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Blaisdell, Jr., Elijah W.

Born: 1826-07-18 Montpelier, Vermont

Died: 1901-01-15 Rockford, Illinois

Flourished: Rockford, Illinois

Elijah W. Blaisdell, Jr. was a lawyer, newspaper editor, state legislator, author, and poet. Blaisdell spent his early years at the family home in his native Montpelier. In 1837, he moved with his parents to Middlebury, Vermont. Blaisdell attended district schools in Middlebury and later, when his father, who was a printer, moved the family to Vergennes, Blaisdell attended a classical school in that town. After completing school, Blaisdell joined his father’s printing office. Blaisdell subsequently succeeded his father as editor and publisher of the Vergennes Vermonter. In May 1849, President Zachary Taylor appointed Blaisdell postmaster of Vergennes, a post he held until May 1853. Upon retiring from the post office, Blaisdell emigrated west to Illinois, settling in Rockford. He became a dealer in real estate, amassing a large fortune. In December 1854, he purchased the Rockford Forum, renaming it the Rockford Republican. Upon assuming the editor’s chair, Blaisdell plunged into anti-slavery politics. In February 1856, he was one of twelve anti-Nebraska editors who met in Decatur, Illinois, for a convention--a meeting preliminary to the Anti-Nebraska Convention in Bloomington, out of which emerged the Republican Party in Illinois. In June 1858, Blaisdell represented Winnebago County at the Illinois State Republican Convention, which nominated Abraham Lincoln to challenge Stephen A. Douglas for U.S. Senate. Upon his return to Rockford, Blaisdell endorsed Lincoln for president, making the Rockford Republican the first newspaper in Illinois to suggest Lincoln as a possible presidential contender. In November 1858, he won election, as a Republican, to the Illinois House of Representatives. During his short tenure in the General Assembly, Blaisdell fought for legislation against extortionate interest rates and in favor of rights of wives to use their property without regard to their husband’s wishes. Upon the conclusion of this term in February 1859, he returned to the Rockford Republican. In 1860, Blaisdell owned real property valued at $8,000 and had a personal estate of $2,000. In 1862, he sold his interest in the Republican and began reading law. After the Civil War, Blaisdell practiced law and worked to get Democratic candidates elected to office. He also published a novel, a collection of poems, and a play.

Blaisdell married twice. His first wife, Frances Robinson Blaisdell, died before he arrived in Rockford. He subsequently married Elizabeth J. Lawrence. Blaisdell had five children.

The Vergennes Vermonter (VT), 18 January 1901, 8:3; John M. Palmer, ed., The Bench and Bar of Illinois: Historical and Reminiscent (Chicago: Lewis, 1899), 2:957-60; Record of Appointment of Postmasters, 1832-1971, NARA Microfilm Publication, M841, 145 rolls, Records of the Post Office Department, RG 28, 1842-1857, 13:78, National Archives Building, Washington, DC; Franklin William Scott, Newspapers and Periodicals of Illinois, 1814-1879, vol. 6 of Collections of the Illinois State Historical Library (Springfield: Illinois State Historical Library, 1910), 298; Paul Selby, “The Editorial Convention of 1856,” Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society 5 (October 1912), 345-46; Daily Illinois State Journal (Springfield), 4 June 1858, 3:1, 17 June 1858, 2:4, 13 November 1858, 2:3; John Clayton, comp., The Illinois Fact Book and Historical Almanac, 1673-1968 (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1970), 222; U.S. Census Office, Eighth Census of the United States (1860), Rockford, Winnebago County, IL, 245.