April 11, 1939.
Mr. Henry R. Sackett,
Pursuant to your request that I submit to writing something in the way of my personal history, I respectfully submit the following:
I was born on March 5, 1875, in a log house, in Putnam County, Indiana, about three and one-half miles southwest of the town of Cloverdale. The house was located on a farm consisting of one hundred acres; most of which was rolling timber land, and unfit for anything except pasture. There was a creek running through the farm, called Doe Creek. On either side of this creek, which bisected the farm, were a few fields of bottom land, possibly twenty acres all told, which were very fertile, and upon which it was possible to raise a crop.
The house consisted of one large room, about fifteen feet by twenty feet, and was built from large yellow poplar logs, which had been hewn down by hand to a thickness of about eight inches, making a slab about eight inches thick, and from two to three feet in width. These were built up edge to edge, to the height of the room, and a rough ceiling was fastened to poles, laid from side to side, and above this, the roof constructed from hand-split clap boards. The heating plant consisted of a fire place in one end of the room, and all water used for domestic purposes, was carried from a spring at the bottom of a deep ravine adjacent to the house. There was another smaller log house, built of smaller logs, adjacent to but not connected with this larger room; in fact, there was a space of about three feet between the two buildings. This was used for a kitchen and dining room, and to go from the living room to the kitchen, it was necessary to go out of doors, and into the other building.
The family originally consisted of my parents and five children. My father, who died when I was five years of age, was William Henry Sackett. He died at an early age, of about thirty-two, from the then dreaded disease of diabetes. At that time, diabetes was a fatal disease, for which there was no known cure. He was a Union soldier, in the Civil War, and was in active service for forty-seven months, receiving his honorable discharge at the close of the war.
I am attaching to this document a genealogy of my father and mother, so far as I have any knowledge. All the information furnished in that genealogy was given to me a few years ago, in a conversation with my mother, who, as you know, is still living, and is now eighty-six years of age.
When Father died, he left my mother and five children—Samuel Albert Sackett, generally known as "Bert", aged eight; Ida May, aged six; Homer E., aged five; Leroy Walter, known as "Roy", aged three; and Jennie, aged one. Jennie died at the age of four years, with the then dreaded disease of diphtheria, for which there was no known cure. Anti-toxin had not yet been discovered. My sister May died in the year 1902. She had gone to Colorado for her health and died out there. My oldest brother, Bert, as you remember, died some three years ago, in El Paso, Texas; leaving myself and my brother Roy, who lives in Houston, Texas, and my mother, as sole survivors of the family. Bert was chief deputy prosecuting attorney in El Paso, Texas, for twenty years prior to his death.
When Father died, my oldest brother, Bert, then eight, took up the problem of farming, and actually operated the farm. I began to assist, some three years later, at the age of eight. Many is the day that I have handled the two horse braking plow when it was necessary for me to reach up to grasp the plow handles, and a great deal of comment was started, in the community in which we lived, about that and other similar occurrences with relation to the Sackett boys operating the farm.
My early education, of course, was obtained in the country schools—quite a different system from what we have today. There were twelve one-room district schools in Cloverdale Township, the township in which I resided. The township was twelve miles long, and about four miles wide. With twelve district schools distributed over the township, it was never necessary for any child to be more than about a mile from a school. There were no school buses, and no roads on which to drive them, if there had been. The roads were not even graveled, and when they would get muddy, in the Fall, they were impassable until Spring. Children, therefore, arrived at school by walking through the fields and pastures, through the snow, mud, and rain, climbing over rail fences, (there were no wire fences) and getting through the best way they could.
The average school term held in our little school house, known as Oak Point, consisting of one room and one teacher, was five months. It was, therefore, not uncommon for boys and girls to remain in the common school—and nothing thought of it at all—until they were seventeen or eighteen years of age.
I was forced to quit school entirely, at the age of twelve, because of granulated lids of my eyes, and I was unable to read for a period of about three years. During that time, I did not read so much as a column in a newspaper. The natural consequence was that I took the lead in the management of the farm, and my two brothers continued their school work and became teachers, and for many years, taught around in the community, in the country schools.
