Biography of Hon. Horace M. Hale of Central City, Colorado

Hon. Horace M. Hale, A. M., LL.D., superintendent of public instruction of Colorado 1873-77, and president of the Colorado State University at Boulder 1887-92, is one of the distinguished citizens of Denver and has taken a very active part in the promotion of movements for the advancement of the city and state. A resumé of his lineage and life will therefore he of especial interest to the readers of this volume. He is a descendant of Thomas Hale, an Englishman, who settled in Newbury, Mass, in 1635, and several succeeding generations of Hales were identified with the history of New England. His great-grandfather, Col. John Hale, M. D., was a surgeon on the staff of his brother-in-law, Colonel Prescott, during the Revolution, and he and his son, David, then a lad of sixteen were both present at the battle of Bunker Hill.

John Hale, our subject’s father, was born at Hollis, N. H., in 1800. He was a mechanic and being a man of great originality and fertile brain, he devoted much time to the invention of useful articles. Among his inventions were the essential features of the present planing machine, one of the earliest power threshing machines, one of the first machines for manufacturing barrels, and an improvement in the tread horse power. In 1837 he removed to Rome, Oneida County, N.Y., where he engaged in manufacturing his threshers and horse powers, but after three years he removed his business to North Bloomfield, Ontario County, N. Y., and added to it the manufacture of agricultural implements. In 1849 he crossed the plains to California, the trip, which was made with his mule team, taking about six months. Arriving at his destination he engaged in prospecting and mining on Feather River, also manufactured mining rockers and became interested in a scheme for draining Feather River, but this proved a failure. He returned east with health much impaired by the hardships of western life, and died in April, 1852. Politically he was a Whig and in religion a member of the Baptist Church.

The mother of our subject, whose maiden name was Jane Morrison, was born in Peterboro, N. H., in 1801, and died in Rochester, N. Y., in 1865. The Morrison family came from Scotland to New Hampshire. John, who was born in Aberdeen, probably in 1628, was of Protestant faith and on account of religious persecution went to the north of Ireland, being in the city of Londonderry before and during its siege. About 1720 he joined his sons in New Hampshire, where he died in 1736, aged one hundred and eight years. His son, John, was born in Ireland in 1678, married Margaret Wallace there, settled in Londonderry, N. H., in 1719, being one of the first sixteen settlers there, and in 1750-51 became one of the first settlers of Peterboro, where he died June 14, 1776. Capt. Thomas, son of John Morrison, was born in Ireland in 1710, came to America with his parents in childhood, and served as captain of a company during the early Indian wars. By his marriage to Mary Smith he had a son, John, who was born in Londonderry, N. H., but spent his life principally in Peterboro. His daughter Jane (Mrs. John Hale) had six children that attained maturity, one, Mary Jane, having died in infancy. They are: Charles G., who has been master mechanic for forty years with the New York Central road at Rochester and Buffalo, N. Y.; John Albert, a mine operator, residing in Denver; Benjamin Franklin, a photographer of Rochester; Horace Morrison, our subject; Ellen Amelia, Mrs. Rand, of Bellefontaine, Ohio; and Henry William, a miner and mechanic, residing in Denver. The combined ages of the brothers and sister, at this time (1898) is three hundred and ninety-six years.

The subject of this sketch was born in Hollis, N. H., March 6, 1833, and was in his eighth year when the family removed to Bloomfield. His school advantages were limited to about three months attendance in a public school during the winter. He early began to work in his father’s foundry, machine and woodwork shops, learning every department. Soon after his father’s death the business was discontinued. Meanwhile, having gained a fair common-school education, he began to teach in the winter of 1852, having charge of a three months’ country school in Mendon, N. Y., where he “boarded round” and was given $14 a mouth. In the spring of 1853 he entered Genesee Wesleyan Seminary at Lima, N. Y., and in the fall of the same year took a school in Victor, Ontario County, where he boarded among the pupils and was given $18 a month. Returning to Lima in the spring of 1854, he entered the sophomore class in Genesee College, helping to pay his way by working during the summer vacation at carpentry and harvesting. In the winter of 1854-55 he taught at Fisher’s Station, Ontario County, resuming collegiate work in the spring, and teaching in West Bloomfield union school as principal the following winter. At the close of his junior year he left Genesee to enter Union College at Schenectady, N. Y., from which he graduated in 1856 with the degree of A. B.

Later he was again principal at West Bloomfield. When he entered the seminary at Lima he had only $42, the proceeds of his three months’ teaching. When he graduated from Union he had $230 and owed no debts.

In the spring of 1858 he went to Nashville, Tenn., where he was principal of the primary department in the public schools that had been established the previous year. After one year he was made principal of a school of four rooms and the next year was given the principalship of the Howard school, one of the largest in the city. When the Civil war broke out, he being a Union man was warned to leave and the house and lot and other real estate he had bought were confiscated, but he finished the school year, which ended with June, before leaving the city.

