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Henry Z. Hayner, Chief Justice, Territorial Supreme Court, 1852-1853

Henry Z. Hayner

Henry Zachariah Hayner was born in Brunswick, New York on September 18, 1802. He attended Yale University and graduated in the class of 1826. He was admitted to the bar in New York in 1830. He was active politically in New York, represented Rensselaer County, New York in the 69th New York State Legislature, and ran for Senator. On August 30, 1852, he was nominated to be Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Territory of Minnesota by President Millard Fillmore, replacing Jerome Fuller, whose nomination had been rejected. He arrived in St. Paul in October 1852, too late to hold the fall term of court, so his duties were limited. However, he is believed to have imposed the first death sentence in Minnesota and declared a law banning liquor unconstitutional. He was removed from office on April 5, when Franklin Pierce succeeded Fillmore as president and cleared out prior federal appointments. He returned to New York and resumed work as an attorney until the beginning of the Civil War, when he volunteered for service even though he was 59 years old, and was ranked a Major. His son Herrick was killed in the Civil War. Hayner was discharged at the end of the war, just before turning 63. In 1869, he was nominated to be Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Wyoming Territory, but there is no indication he assumed that position. In the later years of his life, he spent time in Florida and worked on mineral-land titles out West. He died of kidney disease on March 31, 1874 in New York City. He was married three times and had two sons and two daughters.

You may read more about the life and work of Chief Justice Hayner in the articles, 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.

Henry Z. Hayner Signature from military file

Image credit: Signature of Henry Z. Hayner, 1865 from Military Officer's File at the National Archives.