Horace P. Biddle

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Horace Peters Biddle (born Ohio around 1812; died Logansport, Indiana May 13, 1900) was a lawyer, judge, poet, musicologist, and famous hermit.

Born on what was then the frontier in present-day Hocking County, Ohio, Biddle was the youngest of 9 children and was largely raised by his oldest sister after the death of his mother when Biddle was five. After working for 7 years for his brother Daniel, a store owner, he caught the attention of lawyer and future Ohio Senator Thomas Ewing who advised him to study law and found a place for him in the office of Hocking H. Hunter. After being admitted to the Ohio Bar in 1839, Biddle moved to Logansport, Indiana and opened a practice there. From 1847 to 1852 he served as the presiding judge of the Carroll County circuit.[1] In 1850 he was a member of the state constitutional convention. In 1852 he resigned from the circuit court and ran for United States Representative on the Whig Party ticket but was unsuccessful. He was elected as a Republican to the Supreme Court of Indiana in 1857, but the court decided that the vacancy, created by a resignation, could be filled by the governor by appointment. Biddle instead served two 6-year terms as Carroll County circuit court judge (1860-1872). In 1872 Biddle was nominated for a Congressional seat by the Democratic and Independent Reform conventions, but declined the nomination and endorsed Ulysses S. Grant's re-election.[2] In 1874 he was nominated by the Democratic and Independent Reform slates for Supreme Court justice[3] and was elected; he served from January 1875 to January 1881.

Biddle was also a poet who published a number of works; his work was praised by Washington Irving and others. He published several works on literary theory, including The Definition of Poetry (1873) and The Analysis of Rhyme (1876). He translated a number of works (The Swallow by Lamartine, for example) and published a book on Russian literature. He published several works on sound and music theory, including The Musical Scale (1860), a Review of Tyndall on Sound (1872), and a pamphlet describing an instrument of his invention called the tetrachord.[4]

In his last years Biddle became rather reclusive, rarely leaving his home in Logansport, which was on a large island in the Wabash River known as Biddle Island. His will was not found until almost a year after his death; his estate went largely to his niece Eva Peters Reynolds.[5]

Biddle married Elema Ward on April 19, 1832; she died June 12, 1834. They had one child, who died as an infant.[6] Biddle married Anna Maria Matlack (1824?-1900) on June 8, 1846; after 1847 they separated, although they never divorced.[7]


  1. ^ Recollections of the Early Settlement of Carroll County, Indiana, James Hervey Stewart, Cincinnati: Hitchcock and Walden, 1872, p. 261
  2. ^ Knoxville Daily Chronicle, July 28, 1872, p. 1, "Campaign Notes"
  3. ^ New York Times, "The October Elections", October 1, 1874
  4. ^ Brainard's Biographies of American Musicians, ed. E. Douglas Bomberger, 1999, p. 31-33
  5. ^ New York Times, November 29, 1900
  6. ^ Some of the Ancestors and Descendants of Samuel Converse, Jr, Vol. 1, Charles Allen Converse, Salem, Mass.: Salem Press, 1905, p. 210
  7. ^ Genealogical info on the Matlack family