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JUST LIKE OLD TIMES - Fourth area man sits on Ohio Supreme Court

Norwalk Reflector Staff • Oct 29, 2015 at 12:05 PM

In the course of my research I have learned of a fourth man from the Firelands area who sat on the Ohio Supreme Court. He was Selwyn N. Owen, and joins with Ebenezer Lane of Sandusky in the 19th century and Clifford Brown of Norwalk and Thomas Moyer of Sandusky in the 20th Century as members of that judicial body.

Selwyn N. Owen was born in 1836 in Steuben County, New York and was about six months old when his parents (Horatio and Clarissa Ransom Owen) settled in Norwich Township of Huron County. As soon as the railroad was built through that township and the village of Havana was established as a station, Horatio Owen established his home there and built a store and a grain warehouse.

For twenty years the Owen family prospered here. On October 6, 1860, Horatio Owen was raising a load of wheat to the top of the elevator via an incline plane which had a small car on it to carry the grain. As the loaded car went up the incline Mr. Owen was walking behind it when the rope broke and the care rolled back on him, killing him instantly.

Prior to this tragedy, Selwyn Owen had been enrolled at the Norwalk Institute, and then completed his literary education at Antioch College. At the Institute he was well-known as a debater and declaimer. For a time after this he was principal of seminary in Clark County, Kentucky. He then returned to Norwalk and studied law in the office of Jairus Kennan and Gideon Stewart. At that time a would-be attorney could study law and then go to law school, or could pass a test and be admitted to practice as an attorney.

Selwyn not only studied law in Norwalk; he also took courses at the Cincinnati Law School, where he was graduated in 1862. After practicing in Fremont for a year be made his home in Bryan , Ohio, his wife, nee Beulah Barrett. He enjoyed a large law practice there and also served as Common Pleas Judge from 1876 to 1883, when he was elected the Ohio Supreme Court.

His tenure on the Supreme Court lasted from December of 1883 to February of 1889. During the last three-and-a-half years he was Chief Justice to the Court. It was said if him that as a judge "his written opinions entitle him to rank the eminent jurists of Ohio."

After leaving the Court, Judge Owen made his home in Columbus, where he served two years as city law director. In 1893 he was appointed to the newly-formed State Board of Arbitration. He held this post for several years, and was considered useful in arbitration between employers and employees and thus averting strikes and other severe labor problems.

Judge Owen died at Portland, Oregon, on October 1, 1913. His brother, Seymour W. Owen, was a lumber dealer in Norwalk for many years. His home was at 157 West Main, a house he remodeled and enlarged to look as it does now.

Remember My Just Like Old Times books are on sale at Colonial Flower & Gift Shoppe at Seven West Main in Norwalk. These preserve my earlier columns in permanent form, and fully indexed.

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