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Eugene Chafin

Waukesha County Wisconsin Genealogy

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EUGENE CHAFIN

Source: Waukesha Freeman November 30, 1920

(There is a photo of Eugene W. CHAFIN)

NOTED PROHIBITIONIST HURT IN EXPLOSION IN HIS HOME

NATIVE OF WAUKESHA COUNTY, BECAME LEADER OF LAW, CHURCH AND REFORM

Los Angeles, Cal. - Eugene CHAFIN, 68, twice candidate for president of the United States on the Prohibition ticket, died at his residence here, Tuesday. Death presumably was the result of burns suffered about ten days ago when a heater exploded in his home

Eugene W. CHAFIN, son of Samuel E. CHAFIN, was born on a farm two miles southwest of Mukwonago, Wis., Nov. 1, 1852, and was one of thirteen children. Nov. 24, 1881, he married Carrie A., daughter of H. H. HUNKINS. They had one daughter, Desdemona, born March 17, 1893.

Mr. CHAFIN worked on the farm and attended district school until he was 21. He graduated from the law school of the University of Wisconsin, June 17, 1875, receiving the degree of LL. B., and for a time practiced law in Waukesha while a member of the firm CHAFIN & PARKINSON.

ATTORNEY FOR WISCONSIN CENTRAL

When the Wisconsin Central railroad was built through Waukesha to Chicago, Mr. CHAFIN was one of the incorporators and was local attorney for that road for seven years. He served eight years as justice of the peace and three years as a member of the school board. Mr. CHAFIN had always taken much interest in agricultural pursuits and served as president of the Waukesha County Agricultural society and was also secretary-treasurer of the Wisconsin Milk Shippers' association and vice-president of the Agricultural Fair association of Wisconsin.

BECAME A GOOD TEMPLAR

In 1867 Mr. CHAFIN became a Good Templar, in 1885 was elected grand counselor and in 1886 grand chief templar of Wisconsin, holding the last named office four years. He was a delegate to the right worthy grand lodge at the Saratoga session in 1887 and at the Chicago session in 1889. He was grand electoral superintendent of the grand lodge of Wisconsin and president of the Good Templar Training school of the state. He was also a member of the Sons of Temperance since 1875. He was a member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and several times represented his lodge in the state grand lodge.

LEADER IN METHODISM

He was also a member of the independent Order of Foresters and served as past high chief ranger of the high court of Wisconsin and was a representative to the supreme court at the Chicago session in 1893.

Mr. CHAFIN was a Methodist. He served three years as a Sunday school superintendent and as a member of the official board and state president of the Epworth League of Wisconsin. He also served as president of the Waukesha County Bible society.

WROTE "THE VOTER'S HANDBOOK"

Mr. CHAFIN has been a Prohibitionist in politics since 1881 and was a delegate to every state convention since that time and was a delegate to the national convention of the party in 1884, 1888, 1892, and nearly all the other national conventions up to last year. He served on the national committee for several terms.

In 1882 he was a candidate of the party for congress and in 1886 for attorney general. He was the author of "The Voter's Handbook," a small volume treating on political subjects, which he published in 1876.

LEFT TEN YEARS AGO

At one time he was interested in bringing Mukwonago forward as a summer resort and was president of the Phantom Lake Improvement company and the Phantom Lake Hotel company of that place. He also owned farms on the south of Phantom Lake, where he was born, a part of which he used as a camp ground and called Idlewile Park.

The CHAFIN family removed from Waukesha about ten years ago. Personal reminiscences will be prepared by H. M. YOUMANS for tomorrow's paper.

Source: Waukesha Daily Freeman December 1, 1920

"OUR GENE"
BY HENRY M. YOUMANS

Mukwonago Farmer Boy, Candidate for President, Who Lived to See the Triumph of His Cause, Has Place Not Only in the Hearts of His Friends, But in the History of His County.

The writer was unexpressibly saddened by the brief announcement contained in a dispatch from Los Angeles of the death of Eugene W. CHAFIN. He was in the sixty-eighth year of his age and I had known him from early childhood, sat in an adjacent seat to his in the old school in the village of Mukwonago, and had been in daily companionship with him for years during his residence in Waukesha, where he settled immediately after his graduation from the university law school in 1875.

Mr. CHAFIN was the youngest son of Mr. and Mrs. Samuel CHAFIN, who were pioneer farmers in the town of East Troy, Walworth county, two miles southwest of Mukwonago village. This farm borders Phantom lake and a portion of it is now known as Idelwile Point where the county Y.M.C.A. boys have their outing each summer. Mr. CHAFIN named this tract of land, which was for some years used as a camping ground for Prohibitionists. He had great joy in his later years in visiting the scenes of his childhood, which no doubt had an important bearing upon his remarkable life - one devoted to high ideals and the elevation of human character.

