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Damon G. Tunnicliff

TUNNICLIFF, Damon G. (deceased), former Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of Illinois, whose period of residence in Macomb, Ill., covered nearly half a century, and who was, for at least twenty-five years, the recognized leader of the McDonough County Bar, was born in Herkimer County, N. Y., August 20, 1829. His parents, George and Marinda (Tilden) Tunnicliff, were natives, respectively, of New York State and Connecticut. George Tunnicliff was a farmer and miller by occupation, and Damon assisted him on the farm and in the mill until he reached the age of fifteen years. His youth was almost devoid of opportunities for mental training, and the finished culture and broad, comprehensive grasp and power of minute analysis which made him a conspicuous and commanding figure in the forensic arena of Illinois, were the self-acquired attainments of his mature years. On leaving the home farm he became clerk in a mercantile establishment, and when he came to Fulton County, Ill., in 1849, he embarked in general merchandising in Vermont, that county. At the age of twenty-three years he went to Rushville, Ill., where he commenced the study of law with Robert Blackwell, and, when the latter moved to Chicago, accompanied him to that city. Mr. Blackwell formed a partnership with Charles B. Beckwith, a leading lawyer of Chicago, and after Mr. Tunnicliff's admission to the bar, in April, 1853, he remained with this firm for a year. An indication of his faculty for concentration, and his talent for mental acquisition and assimilation exists in the fact that he passed the examination for membership at the bar after a period of but six months' study. In 1854 he located at Macomb and became associated with Chauncey L. Higbee and Cyrus Walker in the practice of law. The election of Mr. Higbee as Circuit Judge, in 1861, caused the dissolution of the firm, and Mr. Tunnicliff continued alone in practice for four years, when he entered into partnership with Asa A. Matteson. On the removal of the latter to Galesburg, Ill., in 1875, Mr. Tunnicliff again practiced alone for a like period, after which James H. Baker became his partner, continuing thus a number of years. During these periods of practice, from 1854 until 1880, Damon G. Tunnicliff had been steadily developing in intellectual strength, broadening in scope and growing in legal knowledge and acumen, until he had attained an eminent position as the undisputed leader of the McDonough County Bar. Five years later (in 1885) this pre-eminence was recognized by Governor Oglesby, who appointed him an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of Illinois to fill a vacancy caused by the death of Judge Pinckney H. Walker. While serving in the Supreme Court he ranked with the soundest jurists of that body. On the conclusion of the term for which he was appointed. Judge Tunnicllff resumed the practice of law, which he continued with his son, George D. Tunnicllff, until 1890, and was after that time with the firm of Sherman & Tunniclitf, Lawrence Y. Sherman having in the meantime been admitted as partner. The Judge seldom acted, however, after this period, in any other than a consulting capacity. The subject of this sketch is believed to have been the oldest legal representative of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railway Company, having been retained in 1854 as counsel for the Northern Cross Railroad Company, which was the germ of the present gigantic corporation, whose legal adviser he remained to the end of his life.

Mr. Tunnicllff was married January 11, 1855, to Mary E. Bailey, of Macomb. Her father, Col. W. W. Bailey, was one of the earliest settlers in McDonough County, and was the father of two well-known citizens of Macomb, William S. and George W. Bailey. Six children resulted from Mr. Tunnicliff's first marriage, two of whom died in infancy. The others are: Mary E. (Mrs. W. L. Parrotte), of Chicago; Bailey; George D., a resident of Macomb, Ill.; and William W., of Kansas City, Mo. The mother of this family died in 1865. Mr. Tunnicllff was married again November 4, 1868, wedding Sarah A. Bacon, a daughter of Larkin C. Bacon, an old resident of McDonough County. The offspring of this union was three children, as follows: Helen (Mrs. Ralph Catteral), of Ithaca, N. Y., and Sarah and Ruth, who live in Chicago, as does their mother.

Although not in any sense a selfish politician or desirous of political preferment. Judge Tunnicllff was an inflexible Republican, having been prominent in the organization of that party, which rendered him signal honor on many important occasions. He was an alternate member of the National Convention at Chicago, which nominated Abraham Lincoln for President, in 1860. In 1868 his name appeared on the Grant Electoral ticket, and he participated in the nomination of President Hayes, at Cincinnati, in 1876. Judge Tunnicllff died, after a brief sickness, on December 20, 1901, at his home. No. 423 East Washington Street, Macomb, Ill.; and thus ended the career of one of the most sturdy and strenuous intellectual and moral characters which have illuminated the legal annals of Illinois. His mortal remains were committed to Oakwood Cemetery in the presence of a large concourse of sorrowing neighbors and associates, together with distinguished men gathered from all quarters of the State.

Source: The Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois and History of McDonough County, compiled by Dr. Newton Bateman, and Paul Shelby, 1907, volume 2, pages 1029-1030, extracted 07 Aug 2020 by Norma Hass.

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