On Aug. 14, 1841, Illinois Supreme Court Justice Samuel Treat was one of two men appointed by Governor Thomas Carlin to purchase books for the fledgling State Library. The appointment was a reflection of the Treat’s appreciation for books and a highlight in a lengthy career spent mainly in the law. 1
Treat was born in Plainfield, New York, on June 21, 1811, and farmed for most of his youth before undertaking the study of law. Admitted to the bar in 1834, he journeyed west in search of a suitable place to practice, making most of the trip on foot. He ended up in Springfield, Illinois, and quickly established a successful practice. By 1838, he had more cases on the circuit court docket than any other attorney. In 1837, he married Ann Bennett of Jacksonville, but the union bore no children. Treat also became a trustee of the town of Springfield, which had only been incorporated in 1832. In 1840, Springfield was organized as a city. 2
In 1839, Treat was appointed judge of the circuit court, but resigned that post on Feb. 15, 1841, when he was appointed justice of the Illinois Supreme Court. He remained on the court for 14 years, the last seven as chief justice. He resigned from the court in 1855 to accept an appointment by President Franklin Pierce to the bench of the district court for the newly created southern district of Illinois. 3
Described as tall and erect in appearance, well-mannered and unassuming in character, Treat owned one of the finest private libraries in the state. He also enjoyed the game of chess, often engaging in matches with Abraham Lincoln when their paths crossed on the law circuit. In 1858, he coauthored a two-volume work, The Statutes of Illinois. He remained as judge of the southern district until his death on March 27, 1887. With 48 years on the bench in various courts, he was the longest-tenured judge of any in the state. 4
- Letter of Thomas Carlin to Samuel Lockwood, August 14, 1841.
- Dictionary of American Biography XVIII-634; Moses I-431; Krause and Stowell 64.
- Dictionary of American Biography XVIII-634, Moses II-561, 1146-1147; Krause and Stowell 66.
- Dictionary of American Biography XVIII-634, Moses II-971.