lies in their numbers and correspondents. From analyzing the number of responses and who sent them it is possible to draw some conclusions as to the extent of his popularity and impact on Kansas.
Scattered throughout the correspondence are letters from family members to Horton. The immediate Horton family was extended to seven children when the Judge married Mary A. Prescott in 1886. There are several letters included in the collection that do much to depict the atmosphere of the extended Horton household.
As mentioned, one of the strengths of this collection is the amount of correspondence Horton received during the volatile political atmosphere of the 1890s. Unfortunately, Horton’s responses to many of these favors are not available in this collection for research. A consolation is that this entire collection has been donated to the Society over the last 16 years, perhaps in the future additional material on Horton can be located and secured to expand the scope of the collection.
The papers of Albert Howell Horton are divided into two series. The first series consists of unbound correspondence and related items encompassing the years 1872 - 1933. It appears that Horton was in the practice of having his incoming correspondence bound periodically. It is not possible to confirm, but it seems probable that this series constitutes at least two, or perhaps more of these volumes. It is unknown to the processor who was responsible for disturbing the original order of the papers as Horton maintained them, but since the original order is no longer recognizable the items in this series have been placed in chronological order. In box 2 folder 7 there exists an alphabetical index to an unidentified volume of correspondence. This index is useless except that it provides the researcher with a cross-section of Horton’s correspondents for that period of time.
There exists a number of vacant years throughout this series. The first folder begins in1872 and ends with correspondence from 1891. In actuality the years 1873 - 1879 and 1881 - 1889 are vacant. Other gaps in this series are 1876 - 1901 and 1903 - 1932. As stated in the Scope and Content Note these gaps are significant, however it does not diminish the importance of the material that is present within the collection at this time.
The second series consists of one bound volume of correspondence received by Horton during the years 1893 - 1894. The same subjects are covered in this volume as are addressed in the unbound correspondence for the same period: Republican Party attitudes on Populism, the Legislative War, women suffrage and prohibition. This period of time was a very busy two years for Horton. As chief justice of the Kansas Supreme Court several decisions were passed down of great importance.
The decision of the Court on the Gunn Case settled the Legislative War in1893 and the Court’s decision in the Sims Case addressed a witness’s right to refuse to answer questions during a trial. Both decisions held great political and legal ramifications. This period was also a time when the Populist Party posed the greatest threat to the majority rule of the Republican Party in Kansas. In 1893 and 1894 the Kansas Senate, governor’s and attorney general’s seats were controlled by the Populists. During this period a Populist was elected to the Kansas Supreme Court, which resulted in the court being split 2 to 1 in favor of the Republicans.
Aside from his duties as chief justice, Horton also had a true interest in the enforcement of prohibition in the state and the passing of equal suffrage for women. His personal correspondence reflects this interest, especially concerning the increased activity in the mid 1890s supporting a suffrage amendment in Kansas.
The last pages of this volume consists of an alphabetical listing of correspondents with entries in the book. The number following the name allows the researcher to proceed to a specific letter penned by that person. The arrangement of this volume reflects how Horton had originally maintained all of his correspondence. Each letter was given an entry number and indexed by that number. It appears that the entries were entered on a irregular basis as the volume was maintained in very loose chronological order.
For further information concerning folder contents refer to the “Folder Listing” that follows this description.
Darrell D. Garwood
Microfilm MF 7192
|Box 1||Folder||1||Unbound letters received||1872-1891|
|Box 2||Folder||1||1895, Jan.|
|5||1895, Apr., Jun.|
|7||1902, telegrams, indexes|
|Volume||1||Bound letters received||1893-1894|