Skip to Main Content
Minnesota State Law Library Logo

Minnesota State Law Library

Charles E. Vanderburgh, Associate Justice 1882-1894

Charles E. Vanderburgh


Portrait of Associate Justice Charles E. VanderburghAs Hennepin District Judge, Vanderburgh freed visiting Mississippi slave Eliza Winston in the time window between Dred Scot and the Civil War.


Charles E. Vanderburgh was born on December 2, 1829 in Saratoga County, New York. He attended Courtland Academy, and in 1852 graduated from Yale. After "reading law" in a New York law office for several years, he was admitted to practice in 1855, and came to Minnesota in the following year. In 1859 he was elected District Judge of the Fourth Judicial District, where he served until 1880 by virtue of reelection. He was subsequently elected Associate Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court in 1881 and served in that position from 1882 to 1894, when he returned to private practice of law. He died at his home in Minneapolis on March 3, 1898.

Justice Vanderburgh is probably best known for his career as a judge of the Fourth Judicial District (Hennepin County).  He was the presiding judge who freed Eliza Winston, an enslaved woman from Mississippi, who had accompanied her owners to a visit to St. Anthony in the time window between the U.S. Supreme Court's Dred Scott decision and the Civil War.

The books Testimony: Remembering Minnesota's Supreme Court Justices and History of the Minnesota Supreme Court are the basis of this brief biography and provide information on his life.

Signature of Charles Vanderburgh

Image Credit: Portrait of Associate Justice Charles E. Vanderburgh from History of the Bar and Bench of Minnesota, by Hiram F. Stevens, 1904,  
Charles Vanderburgh's signature in the Roll of Attorneys, Supreme Court, State of Minnesota, 1858-1970, p. 3. Available online at:

Highlighted Resources