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Judge William A. Carter

Judge William A. Carter was born on April 15, 1818, at Pittsylvania, Prince William County,Virginia, a son of Wormley and Lucinda (Washington) Carter, and the plantation of his birth had been for generations an ancestral heritage. The Carter family is one of the oldest and proudest on the roll of Virginia's earliest settlers, the first American ancestor, John Carter, the emigrant, coming to the colony in 1649 and acquiring landed possessions and making his residence at Corotoman in Lancaster county. He soon became a man of importance and wealth, and in that troublous period of the Old Dominion's history his record is that of loyalty, good judgment and conservative influence. His son, Col. Robert Carter, attained a higher position than his father and his wealth was far in excess of his father's fortune. In 1730 Lord Fairfax conveyed to him 63,000 acres of the great "northern neck" of Virginia, and a historian writes that "on this tract, around the present village of Millwood, settled numerous friends and relatives of the proprietor, bringing with them the traits of the lowlands." In this attractive country (one American writer called it "the New Arcady,") the Lowlanders located their families and servants; erected the "Old Chapel" church which still nestles under the lofty sycamores and here their descendants remain to this day. Before 1727 Col. Robert Carter, who had filled various important offices with dignity and capability, was advanced from the high position of "president of the council" to the highest office in the colony, that of governor, in which office he was succeeded by William Gooch. His name is perpetuated by numerous descendants, identified in a marked manner with various places of the state, as it has been conferred on mountains, rivers and other localities. At the time of his death he was considered the wealth-iest man of the state. Judge Carter was a direct descendant in the fifth generation from Col. Robert Carter, but was early left an orphan, his father dying when his son was but seven years of age and leaving a widow and five children. William remained near his birthplace until he was seventeen, waxing strong and vigorous amid the pleasant rural surroundings and in the beautiful country air, receiving the educa-tional advantages of the country schools. While yet a lad his heart was filled with thoughts of the future and the ambition to be a leader among men, and it was no wonder that his adventurous spirit caused him to enlist in the U. S. army for services against the. Seminole Indians at the above mentioned age. His manly bearing and strong personality impressed themselves upon his superiors and he was soon appointed sergeant in Co. A of the Second U. S. Dragoons. His term of service was faithfully served, and after his muster-out he had no difficulty in obtaining the appointment of sutler or posttrader at a number of the U. S. military posts in Florida. The official roster of the commissioned officers serving in the Seminole War contained some later prominent names, and during Mr. Carter's residence in that locality he formed strong friendships with the young officers who, later, in the Civil War, acquired distinction as Generals Harney, Ord and Sherman. The privations and sufferings they endured together in the Everglades tended to bind more closely the bonds of unity, it being particularly so in the case of Harney, and it is pleasing to note that that celebrated Indian fighter passed one of the last summers of his life at Judge Carter's home at Fort Bridger. In 1842, after recovering from a severe attack of yellow fever, he returned to Virginia and, in 1845, with his brothers, John and Richard, William A. Carter emigrated to Missouri, where he purchased a farm seven miles from Columbia in Boone county, and engaged in agriculture. Here he married on November 2, 1848, Miss Mary E. Hamilton, who had just come to Boone county from Virginia with her mother's family. Their acquaintance had existed since childhood and had ripened into love. The young couple resided on the homestead near Columbia for over two years. Mrs. Carter was a daughter of Robert and Ann F. (Carter) Hamilton, natives of Virginia and descendants of early English and Scotch emigrants of the Colonial days, while members of both branches of the ancestral line participated in the Revolution as ardent patriots. Her father was a son of John and Susannah (Beale) Hamilton. Judge and Mrs. Carter were parents of six children, of whom we here enter brief record, Ada, wife of Joseph K. Corson, a surgeon in the U. S. A.; Anne F., married J.Van A. Carter now deceased; Lulie L. married Maurice Groshon; William A., married Miss Kate Chase of Omaha. Neb., and lives in Denver, Colo.; Roberta H., wife of W. H. Camp of Alameda, Cal; Edgar N., superintendent of the U. S. fish commission, who married Miss Boydie Faulkner, daughter of Senator Faulkner of West Virginia, and maintains his home in St. Johnsbury, Vt. The glittering reports brought from California contrasted too strongly with the quiet pastoral life of Missouri and again