Transcribed by Mary Ann Kaylor
Webner E. Loomis, a lawyer of Springfield, traces his ancestry back to Joseph Loomis, of Braintree, England, who sailed from London on the ship Susan Ellen and arrived at Boston, Massachusetts, July 17, 1638. He settled in Windsor, Connecticut, in 1639, and among his descendants are those who have been prominent in public affairs and successful in private business interest. Horace Loomis, the grandfather of our subject, lived in Herkimer county, New York, and married Julia Tuttle, a native of that county. He removed from there in 1838 with his wife and children, Thadeus L., William B. and Horace J. Loomis, who located at a point at the extreme end of the prairie about a mile and a half east of Chesterfield, Illinois, and which extended to the site of Chicago without the intervention of a single tree or anything else other than the tall prairie grasses in its season. Horace Loomis pursued farming and stock-raising until his death, December 20, 1850. His widow passed away in 1864 and both lie buried in the Loomis cemetery near Chesterfield.
William B. Loomis, father of W. E. Loomis, was born in Herkimer county, New York, April 28, 1829. He married Mary A. Eldred, who died October 5, 1854. She was a daughter of William and Ruth (Brace) Eldred. Her father had come from Herkimer county, New York, in 1822, and located on a farm two miles and three-quarters west of Carrollton, this state. The Eldreds and Braces were of English lineage, descended from ancestors who came to America about 1640. The mother of Mrs. Ruth Eldred, was a member of the Bushnell family and a near relative of Horace Bushnell, the eminent theologian who was born at Litchfield, Connecticut, April 14, 1802, and died in 1876. It was in honor of this family that the city of Bushnell, Illinois, is named. Many of the Braces have been noted educators and public spirited citizens.
To the marriage of William B. Loomis and Mary A. Eldred there was born a daughter that died in infancy. The other children were Webner E., born November 11, 1851; and Leverett W., who was born February 8, 1853, and died April 8, 1896, at Carrollton, Illinois. He had there founded and built up the largest jewelry store and business of that city. He made and gave to Blackburn College at Carlinville, Illinois, a six inch achromatic clock movement and astronomical equatorial telescope in 1885, valued at several thousand dollars. In 1887 he made an absolutely universal focus lens instrument of nine lenses that was never before equaled and cannot be excelled. The seven and a half inch astronomical visual and photographic telescope that he made and which is now in possession of his brother, is in every respect superior to any other make of its size and class. He was equally renowned in connection with his labors in electricity and chemistry, astronomy and other branches of the learned and skilled sciences. A fair estimate of the evidence of his accomplishments would place him as the most skilled and learned person in the sciences of mechanics of his day. It was well said that his death was a loss to the whole world.
Webner E. Loomis, the subject of this sketch was born on his father's farm a mile and a half east of the village of Chesterfield, Illinois and near there he attended the country schools, while in the periods of vacation he worked in his father's grist and saw mill and also on the farm, being thus employed until 1865, when he went with his father's family to Minneapolis, Minnesota, but upon the death of his father in 1867 he returned to and became a member of the family of his uncle, Horace J. Loomis, who was living about a mile southeast of Chesterfield. There Webner E. Loomis attended school in the village in fall and winter, and worked on his uncle's farm throughout the remainder of the year until he became a student in Blackburn University, now college, in 1870. He was graduated from that institution in June, 1873, with the degree of Bachelor of Science; earning his way by working on the farm and teaching school. During the fall of that year he began the study of law in the office of the late United States Senator John M. Palmer, at Springfield. He was admitted and licensed by the supreme court of this state on the 8th of January, 1876, to practice as an attorney and counselor at law.
Mr. Loomis has since been a most indefatigable worker in searching after the truest and best knowledge connected with every side and phase of whatever question he undertakes. While on the farm he thoroughly studied that great department of labor, putting his scientific knowledge to the practical test. He learned much of the best pedigrees and valuable points of the horse and other domestic or farm animals. As a school teacher and citizen he early realized that the aristocracy controlled the system of education of our public schools, so that if its pupils ready anything it must be mostly fiction and satisfied only by the charms of poetry, music, art, display and athletic sports and that this would create a distaste for good reading or the hard study necessary to grow in knowledge. This in time would develop a people unfit for self-government and, therefore Mr. Loomis has with word and pen fought against such conditions in our schools. Senator Palmer said that Mr. Loomis was the most industrious law student that he had ever had and after his being admitted to the bar certified amongst other good qualifications, that Mr. Loomis was of the strictest honor and integrity.
Mr. Loomis has a genius for discovering defects in the law or procedure that come under his investigation. He showed through a habeas corpus application that the city of Springfield had been for some forty years imprisoning violators of its ordinances with legal right and a new ordinance had to be enacted to cure the defect. He proved that the form of notice as published to get service on defendants in chancery cases, as had been used about thirty-five years in this county, was void; and his corrected form of the same has now been in use for quite a number of years. Mr. Loomis also discovered that the ordinance for fixing and collecting water taxes or rates were illegal and they were amended to cure the defects. He put a stop to prosecutions without trial by jury under the vagabond act. On his suggestion the bar association of this county introduced bills in the recent Illinois Legislature for limiting to one year the right to contest wills and for establishing a jury commission that would apply to this county. The former bill became a law. Mr. Loomis, as a trial lawyer, has accomplished some remarkable successes, among which may be mentioned the clearing of the defendant that was immediately found after and within a few feet of the place in possession of a thirty dollar overcoat that had been stolen; and his successful defense of the young girl indicted for the larceny of ninety-two dollars after some six person testified at her trial that she had confessed to them that she had taken the money, and the defendant did not deny it. Another notable case was that in the United States court where Mr. Loomis' masterly argument caused the jury to find the defendant not guilty when charged with passing counterfeit money, after the associate counsel for the defendant had given up the defense, taken his hat and left the courtroom. In the two famous cases, charging Dr. Lawrence with the murdering of two different young women in this county several years ago, Mr. Loomis' genius and learning were found able to overcome the difficulties that puzzled other counsel for the defense so that the defendant was acquitted.
Mr. Loomis is equally as resourceful in the control of civil suits. The late Judge Matheny declared that Mr. Loomis had more influence over a jury than any other member of the bar of this county, still he never takes his client's case into the court if it can by any manner be fairly adjusted without recourse to trial.
Mr. Loomis has probably the largest collection of works on parliamentary law of any one person in this county and in a series of articles published in a periodical a few years ago he gave for the first time definite and accurate definitions of constitution, by-laws, rules and other words and phrased that had not been before defined in any work on that law. Mr. Loomis has traveled quite extensively in this country and abroad, visiting England, Belgium, Luxemberg, Germany, Switzerland and France. His store of knowledge enables him to do much as a critic with word and pen concerning the works of the artist, teacher, law writer and inventor. He was glad to note that his criticism of the United States officials caused them to abandon the use of the twenty-three caliber rifle in the navy. Mr. Loomis steps higher and into the great problems of astronomy and has written instructively on the subject. He influenced his brother to give the telescope to Blackburn College in preference to others and has built the
Loomis observatory at Springfield and placed therein the foregoing seven and a half inch telescope and hopes that the public will learn much from its use. He has never married, but resides with his nieces, Misses Mabel and Myra Loomis, in the city of Springfield. He is so quiet and unpretentious and is engaged so much with his labors in higher and useful fields that he is not as well and favorably known as he deserves, yet he has many friends who entertain for him the warmest regard because of his personal worth and his splendid mental land professional accomplishments.