Sherburne History Center

Sherburne History Center
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Friday, April 17, 2020

Presenting Moses Sherburne

Moses Sherburne (1808-1868)

A recent search of the index to this blog revealed a significant failure on my part: at no time in the past eight years, since beginning this blog, has an article regarding the county namesake been produced.  So, I will correct that oversight today. Presenting Moses Sherburne: 

Through a combination of politics and legal acumen, Moses Sherburne received a unique honor of having a county named in his honor, while still alive.  To quote a biographer of Sherburne, he “was a conspicuous figure in the early days of Minnesota and was largely instrumental in guiding the Territory into statehood.”  His political livelihood, as well as his law practice, shed an interesting light on one of the early settlers of Minnesota and Sherburne County. 

Born in 1808, Moses Sherburne spent the first 45 years of his life in Maine.  He studied the law and received admission to the Maine bar in 1831.  While practicing law, his first political appointment came in 1837, he became Postmaster to the town of Phillips.  Other appointments came regularly, ranging from Postmaster to County Attorney, to Justice of the Peace and Probate Judge.  He was also elected to the state legislature and held the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the Maine Militia.  

The premiere appointment of his career came in 1853.  In the Democratic administration of Franklin Pierce, the 45-year-old Moses Sherburne received appointment as Associate Justice to the Supreme Court of the Territory of Minnesota.  He relocated to St Paul, prepared to serve.  For four years, beginning in April 1853, he played a significant role in preparing Minnesota for statehood.  In the midst of this, in 1856, Sherburne County was named in his honor. 

Not for some time after he resigned his position on the Supreme Court did Moses Sherburne establish himself in the county bearing his name.  He developed a private practice in St. Paul.  Only shortly before his death in 1868, did Moses Sherburne live in the county.  He had relocated to the county to develop his legal practice.  From January to March 1868 he served as Sherburne County Attorney.  In March, he died, at age 60, just shortly after he settled himself in Orono, what is today part of Elk River.  

Although he lived only 15 years in Minnesota, his political record and legal skills suggest he made a significant impact on the creation of the State of Minnesota.

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