the adventurous spirit was awakened in Mr. Carter. In April, 1850, leaving his wife to the care of relatives he started on the long and dangerous overland journey across the plains and mountains for the bewitching land of gold, and with him went his brother Richard and brother-in-law Richard Hamilton. A severe illness resulted in partial loss of sight caused his early return to Missouri. Wild and dangerous as was the trip to California, the return was far more difficult. The constant exposure to pestilential miasma’s and the sleepless vigilance required to circumvent the savage men and dangerous animals to be contended with in the intricate swamps of Nicaragua soon sapped the constitution of the returning miners, hundreds of whom there found their last resting place. His strong mind dominating all physical discomfort, Mr. Carter reached Cuba in August, 1851, immediately after the capture of the filibuster Lopez by the Spanish government. All arrivals in the island, especially of Americans, were considered those of filibuster tendencies, and Mr. Carter narrowly escaped confinement and death, but finally reached his home in Missouri, where for some years he conducted agricultural operations. When the military expedition against the Mormons in Utah was decided upon, General Harney offered Mr. Carter the post-tradership of one of the posts he, as commander of the department, was about to establish. Haney was soon succeeded by Gen. Albert S. Johnston, and under his administration Mr. Carter became post trader at Fort Bridger, Wyoming, his operations commencing, in the winter of 1857-8 in the camp established two miles above the place where the fort was to be erected. In 1858 the site of the fort was located and work begun on the buildings. The post store and trader's residence occupied a square adjoining the officers, and here was Judge Carter's home, which in time became known throughout a wide area as the center of bounteous hospitality. This title of "Judge" came to him from his appointment as U. S. commissioner, in which judicial capacity he had frequently to examine and often commit for trial by the Federal court at Salt Lake City, the lawless and dangerous men then frequenting this wild section. He was a firm and fearless official,never swerved from duty by threats or attempted intimidation. In August, 1861, the exigencies of the Civil War took away the garrison at Fort Bridger. Captain Clark of the quartermaster's department with one private was left in charge of the government property until the spring of 1862, when he too was ordered east. At his urgent request Judge Carter assumed the transportation of the government property to Denver. This undertaking required forty wagons and besides arming each driver a guard of twenty selected men accompanied the train. From Denver Judge Carter hastily returned to Fort Bridger where the departure of the troops had left no security for the safety of life or property. Bands of Indians were committing outrages and there was nothing to check their ravages. Millersville, the station cast of Fort Bridger, was burned, herds of horses were stolen and fears were entertained for the safety of the fort. To meet this emergency Judge Carter organized a company of sixty men from the settlers and employee of the Overland Stage Co. and himself, and purchasing arms for the outfit at his own expense he converted a portion of his store building into an armory and drill room and daily drills were initiated. Although having no governmental authority, the installation of this company maintained order and peace,and safely protected both private and public property until the arrival of a company of California volunteers in December, 1862, ended the necessity of its existence. General Conner, commander of this military department, under an erroneous impression reported to the War Department that judge Carter was actuated by selfish and mercenary ends in this matter, but on visiting the field was convinced that the action was a patriotic and praise worthy one, became one of the warmest friends of the Judge, and becoming convinced that the stories of Indian depredations sent him by Judge Carter did not magnify the danger, in the spring of 1863 organized an expedition to punish and conquer the savages. At this, time, and through the whole of the Civil War period, Judge Carter was in constant and dangerous activity. He was then a special agent of the U. S. P. 0. department for the inspection of the handling of the mails, his duties calling him frequently over the wild route of the Overland Stage Co., and sometimes to the Pacific coast. As the stages were not infrequently attacked by Indians, he had his share of excitement and often numerous escapes from death. But his cool and undaunted courage never faltered and not a duty was neglected and his entire course was heartily approved by his supporters. Foreseeing the departure of the troops Judge Carter had disposed of nearly all of his goods prior to that event, realizing that in such an emergency as then confronted him an intelligent business man should so arrange his property as to make it come under adequate