(This is one of several articles about historical figures in Lincoln County. They were prepared by Dr. B. B. Chapman, history professor at Oklahoma State University, under the auspices of the Research Foundation of OSU and with assistance of state history students. Dr. Chapman will speak at a meeting of the Lincoln County Historical Society in Chandler on May 8[, 1964].)

Originally printed in the Chandler News, April 30, 1964.


By Dr. B. B. Chapman
Oklahoma State University

Chandler, county seat of Lincoln County, perpetuates the memory of George Chandler, who was serving as First Assistant Secretary of the Interior when the townsite was established in 1891. Chandler served during the administration of President Benjamin Harrison, 1889-1893. The Secretary of the Interior was Gen. John W. Noble of Missouri.

During these four years, three areas of Oklahoma were opened to settlers by land runs. Contested cases appealed from local land offices and from the Commissioner of the General Land Office, often were submitted to Chandler for adjudication. His salary was $4,500 per year. Legal training and six years on the bench of a federal court in Kansas, prepared him for the position.

Chandler was born at Hermitage, Wyoming County, N. Y., on September 20, 1842. When he was six years old the family moved to Monroe, Wisc., where he lived until the age of twelve. He then went to Shirland, Ill., and worked six years on a farm.

He entered Beloit College in Wisconsin in 1860. In 1863 he enroled in the law school of the University of Michigan, and was graduated in 1866. The same year he was admitted to practice by the supreme court at Detroit. Soon thereafter he went into the law office of Conger and Hawes at Janesville, Wisc., and began the practice of law.

In 1872 Chandler located at Independence, Montgomery County, Kans., and continued the practice of law. There he was associated with George R. Peck formerly of Janesville. These "bright and brainy young lawyers" were known as the firm of Peck and Chandler.

In 1874 Peck became U. S. Attorney for the District of Kansas, and the partnership was dissolved. Chandler then became associated with his younger brother, Joseph, under the name and style of George and Joseph Chandler. The partnership lasted until 1883. George then was appointed Judge of the Eleventh Judicial District, which position he held until he joined the Interior Department in 1889.

As a lawyer and judge, Chandler was "distinguished by an unselfish devotion to duty, great energy and industry and signal ability." In the Interior Department he served "with distinction." Chandler was known best in his home county of Montgomery, Kansas. His biography is in the "History of Montgomery County," by L. Wallace Duncan, published in 1903. A copy of the biography was donated recently to Lincoln County Historical Society and to the Chandler Public Library. It says of Chandler:

"He was an imposing figure. Nature had moulded for him a massive frame, symmetrically constructed, and fully six feet tall, or more, with broad shoulders, and had given him a lofty yet somewhat awkward carriage. It had also furnished him a very large and perfectly formed head and strongly, carved features that at once marked him as a man of extraordinary physical and mental powers.

"With all her lavish gifts, nature had imposed upon him some faults that detracted from that success which might have been his in the practice, and shaded his career on the bench, where he displayed great ability.

"During his thirteen years of active practice at Independence, his exceedingly sensitive nature, impetuous disposition and untutored temper, often made him unpleasant to opposing counsel, and, at times, disagreeable to his own clients, whom he sometimes severely lectured for getting into the trouble he was employed to extricate them from. The high esteem in which he was held by members of the bar and the implicit confidence his clients had in him - together with his undoubted sincerity and intense devotion to the interests of those whom he served - furnished ample reasons in court, bar and clients, to overlook these faults.

"Judge Chandler never entertained a very exalted opinion of the ability of a jury to settle 'as of right it ought to be settled' complicated questions between litigant parties, and for that reason had a pitiable dread of entering upon the trial of a hotly contested case to a jury - he always made every case he tried a 'hotly contested' one.

"During any term of court at which he had cases involving earnestly disputed questions of fact, he would dismiss, for the time being, the hilarious and rollicking ways with which he was accustomed to regale his many friends during vacation, and clothe himself in an armor of impatience, petulence and irascibility and enter the struggle and fight the battle or battles with all the vehemence of a nature 'filled to the brim' with courage, industry, energy, aggressiveness and unusual ability.

The historian has not yet learned how Chandler spent his late years, nor the location of his last resting place. In 1903 he was Practicing law in Washington, D. C., and was "kindly remembered by his old friends of the Montgomery County bar."

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