Charles H. Larrabee (1820-1883)
Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice (1848-1853)
"As a judge, he was prompt and impartial, and his written opinions bear favorable testimony to his learning and ability; he possesses more than ordinary natural ability; is an impressive public speaker; his manners are free, affable and popular, and is zealous as a partisan and warm and devoted in his friendships." - Silas U. Pinney, Sketches of the Judges of the First Supreme Court (1876)
Charles Hathaway Larrabee was born in Rome, New York, on November 9, 1820. His family moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, where he attended Granville College from 1834 to 1836.
Before studying law, Larrabee worked as an engineer and helped survey for the Little Miami railroad. He was admitted to the bar in 1841. Three years later, Larrabee moved to Chicago, Illinois, and served one term as city attorney. He also edited the Democratic Advocate.
In 1847, Larrabee moved to Horicon, Wisconsin. Later that year, Dodge County elected him to be a delegate to the 1848 state Constitutional Convention.
Larrabee was elected circuit judge for the 3rd Judicial Circuit in 1848. Pursuant to the state constitution, he joined the other four circuit judges to form the first Wisconsin Supreme Court. He was only 28 years old at the time, making him the youngest justice to ever serve on the Supreme Court.
When a separate Supreme Court was organized in 1853, Larrabee ran as a Democrat for the office of chief justice, but was defeated by the older and more experienced Whig candidate, Edward V. Whiton. Larrabee continued as a circuit judge until 1858, when he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.
At the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, Larrabee was among the first to volunteer and was appointed major of the 5th Wisconsin infantry. A year later, he was promoted to colonel of the 24th regiment.
Larrabee resigned from the military in 1863 and moved west. He practiced law and was involved in public affairs in the Oregon, California and Washington territories. He helped draft the state constitution in Washington.
Larrabee was married to Minerva Norton. He died in Los Angeles, California, on January 20, 1883.