This distinguished lawyer, business man, legislator and publicist, who is now (1904) a resident of Glenwood Springs, and forty-six years of age, has passed just half his life in Colorado, and has had among her people a career which is an impressive lesson and an inspiration. He was born on a farm near Metamora in Woodford county, Illinois, on June 19, 1858, and there he acquired habits of useful industry along with independence of spirit and self-reliance. His father, Hon. Henry R. Taylor, a native of England, was brought by his parents in his infancy to Morgan county, Illinois, and was reared to manhood on a farm near Jacksonville, that county. In 1857 he was married to Miss Anna M. Evans, who was born in Indiana. At the beginning of the Civil war he enlisted in the Fifty-first Illinois Infantry, and in that command he served to the close of the momentous conflict, seeing much active service and facing death on many a hard-fought field, but escaping without wounds, capture or other disaster. After the war he passed the remainder of his life as a prominent and well-to-do farmer, living as such for a number of years in Illinois and afterward in western Kansas. In the latter state he served frequently in the legislature and held other important public offices. He died in 1888, and four years later his widow passed away, leaving two sons and three daughters. The sons, Hon. Edward T. and Charles W. Taylor, are associated in the practice of law at Glenwood Springs; and the three daughters, who are all married, live at Kansas City, Missouri.
The immediate subject of this brief memoir passed his boyhood and youth on his father’s farm in Illinois and stock ranch in Kansas, and was a cowboy for a number of years. His academic education was obtained in the public schools of his native county and at the Leavenworth (Kansas) high school, he being graduated from the latter with honor in 1881. After his graduation he at once came to Colorado and located at Leadvilie, where during the school year of 1881-2 he was principal of the high school. Resigning this position in the fall of 1882, he entered the law department of the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. In the university he was president of his class; took a special course in the literary department; passed a year as a student in Judge Cooley’s private office; belonged to the Phi Delta Phi college fraternity; and was a roommate of the late Governor Richard Yates of Illinois, in the class with whom he was graduated in 1884, with the degree of Bachelor of Laws. Immediately thereafter he returned to Leadville and entered the law office of his uncle, Hon. Joseph W. Taylor, with whom he was actively associated in the practice of his profession for a period of two years. Owing to ill health from overwork at college, he was obliged to seek a lower altitude and in the spring of 1886 moved to Aspen. There he practiced during the remainder of that year, and being then required by his physician to seek a still lower altitude, he located in February, 1887, at Glenwood Springs, where he has ever since lived.
Giving his attention wholly to his profession, by his characteristic energy, legal ability and devotion to his business, he has built up a very large and remunerative practice throughout the northwestern part of the state. He has had many cases of commanding importance, and in the trial of them all has attracted the attention of both his professional brethren and the laity by his comprehensive and accurate knowledge of the law, in statutes and decisions, his readiness and resourcefulness in legal expedients, and his eloquence and logical power before courts and juries. Meanwhile he has used his business opportunities with vigor and good judgment, and has acquired a considerable body of valuable real estate besides his residence, which is one of the finest in western Colorado.
From 1887 to 1889 Mr. Taylor was the referee of the district court that adjudicated all the water rights in the Roaring Fork, Grand and White river countries, and his decrees have been followed by all other referees in the northwestern section of the state. He personally took the evidence and prepared the decrees in more than a thousand acres, and in none was he ever reversed by the appellate court. He is therefore referred to generally as “The Father of the Water Rights on the Western Slope,” and is everywhere recognized as one of the ablest and best informed irrigation lawyers in Colorado. For various magazines and other publications he has written numerous articles on irrigation, good roads, needed legislation and other subjects of current interest, one of the most important being his address before the Colorado Bar Association in 1902 on “The Torrens System of Registering Title to Land.” In the thirteenth general assembly he was the author of senate joint resolution No. 7, directing the governor and attorney general to retain sufficient counsel and go to whatever expense might be necessary, without limit, to protect the rights of Colorado in the litigation with the state of Kansas over the use of the waters of the Arkansas river. That was the initiation of Colorado’s defense in this memorable litigation and is fraught with vast and vital importance to the state. Taking always and in every way a lively, earnest and intelligent interest in public affairs, Senator Taylor has held many important positions and has rilled them all with credit to himself and advantage to the people. In the fall of 1884 he was chosen as the candidate of all political parties county superintendent of schools for Lake county, and he held the position until he left Leadville. He was also appointed deputy district attorney for that county and served as such until his removal to Aspen. In the fall of 1887 he was elected district attorney for the ninth judicial district, embracing Pitkin, Garfield, Routt and Rio Blanco counties, and he held the position for a full term. In 1896 he was chosen state senator for the twenty-first senatorial district, comprised of Garfield and Eagle counties, and in 1900 he was reelected by an overwhelming majority. In 1901 Rio Blanco county was added to the twenty-first district. In 1904 he was renominated and made the race against desperate odds. It was positively asserted and generally believed that there was fully twenty thousand dollars expended by the smelter trust and other corporations to defeat him, but he was again reelected, carrying all three counties by handsome majorities, when each of the counties gave Roosevelt large majorities, and he is at the time of this writing just entering upon his third four-year term in the state senate. In the meantime he has served five terms as city attorney of Glenwood Springs. In 1901 and 1902 he was also county attorney of Garfield county, and during the latter year was president of the State Association of County Attorneys. He is a charter member of the Colorado Bar Association, and was its vice-president during the year 1902-3. In politics Senator Taylor was originally a Republican, but he renounced his allegiance to the party in 1896 on account of its financial position, and since then he has been actively aligned with the Democrats. In their organization he has been for the past two years chairman of the county central committee for Garfield county and that county’s member of the state central committee. In fraternal life he is an enthusiastic Freemason, being a Knight Templar and a Noble of the Mystic