Humphrey, William Charles
Age: 18, credited to St. Albans, VTVITALS
Birth: 06/12/1844, Phillipsburg, ON, CanadaADDITIONAL INFORMATION
Alias?: None notedDESCENDANTS
Oakland Cemetery, St. Paul, MN
Check the cemetery for location/directions
and other veterans who may be buried there.
A career of quiet but faithful performance of duty was that of William Charles Humphrey, who was a resident of St. Paul for many years, and the closing period of his life was spent as custodian of the Minnesota Supreme Court. As a young man he spent three years in the Union army, where he became noted among his comrades for his fearlessness and dashing courage. In spite of the wounds received in that conflict he was afterwards a capable business man for many years at Detroit, Michigan, and St. Paul, and had almost attained the psalmist's span of years when death came suddenly to him on December 12, 1913. In every relation of life he discharged the score of every responsibility with credit though he never desired the abundant reward of wealth. he was a Minnesotan whose name and career have a fine fitness in the records of the state.
William Charles Humphrey was born in Phillipsburg, Ontario, Canada, June 12, 1844 but from an early age lived in the United States. His parents were Austin and Harriet Humphrey who when William was about twelve years of age removed to St. Albans, Vermont where the father continued his vocation as a carpenter. William C. Humphrey received the most of his education in Canada, and after the age of twelve employed most of his time getting a business experience and paying his own way. He worked as a clerk in a book store in St. Albans and was there five years. He was only seventeen years of age when he ran away from home and joined the army, and had been fighting eight months before his enlistment on the battlefield, July 1, 1862, the captain sent for him and asked his age. Mr. Humphrey replied that he had just turned eighteen on the 12th of June, and then said the captain, "you have been fighting long enough for nothing, you are this day enlisted. " He became a member of the First Vermont Cavalry, and was with his command for three years and eight months, having been present at Appomattox when Lee surrendered in 1865, and was hardly at his majority when he returned home a veteran soldier. His father and two brothers were also in the Civil war in Vermont regiments while another brother, who was living in St Louis, Missouri, fought on the Confederate side. The First Vermont Cavalry had the distinction of engaging in sixty-eight battles or skirmishes during the war. Mr Humphrey participated at Gettysburg and the Battle of the Wilderness and many other historic conflicts, and it was his valor and faithfulness that brought him promotion from the ranks to quartermaster sergeant. On one occasion at Port Royal, Virginia, July 1, 1862 his regiment was making a retreat across a bridge which had been covered with oil by the Confederates, and it was only by an intrepid act of cool judgement and heroism on the part of Mr. Humphrey that the enemy was prevented from destroying the bridge before the Union forces succeeded in crossing it to safety. Among his comrades for this and other acts he received the sobriquet of "Daredevil Bill." He was twice taken prisoner on the battlefield, but both times escaped. In the first instance quite a number of captured Union soldiers were being marched through a field and Mr Humphrey noticing a neck of woods that they were approaching nudged a comrade in front of him, who understood the signal, and when the critical moment came they both ran through the woods, with many volleys fired after them, but after several hours made good their escape. On another occasion they located the enemy in a big barn, and it being April the first they thought to fool them, but were fooled themselves, because the enemy came out of the barns as thick as bees, outnumbering the Union soldiers three to one. While trying to escape, Mr Humphrey was greeted with ''Halt you Yankee" which he did, handing over his pistols but the Confederate in his excitement to capture another soldier, overlooked his sabre, and spurring up his horse until he was by the side of the Confederate, Mr. Humphrey with one mighty blow of his sabre knocked him from his horse and joined his comrades with whom he made his escape. On another occasion when shot through the leg and knocked off his horse in a battle in which the Union forces were being defeated, a comrade named Edmund Yates picked him up, tied him on his own horse and both succeeded in making food their escape.
After leaving the army Mr. Humphrey removed to Detroit, Michigan and spent seven years with the Hargrave Manufacturing Company. He then kept a tea store on Michigan Avenue in Detroit for seventeen years and in October 1888 removed to St. Paul and for several years conducted a tea store in the marketplace. He later studied medicine and conducted a pill business manufactured by Parke, Davis & Company of Detroit. In 1907 Mr Humphrey was appointed by Governor Johnson as custodian to the Supreme Court. This was a position requiring extreme discretion and judgement, as well as courage in resisting importunate requests and in guarding carefully every court secret. His faithful performance of these responsibilities gained him the high commendation of the justices and there was no more popular employee around the capitol building than William C. Humphrey.
Mr. Humphrey refused to attend the Gettysburg convention in July 1913 as a guest of the state, and in explanation of his refusal he showed a deep scar on his chest, and said he had no desire ever to see that battlefield again. He had also received a wound in the leg during another engagement. the army surgeon wanted to amputate but a comrade, a Frenchman, exclaimed that he would shoot the doctor if he cut the boy's leg off, and Mr. Humphrey used that member all the rest of his life. For forty-four years he was active in the Masonic fraternity, having been affiliated with the order in Detroit, and belonged to Detroit Chapter No. 2 of the Royal Arch Masons. He was also a member of the Ancient Order of United Workmen in Detroit. He was a member of the Central Park Methodist Episcopal Church in St. Paul and in politics an ardent republican. While strictly attentive to business the late Mr. Humphrey indulged his interest in the great national pastime of baseball as frequently as possible, was also fond of trotting horses, and frequently took excursions into the woods of Minnesota and Michigan during the shooting season. When Mr. Humphrey died it was very suddenly and while on duty in the capitol in Chief Justice C.L. Brown's chambers. His funeral was conducted under the auspices of Garfield Post, No. 8 G.A.R., and his body was also followed by a guard composed of capitol officials.
At Detroit, May 19, 1868 Mr. Humphrey married Mary Webster Naismith, who had lived in Detroit from the age of two years. Her father, Ebenezer Naismith, was a worker in the coal mines in Scotland, Her mother was Isabelle (Reid) Naismith. Of the children born to Mr. and Mrs. Humphrey one, Charles Leslie, died in early childhood. the four still living are: Lillian Belle, wife of R. O Barnard, who for a number of years was treasurer with the Great Western Railroad, is the mother of two children, Olive Belle, and Raymond H. Louis A. who is an artist in St. Paul has two children, Evelyn Marie, aged seven and Florence viola, aged five. Clara M. is the wife of Loyal A. Partridge who owns a dental supply house and is at Seattle, and their two children are Ruth E. aged thirteen and Evelyn d. aged five. George E. the youngest of the living children, is a telegraph operator of St. Paul with the great Northern Railroad, and has six children, Vera M. and Lillian M., twins, aged twelve, and Charles Edmund, Nellie M. and George D., and Louis R. the last two named being also twins. Mrs. Humphrey, who survives her husband, resided in St. Paul at 187 E. Thirteenth Street.
Source: Minnesota, Its Story and Biography - Page 1739, by Henry Anson Castle - Minnesota - 1915
Contributed by Joanne Pezzullo