Transcribed from A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled by William E. Connelley, Secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka. [Revised ed.] Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1919, c1918. 5 v. (xlviii, 2530 p., [155] leaves of plates): ill., maps (some fold.), ports.; 27 cm.


George J. Downer

George J. Downer JUDGE GEORGE J. DOWNER, who came to Syracuse, Kansas, nearly twenty years ago, a fledgling lawyer, a stranger in what was then a raw and unpromising country, made his ability as a lawyer an asset in the county and has steadily grown in favor as a man of affairs. He is now the presiding judge of the Thirty-second Judicial District of Kansas.

Judge Downer has been a resident of this state since December, 1898. While on his way to Syracuse he was admitted to the bar at Hutchinson, and the first law suit that he ever tried was in this state. He formed a law partnership with George Getty at Syracuse, and the firm of Getty & Downer was a very successful one there until May, 1903. After that Judge Downer practiced alone and finally gave up most of his clients in order to devote himself to the buying and selling of land. From his business activities he accumulated a ranch near Syracuse, now in process of development, and also erected a home in the town, one of the most modern and complete dwellings of Syracuse.

His position in politics has been in the democratic party. In 1902 he accepted the nomination of his party for district judge, but was defeated. In November, 1904, he was elected county attorney of Hamilton County, and during that term he was busied with the vigorous prosecution of several murder cases. On January 18, 1913, Governor Hodges appointed him district judge to succeed the retiring Judge William H. Thompson. When his name as candidate for that position came before the people he was elected by a majority of about 2,000 over his republican competitor and in a normally republican district. The Thirty-second District is one of the largest in the state, embracing the counties of Hamilton, Kearney, Finney, Haskell, Grant, Stanton, Morton, Stevens and Seward. While on the bench Judge Downer has presided over some very important criminal cases. One of these was State vs. Archie Sweet for the murder of a school teacher in Grant County. Another was the prosecution of Van Womer for the murder of the sheriff of Morton County, together with parties associated with him in the crime, all of whom were convicted. He also heard the case against the Gilmers of Garden City, tried for poisoning Mrs. Gilmer. The defendants in this trial were acquitted. Among civil cases perhaps the most important was that involving the building of the Colorado, Kansas & Oklahoma Railway from Scott City to Winona.

Judge Downer was born in the little Village of Perry, Pike County, Illinois, March 5, 1874. His grandfather, George W. Downer, was a native of Uniontown, Pennsylvania, and was descended from one of three English brothers Royalists in England during the time of Cromwell and on that account had to leave and seek refuge in America. They came over about 1660 and one of them settled in Massachusetts. Judge Downer's grandfather kept a small store at Hamilton, Ohio, for a time, but afterwards moved to Pike County, Illinois, and engaged in farming until his death in 1857.

Jacob H. Downer, father of Judge Downer, was born in Hamilton County, Ohio. December 30, 1845, and was six years of age when his parents moved out to Pike County, Illinois. He never secured any more education than that offered by the limited advantages of the district schools in that community. He spent his active career as a farmer and died in 1903. Though a mere youth at the time he volunteered his services in the Union army in the Civil war, but was rejected. He took little part in politics and was a member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. Jacob H. Downer married Clementine Layton, daughter of Joseph Layton. She was born near Oil City in Venango County, Pennsylvania, and died at Syracuse, Kansas, September 14, 1916. Judge Downer was her only son and the oldest of the three children. The two daughters are Mrs. J. T. Bicknell of Pueblo, Colorado, and Mrs. Blanche L. Daigh of Los Angeles, California.

Judge Downer graduated from the high school of his native town and also had a commercial course. When about twenty-one years of age he began reading law with George Hinman of Perry, Illinois, and had all but completed his course of study when he came out to Kansas. Judge Downer is a stockholder and director and vice president of the First National Bank of Syracuse. In Hutchinson, Kansas, September 18, 1904, he married Miss Luella Montgomery, daughter of William C. and Delia (Finney) Montgomery. Her father was a native of Indiana and a business man at Hutchinson, Kansas. Mrs. Downer's mother was a daughter of Irish parents. Mrs. Downer is the second of five children. The children of Judge Downer and wife are Dorothea, George Hinman and Adin M.


Transcribed from A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled by William E. Connelley, Secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka. [Revised ed.] Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1919, c1918. 5 v. (xlviii, 2530 p., [155] leaves of plates): ill., maps (some fold.), ports.; 27 cm.

Volume 4 - Table of Contents

Tom & Carolyn Ward
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