Charles Eugene Flandrau

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Portrait of Charles Eugene Flandrau, c. 1900

Charles Eugene Flandrau (July 15, 1828 – September 9, 1903) was an American lawyer who served on the Minnesota Supreme Court. He was also a colonel in the Union Army.

Early life[edit]

Flandrau was born in 1828 in New York City. His father was Thomas Hunt Flandrau of New Rochelle, New York, a law partner of Aaron Burr. His mother was Elizabeth Maria Macomb, a daughter of Alexander Macomb, the wealthy New York merchant, and half-sister of General Alexander Macomb, hero of the War of 1812 and afterward head of the United States Army. The Flandraus were descendants of Jacques Flandreau, a Huguenot who came to New Rochelle in the 1690s.[1][2][3]

Flandrau was educated in Georgetown, then a separate community in the District of Columbia, until the age of 13 when he tried to enlist in the Navy. Too young to obtain an appointment, he instead spent three years as a common sailor under other services. In 1844, tiring of the sea, he spent three years in the mahogany trade in New York City, after which he rejoined his family at Whitesboro, New York, where he apprenticed in his father's law practice. He passed the bar in 1851 and joined his father's firm as partner.[1][2][3]


In 1853, he relocated to Traverse des Sioux, Minnesota to practice law. During the 1850s, he served on the Minnesota Territorial Council, in the Minnesota Constitutional Convention, and on the Minnesota territorial and state supreme courts. He was also appointed U.S. Agent for the Sioux in 1856.[1][2][3][4]

In August 1862, learning of a violent Dakota uprising in the southwestern corner of the state, he enlisted in the Union Army as a captain, and assembled an armed force to rush to the defense of the community of New Ulm. It is in honor of his success there that both Flandrau State Park and the community of Flandreau, South Dakota, are so named. Governor Ramsey put him in charge of the defense of the southwestern frontier of the state, and he served in this capacity as colonel for two years, simultaneous to his position on the Minnesota Supreme Court.[1][2][3]

In 1864 he resigned from both positions and moved to Nevada to practice law, but returned to Minneapolis within a year to practice law with Isaac Atwater. In 1867, he was the Democratic candidate for governor but was defeated by William Rainey Marshall. In 1869 he ran for chief justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court, but was again defeated. In 1870 he moved to St. Paul where he began a legal partnership with Horace R. Bigelow and Greenleaf Clark which continued until his death in 1903.[1][2][5]

Personal life[edit]

Judge Flandrau was married twice. His first marriage was on August 10, 1859 to Isabella Dinsmore of Kentucky. She died in 1867, leaving two daughters, Martha Macomb Flandrau and Sarah Gibson Flandrau. Martha Macomb Flandrau married Tilden Russell Selmes, and their daughter, Isabella Selmes was the first female congresswoman from Arizona, under her married name Isabella Greenway.[1][2]

Flandrau's second wife was the widow Rebecca B. Riddle, daughter of Judge William McClure of Pittsburgh. They had two sons, Charles Macomb Flandrau, a noted author, and William Blair McClure Flandrau, whose wife Grace Hodgson Flandrau was also a popular author, more financially successful than her brother-in-law. Grace Flandrau left money in her will to a variety of institutions, including the University of Arizona, which named Flandrau Science Center for her.[1][2]


  • The History of Minnesota and Tales of the Frontier (1900)


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Shutter, Marion Daniel (1897). Progressive Men of Minnesota. Minneapolis: The Minneapolis Journal. p. 121. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Folsom, William Henry Carman (1888). Fifty Years in the Northwest. Minnesota: Pioneer Press Company. pp. 576–577. 
  3. ^ a b c d Johnson, Rossiter; Brown, John Howard, eds. (1904). The Twentieth Century Biographical Dictionary of Notable Americans. Biographical Society. p. 141. 
  4. ^ "Flandrau, Charles Eugene – Legislator Record". Minnesota Legislative Reference Library. 
  5. ^ "Proceedings In Memory Of Associate Justice Flandrau" (PDF). Minnesota Reports 89. 

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