Judge Phister Dead – Mason County Bar Loses a Prominent Member, and the City of Maysville a Distinguished Citizen

Elijah C. Phister, 1822-1887, Maysville Cemetery, Mason County, Kentucky.  ‘In loving memory of a noble, useful life.’

The Evening Bulletin, Maysville, Mason County, Kentucky

Monday, May 16, 1887

Judge Phister Dead

The Mason County Bar Loses a Prominent Member, and the City of Maysville a Distinguished Citizen

A Brief Biographical Sketch of the Deceased – Arrangements for the Funeral and Burial

Hon. E. C. Phister died at half-past 10 o’clock yesterday morning at the family residence on Third Street.  His critical condition had been known for some time to his family and his friends, but the announcement of his death was a sad surprise to many, owing to the fact that it had been reported in the past few days that there was a slight improvement in his symptoms and that he had been resting easier.  Judge Phister’s health had been failing for nearly a year.  His decline seems to have been gradual but steady from the time it was first noticed.  It was only, however, since the beginning of the year that he was compelled to give up his work, and remain away from his professional duties.  He was suffering from a complication of diseases, which baffled the skill of his physicians.  First there was a tumor of malignant character which was successfully removed.  A month or so afterwards one of his eyes became affected.  A visit to Cincinnati followed, and Drs. Ayers, Williams & Satler removed the affected member.  The operation was successful, and hopes were entertained that he would soon be restored to his wonted health.  After his return, however, he suffered greatly from a disease of the spine, and his physicians, both here and at Cincinnati, advised a trip to Hot Springs, believing that the waters of that famous health resort would prove beneficial to the Judge in his then condition and serve to tone up his shattered system.  The trip was made, and it was not until then that his friends and family became fully aware of his critical condition.

The trip was a trying one and the treatment did not serve to check the onward march of the disease.  The physician who was consulted at Hot Springs advised an immediate return home.  This was about two weeks ago.  He arrived here in critical condition, and his physicians realized that death was only a question of a few weeks, or a few months at most.  Medical skill could avail nothing, except to alleviate the Judge’s suffering in his last hours.  In the past few days he rested much easier than he had been doing for some time.  He grew weaker and weaker, however, until at last the hour named above, the slender thread of life was severed, and the spirit took its departure.

Judge Elijah Conner Phister was a native of this city.  He was born October 8, 1822.  His father, Conard M. Phister, was of German descent, and was a native of Philadelphia, removing from that city to Kentucky and settling here in Maysville in 1811.  The maiden name of Judge Phister’s mother was Mary Conner.  She was of Irish-English descent, and was a native of Maryland.  Her marriage to Conard M. Phister took place in Philadelphia.  Judge Phister was educated at the Maysville Seminary and the Augusta College.  He was a fellow student of General Grant at the Seminary, which, at that time, was in charge of Professors Rand and Richeson, the latter of whom is at present living in Chester, and who is one of the oldest and most distinguished educators of Kentucky.

Judge Phister graduated from the Augusta College in 1840, a few months before he was eighteen years of age.  He was the first Maysville pupil to graduate from that school.  He afterwards read law at Philadelphia under Hon. John Sergeant, who is described as ‘one of the ablest jurists and purest public men in the United States,’ and who was a candidate for Vice President in 1832 on the ticket with Henry Clay.  Returning to this city, Judge Phister studied with Payne & Waller, leading lawyers at the time, and was admitted to the bar June, 1844.  At the January election in 1847 he was elected Mayor of this city, and was re-elected the following year.  In 1856 he offered himself as a candidate for Circuit Judge, and in August that year he was elected, over Hon. W. H. Wadsworth.  In 1867, he was chosen as Representative from this county, to the Legislature, and was re-elected 1869.  In 1872, Governor Leslie appointed him one of the commissioners to revise the statues of Kentucky, but the honor was declined.  At the November election in 1878 he ran as the Democratic candidate for Congress, from this district, (then the Tenth) and was elected by 4,587 majority over three opponents.  He was re-elected in 1880, defeating Hon. George M. Thomas by over 1,000 majority.  His term in Congress closed his official career.  He did not seek office afterwards.  A few years ago he was solicited to become a candidate for Judge of the Court Appeals, but declined.  The fact that he was never defeated for an office is evidence of the esteem and confidence in which he was held by the people.  As a lawyer he was eminently successful, both in his civil and criminal practice.  Collins, in his history of Kentucky, (to which we are indebted for much that is here written), says: ‘Judge Phister followed his profession, the idol of his early love, with an inflexibility of purpose which seldom fails to be awarded the very highest positions in the judiciary.’  He was considered, by men prominent in the profession, as one of the ‘ablest, firmest and purest of Judges.’  ‘He was popular and successful as an advocate and public speaker,’ adds Collins, ‘always earnest and eloquent., frequently brilliant and sparkling.’  In a biography of prominent Kentuckians published by Robert Clarke & Co., of Cincinnati, a few years ago, the author described Judge Phister as a person of most energetic, active temperament, rapid and skillful in his decisions; hardly ever escaped a point of law; seemed always equal to any emergency, without exhausting his resources; a fine speaker; thoroughly devoted to his profession; had few equals on the bench, probably but few Judges having had a more satisfactory record or gained more admirers; his quick perception, urbanity and uncommon executive ability having rendered him exceedingly popular.’  The author alluded to accorded Judge Phister a front rank in his profession in this state.

On October 13, 1847, Judge Phister was united in marriage to Miss Jane A. Paddock, a daughter of Dr. Paddock, of this city.  His wife and five children survive him.  Of his children, Mrs. Anna C. Griffin lives in New York, and Mrs. Howell Finch in Texas.  Frank M., the youngest son, is engaged in the real estate business at Decatur, Alabama.  The eldest son, Thomas R., is a prominent young attorney of the Mason bar.  The youngest daughter, Miss Amy, lives in this city.  Judge Phister leaves three brothers – Charles and Dr. John P. Phister, of this city, and Jacob Phister, of Denver, Colorado – one sister – Mrs. Mary Ralston, wife of Rev. T. N. Ralston, of Newport – and two half-brothers, Conard M. Phister, of this city, and Chambers Phister, of Cincinnati.

Judge Phister was a member of DeKalb Lodge No. 12, I. O. O. F., and the burial will be made under the auspices of that order.  The funeral will take place tomorrow afternoon at 3 o’clock at the family residence, Rev. D. A. Beardsley, pastor of the M. E. Church, South, officiating, assisted by Rev. Russell Cecil, of the Central Presbyterian Church, after which the remains will be laid at rest in the cemetery.  Hon. W. H. Wadsworth, Judge Emery Whitaker, L. W. Robertson and George W. Adair, of the bar, and N. Cooper, T. J. Chenoweth, Richard Dawson and B. A. Wallingford, of DeKalb Lodge, I. O. O. F., have been selected as pall-bearers.

Jane A. Phister, 1830-1923.

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