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Born in Greenwich, Ohio, Townsend attended the common schools and Western Reserve College, Cleveland, Ohio, in 1860. Enlisted in the Second Regiment, Ohio Volunteer Cavalry, in 1861. He was promoted to lieutenant, but resigned in 1863 on account of disability. He studied law. He was admitted to the bar in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1864 and commenced practice in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1865. He served as member of the State house of representatives in 1869. He moved to Colorado in 1879 and settled in Silver Cliff in 1881.
Townsend was elected as a Republican to the Fifty-first and Fifty-second Congresses (March 4, 1889-March 3, 1893). He was an unsuccessful for renomination in 1892. He served as delegate to the Republican National Convention in 1892. United States judge for the southern district of the Indian Territory 1897-1907. He died in Ardmore, Oklahoma, March 4, 1909. He was interred in Woodlawn Cemetery, Norwalk, Ohio.
This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.