Nathaniel Bacon was on born July 14, 1802, in Ballston Spa, New York, to a farm family of English descent who had settled in the beautiful eastern New York location after the Revolutionary War. Bacon received private tutoring and academy education in his early years, and in 1824 graduated from Union College in Schenectady, New York. After graduation, he studied law and was admitted to the Bar in 1827. In the same year he married Jane S. Sweetman, of Salem, New York. The next year he opened a law office in Rochester, New York. He practiced there for several years.
In 1833, Bacon visited southwestern Michigan in search of a new place to settle. Impressed by the great beauty of the country, he moved his wife and two small children to Niles, on the St. Joseph River, in that same year. Bacon’s fortunes were to grow in this rural setting, and in the company of many other similarly educated and motivated pioneers, he was able to establish a thriving practice and a sterling reputation. In the words of his son, Mr. Frederick Bacon, “Through the troublesome privations, and often hardships, of this early time, he was courageous, patient, and discharged all his duties with ability and fidelity…. Though somewhat austere, he was kind, charitable, and of spotless integrity.”
In the years before Bacon was appointed to the Circuit Court and thus to the Michigan Supreme Court Bench, he held several local offices, including those of Prosecuting Attorney and Judge of Probate. In 1855, upon the death of Judge Whipple of the Second Judicial Circuit, Nathaniel Bacon was appointed to serve out the term. He acted as a Michigan Supreme Court Justice until 1858 when the Court was reorganized. After his service to the state, Bacon continued in the post of Circuit Judge until his death.
Nathaniel Bacon died unexpectedly of apoplexy (massive stroke) on September 9, 1869, at his home near Niles. His second wife, the former Caroline S. Lord, and two grown sons survived him. (Biography compiled by Ann Lucas, Serials Librarian of Thomas M. Cooley Law School, Lansing, Michigan, 1998.)
Portrait presented on: (Click links to read transcripts)
June 4, 1901
Portrait rededicated on:
October 6, 1998
Oil on canvas
67.31cm X 54.61cm (26 1/2″ X 21 1/2″)
State of Michigan
Hall of Justice – 4th Floor:
Portrait photo by:
Doug Elbinger, Lansing – June 1996