Shrine, and is also a member of the order of Elks. He was married in 1892, his wife being formerly Miss Etta Taber, of Council Bluffs, Iowa, a native of the state of New York and who was reared and educated at Council Bluffs and graduated from the high school of that city. Two children have blessed their union and brightened their household, Edward T., Jr., aged ten, and Etta T., aged four. In the eleventh and twelfth general assemblies of the state the Senator was chairman of the senate judiciary committee. In the thirteenth he was chairman of the reapportionment committee, and in the fourteenth chairman of the revision committee. In each assembly he was also a member of the finance and other important committees. At the close of the thirteenth he was elected president pro tempore of the senate, holding the position from April 1, 1901, to January 7, 1903, and in that capacity presided over the senate during the extra session of the thirteenth assembly in the absence of the president. During Governor Orman’s extended trip east in the summer of 1902, Lieutenant Governor Coates filled the executive chair and Senator Taylor acted as lieutenant governor. The Senator has probably been the author of more important bills than any other member of the legislature of Colorado during its entire history as a state, some thirty laws bearing his name being now on the statute books. The most important of these are the constitutional amendment passed at the election of 1900, allowing six amendments to be submitted at any one election; the bill appropriating forty thousand dollars for the construction of the Taylor state wagon road from Denver to Grand Junction over Tennessee Pass and through the famous scenic canyon of the Grand river, which is one of the most picturesque highways in the world as well as the first practical wagon road across the state, and which the Senator hopes to make the Colorado division of the proposed national boulevard across the continent; the law abolishing double trials in mining and alt ejectment suits, which saves a vast amount of litigation and expense to litigants; the law of 1897 from which the state derives a large increase of fees from corporations; the law permitting counties to refund their indebtedness; the surety company law; several stock and four of the most important irrigation laws in the Colorado statutes, and many measures simplifying the practice in the courts and promoting general public economy throughout the state. His most important measures in the thirteenth general assembly of 1901 were his constitutional amendments consolidating county, district and state elections, and providing that there shall be only one general election every two years in the state, thereby saving to the taxpayers a quarter of a million dollars every alternate year, and being of vast benefit in other ways. These amendments, known as the ”Taylor biennial election bills,” are universally commended as among the most far-reaching, statesmanlike and un-qualifiedly beneficial legislative measures ever enacted by the state legislature, and will not only forever redound to the Senator’s credit, but have rendered it impossible to ever write the political history of the state with his name left out. In all his public acts he has been the friend of the farming and laboring classes, but he has in a special way befriended the printers and publishers also. The press of the state had for years appealed to the legislature for recognition without avail. In the thirteenth general assembly Senator Taylor took up their cause as almost their only champion and forced through the session the remedial legislation they sought. earning thereby and securing the lasting gratitude of the entire newspaper fraternity. In the fourteenth assembly (1903) he was the author of the constitutional amendment abolishing the court of appeals and increasing the supreme court to seven judges, and fixing the term of office for them at ten years; the act governing the dissolution and renewal of certificates of incorporation of both domestic and foreign corporations, and regulating the fees therefor; the act establishing the present legal holidays in Colorado and making for the first time the birthday of Abraham Lincoln one of them; the irrigation law creating the office of superintendent of irrigation and specifying its duties and fixing the scope of its authority; the law providing for the records, maps and statements that must be made in reference to all ditches and reservoirs in the state; and, more important than many others, the act providing for the adjudication of all rights to water for domestic and other beneficial purposes. But his most important legislative service to the commonwealth and its people, aside from the constitutional amendments of which he was the author, was his securing the passage of the present law concerning land titles, which established in Colorado the “Torrens system of registering titles to land.” This is probably the most beneficial and far-reaching act that was ever passed by the state legislature. Senator Taylor made an exhaustive study of the subject in all its bearings, and he is wholly entitled to the credit for the introduction and enactment of the law. Senator Taylor is one of the best equipped men in the state for legislative work, and seems to have a large and special natural fitness for it. He has remarkable industry, a thorough knowledge of the state’s laws, its financial conditions and essential requirements, and great vigilance in looking after the general welfare and the special interests of his constituents. He has been and will continue to be of inestimable value in service to the entire state. He approaches the discussion of every public question with full knowledge of his subject and presents it with an eloquence and logical force that carry conviction to the most skeptical. As an occasional speaker he is eloquent, fervid and profound, and is in great demand for addresses at Fourth of July, Decoration Day and other public celebrations, and in political campaigns. But in the senate he seldom makes a long or formal speech. In fact, it has been said of him that he talks less and works more than any other lawyer in the body. His activity, learning, breadth of view and lofty patriotism have attracted universal attention throughout the state and led to extensive favorable mention of him as a probable nominee for the office of governor and membership in the national congress. With youth, vigor and energy on his side, with a wide and elevated reputation in the commonwealth for ability, integrity and sterling manhood, and with a laudable ambition to serve as well as he can in his day the people among whom he has cast his lot, there can be no doubt of the bright future and higher honors that are before him.
Partial Bibliography for Edward Thomas Taylor:
- Remarks of Hon. Edward T. Taylor of Colorado in the House of Representatives, December 9, 1911, including speech of Governor John F. Shafroth of Colorado on conservation of our national resources. Washington, D.C. : Government Printing Office, 1911. 14 pp.
- The Torrens System of Registering Title to Land, by Edward Thomas Taylor. 1902.
- The Colorado Land Title Law: With Explanatory Comments, by the state of Colorado and Edward Thomas Taylor. Volume 37 of Law pamphlets. Out West Printing and Stationery Company, 1903.
Source: Bowen, A. W. Progressive Men of Western Colorado. Chicago: A. W. Bowen & Co., Publishers. 1905.