GELON WILBERFORCE WEST, the subject of this sketch, was born at Columbia, in this state, August 31st, 1845. He died at Rockville, January 17th, 1890, at the age of forty-four. He was the son of Samuel F. West, who is still a resident of Columbia, and until he arrived at the age of seventeen years, lived and worked upon his father's farm. He was educated in the common and select schools, and finally graduated at the old High School at Ellington in this state. He never entered college, but taught school during the winters of 1862-3, and 1863-4. After a select course of reading, he began the systematic study of law, in the office of Waldo, Hubbard and Hyde, at Hartford, in January, 1866, and after passing an examination of great merit, was admitted to the practice of law at Hartford, July 24th, 1868. He located at Rockville, and there commenced the practice of law in November, 1868.
Mr. West possessed in an unusual degree all of those gentler qualities, so endearing to intimate acquaintances, and upon which the biographer delights to dwell, but which are frequently overwrought. He was popular as a man, and as an official, and in April, 1869, he was elected judge of probate for the district of Ellington, and served continuously in that capacity until the time of his death, being elected term after term by the people, irrespective of party. He was for the period of ten years acting school visitor and clerk of the school board, and held the position of town clerk, for the town of Vernon, from 1883 to the time of his death. He was also the register of vital statistics and town treasurer, and assistant clerk of the Superior Court. At the time of his death he was also judge of the City Court of Rockville. To the manifold duties of these various offices he brought a power and aptitude which a more ambitious man would have diverted into other channels. His seeming disregard of the allurements of personal ambition was the gain of the community in which he lived. His close application to the duties and routine of the many offices which came to him, prevented his taking that more prominent stand in his chosen profession to which he was entitled from the force of his acquirements and natural ability. As a judge of probate he was unexcelled, for he was interested in his work, and tempered with a sound judgment and tender sympathy that department of law which enters more closely than any other the domain of domestic life. His faithfulness and integrity were proverbial, and his word was as good as his bond. While often negligent of the duties which he owed to himself, he never failed in his obligations to his fellowmen. The perplexities of his many duties never tested beyond its strength that serene and abiding patience, which he always commanded, in sickness and in health.
His nature was never aggressive, yet he led in various enterprises which promoted the interest of the community in which he lived. He was the projector of the Rockville High School, and personally paid the expenses attendant upon issuing the first diplomas of that institution. He was the prime mover in the adoption of the city charter for Rockville, and the enterprise was largely due to his labor and zeal.
His mind was distinctively reflective, and upon the more important tenets of the Christian religion his views were pronounced. He was religiously inclined, but without a creed. He believed in God, and recognized man's obligation to his maker; but concerning those religious problems which others explain so easily, to their seeming satisfaction, he held his peace. In conversing with the writer on a certain occasion during the last year of his life, he made use of a stanza of Whittier's hymn as illustrating his position, and repeated the lines with an emphasis which made a lasting impression, and furnished a fitting close to the conversation.
"And so beside the Silent Sea,
I wait the muffled oar;
No harm from Him, can come to me,
On ocean or on shore."
He died almost in the harness, and was absent from his office only a little more than one day. He entertained a strong presentiment of his death, and in perfecting the organization of the City Court expressed his belief that he should not live to witness its completion. But this fact did not lessen his interest or his work; no murmur escaped him, and his cheerful, cordial manner seemed not to warrant the foreboding which he held.
He leaves a wife and two daughters, and a circle of friends, whose grateful and kindly remembrance of him is the most expressive and enduring tribute to his worth.