EDWARDS, BENJAMIN STEPHENSON (deceased), who was born in Madison County, Ill., June 3, 1818, and died at his home in Springfield, Ill., February 4, 1886, was the youngest son of Ninian Edwards, Governor of Illinois during nearly its whole existence as a Territory, and the third Governor of the State. Ninian Edwards was born in Montgomery County, Md., March 17, 1775, and at the age of nineteen years emigrated to Kentucky, where he rose to the position of Chief Justice of the Court of Appeals. He was appointed Territorial Governor under President Madison, in 1809, and at the time of the admission of Illinois as a State was elected to the United States Senate, being reelected at the expiration of his first term (a short one), and in 1826 was elected Governor of the State of Illinois, serving until 1830. He died at his home in Belleville, July 20, 1833, of cholera, having contracted that dread disease through his efforts to assist the sufferers from the epidemic. His son, Honorable Ninian Wirt Edwards, married Elizabeth P. Todd, sister of Mrs. Abraham Lincoln, and in 1834 was appointed by Governor Reynolds Attorney General of Illinois, but resigned this office the following year, moving to Springfield.
Benjamin Stephenson Edwards graduated from Yale College in 1838 and the following year was admitted to the Bar. He studied under the supervision of Stephen T. Logan, of Springfield, and in March, 1841, commenced the practice of his profession, being contemporary with such eminent jurists as Stephen A. Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, Stephen T. Logan, Colonel E. D. Baker, Jesse B. Thomas, Josiah Lamborn and James A. McDougall, and the fact that he was able to attain and maintain an honorable position among such men attests his ability in his profession and his energy and integrity as a man. At the time of his death he was President of the Illinois State Bar Association.
In early life Benjamin S. Edwards was a Whig and later became a Democrat. He served as a Delegate to the Constitutional Convention of 1862 and in 1868 was an unsuccessful candidate for Congress, against Shelby M. Cullom. In 1869 he was elected Circuit Judge of Springfield Circuit, but within a year and half resigned this position, preferring the practice of his profession to the dignity of the bench. He had the universal respect of all as a citizen and as a lawyer fulfilled his duties ably in both capacities.
Mr. Edwards was married, August 13, 1839, to Miss Helen Kissam Dodge, daughter of Colonel Henry Augustus Dodge, grand-daughter of Dr. Richard Varrick, of New York City, and a native of Holland, being thus related to the "Knickerbocker" families of the Van Wyck, Van Courtlandt and Van Rensselaer. Mrs. Edwards died March 18, 1909, at the age of eighty-nine years and is survived by three daughters namely: Helen M. married Moses Condell; Alice E., married Benjamin Hamilton Ferguson, a sketch of whom appears in this work, and Mary S. married James Henry Raymond.