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August 9, 1870: J. D. Ensign accepted to the St. Louis County Bar

On this day in Duluth in 1870, attorney Josiah Davis Ensign was accepted to the St. Louis County Bar. Ensign, a native of Erie County in New York Sate, had arrived in the Zenith City just months earlier. When Ensign was just 15 years old he began teaching school, using his income to study law. At 22 he was named auditor of Ashtabula County, Ohio, and two years later he passed the Ohio bar and practiced in Jefferson, Ohio, until 1868, when his wife died. He relocated to Rochester, Minnesota, and in 1870 came to Duluth. After passing the bar he was promptly elected St. Louis County attorney. In 1889 Ensign became a district court judge. Prior to that he twice served as the mayor of the Village of Duluth, elected in 1880 and 1884 (the same year he built this remarkable house), and was a member of the school board as early as 1870. Ensign later oversaw the juvenile court—he had a soft spot for youngster, and they for him. In 1908 Duluth’s newest public school in Piedmont Heights was named in honor of Ensign. He retired in 1921 after 32 years on the bench. It became a tradition for the Ensign Elementary schoolchildren to send him bouquets of flowers on his birthday. President William Howard Taft, after an encounter with Ensign, told friends, “It was worth crossing the continent to meet him.” Read a much more complete biography of Ensign here.

Josiah D. Ensign. (Image: Duluth Public Library)