Stephen Ostrom Edwards 1855 – 1916

Stephen Ostrom Edwards was born in Glen, New York, on January 22, 1855. Until he was Stephen Ostrom Edwardsseventeen, he lived on his father’s farm and attended district schools. He then spent one year teaching school after which he went to private academies for two years and entered Brown University in the fall of 1875 at nearly twenty-one years of age. Upon graduation from Brown in 1879, he taught in the Providence High School for three years. In 1882, at the age of twenty-seven, he first started the study of law. At that time he entered Boston University Law School, and spent his vacations at the law offices of Colonel Edwin Metcalf and ex-Chief Justice Charles F. Bradley. He was admitted to the bar I 1884 at the age of twenty-nine. In 1886-1887, he was an instructor in logic and mathematics at Brown. After his admission to the bar, he practiced law in association with, but not as partner of, Samuel S, Durfee, the son of the former Chief Justice. This continued until May 1, 1894. Their office was in the Franklin Building on the north side of College Street, which prior to the expansion of the School of Design, was a rabbit warren of small offices. They subsequently moved to the Vaughn Building on Custom House Street, which was then the nearest thing to a Providence School Committee, and for the year 1890 was Reading Clerk of the House of Representatives. We know very little about the nature of his practice prior to the founding of the firm Edwards & Angell on May 1, 1894.

The events leading up to the founding of the firm are discussed elsewhere, but it seems appropriate at this point to try to consider the life of Stephen O. Edwards as a whole and to try to get some picture of him as an individual. In 1899 he was elected a Trustee of Brown University which conferred an honorary Doctor of Laws degree on him in 1914. He was a member of the Advisory and Executive Committee of the Brown Corporation, Trustee of the John Carter Brown Library, and Treasurer of the Ann Mary Brown Memorial. He was also a Director of the Providence Lying-in Hospital, the Working Men’s Loan Association and the Federal Hill Housing Association. He had served as President of each of these Associations. He was also a Director of the Providence Journal Company, Rhode Island Trust Company, and Providence & Worcester Railroad Company, of which he had been elected President in 1912. He was also a man who moved around in the community. A founder and first President of the University Club, he also served as President of the Hope Club. These were the two leading men’s clubs in town.

We do not have, in his case, as many personal memorabilia as we do with reference to Mr. Angell. The tributes, however, to him at the time of his death from heart failure on his sixty-first birthday on January 22, 1916, do provide some insight as to his character and personality. Of these many tributes I selected the one of Judge Arthur L. Brown of the United States District Court, which read as follows:

“Mr. Edwards was one of our most valuable and public-spirited citizens, and it is doubtful if there was any man in the State in whom there were combined so thorough knowledge of the most difficult phases of the laws of property and such sound judgment in their application to practical affairs. One who consulted him as to family interests in the disposition of property, in matters of corporate management, or in commercial affairs requiring a far-sighted view of the future had the benefit of unusually careful and thorough thinking and of exceptional experience in difficult professional problems. Mr. Edwards had a wide knowledge of men, excellent judgment of human nature and while he had remarkable self-control and was diplomatic in his management of affairs, he was yet a man of strong will and of great efficiency in accomplishing his ends. His personal character was of the highest, and thorough confidence in his loyalty to the highest standards of legal ethics was a strong factor in his professional success.”

The editorial in the Sunday Journal upon his death contained the following paragraphs:

“Of Mr. Edwards’ standing in his profession it is unnecessary to speak here. He was keenly sensitive to the obligations of that prominence. Many a fellow attorney now on the high road to success and reputation will recall the kindly word and the hours of patient, helpful chat that smoothed the way and gave a broader vision of their chosen calling.

“His keen mind and simplicity of expression unraveled many a knot in the affairs of those organizations to which he gave so liberally of his time and energy. Brown University will miss greatly his wise counsel and his untiring affection for his Alma Mater. All of us who knew him will miss the cheery voice of sincerity, the friendly, happy smile, that were the outward expression of a good and loyal man.”

Source: Winsor, Edward. Edwards & Angell: A Firm History Including 1989 Update. Providence, Rhode Island: the author, 1989. Pages 1-2.


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