Monday, January 9, 2012

Amanuensis Monday: Biography of L. P. Newby

Leonidas P. Newby was the brother of my maternal great, great grandfather, John A. Newby.

This biographical sketch was transcribed from my personal copy of Hazzard's History of Henry County Indiana 1822-1906 Military Edition Volume 2 - George Hazzard, New Castle, Indiana 1906.  [pgs. 1193 - 1196]. This sketch may also be found online at here: Biographical Sketch of Leonidas Perry Newby



     The Newby family, of which Leonidas Perry Newby is a member, came to Indiana from North Carolina early in the nineteenth century. The early settlements of the ancestral branch of the family in North Carolina were in the counties bordering upon Albemarle Sound, such as Perquimans, Paspitank and Chowan. They were members of the Society of Friends, and certain Friends of the name in those counties are known to have been the owners of large tracts of land and many slaves, whom they treated with kindness and leniency. But when the Society of Friends or Quakers arrived at the conclusion that slavery was sinful and the holding of slaves an offense against the law of God, and late in the eighteenth century the yearly meetings determined that all Friends must liberate their slaves, they obeyed the behest and in carrying it out impoverished themselves, so that the family became widely scattered over the State. Early in the following century many families of the Newby relationship, which was and is a large one, sought the new country north of the Ohio River, and taking up the new lands in Ohio and Indiana, became sturdy pioneers of the two sister States.
     The immediate family to which Mr. Newby belongs located in Henry County, Indiana, coming here from Randolph County, North Carolina, in 1837. Mr. Newby's father first engaged in the business of merchant tailoring at Greensboro. In those days the country merchants all sold goods upon long credits, and in fact could sell them in no other way. The system broke up most of the earlier merchants. Mr. Newby's father, whose name was Jacob Newby, and who was a most worthy man, being no exception to the rule. The head of the family, after the loss of his property, went back for a time to the cultivation of the soil for a livelihood, and the subject of this sketch was born upon a farm near Lewisville, Indiana, on April 9, 1855. Mr. Newby's mother was before her marriage Lavina Leonard, and both she and her husband were enthusiastic Methodists of the old-time, earnest and devoted kind, notwithstanding the fact that Jacob Newby's ancestors had been primitive Quakers.
     Although Mr. Newby's father and mother were exemplary and industrious people, his father was never a robust man, and though he toiled often beyond his strength, both when farming or when working at his trade, he could accumulate but little, and found that it required all the strength he could muster to support his six children and keep the wolf from the door. Hence it was that Leonidas Perry, who was the youngest of the sons, was thrown upon his own resources early in life, a fact which largely accounts for his business success.
     His first ambition seems to have been for knowledge---the attainment of a practical education---hence we find him as a small boy performing the duties of janitor for the Greensboro school to gain the means to supply himself with clothing and books and help the family along, while he was at the same time pursuing his studies in the school and keeping up with, and at times, leading his classes. During the summer months young Newby worked for the neighboring farmers and saved his earnings to aid him in his winter campaigns for knowledge. This course was persevered in until he arrived at the age of sixteen, when the family removed to Knightstown, Indiana, where he entered the high school. The Knightstown school was then under the very efficient superintendency of the late Professor Hewitt, with John I. Morrison as the leading member of the board of trustees, and was one of the foremost town schools in eastern Indiana.
     Before he had reached the age of seventeen, Mr. Newby began to teach in the public schools of the neighborhood, thus gaining the means to enable him to pursue his studies in the high school, teaching and attending school alternately. While thus engaged he also began to read law, giving to it whatever time he could spare from his studies in the school or duties in the school room. He graduated from the Knightstown High School with honor in 1875, being its first graduate; but he continued certain lines of study with Professor Hewitt after his graduation and also continued his study of the law, and to keep up his expenses taught for three hours every day in the high school.
     The time that was left to him for his legal studies was spent first in the law office of Butler and Swaim, of Knightstown, and later in the office of  J. Lee Furgason, of the same place. He was admitted to the practise by the Henry Circuit Court in 1878 and in the same year formed a partnership with the late Walter B. Swaim and opened an office in Knightstown. This partnership with Swaim was terminated at the end of the first year, when Mr. Newby established an office of his own and has continued the practise single-handed ever since.
     "The Bench and Bar of Indiana," a valuable and entertaining volume of more than eight hundred pages devoted to the biographies of eminent Indiana lawyers, edited by Charles W. Taylor and published at Indianapolis in 1895, says of Leonidas P. Newby:
