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Charles H. Toll

Charles H. Toll

Charles H. Toll

3rd Colorado Attorney General
Term: 1881-1882

               By 1880 the population of Colorado had reached 195,000. In the general election that year, Charles H. Toll was elected the third Attorney General of Colorado. In its January 11, 1881 edition the Rocky Mountain News reported, “The honorable Charles H. Toll, whom fortune has favored in more ways than one, succeeds the honorable C. W. Wright as Attorney General. He will not occupy an office in the state building, but will content himself with a tenancy in the Tabor block.”

               Charles Toll was born April 25, 1850 in Onondaga County, New York. He attended the Baldwinsville Academy, Munro Collegiate Institute, and Hamilton College from which he graduated in 1872. Desiring to be a lawyer, upon graduation he studied law in the office of former New York Senator Hiscock in Syracuse. He was admitted to the bar and practiced law in Syracuse until 1875. He then moved to Colorado and eventually settled in the small town of Del Norte. It was ill health that caused him to move west. He was “threatened with the affliction of the lungs so prevalent in the East” and came to Colorado “a spare and boyish figure,” weighing a mere 140 pounds.[1]

               Toll regained his health and quickly became prominent in his profession. In 1876 he was elected County Judge for Rio Grande County. In 1878 he was a successful Republican candidate for the state legislature. He was appointed an Assistant United States Attorney for Colorado in 1879. In 1880 he was nominated for Attorney General by the Republican State Convention and elected in November. He moved to Denver to take the job.

               As Attorney General, Toll’s most important litigation was the continuation of the suit pending in the United States Supreme Court involving title to the state capitol site. H. C. Brown, the developer of the Brown Palace Hotel and the affluent neighborhood around the capitol site, wanted to renege on his gift of the site to the state because of the delay in constructing a capitol building. In October 1881, Toll argued the case to the Supreme Court and the Court subsequently confirmed the State’s title to the land. A biographer also lauded Toll for his “efficiency” as Attorney General. “During his term the office was conducted without a dollar of expense on the part of the state…for clerk hire, office rent, stationery or incidentals of any kind.”[2] During the term of Charles Toll the Tabor Grand Opera House opened in Denver and steel mills began operating in Pueblo. Grand Junction was founded and the Ute tribes in Colorado were ordered to move to reservations.

After leaving office, Toll developed a successful corporate law practice and headed one of the largest law firms in Denver. He and his wife, Katherine Wolcott, whom he had married in 1881, had four sons. He was also a good friend of Eugene Field and had a large social circle in Denver. He was a charter member of the University Club in Denver and acquired significant real estate and mining interests in Colorado and New Mexico. He was described by a fellow Denver businessman as follows:

               “I do not know a man in the profession who has a higher sense of honor than Charles H. Toll. As a lawyer he is strong in the presentation of his cases and clear and convincing in arguments. He is a man of great industry, perseverance and tenacity of purpose.”[3]

                On December 4, 1901, Charles Toll died suddenly and unexpectedly of a stroke at the age of fifty-one. He was stricken at his law office in downtown Denver. The bar association held a large memorial service in his honor.

[1] William N. Byers, Encyclopedia of Biography of Colorado, The Century Publishing and Engraving Co. (1901).

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.