Eugene W. CHAFIN's greatest work was in the cause of temperance, in the promotion of which no sacrifice was too great and no temporary failure sufficient to undermine his optimistic nature. In the years when national prohibition was, to nearly all the world, but a dream, he labored with all the zeal and hope imaginable and his vision of the day when alcoholic stimulants should be outlawed in this country was as real as the rising sun. His hope, his devotion, his determination, and his efforts to strengthen himself physically and mentally for the tasks he assumed, were equally remarkable and his development was a wonder to some of his old friends.

In his boyhood he was not so different from the farmer boys around him, though he showed an extremely active nature. But once he had found himself, his ambitions became boundless, his purpose unshakable, and these brought to him a usefulness and real success in life, when such success is measured by genuine worth, far above that of the average man.

He loved his fellow men and to benefit mankind he would never shirk a duty or compromise a principle. Ridicule never phased him. He often said he would rather be right than be president.

Twice he became the candidate of his party for the highest office in the gift of the American people and his campaigns were carried on as vigorously and with as much zeal as if he actually expected to be elected. He visited every state in the union during those strenuous days, often speaking several times each day, and it is not improbable that his breakdown in later years was attributable to the strain of the presidential campaigns, although he never seemed to feel great fatigue at the time. He was a natural speaker, spoke in public with the greatest of ease and became a powerful and eloquent advocate of prohibition and other reforms.

When he was nominated for president in 1912, the official notification of his nomination was made in this, his home city, and the event was an important and interesting one. Mayor Hawley WILBUR had tendered the use of CUTLER park for the purpose, but rain drove the crowds indoors and the speeches were made in the Methodist church. Many of the leading members of the Prohibition party came to Waukesha to be present and the nominating speech was made by Charles Henry MEAD, D. D. of New York city.

It was interesting to Mr. CHAFIN's old friends to observe that when he read his speech of acceptance from the prepared copy, according to usage, he was quite without the facility which ordinarily attended him upon the platform. He was wont to speak extemporaneously, not to read form a paper, and it manifestly bothered him.
Beside speeches by the visiting dignitaries, addresses were made by Mr. CHAFIN's old friends and associates in the city - T. W. PARKINSON, his former law partner; the late T. W. HAIGHT, his early teacher; C. E. ARMIN, one of his law associates. It was a great day for Mr. CHAFIN and for Waukesha.

When Mr. CHAFIN visited Waukesha this last summer he made the statement that he was probably the champion candidate for office in the United States. He joined the order of Good Templars when 14 years of age and held various offices in that organization, as well as similar societies. After he came to Waukesha he was justice of the peace, member of the library board and the school board, joined the Methodist church and held many offices there. After he left the Republican party and became a Prohibitionist he ran for office regularly. He was a candidate for congress on the Prohibition ticket several times in Wisconsin, Illinois and Arizona. He was candidate for district attorney, governor, attorney general.

He was a member of the National Prohibition convention in 1894 and every national convention from that day to this. Even this last summer, though his health was poor he stopped in Nebraska on his way home to California to attend the convention of his party. He had the history of the party all stowed away in his mind, and was able to give data concerning each and every campaign. He could tell promptly who ran for office in a given year, what candidates represented the major political parties, how many votes each party polled, and a vast amount of pertinent detail.

Mr. CHAFIN wrote several books besides "The Voter's Handbook," "Lives of Presidents" was published in 1896, "Lincoln, The Man of Sorrows" in 1898 and "The Master Method of the Great Reform" in 1913. His chautauqua lectures were on "Washington as a Statesman," "Against Capital Punishment," "How the United States Grew" and "Conventional Lies." After 1914 he devoted his entire time to lecture work, never wearied of it, approached each audience with relish. He was a man of great physical strength and endurance until within the last few years. After his health broke he made a trip to Australia in company with his daughter, Desdemona, and the two toured the country speaking for temperance and making a decided impression.

"Our Gene" as Waukesha people called him in the old days, had a memory of peculiar power. He carried individuals as well as data in that memory. He said last summer that he was sure there were ten thousand people in the United States whom he could call by name. I suggested that that was a remarkable thing. He did not think so, said he made a habit after he had met a group of new people to think over their faces and names before he slept that night and so they became fixed in his memory.

He was a genial man, loved good fellowship, had friends in every state in the union. He must have addressed millions of different people during his long career on the platform. His work was congenial to him, he loved it and believed in it and he lived to see it crowned with a success which, only a few years ago seemed utterly beyond human probability, he made a place not only in the hearts of friends, but in the history of his country.


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