Skip to Main Content
Minnesota State Law Library Logo

Minnesota State Law Library

Moses Sherburne, Associate Justice, Territorial Supreme Court, 1853-1857

Moses Sherburne

Portrait of Moses Sherburne


After serving on the court, Justice Sherburne became a member of the Minnesota Constitutional Convention in 1857



Moses G. Sherburne was born in Mount Vernon, Maine, on January 25, 1808. He was educated in the public schools and had high enough marks that he was accepted at the Academy of China, Maine, a prestigious school in the area. After graduation, he studied law with the acting governor of Maine, Nathan Cutler for two years. He was admitted to the bar in 1831, at age 23 and opened his own legal practice. The next year he married Sophia Dyar Whitney. A few years later he served as Postmaster, and then County Attorney. Soon after he was elected to office and served in both the House and Senate of the State Legislature of Maine. His first judicial appointment came in 1840 when he became a Justice of the Peace. He later became a Judge of Probate for Franklin County, Maine and then had two statewide judicial appointments. In 1850 he became the state bank commissioner for Maine and became acquainted with Franklin Pierce. In 1853, Pierce was elected U.S. President, and in April he nominated his friend to be a Supreme Court Justice in the new territory of Minnesota.That fall, Sherburne traveled with his family to Minnesota and he took his place on the bench for the January 1854 term of the court. During his time on the court, Justice Sherburne wrote 17 majority opinions which can be found in 1 Minn. Reports. He served on the court until 1857 and heard district and appellate cases during that time. He left the court in 1857 when James Buchanan was elected president. He then went on to become a member of the Minnesota Constitutional Convention in 1857. In 1858 he was a member of a commission appointed by the Legislature to revise the General Laws of the State of Minnesota. After leaving the court he started a successful law practice in St. Paul and lived there until shortly before his death in 1868. He died in his home in Orono which was in Sherburne County, named for him. Moses Sherburne was a well-respected attorney and judge who was known for his integrity and service to the state.

You may read more about the life and work of Justice Sherburne 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.

Moses Sherburne's signature from the Minn. Constitution

Portrait of Moses Sherburne from Hiram F. Stevens’s History of the Bench and Bar of Minnesota (Minneapolis and St. Paul: Legal Publishing & Engraving Co., 1904), Signature from the Minnesota Constitution Democratic Version