Strangers to Us All Lawyers and Poetry

Henry Pelham Holmes Bromwell

Illinois & Colorado

frontis photograph

Henry Pelham Holmes Bromwell, The Song of the Wahbeek: A Poem
(Denver: Henrietta E. Bromwell, Publisher, 1909)

Henry Pelham Holmes Bromwell was born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1823 and his family moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1824, and then on to Cumberland, Illinois in 1836. He attended Marshall Academy, in Marshall, Illinois, and stayed on as an instructor. He studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1853, starting his law practice in Vandalia, Illinois. He edited his father's newspaper, served as judge of Fayette County, Illinois (1853-1857) and was active in the the Republican Party. Bromwell was first elected to Congress in 1865 and served for two terms before being defeated in 1868. In 1870 he moved to Denver, Colorado, and again took up the practice of law. He was president of the Denver School Board from 1871 to 1874, and a delegate to the constitutional convention of Colorado in 1875. He died in Denver, Colorado, on January 7, 1903 and is interred in Denver's Riverside Cemetery. [Source: Henry Pelham Holmes Bromwell, Biographical Directory of the United States Congress]

The preface to The Song of the Wahbeek: A Poem provides the following biographical sketch:

Henry Pelham Holmes Bromwell died in Denver, Colorado, in 1903.

He was born in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1823, his parents being Henry Broughton Bromwell, and Henrietta, daughter of Lemuel Holmes of Plymouth County, Massachusetts.

He was familiar with the character of the Indian and of the pioneer, and had spent all of the most impressionable years of his boyhood in the beautiful forests which at that time surrounded the grand prairies of Illinois, where lingered many traditions of the past, and where each rock, tree and stream teemed with suggestions of the religion of the people of the wilderness, and there were many varieties of birds, animals and flowers, now no more found in those parts of the world.

In Cumberland, a most romantic little hamlet (now gone and forgotten), on the old "National Road," near the present town of Casey, far from schools, churches, and with only the Bible, a copy of Shakespeare's plays, some few Latin and Green books belonging to his father (one of which was a collection of Latin hymns), and a few words on history, altogether constituting a library of great magnitude for that time and place, his education was begun, with the forest for his most absorbing study, with the clouds and the stars.

Many years passed away, some of them spent in Vandalia, the old state capital, some of them in Charleston. He was teacher, editor, scholar, lawyer, legislator, jurist, Congressman, and always the beloved and admired gentleman; unselfish, kind, modest, cheerful, witty, easily a leader in any place he had part in; eloquent, most just and generous. His many orations and speeches delivered in the stormy campaigns during the critical period before and after the Civil War, made him a figure in state, and indeed, in national politics.

The extensive range of his studies, and his scholarly acquirements are shown by his great work on Masonic Symbolry, now being read in many of the grand jurisdictions of the world. In a resolution passed by the Grand Lodge of Illinois, this book is referred to as "The most remarkable contribution, along the lines of which it treats, yet made to Masonic literature."

McKendree College conferred upon him the Honorary Degree of master of Arts, in 1867, during the time the distinguished Robert Allyn was President of the College. On that occasion he read his poem, The Song of the Wahbeek, by invitation of the Faculty, whose attention he had attracted by his wide reputation for scholarship. The poem was at that time condensed for delivery. It was later read to the Constitutional Convention of Illinois in 1870. Soon after this he came to Colorado, where he amplified the work, and gave it its present form.

The love story of Kol-lo-war and Lo-wi-el, which is the gem and ornament of the poem . . . illustrates the life of a superior race who occupied the country before the coming of the Indian, a people who worshiped the sun, and of whose existence the red race has handed down traditions.

[Note: In addition to Bromwell, other lawyer poets known for their Masonic writings, include Albert Pike (1809-1891) and Rob Morris (1818-1888)]

The Life and Times of H.P.H. Bromwell

My Father, H.P.H. Bromwell

Henry Pelham Holmes Bromwell
Biographical Directory of the United States Congress

Henry P.H. Bromwell


Selected Poetry


Henry Pelham Holmes Bromwell, The Song of the Wahbeek: A Poem (Denver: Henrietta E. Bromwell, 1909)

_________________________, The Two Processions: A Poem (Denver: H.E. Bromwell, 1918)

_________________________, On Buena Vista's Field and Other Early Poems (Denver: Henrietta E. Bromwell, 1918)

_________________________, The Dead Forest of the Colorado: A Poem (Denver: Henrietta E. Bromwell, 1918)

_________________________, Poems to Emma (Denver: Bromwell, 1919)

_________________________, Further Light, and Other Poems Written for Masonic Occasions, also Tributes to His Friend Abraham Lincoln (Denver: Henrietta E. Bromwell, 1920)

__________________________, Lute of Israefel, with other poems and allegories. The Ladder of Bethel, The Sacred Rivers, and tribute to his friend Abraham Lincoln (Denver, 1920)


Henry Pelham Holmes Bromwell, Restorations of Masonic Geometry and Symbolry, Being a Dissertation on the Lost Knowledge of the Lodge (Denver: H. P. H. Bromwell Masonic Publishing Company, 1905) [online preview]

_________________________, Translations; from Poems of Schiller, Schlegel, Uhland, Schwab, Schneckenburger, Chamisso, Freiligrath, and others (Denver: Bromwell, 1919)


My Father, H.P.H. Bromwell

Research Resources

Henry Pelham Holmes Bromwell Papers
Colorado Historical Society Library
Denver, Colorado

Index, Ross' Historical Souvenir of Vandalia, Illinois State Capital, 1819-1837
(a journal of H.B. & H.P.H. Bromwell, Vandalia [Ill.] 1852)
Denver Public Library
Illinois State Historical Library