While in Nashville, in 1859, Mr. Hale married Miss Martha Eliza Huntington, a teacher in the schools there, a native of Barry, Vt., and his schoolmate of former years. Her father, Leonard Huntington, was a member of an old family of New England and was a carriage and wagon maker in Bloomfield, N. Y. The morning after the close of his school, in June, 1861, Mr. Hale started north, going first to Bloomfield, and later to Detroit, Mich., where he studied law in C. I. Walker’s law office and, at the same time, taught in an evening school and in a German-English school there. Soon after the close of the war he recovered his property in Nashville. In 1862 he was admitted to the bar in Michigan, but his health having become seriously impaired and suffering greatly with bronchitis, he deemed it imprudent at that time to begin practice. His brother Albert, from Colorado, was just then visiting in the east and on his return Horace accompanied him, driving from Atchison, Kan., to Denver in a buggy, and spending seventeen days on the trip. He went from Denver to Central City, where he arrived in October, 1863, and for a short time he was in H. M. Teller’s law office, but the confinement being injurious, he turned his attention to outdoor business, such as mining and freighting between Denver and the mountains.

In 1864 he formed one of a cavalry company of home guards organized under Capt. Sam Browne for the purpose of defense against an anticipated attack by Indians. Each man furnished his own horse and equipments; the territory supplied rations, the company served but two weeks. In 1865 he went east for his wife and child, whom he had left in Bloomfield when starting for Colorado. He crossed the plains on this trip, both ways with a mule team, the westward journey covering forty-two days’ time from St. Joseph, Mo, to Central City. This was during Indian troubles, and emigrants had to travel in large companies, hence slowly.

In 1868 he accepted the principalship of the Central City public schools, where he remained until 1873 and then resigned to take the office of territorial superintendent of public instruction to which he had been appointed by Governor Elbert to fill a vacancy. In 1874 he was again appointed by Governor Elbert, for a full term (two years), and was reappointed by Governor Routt. When Colorado was admitted to the Union, August 1, 1876, he was filling this office, and by provision of the statute he retained it until January 1, 1877, thus making him the last territorial and the first state superintendent of public instruction. Returning to Central City, he resumed his work as principal, and remained in the position for ten years, meanwhile serving as mayor of the city in 1882 and 1883, and also as county superintendent of schools for Gilpin County. In 1878 he was elected, on the Republican ticket, regent of the State University for a term of six years. He was therefore at one and the same time principal of the schools, county superintendent, mayor of the city and state regent. In 1887 he resigned as principal in Central City to accept the presidency of the Colorado State University at Boulder, which was tendered him, unsolicited, by the board of regents. This position he ably filled for four and one-half years, returning to Denver in January, 1892. While president of the university the honorary degree of LL. D. was conferred upon him by Iowa Wesleyan University. Several buildings were added to the university during his incumbency, among them the Hale Scientific building, named in his honor after his resignation had been tendered. Thus, after forty years of almost continuous service in educational work, he retired from active duty.

While superintendent of public instruction, Mr. Hale organized the State Teachers’ Association, of which he was the first president in 1875, and again president in 1883. He is a member of the National Educational Association and has been a frequent and valued contributor to educational journals of the country. While in Central City he was president of the Mining Exchange, and in 1894-95 was president of the Charity Organization Society of Denver. In the Knights of Honor he is grand chaplain of the grand lodge. In former years he was a Republican, but since 1894 has been independent in his political views. During all the years of his connection with the history of Colorado he has been interested in its growth and active in furthering its development and he has contributed his quota to the advancement of its influence and resources.

The only son of our subject is Gen. Irving Hale, who was born in North Bloomfield, N. Y., August 28, 1861, came with his parents to Colorado in 1865, and lived in Central City until 1873, when he came to Denver. He graduated from the East Denver high school in 1877, at the head of its first graduating class, and then went back to Central City, where he remained until 1880. The next four years were spent at West Point Military Academy, where he graduated in 1884, with the highest honors ever attained there by any graduate. In 1887 he married Miss Mary King, daughter of Col. W. R. King, of the United States engineering corps. They have four children, William King, John Huntington, Dorothy and Marjory. He resigned from the army in 1889. In the war with Spain (1898) he was commissioned colonel of the first regiment of the Colorado National Guard and with his command, volunteered for two years’ service in the United States army, and left Denver for the Philippine Islands May 17, 1898.


Source: Portrait and biographical record of Denver and vicinity, Colorado : containing portraits and biographies of many well known citizens of the past and present : together with biographies and portraits of all the presidents of the United States.. Chicago: Chapman Pub. Co., 1898.


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