The farm, as I indicated before, was not a desirable one, and it was discouraging to try to make a living on it. Had it been good land, I probably would have remained a farmer all my life. When I was nineteen years of age, my eyes having greatly improved, I entered the local tailor shop in Cloverdale, as an apprentice, to learn the tailor's trade. I pursued this for practically three years and became a more or less accomplished tailor, having learned how to take measurements, draft patterns, cut out garments, and make up anything in the way of men's clothing. During my apprenticeship, I was paid Fifty Dollars per year. At the end of my apprenticement, I was somewhat discouraged and downhearted about my education, my brothers having both continued their school work, and teaching, and I did not feel that I was able to associate with their friends without making it embarrassing for them.
As a result of this feeling on my part, embarrassing though it was, I decided to return to school, and I entered the school there in Cloverdale—the family, in the meantime, having moved to town—and went back into the seventh grade. I was then twenty-one years of age. This was embarrassing, but I had reached the point where I did not care about that. I was, of course, much older and more mature than my fellow pupils at that time, and by special arrangement with my teacher, I was permitted to carry on both the seventh and the eighth grades during that year, and at the end of the school year, I graduated from the common school, having taken the seventh and eighth grades all in one year.
I entered the High School and continued in the Cloverdale High School for two years, at which time, the family decided to move to Danville, Indiana, in order that my two brothers, who had been teaching, might enter the Central Normal College, located there. I moved with them, not knowing whether I would continue High School work or what I would do, but on arriving at Danville, I looked the situation over and decided to enter the Normal School, notwithstanding the fact that I had not graduated from High School. I was able to get High School work, and to do the equivalent of High School work much faster, and with much more mature pupils than I would have had, had I continued in the High School. I studied there for two years, and graduated from what they designated their "Scientific Class."
Soon after my entering the Central Normal College, as a student, the instructor who had been teaching sight reading of vocal music, resigned and left the city very suddenly. I had had some experience in teaching sight reading of vocal music, having attended a great many classes of this nature, and having done some teaching myself. I immediately waited upon the president of the college, and told him of my experience, and that I thought I was able to handle that position, if he would be interested. He, of course, did not commit himself, but told me to go over that evening, as the classes were held in the evenings, and take over until he could find someone to regularly fill the place. I did so, and about the fourth evening, when I was in charge of the class, the president of the college walked in and sat down—I suppose to look me over. He stayed for about fifteen to twenty minutes, and left without saying anything, but the next day, I got a summons to his office, at which time he was kind enough to say that he was pleased with what he saw in my class room, and asked me to carry on until he made other arrangements. The result was that I held that position as long as I stayed in the school. It did not pay much, but it was enough to pay my tuition and buy my books, and a little besides.
In the Spring of 1900, my sister May became ill and went to Colorado Springs, Colorado, for her health. The climate seemed to agree with her, but she, of course, was living with friends and in rooming houses—an unsatisfactory arrangement—and it was decided by the family that I should follow her to Colorado, and look after her. This I did, in the summer of 1900. When I arrived at Colorado Springs, where my sister was living, I, of course, was a total stranger and it was necessary for me to look around for employment. I procured a laborer's job on a project then in progress, on the construction of what is now known as Stratton Park. Several thousand acres were being improved and fenced in by a rich millionaire, who had made his money in the Cripple Creek mining district. This was converted into a public park, and later presented to the city of Colorado Springs. I worked there for about two months, and my particular job was painting fence posts which enclosed the park. When that was done, I was out of employment, but I had saved a little money out of my Twelve Dollars a week income. During the remainder of the Summer, I carried a sample case, and punched door bells, selling suits of clothes from the samples.
In the Fall of 1900, I opened a tailor shop in Colorado City, which was the oldest town in the state of Colorado, lying immediately between Colorado Springs and the mountains. It has since been absorbed by and annexed to Colorado Springs. My shop was located in the best block, on the best street of the little town of Colorado City. It was a little store room, five feet wide by eighteen feet deep. I carried on there for a period of about seven years.
