Wiram Knowlton (1816-1863)
Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice (1850-1853)
"He was a man of good natural talents, and discharged the duties of his office with commendable ability; and his judicial integrity was unquestioned." - Silas U. Pinney, Sketches of the Judges of the First Supreme Court (1876)
Wiram Knowlton was born January 24, 1816, in Canandaigua, New York. In 1837, he moved to Janesville, Wisconsin, and studied law. He was admitted to the bar in 1840 and began a law practice in Prairie du Chien, where he served on the territorial council from 1844 to 1846. At the outbreak of the Mexican War, Knowlton raised a company of volunteers and served as captain. His troops were never ordered to Mexico, but were assigned to Fort Crawford for detached frontier duty.
In 1850, Knowlton was elected circuit judge for the 6th Judicial Circuit, which extended from the Wisconsin River to Lake Superior. As a circuit judge, he also served as a justice on the Wisconsin Supreme Court until a separate Supreme Court was organized in 1853. Knowlton was not known as a great judge, but a good man.
Knowlton remained in the judiciary as a circuit judge until 1856, when he resumed his law practice in Prairie du Chien.
Knowlton never married and did not have children. He died June 27, 1863, at the age of 47.
After much searching, the Supreme Court is still missing a portrait of Wiram Knowlton. He remains the only faceless member of the Supreme Court.