protection, and had invested in other fields and enterprises. As early as March, 1867, he had begun to locate mining claims and was successful in obtaining valuable properties in the rich mineral region of South Pass, still keeping Fort Bridger as his home and base of operations. When peace was declared, immigration again commenced into the west, the various branches of industrial activity took on new life and in this progress and development, especially in the region around about Fort Bridger, Judge Carter was a forceful agent. On the discovery of gold at South Pass, he fitted out and equipped a number of prospecting parties; when oil was discovered in a spring in Uinta county not far from Fort Bridger he utilized this product, with a small still producing and refining enough oil for illuminating purposes at the fort before the advent of the Union Pacific Railroad. He was the first person to engage in the manufacture of lumber in Western Wyoming. He engaged extensively as a pioneer in cattle raising and was one of the earliest to note and take advantage of its wondrous possibilities. In many other and widely varying fields of commercial activity he demonstrated his faith in the capabilities and productiveness of his part of the western territory and success crowned his efforts in a high degree. His plans were far reaching, wise and sagacious. Although cool, careful and conservative, whenever his judgment approved a business venture he gave to it the whole force of his energetic nature and persistently carried it to a successful completion. He took a prominent part in the efforts made to organize the territory of Wyoming, and from his opportunities and the character of his extensive acquaintance, was largely responsible for its establishment. At that time his winters were passed in New York and Washington and his personal connection with prominent public men and statesmen stood in good stead in the carrying out of this wise design, which meant so much in advancing the progress of civilization in this land of his adoption. During the winter of 1867-8 he devoted his time and means freely to acquainting members of Congress with the true conditions of the land, and the rights of the people of Wyoming to a representation in the councils of the nation. His labor was successful and when the boundaries of the territory were established his efforts located its western line. He was so prominently connected with the formation of the territory that President Grant offered to commission him as its first governor, an exalted honor, which he declined, as the duties would deprive him too much of that domestic life that was to him the highest charm of existence. Although his successful business operations where extensive and multitudinous, they were so systematically arranged that during his later years he devoted himself largely to the enjoyment of the wealth his ability had produced. His greatest pleasure lay in lavishly entertaining the numerous friends with whom he was united as with bands of steel, and in his hospitable residence at Fort Bridger many of America's most prominent people have enjoyed the pleasant society of the judge and of his excellent wife, who ably seconded and aided her husband in his undertakings, dispensing a hospitality as bountiful as that of royalty. Among their friends and visitors were the distinguished scientists, Professors Leidy, Marsh and Cope, Generals Harney, Sherman, Ord and Cook, and the great railroad magnates and financiers, John W. and Robert Garrett of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, Jay Gould and Sidney Dillon. With such friends and companions life passed pleasantly and usefully until November 7, 1881, when in his sixty-third year, Judge Carter was called from earth to those activities that have no weariness and mourning rested upon all the people. Of southern birth Judge Carter deeply sympathized with the South in the troubles antedating and accompanying the War of Secession, but his hatred of Negro slavery and love of country united him with the most ardent supporters of the Union. Always in politics a strong supporter of the Republican party and deeply interested in public matters, yet his ardent love of domestic life caused him to decline all nominations to office or elective public trusts. His moral courage, tried in many occasions, was never found wanting. Neutrality was impossible to him, for he never shirked a duty or an issue. His latent resources under the stimuli of difficulty and opposition were always equal to the demands made upon him in meeting weighty responsibilities and bearing the heavy burdens involved. He possessed the fine feelings so characteristic of Virginia birth and breeding and was intensely loyal to his friends. As there is an inspiration to others in the achievements of such men, we gather this review of the salient points of the life of Judge Carter and lay it as an honorable record where its influence may descend with helpful strength to other generations. His memory will long he cherished and his life is a part of the history of the state.

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