One of the central figures of the judiciary of southern Illinois is the
honorable gentleman whose name forms the subject of this review. Prominent
in legal circles and equally so in public matters beyond the confines of his
own jurisdiction, with a reputation in one of the most exacting of
professions that has won him a name for distinguished service second to that
of none of his contemporaries, there is today no more prominent or highly
esteemed man in Marion county, which he has long dignified with his
Samuel L. Dwight was born March 15, 1841, at Mount Vernon, Jefferson county, Illinois, the son of Lewis and Mahala Pennington (Casey) Dwight. The subject's mother was the daughter of Governor Zadoc Casey, of Illinois. She was born while her father was a member of the Legislature at Vandalia, capitol of Illinois at that time. He originated the bill to create the county of Marion, naming the same after his father's Revolutionary commander, Francis Marion, of historic fame. Lewis Dwight was born in Massachusetts and educated in that state. However, he graduated at Yale University, after which he came to Jefferson county, Illinois, and taught school for a number of years. He died at the age of seventy years, after a very useful and active life. Samuel L. Dwight was reared with the family of Governor Casey and was educated in the public schools of Mount Vernon, Illinois, having taken one year's course of study at McKendree College. Being ambitious from the first, he applied himself in a most diligent manner to his studies and became well educated. Early deciding to enter the law as a profession, he began the study of the same with Tanner and Casey at Mount Vernon. But when our national horizon was darkened with the clouds of rebellion in the early sixties our subject left Blackstone behind, severed home ties and offered his services in defense of his country's integrity, having enlisted in Company 1 Sixtieth Illinois Volunteer Infantry, and so gallant were his services that he was mustered out at the close of the war as captain of the same company. He served one and one-half years, having taken part in many engagements and faithfully performing what service he could.
After his career in the army Mr. Dwight, in July, 1866, left the farm at Mount Vernon, Illinois, and resumed the study of law, this time under his uncle, Colonel Lewis F. Casey, who had married an aunt of Samuel E. Dwight, and the daughter of Governor Casey.
Our subject was admitted to the bar in 1868, and he entered into partnership with Colonel Casey, with whom he continued in a most successful manner until the death of Colonel Casey early in the eighties, the prestige of this firm having gradually grown until their practice was equal to that of any other firm in the county.
In 1870 Samuel L. Dwight was elected a member of the lower house of the Twenty-seventh General Assembly and served to the entire satisfaction of his constituents for one term. After the death of his former law partner he carried on the business of the firm successfully, practicing law in all the local courts until 1897, when he was elected to the bench of the Fourth Judicial Circuit of Illinois, and so faithfully did he discharge the duties of the same that he was re-elected to the office in 1903 for another term of six years, and is, therefore, at this writing, 1908, still holding the position. His tenure of office has been marked by a remarkable clearness of decision and fairness to all parties, his decisions having seldom met with disapproval at the hands of a higher tribunal, for he came to the bench well qualified for its exacting duties and responsibilities and from the beginning his judicial career was characterized by such a profound knowledge of the law and an earnest and conscientious desire to apply it impartially that he was not long in gaining the respect and confidence of the attorneys and litigants and earning for himself an honorable reputation among the leading jurists of the state. From the first his labors were very arduous and many important cases were tried in his court, in addition to which he was also frequently called to other circuits to sit on cases in which larger interests were involved.
The happy and harmonious domestic life of Judge Dwight dates from September 4, 1872, when he was married to M. Irene Noleman, the cultured and accomplished daughter of Capt. R. D. Noleman and Sarah A. Jennings, the mother of Mrs. Dwight having been the daughter of Charles W. Jennings. R. D. Noleman was for many years a leading citizen and business man of Centralia.
Fraternally Judge Dwight is a member of the Masonic Order, the Knights of Pythias, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, the Grand Army of the Republic and the Modern Woodmen. Both he and his wife are members of the Methodist Episcopal church. Their beautiful home is frequently the gathering place for numerous friends and admirers of Mr. and Mrs. Dwight.
Judge S. L. Dwight is ready at all times to make any reasonable sacrifice for. the cause in which his interests are enlisted, He is not only an able and reliable counselor, with a thorough acquaintance of the principles, intricacies and complexities of jurisprudence, but his honesty is such that he has frequently advised against long and expensive litigation, and this, too, at the loss of liberal fees which he could otherwise have earned. His treatment of the case he has in hand is always full of comprehension and accurate, his analysis of the facts clear and exhaustive, and he seems to grasp without effort the relation and dependence of the facts, and so groups them as to enable him to throw their combined force upon the point they intend to prove. He is, withal, a man of the people, proud of his distinction as a citizen of a state and nation for whose laws and institutions he has the most profound admiration and respect.
Extracted 27 May 2019 by Norma Hass from 1909 Biographical and Reminiscent History of Richland, Clay and Marion Counties, Illinois, pages 535-537.