Distinquished judge makes Niles his final resting place

Published 11:45 pm Saturday, September 1, 2007

By By Friends of Silverbrook Cemetery
His claims to fame are many.
His cousin Jenny was the mother of Sir Winston Churchill.
Born at Pompey in Onondaga County in New York State on Oct. 23, 1819, George H. Jerome became a lawyer and a greatly respected judge. However it was his hobby – fishing – that gained him his greatest recognition.
Jerome was educated in New York. Following his graduation from law school he married Charlotte L. Dana, who was described as "an accomplished lady from a noted family."
Perhaps it was the connection to his wife's brother Cyrus Dana, a resident of Niles, that precipitated the couple's move to this city shortly after their marriage on July 9, 1846. Whatever the reason, Jerome began his practice here.
According a biographical sketch in "Eminent Men of Michigan" he soon "accepted a magisterial office, which he found more lucrative and pleasant."
All reports suggest that he gained a great deal of confidence and respect from both citizens and professional colleagues.
Attracted by the "growing greatness of Chicago," he left his profitable vocation and large circle of friends to enter real estate in that city until what is described as "some accidental circumstances" had him undertake another move to Iowa City. There he changed professions yet again becoming an editor of the Iowa City Republican.
The paper was the oldest and quickly became the best political journal in the state. While he was editor, Jerome served many years as chairman of the Republican State Central Committee.
Here again, the personable Jerome became a key figure in the affairs of the state and in the policies of his party in the early years of the Civil War. At the personal insistence of President Lincoln, he was appointed assessor of Internal Revenue Services for 12 counties.
Jerome's biographical sketch says this was "a position which he filled for four years in the most creditable manner and then voluntarily resigned in favor of a meritorious and disabled colonel of the Union Army."
Jerome tired of his public employments and began to seek a simpler, more rural lifestyle. It was then he returned to Niles to settle at "Sabine Farm" which was located in an area just south of the present Silverbrook Street.
The site overlooked the city, river and what was described as "the magnificent highlands of the Pottawattamic reservation." The sketch continues: "Here like a Roman patrician, he established his villa and, in great part with his own hands, embellished the surroundings with gardens, vineyards, cascades and fountains."
Here Jerome established a private fish hatchery, the first in the state. Soon the accomplished statesman became increasingly involved in a movement where fishermen were lobbying for state regulation and the protection of sport fishing.
In 1873, Jerome was appointed Commissioner of State Fisheries. Although reports suggest he was reluctant to re-enter the public forum, his friends urged him to accept. The governor of the day, Bagley, also encouraged Jerome to accept knowing that he would apply his well-known enthusiasm and zeal to the new position.
As Superintendent of State Fisheries, he became an expert in all the details of fish culture. Before his appointment little care was given to the protection of the culture and preservation of Michigan's bountiful lake populations. With limited means, he became one of the state's greatest naturalists and the scope of his impact is perhaps beyond measure.
Jerome seems to have left this world, August, 1885, in much the same way he lived. His obituary begins: "like an alarm bell at dead of night, our citizens were startled at 4 o'clock Saturday afternoon, by the announcement that Mr. Jerome had been suddenly struck down by death at his beautiful home in this city.
"Those who but two hours before had met him amid the bustling throng on Main Street and had noticed his firm but elastic step, little dreamed that so soon the terrible tidings of his death would mingle with the echo of his hearty greetings."
It seems that Jerome was overseeing some home repairs and became faint, his breathing difficult. Even though those on the scene did everything they could for his comfort, he died of suffocation resulting from internal hemorrhage from a ruptured blood vessel, before the doctor's arrival.
His obituary ended with a wonderful summary of Jerome's effect on his community, written in language which borders on poetry.
"Few men in this vicinity had a more extended personal acquaintance and none a more retinue of personal friends, embracing all shades of opinion, who will mourn for him as a near relative. The hearts of our entire community will go out to the bereft wife in this hour of her great bereavement."