Connecticut State Library with state seal

Memorials of Connecticut Judges and Attorneys
As Printed in the Connecticut Reports
volume 60 , page(s) 592-593


ABIJAH CATLIN, then the oldest member of the Litchfield County bar, died at the family homestead in Harwinton on April 14th, 1891. He was born at the same place on April 1st, 1805, being the fourth in lineal descent, and of the same name, who were born successively on the ancestral farm, who inherited it, and who lived and died there, since Major Abijah Catlin, the first of the line, emigrated from Hartford to Harwinton, in 1739, as one of the original settlers of that town.

The subject of this notice was graduated from Yale College in 1825, where he was a classmate with the late George C. Woodruff of Litchfield. He studied law with William S. Holabird, Esq., at Winchester, and began practice in Georgia; but, on the death of his father in 1837, he returned to Harwinton and took possession of the old homestead. There he lived during the remainder of his life, practicing law, representing his town and senatorial district in the General Assembly, serving as judge of the County Court, holding various state offices, and other positions of public trust, and acting as judge of probate and justice of the peace until disqualified by age.

The following list of state offices held by Judge Catlin shows only a part of the public duties performed during his long career. He represented Harwinton ten times in the House of Representatives, namely, in 1837, `8, `9, 1840, 1851, 1861, `2, `5, 1874, `9. He served in the Senate in 1844; was Judge of the County Court in 1844, `5 ; Comptroller in 1847, `8, `9; School Fund Commissioner in 1852; Presidential Elector in 1880.

Generous by nature, somewhat irascible, though placable, Judge Catlin early developed the best characteristics of the great yeoman class from which he sprang. He was always the honest, intelligent lawyer-farmer, reliable in places of trust, fearless in the exposure of meanness and injustice, always at the front in times of danger, truckling neither to man nor to money. On the breaking out of the war he was one of the prominent leaders of the Union party organized in this state by members of both the old parties for the sole purpose of preventing the dismemberment of the republic.

Indeed Judge Catlin always loved republicanism and the republic. He feared growth of the money power and greatly regretted the decline of agriculture in his county and state. The writer well remembers his telling him, not many years since, of the feeling of discouragement aroused within him by a recent perusal of Sallust's terrible picture, in his Cataline, of the demoralization and decay of the Roman commonwealth, and he clearly recognized the similarity of the conditions of the great republic of the ancient world to those which are so rapidly developing in our own. Nevertheless, the prevailing tone of his mind was the hopefulness natural to a sound and courageous manhood.

One could not reasonably expect the development of a great lawyer in a small agricultural community in one of the oldest states of the union. But such a community seldom mourns the loss of a more honest, honorable or useful citizen.