Treat, Samuel H. (Illinois judge)

Born: 1811-06-21 Otsego County, New York

Died: 1887-03-27 Springfield, Illinois

Samuel H. Treat studied law and was admitted to the bar in New York. In 1834, he moved to Illinois and settled in Springfield. Treat became one of the founding members of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in 1835, and in 1837, he married Ann Bennett, another founding member. Governor Thomas Carlin appointed Treat as judge of the Eighth Judicial Circuit in May 1839. When the Illinois General Assembly expanded the Illinois Supreme Court from four to nine members in February 1841, they elected Treat as one of the new associate justices. Each justice presided over county circuit courts in a specific region, and Treat was responsible for the Eighth Judicial Circuit in the east-central portion of the state. The new Illinois Constitution of 1848 reduced the size of the supreme court to three elected justices and relieved them of circuit court duty. David Davis replaced Treat on the circuit but Treat retained his seat on the Illinois Supreme Court and became its chief justice. As judge of the circuit courts of the Eighth Judicial Circuit, Treat presided in at least nine hundred cases in which Abraham Lincoln was an attorney. During his tenure on the supreme court, Treat was a justice in 167 cases in which Lincoln was an attorney.

In March 1855, President Franklin Pierce appointed Treat to the position of judge of the newly created United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois, a position he held for more than thirty years. As a federal judge, Treat presided over 139 cases in which Lincoln represented clients. Treat served continuously in the judiciary for forty-eight years. He may have been a distant cousin of fellow federal judge Samuel Treat.

Gravestone, Oak Ridge Cemetery, Springfield, IL; Daily Illinois State Register (Springfield), 29 March 1887, 3:3-5; Usher F. Linder, Reminiscences of the Early Bench and Bar of Illinois (Chicago: The Chicago Legal News, 1879), 388-89; John M. Palmer, ed., The Bench and Bar of Illinois: Historical and Reminiscent (Chicago: Lewis, 1899), 1:34-35; John Harvey Treat, The Treat Family: A Genealogy of Trott, Tratt, and Treat (Salem, MA: Salem Press, 1893), 544-45; Daniel W. Stowell, Samuel H. Treat: Prairie Justice (Springfield: Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, 2005).