Strangers to Us All Lawyers and Poetry

Alfred W. Arrington

North Carolina, Arkansas
Missouri, Texas, Illinois

Minister, attorney, politician, judge, novelist, and poet

Alfred W. Arrington was born in Iredell County, North Carolina, on September 17, 1810. His father, H. Archibald Arrington, was a Whig, and represented North Carolina as its Congressman from 1841 to 1845. At the age of nine, he moved with his father, a Methodist minister, to Arkansas. In 1828, he took up his father's work and became an itinerant Methodist preacher. He preached in Arkansas, Indiana, and Missouri and wrote articles for Southern Magazine. With growing doubts about his faith, Arrington left the ministry in 1834 and took up the study of law. He was admitted to the bar in Missouri in 1835. Over the next twelve years, he practiced law in Missouri, Arkansas, and Texas.

Arrington returned to Arkansas in 1835 (or 1836) where he served in the state legislature until 1845. He then moved to Texas, but after a visit east in 1847, he began publishing books under the pen name "Charles Summerfield." He lived in Boston and New York for two years but decided, in 1849, to return to Texas where he took up residence in Brownsville. In 1850, Arrington was elected judge of the Rio Grande Judicial District, a position he held for six years until bad health forced his retirement. He then returned to New York, resumed his literary writing, and published a novel, The Rangers and Regulators of the Tanaha (1856).

Arrington moved on to Madison, Wisconsin but remained there only a short time. In 1857 he took up residence in Chicago, where he again practiced law and built a successful practice. He died in Chicago on December 31, 1867. Before his death, Arrington converted to the Catholic faith. Arrington's poetry, written in his spare time, was collected and published postumously by his wife in 1869.

[Sources: Allen Johnson & Duamas Malone (ed.), 3 Dictionary of American Biography 645-646 (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1959)(1930); Texas Handbook Online; Virtual American Biographies]

As to Arrington's law practice in Chicago, we are told:

His ornate oratory appealed to Western audiences and juries, whilst his thorough knowledge of law and innate dialectical skill enabled him to achieve outstanding success before the appellate tribunals, particularly in constitutional cases. "Although sometimes eccentric, his briefs were models and his arguments cogent" (John M. Parker, The Bench and Bar of Illinois, 1899, II, 162). . . .The greater part of his life was passed upon the frontier. He disliked the restraints of society and lived, as far as an active profession career would permit, a solitary life, and the instability of purpose which distinguished him up to middle age was an effective obstacle to his attainment of definite eminence in either literature or law. [Dictionary of American Biography, at 373]

As to his preaching:

At the early age of eighteen he began to preach, and, at that time, exhibited an oratorical power that resembled the inspiration of an Italian improvisatore. He drew large audiences and excited the greatest enthusiasm.

[Sam H Dixon (ed.), The Poets and Poetry of Texas 22-29, at 23 (Austin, Texas: Sam H. Dixon & Co., Publishers, 1885)] [online text]

[See also, "Alfred W. Arrington," in Usher F. Linder, Reminiscences of the Early Bench and Bar of Illinois 234-237 (Chicago: The Chicago Legal News Co., 1879); John M. Palmer, The Bench and Bar of Illinois: Historical and Reminiscent 662-663 (Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Co., 1899)(vol.2)]

Alfred W. Arrington
Texas Handbook Online

Alfred W. Arrington


Alfred W. Arrington, Poems (Chicago: E.B. Myers, 1869)(1868)("With a Sketch of His Character, and a Memoir")(Charles Carroll Bonney ed.)


Alfred W. Arrington, Duelists and Duelling in the South-west. With sketches of southern life. Being the second and concluding part of "The desperadoes of the south-west." (New York: W.H. Graham, 1847)(Charles Summerfield [pseud.])

________________, The Desperadoes of the South-west containing an account of the Cane Hill murderers, together with the lives of several of the most notorious regulators and moderators of that region (New York: Graham, 1847)(Charles Summerfield [pseud.])

________________, The Lives and Adventures of the Desperadoes of the South West: containing an account of the duelist and dueling (New York: W. H. Graham, 1849)(Charles Summerfield [pseud.])

________________, Illustrated Lives and Adventures of the Desperadoes of the New World: containing an account of the different modes of lynching; the Cane Hill murders; the victims; the execution; the justification, etc., etc.; as well as the lives of the principal duellists, and their duelling. Together with the lives of the most notorious regulators and moderators in the known world (Philadelphia: T. B. Peterson, 1849)(Charles Summerfield [pseud.])

________________, The Rangers and Regulators of the Tanaha; or, Life Among the Lawless. A Tale of the Republic of Texas (New York: R.M. De Witt, 1856)(New York: S. Low, Son & Co., 1871)(Charles Summerfield [pseud.]) [online text]

_________________, Rangers and Regulators. A Novel (New York: G.W. Dillingham, 1892)


Memorial of Alfred W. Arrington (Chicago: E.B. Myers and Chandler, 1868)

Pat Ireland Nixon, Judge Alfred W. Arrington, Judge William H. Rhodes, and the Case of Summerfield, 55 Southwestern Historical Quarterly 341 (1952) [online text] [William Henry Rhodes]

Ted R. Worley, The Story of Alfred W. Arrington, 14 (1) Arkansas Historical Quarterly 315 (1955)

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