     "In 1880 he was elected prosecuting attorney of the eighteenth judicial circuit, composed of the counties of Henry and Hancock. His office, however, did not begin until nearly two years had elapsed after his election; but within three months after that event the prosecuting attorney then in office resigned, and Governor Porter appointed Mr. Newby to the vacancy, thus enabling him to hold the office nearly four years. One of his first cases on opening an office was the famous Foxwell murder case at Rushville, Indiana, in which he appeared for the defendant. The ability shown by the young attorney in this case received much favorable comment and so placed him on his feet as to give him a good start. In 1886, he was the leading counsel in the celebrated Anderson murder case at Williamstown, Kentucky, and received the credit of making one of the most able speeches ever made at the bar, in closing the argument for the defense. In the prosecution of this cause appeared Hon. M. D. Gray, the county attorney and now the commonwealth attorney for the judicial district; Captain Dejarnette, then commonwealth attorney and now considered one of the most brilliant lawyers in Kentucky; Col. J. J. Landerman, a noted politician and lawyer of Warsaw, of that State, and Hon. W. P. Harden, of Lexington, then the attorney general of that State, and now (1895) a candidate for governor. With Mr. Newby was associated Hon. O. D. McManama, afterwards judge of the criminal court of Frankfort, Kentucky; Hon. L. C. Norman, of Frankfort, now Auditor of State; Capt. John Combs, of Williamstown, Kentucky, and Hon. W. W. Dickerson, since a member of Congress and now a candidate for re-election. In the preliminary trial Hon. W. P. C. Breckinridge appeared for the defendant, but was unable to appear at the trial. "Mr. Newby has been employed in trial cases in all the Middle States as well as in some of the Southern, Western and Eastern ones and has held the greatest part of the practise in the southern part of Henry and the northern part of Rush County."
     Since "The Bench and Bar" from which the foregoing is taken was published, Mr. Newby has succeeded the late Judge Joshua H. Mellett, of New Castle, as the Henry County attorney of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company and in conjunction with John L. Rupe, of Richmond, has charge of its extensive and lucrative legal business in Eastern Indiana, which added to his already large practise makes his income from his profession one of the best of those enjoyed by Eastern Indiana lawyers.
     The Masonic Advocate, in an article in its issue for May, 1901, speaking of Mr. Newby's legal attainments and successes, said: "Brother Newby has single-handed built up a large and lucrative practise, not only in his home court, but throughout Eastern Indiana, where he stands as the peer of the ablest in his profession." The same journal in addition to the foregoing says: "He has never aspired to the bench but is, however, a favorite when acting as special judge and has frequently been called to the neighboring counties of late years, to hold special terms of court and try causes on change of venue, having sat as the trial judge in many important cases."
     Mr. Newby has been a Republican in politics all his life and is always active in the support of his party and its candidates. He has often been a member of the Republican County Committee and, during two or more presidential campaigns, a member of the executive committee chosen by the Republican State Committee to act in conjunction with its chairman in the immediate direction of the work of the campaign.
     Mr. Newby was nominated and elected to succeed the late General William Grose in the State Senate in 1892 and re-elected in 1896. His activities and services in that body were such that he soon took rank among the able leaders of the Republican party in the Senate and was for six years the president pro tempore of the Senate. He was also chairman of the judiciary committee for six years. He has been twice a candidate for the nomination by his party for lieutenant governor, but owing to the conflicting interests of candidates for the other State offices he was defeated in convention both times by very narrow margins. He is a hustler, a good mixer and possessed of a rare geniality which with his recuperative powers of mind and spirit enable him to come out of such political contests without having suffered loss of temper and with no sore spots to nurse and no political graveyard to fill. Hence he is a hard man to keep down and, as he is yet young and in fine health and full of mental vigor, he is likely to be heard from in the future.
