Hartwell, DeWitt T. 1879-1933

DeWitt Talmage Hartwell is descended from a long and distinguished citizenship of Williamson County, where his family forms a thread of the pioneer fabric of Southern Illinois. He was born at Marion, Illinois, July 8, 1879, graduated from the High School in the class of 1896 and here was reared to maturity and educated.

He is a son of Cora (Simmons) Hartwell and Lorenzo Dow Hartwell , lawyer, ex-public official and a member of an illustrious family of Union soldiers who served in the Civil war.

DeWitt T. Hartwell received his preliminary educational training in the Marion high school class of 1896 and subsequently he attended the Northern Indiana Normal College, at Valparaiso for the years 1896 and 1897.  

In December, 1899, he took the Federal examination at St. Louis for a first-class clerkship and secured the best record made at that time. Soon after, he received an appointment in the Census Bureau at Washington D. C. by the Hon. Geo. W. Smith.

While there he attended the Columbian University Law School at Washington, D. C. where he received instruction under the illustrious Judges John M. Harlan, David J. Brewer and Willis Vandeventer, of the United States Supreme court. He was graduated in that excellent institution as a member of the class of 1902, the fifth in a class of 112.  In October of the same year he passed the bar examination at Springfield, Illinois and out of fourteen applicants in Southern Illinois was the only one who passed.

After leaving school he studied law with Attorney George R. Stone in the law office of his father Lorenzo Dow Hartwell for two years, meanwhile establishing an insurance agency. He then practiced in all the courts of this state and in the federal courts.

In April 1903 he was elected as City Attorney for the City of Marion, Illinois.

His first case was one which affected the whole community in which he lived. This was the notorious trial of Jerry Graves and Cal Price for the murder of Nellie Reichelderfer at Herrin, March 16, 1903. His father was state’s attorney at the time and Dewitt assisted in the case.

After practicing law alone for a number of years Mr. Hartwell entered into a partnership alliance with R. R. Fowler. The firm was known as that of Fowler & Hartwell.

After Mr. Fowler’s election as state’s attorney, Mr. Hartwell formed a partnership with George B. White, under the title of Hartwell & White, an exceedingly well known law firm at the present time, in 1911.

As a Republican Mr. Hartwell was chosen city attorney, serving in that capacity for two terms, during which time he made a legal campaign against gambling and, with the loyal aid of Mayor Charles H. Denison, succeeded in ridding Marion of that vice and its abettors.

In 1908 he was further honored by his fellow citizens in that he was then elected State’s Attorney for Williamson County to succeed his former partner, R. R. Fowler, in the office.

Mr. Hartwell was a director in the Marion State Savings Bank and his firm was counsel for the Illinois Central Railroad Company and holds a conspicuous place upon the docket of all the courts of the county.

In 1915 he was elected as Circuit Judge of Williamson County for this judicial district.

Judge Hartwell was married to Miss Frances Freeman of Danville, Illinois, November 4, 1914.

In the book Williamson County in the World War published in 1918 it is quoted, “The best known man in Williamson County is Judge Hartwell, and while he has been a member of the circuit bench now for a number of years, nearly everybody says in speaking of him, Dee, and not Judge Hartwell.

Someone has said that no man is a real celebrity until the public forgets his given name and calls him only by his surname. This rule misses out completely in politics. So it is Judge Hartwell when strangers speak of him or when he is being referred to at the bar, but to the man on the street, in the mines and on the farm, just Dee is sufficient, for everyone knows that means Judge Dee T. Hartwell.

This at once asserts the popular esteem he is held in everywhere in the county of his birth and rearing, as well as the nearby counties of this judicial district.”

In the same year, 1918, DeWitt registered with the draft. His records indicate he is married to Frances Freeman Hartwell. He has a slender build, medium height, blue eyes and light hair. No address is given.

In the 1920 census, he and Frances are renting living quarters at 512 S. Market and he is a circuit judge. There are no children.

In August 1922 and early 1923 Hartwell served as judge in the Herrin Massacre trials with Delos Duty serving as State’s Attorney.

A listing found in the 1927 Marion directory indicates he has a law office in Room 19 at the Marion State and Savings Bank and his residence is at 301 S. Market St.

By 1928, his offices were changed to Rooms 30 and 31 where he was sharing space with another attorney by the name of John Hay. This same year, he couple purchased a permanent home at 515 E. Everett Street.

The home purchase is confirmed in the 1930 census where he claims his home is owned and places a value of $7,500 on it. He lists circuit judge as his occupation. He is 49 and Frances is 43.

DeWitt passes away in 1933 and is buried at Rose Hill Cemetery at the age of 54.

In his fraternal connections he was a Scottish Rite Mason, a Knight of Pythias, a Marion Elk and a Modern Woodman.

After his death, his wife Frances married the lawyer who shared office space with her husband, John Hay. The couple continued living in the same home at 515 E. Everett St.

Her second husband, John Hay, passed away in 1967 and Frances continued to live to the age of 94, dying on April 26, 1981. All are buried at Rose Hill Cemetery.

Sam’s Notes: No Children were ever visible in any census records.

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(Data from 1905 Souvenir History, WCHS; Williamson County in the World War, WCHS; Federal Census Records; Marion City Cemetery Records; Marion City Directories; Compiled by Sam Lattuca on 04/05/2013)

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