Strangers to Us All
Lawyers and Poetry

Theodor Erasmus Hilgard


"HILGARD, Theodore Erasmus, lawyer, born in Mannheim, Germany, 7 July, 1790; died in Heidelberg, Germany, 14 February, 1873. He studied at the Universities of Heidelberg and Paris, and took a legal course in Coblentz. During the time of the French rule he followed his profession in Troves, and, on the restoration of the Rhenish provinces to Germany, settled in Zweibrticken, where he held the appointment of associate justice of the court of appeals from 1821 till 1835. He was also a member of the provincial assembly from 1821 till 1826. In 1835 he came to the United States, and settled in St. Clair county, Illinois. He purchased a farm near Belleville, and besides its general management gave much attention to viticulture, being the first to introduce it in Illinois. At first he tried to discover which of the Rhenish or French vines were best adapted to the climate, but soon found the indigenous Catawba grape most suitable, and he produced a wine that acquired a high local reputation. The town of West Belleville, which has gradually surrounded the original homestead, was laid out on his property and under his direction. Meanwhile he gave special attention to the education of his children, whom he instructed personally in languages and philosophy. In 1851 he returned to Germany, having been invited by the Bavarian government to take part in recasting the law of mortgages of that country into a more modern form. Subsequently he came back to the United States, but, finding his family dispersed, he again returned to Germany, and passed the remainder of his life quietly in Heidelberg. While on his farm in the United States he revived an early taste for poetry, and devoted a portion of his leisure to making translations of ancient and modern poems into German, some of which were published and received with high commendation, notably Ovid's 'Metamorphoses,' and 'The Fire-Worshipers' from Moore's 'Lalla Rookh.' Besides numerous legal and historical articles and minor poems contributed to American and European periodicals, he published ' Twelve Paragraphs on Pauperism' (Heidelberg, 1847); 'Ten Paragraphs on Constitutional Monarchy, and Republics' (1849); 'My Recollections,' an autobiography (1858); and 'The Hundred Days, an Epic Poem" (1859).'" [Source: Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, see, Virtual American Biographies] [See generally, Theodor Erasmus Hilgard, in American National Biography]