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Aaron Goodrich

Chief Justice
Appointed by his friend and President, Zachary Taylor, on June 1, 1849, Aaron Goodrich served as Chief Justice of the Minnesota Territorial Supreme Court until November 13, 1851, when he was removed by President Fillmore

Aaron Goodrich was born in Cayuga County, New York on July 16, 1807. His family later moved to western New York, where he spent his youth on his father’s farm, attended county school, and read a great many books. He got his first experience with the law around age twenty when he was living in Buffalo, NY. His family moved to Michigan Territory during that time and he moved there briefly before moving on to Dover, Tennessee. 

While in Tennessee, Goodrich married a woman from Michigan and completed his legal studies. He eventually ran for the legislature, lost by two votes, and after contesting the result,  served on the Tennessee State Legislature from 1847-1848. Goodrich became good friends with Zachary Taylor while in Tennessee and after Taylor was elected president, he appointed Goodrich to be the Chief Justice of the Minnesota Territorial Supreme Court on June 1, 1849. At the time of his appointment, two other men were appointed to the Minnesota Supreme Court and they each also served as the district judge for their area. 

The first session of the Minnesota Territorial Supreme Court was held at the American House hotel in St. Paul on January 14, 1850. Goodrich served on the court from January 13, 1850 to November 13, 1851, when he was removed by President Fillmore. He was accused of improprieties on and off the bench and Alexander Ramsey believed him to lack knowledge of the law. Goodrich went on to become a charter member of the Minnesota Historical Society and in 1861, he was appointed by President Lincoln to be the Secretary of Legation in Brussels, Belgium and stayed there until 1869 when he moved back to St. Paul. 

In 1870, he divorced his first wife, who had never joined him in Minnesota or Belgium, and he married a nineteen-year-old woman he met on the boat back to the United States. He had two daughters with his second wife and died on June 24, 1887, at the age of seventy-nine. Goodrich Avenue in St. Paul is named for him.

You may read more about the life and work of Chief Justice Goodrich in the article, linked below, and in the Minnesota Supreme Court Historical Society's book: Testimony: Remembering Minnesota's Supreme Court Justices, which is a source of this brief biography.

Aaron Goodrich - Stormy Petrel of the Territorial Bench by Robert C . Voight, Minnesota History, Winter 1964.  

Justice Aaron Goodrich
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