George A. Hinsdale (1826-1874)

 

George Aaron Hinsdale Sr. was born December 21, 1826 in Hinesburg, Vermont. He was the 8th child of 12 (5 girls and 7 boys) born to Mitchell Hinsdale, a lawyer, and Dorothy "Dolly" Weed Hinsdale.  He passed away in Pueblo, Colorado on January 15, 1874, the day before his son, George Aaron Hinsdale Jr. was born. 

In 1833, when George Sr. was 7 years of age,  the Mitchell Hinsdale family moved to Michigan. He attended the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor and graduated from the classical course in 1849.  George studied law and worked in his father's law office for several years and became interested in civil engineering.

He was in charge of the works of the Cannel Coal Mining Company on the Ohio River near Hawsville, Kentucky when he met Josephine Murray Sebastian of Kentucky and they married in 1856.

In 1858, Hinsdale moved to Dakota, Nebraska and established a law practice. In 1859, he was elected to the Nebraska Legislature from the Dakota District. Troubled by asthma in 1860, he assembled his belongings, wife and infant son Charles in an ox-drawn cart and joined the Colorado Gold Rush where he mined in the California Gulch (Leadville) area.

In the fall of 1860 he went to the town of Canon City which was being laid out for wintering miners. There he built one of the first dwellings and framed a Code of Laws and organized the first people's court. In 1863 he relocated to Pueblo and joined the twelve other families that had established here.

In 1864 he moved to the town of San Luis in Costilla County where he learned the Spanish language and became familiar with their customs. In 1865 he moved back to Pueblo and practiced law until his death.

Hinsdale held many volunteer and elected positions of trust that helped form Pueblo and Southern Colorado. Member of the first Board of Trustees for the Town of Pueblo; President of the School Board (Pueblo District #1); County Attorney; President of the Public Library Association; one of the founders and Trustee Of Pueblo's first church (St. Peter's Episcopal), leadership of the Democratic Party, etc.

At the election upon the adoption of the State Constitution in 1865, Hinsdale was elected to the office of Lieutenant Governor of the Territory, the only Democrat elected on the State ticket.  It is interesting to note that Hinsdale County is predominately Republican today. 

As Lieutenant Governor he presided over the December 1865 Joint Session of the State Legislature in Denver which elected John Evans and J. B. Chaffee as U. S. Senators under the Enabling Act. Evans and Chaffee were approved by the U. S. Congress but vetoed by President Johnson.

In 1868, Hinsdale was elected a member of the Territorial Council and during the 1870 Session was chosen President of that body.

In June 1868, Southern Colorado's first newspaper, the "Colorado Chieftain" was established. George Hinsdale and Wilbur F. Stone served as editors. Later Stone was to serve as Chief Justice of the Colorado Supreme Court. In 1871 Hinsdale and others organized the Pueblo Printing Company to publish "The People" aka "Pueblo's People" newspaper with Hinsdale serving as the editor until 1874.

Hinsdale became ill after the 1873 County Court Session and died two weeks later. An excerpt from his obituary demonstrated the esteem and respect citizens of Pueblo and Southern Colorado had for Hinsdale. "The Cornet Band played and every vehicle in town was in the one half mile funeral procession. Many walked (two miles) to the burial site representing all ranks of society-from the rich banker who trusted his integrity to the ragged Mexican "paissanos" for whom he was a benefactor and friend".

In 1874, when portions of Conejos, Costilla, and Lake counties were combined to form a new county, the Colorado Legislature named it Hinsdale County in his honor. In 1883, Pueblo, School District #1 built an Elementary School at Seventh and Grand and named it in his honor. His daughter Genevieve was teaching there in 1885. 

Because of his status, Hinsdale's grave in the Masonic Cemetery was probably marked even though no record of such exists. His wife Josephine and children, Charles, Genevieve, and George had moved from Pueblo to Oregon by 1892. 

In 1922, the Masonic Lodge had the remains of Hinsdale and six other persons disinterred from the Masonic Cemetery and moved to Roselawn Cemetery Block 13, Lot 438. Hinsdale's remains were buried in space #4 on November 4, 1922 and recorded as burial #17359. His grave at Roselawn was not marked until funds were raised by the Pueblo County Historical Society in 1998, including a contribution from Hinsdale County, to erect an appropriate headstone.

Additional information and two images of Hinsdale can be found in the files of the Pueblo County Historical Society and Special Collections Department of the McClelland Public Library. 

Information courtesy of the Pueblo County Historical Society.