William Henry Denson
States District Attorney, was born in Russell County, Ala.. March 4, 1846. His
parents, Augustus R. and Elizabeth (Ivey) Denson, were born, respectively, in
Franklin County, N. C., in 1812, and Baldwin County, Ga., in 1819.
The senior Mr. Denson, a planter by occupation, took part in the War of
1836, going into the army from Alabama, whither he had moved in 1833. He lived
in Russell County, this State, and there reared five sons and three daughters.
The eldest son, John B., of Waddell's Artillery, was killed at Resaca, Ga.;
Robert H. lives at Trenton, Mo.; N. D. is an attorney-at-law in Chambers County,
this State; Augustus M., late sheriff of Etowah County, died in April, 1885; and
the subject of this sketch, one of the leading attorneys of Alabama, will be treated of
hereafter. The old gentleman was a son of John E. Denson, a Virginian, who moved into North Carolina at the
beginning of the present century, and there married Frances Hill-Smau. He was a
soldier in the War of 1812, and reared a large family of children.
The Densons came originally from England, and were
Quakers. The first one that came to this country was William Denson. He settled
in Westmoreland County, Va., and reared three sons; one of the sons settled in
Maryland, another in Pennsylvania, and the third in North Carolina. They
were farmers, and from them have descended many noble men and women, distinguished, some of them, in the history of the Church
and of State. The Ivey family, from whom the subject of this sketch descends in
the maternal line, came originally from Wales in the person of Barney Ivey.
Barney married Alcey Davis, a native of Georgia, and lived to be ninety-one
years of age. He died in November, 1856. He reared a large family of sons
and daughters, all of whom it appears heeded well
the injunction of the Bible in multiplying and replenishing the earth.
William Henry Denson spent the first seventeen years of his life on his father's farm, at the neighboring schools and at the
University of Alabama.
He entered the army in February, 1863, as a member of Waddell's Battalion of Artillery, and was in
every battle from Dalton to Atlanta. In 1564 he was furloughed on account of his
protracted sickness: rejoined his command at Macon, Ga., and remained to the
close of the war. For the first year after the restoration of peace he turned
his hand to farming, raised a crop, sold it, and with the proceeds, went to
Columbus where, in the office with P. J. Moses,
he began the study of law. He was admitted to the bar in February, 1867, but it appears did not
enter the practice until 1870. In that year he hung out his shingle at LaFayette, Ala., and was at once recognized as a brilliant and successful
attorney. In 1876 he
was a member of the Legislature, where he served with marked ability on the Judiciary Committee, and as a
member of the joint committee on the revision of the Code. After a trip West,
he, in the fall of 1877, settled in Gadsden, were he has since remained, and
where he unquestionably stands at the very head of his profession.
Colonel Denson is an active politician, an
uncompromising Democrat, and serves his party with much zeal and distinguished
effect. He was a Cleveland elector in 1884, and in June, 1885, was appointed
United States District Attorney
for the Northern and Middle
Districts of Alabama. He is a Royal Arch Mason and a Knight of Pythias;
is an active business man, live, energetic,
wide-awake, broad-gauged, and belongs to the
noble army of modern Southern men, now growing
rap-idly famous for their energy and enterprise. As a public man, his record is
without a blemish. Opposed to rings
and monopolies of all kinds, he believes
in a Government of the people, by the people, and for the people. With him
jobbery, chicanery, scheming and pusillanimity finds no abiding place. nor has
he any patience with any man, be he ever so great, who panders to such
things and demagoguery in his efforts for
political advancement. He has implicit faith in the intelligence and integrity of
the people at large, and believes that the whole people should and must have a voice in the
Government. In speaking of the people, it should be understood that Colonel
Denson means the white people.
Physically, Colonel Denson is a broad-shouldered, heavy-set, rotund sort of a man;
florid complexion, hair
and beard slightly tinged with gray. Before a jury he is a powerful advocate: on
the stump he is a forcible, logical and eloquent
speaker; in conversation he is pleasing, cordial and
entertaining. The publishers take pleasure in prefacing this article with the
portrait of the gentleman as a mark of distinction and of their appreciation
of his high merit as a citizen.
Colonel Denson was married December 21, 1868, to Rosa E. Cowan, a native of
Eufaula, and daughter of Dr. William Cowan, one of the pioneers of that town,
known first as Irwinton. Mrs. Denson's mother is a sister of the Hon. J. L.
Pugh, United States Senator. Colonel and Mrs. Denson have five children: Annie
L., Hugh C., William A., John and Lola E. The family are Presbyterians.
McCalley, Henry, Northern Alabama :
historical and biographical.
Birmingham, AL: Smith & De
Land, 1888, pp. 835