     Mr. Newby has been thus far in life very successful in business, having accumulated a snug fortune. He is the owner of a fine home in Knightstown and quite a number of rental properties as well as some valuable business blocks. He has also some good farms in the neighborhood of his home town in which he takes much pride and greatly enjoys the time which he can give to their oversight. He owns stock in and is president of The Citizens' State Bank of Knightstown and also of The Natural Gas Company, The Electric Light and other business organizations of the town. He is a stockholder, director and vice-president in and of The Columbia National Bank of Indianapolis; a stockholder in The American National Bank of the same city, and one of the largest stockholders in The Security Trust Company of Indianapolis and president of the New Castle Central Trust and Savings Company, and has many other important business interests in various parts of the State. He is also president of the board of trustees of the southern State prison or reformatory for young men and boys, which has rendered such signal service to the State in carrying out reforms in the prison management and making improvements to the buildings and grounds at a saving in money and to the betterment of the inmates as well as to the advantage of the people of the State.
     Mr. Newby was united in marriage with Mary Elizabeth, daughter of Robert B. and Julia A. Breckinridge, of Knightstown, Indiana, September 20, 1877. Mrs. Newby's family is a good one noted for the integrity and energy of its members, her father, the late Robert B. Breckinridge, having been for many years a prominent business man of Knightstown. She is a  lady of many accomplishments and graces and skilled in the arts of home-making and in dispensing the genuine courtesies of social life. The married and home life of Mr. And Mrs. Newby have been very happy, surrounded by comports and refinements and cheered by a large circle of friends. They are the parents of two children, an accomplished daughter, and a son, who is a member of his father's profession, of whom more will be said further on. 
     Mr. Newby is a member of several benevolent orders and other social and business societies; but the one society of his choice, in which he has taken most interest and to which he has devoted most time and talent, is the time-tried order of Free and Accepted Masons. He was made a Master Mason in Golden Rule Lodge, Number 16, Knightstown, having been initiated April 12, 1882, passed May 17, and raised June 7, of the same year. The Masonic Advocate traces his advances in and services to Masonry as follows:
     "He was made a Royal Arch Mason in Knightstown Chapter, Number 33, receiving the preceding degrees during the months of August, September and October, and the Royal Arch, November 6, 1882. He was High Priest during 1898. He received the degrees of Royal and Select Master in Cryptic Council, Number 29, Knightstown, November 12, 1883. He was created a Knight Templar in Knightstown Commandery, Number 9, January 30, 1883, and worked his way up to Eminent Commander, which position he held during the years 1889 and 1890.
     "In the Grand Commandery he started as Grand Sword Bearer in 1895 and by regular advancement became R. E. Grand Commander of Indiana at the recent Annual Conclave, and enjoyed the honor of representing the Grand Commandery in the Grand Encampment of the United States at the tri-centennial conclave at Louisville, Kentucky, in August, 1901.
     "He received the grades of the A. A. Scottish Rite, including the Thirty Second Degree, at the annual convocation in 'The Valley of Indianapolis' in March, 1892, and became a 'Shriner' in Murat Temple, March 25, 1892.
     "As secretary of the triennial committee of The Grand Commandery, Sir Knight Newby has rendered excellent service in providing quarters for the grand and subordinate commanderies of Indiana at the triennial conclave at Denver, Boston, Pittsburg, Louisville and San Francisco, whereby Indiana has always made a favorable showing with other grand jurisdictions and at a reasonable expense. As a member of the board of trustees of his home lodge and chapter at Knightstown, brother Newby took an active part in the erection of their fine Masonic Temple, which was destroyed by fire October 18, 1899, and also in the erection of the fine and massive new structure which now occupies the place of the old one and is such an adornment to the beautiful little city of Knightstown. As a Mason and as a citizen, in all the walks of life, he stands ready in a public-spirited way to do his full share in promoting the general god. Long may he live in his sphere of usefulness."
     Such is the estimate of Mr. Newby as a Mason and a man, made by one who stands high in the "ancient and honorable" order. In addition it may be stated that Mr. Newby is now and has been for the past seven years Inspector General of The Knights Templar of Indiana, and is a life member of the Committee of Jurisprudence of the Knights Templar of the United States.
     Mr. And Mrs. Newby have both traveled extensively in their own country and are familiar with many parts of the United States, and Mr. Newby himself has visited Cuba and other islands of the West India group, also Mexico and Central America, and gained much valuable information, and during the Summer of 1905 made a delightful trip to England and Continental Europe in company with Smiley N. Chambers, of Indianapolis, and others, from which he gleaned a great deal of pleasure and profit, and returned to again take up the responsibilities of life in the best county of the best State in the Union and in the town which to him is the best spot of the best county. 

*Amanuensis: A person employed to write what another dictates or to copy what has been written by another.



  1. What a great bio! Would take me weeks to digest all that information! WAHHOOO.

  2. Oh my gosh...I just found his obituary and it is nearly as long as this bio. Sigh!