While I was attending Normal School, in Danville, I met Miss Verona Heck (in one of my singing classes) and we became very close friends. She was from Henderson County, Kentucky. We kept up a regular correspondence after I went to Colorado, and in the Summer of 1901, she visited me at Colorado City. It was during this visit that we walked to the summit of Pikes Peak, an arduous and tiresome task. While standing on the summit of Pikes Peak and watching a beautiful sun-set, I asked her to marry me, and two years later, she became my wife, and eventually, your mother. This proved to be a successful and happy marriage, and although we have had to endure many hardships and privations during my struggle with poverty and adversity, while in college and during my first years of building a law practice, your mother has at all times been patient, and never, not even once, has she complained. She accepted adversity as calmly as she now accepts a measure of prosperity, and has found happiness through it all.
It was about the year 1905 or 1906 that a friend of mine came into my tailor shop, and in the course of a conversation, he casually dropped the remark that he had that day signed up for a correspondence school course in law. I immediately became interested, and asked him for the name of the school—the Sprague Correspondence School of Law, Chicago, Illinois. I immediately wrote to them and asked for information, with the result that within a few weeks, I, also, was taking their correspondence course of law. I studied law at odd times, in connection with my tailoring business, for two years, and graduated from that school, but I have always given myself credit for having had sense enough to know, at that time, that I was not prepared in practice law.
Even then I could see that the old time custom tailor shop was a passing institution, and that I should get into some other business. Time has proven that I was right. I sold out my tailor shop and the little home, which we had acquired in Colorado City, and came back to Bloomington, Indiana, where my brother, Roy, was then taking his A.B. degree, in Indiana University. This was in September of 1908, and I was thirty-three years of age, married, and had a baby. I entered Indiana University with about one-half year's advance credits from my work at Danville, Indiana. I studied there from 1908 until my graduation at the end of the summer term, in 1911. During all the time, I stayed through the summer terms and always carried extra work, with the result that at the end of the summer term, in 1911, I was able to graduate with A.B. and LL.B. degrees. I earned my living and college expenses by tailoring work, and by making and selling felt pennants, banners and pillows.
My older brother, Bert, graduated in law, in the University of Colorado, at Boulder, the same year, and he and I formed a partnership to practice law, in San Diego, California. We stayed there one year, together, but things were not going well, and pursuant to some previous correspondence with one Walter Summers, who graduated with me at Bloomington, I arranged to meet him in Gary, to form a partnership for the practice of law, which we did in the late Fall of 1912.
This partnership was not successful, as Mr. Summers, though a fine gentleman and well educated, was not a success in the practice of law. After about two years, he gave it up and went into the teaching business, and is now located at Champaign, Illinois, as a highly respected professor of law, and having written some text books.
During my early years of practice in Gary, I taught Commercial Law in the Y.M.C.A., which then carried on a night school, and also taught at Emerson night school. The first ten years of my practice were very hard and it was difficult to make a living, but eventually I got started, and from 1922 to 1929, I was very prosperous, and had become more or less independent, but I lost everything in the crash of 1929.
Most that follows you are already familiar with. As you know, it was in 1929 that the partnership of Sackett and Sackett was formed, and lasted until January 1, 1935, when I was elevated to the bench. I was president of the Gary Bar Association during the year 1931. That fact, together with my active work in the Bar Association, in conjunction with the late W.W. Miller, and the fact that I was a candidate for the nomination as Judge of the Circuit Court, in the year 1932—during which time I acquired a large acquaintance—I am sure, contributed materially to the success of my election in the year 1934, as Judge of Lake Superior Court, Room Four, and my re-election in 1938.
I was president of the Gary Kiwanis Club during the year 1932, the worst year of the entire depression. I am now a member of the Elks Lodge, in good standing. I was formerly a member of the Masonic Lodge, and was a thirty-second degree Mason. I discontinued my dues during the depression, and have never renewed it. While living in Colorado, I went through all of the chairs of the Knights of Pythias Lodge, and knew the entire ritual, but I have never renewed my relations with that organization.
The last four years during my term of office on the bench, have been the most interesting, and I might say, the happiest years of my life.
I trust that you will be able to glean something from the foregoing, as to my past history, and I would be glad to add anything to it that you might be particularly interested in.
[Signed: H E Sackett]