Col. William, Clerk of the Circuit, District and Criminal Courts of D.C. died in Washington, D.C. December 14, 1848. He had served as the Clerk of the Court forty-three years and was also the clerk of the Criminal Court which was established in 1838. The day following his death, the judges and officers of the court met. Their meeting and resolution appear below.
The Death of William Brent Esquire
On the opening of the Court this Morning Philip N. Fendall Esq. presented the following proceedings of the Bar & the Officers of the Court.
At a meeting of the Barristers & officers of the Circuit and Criminal Courts of the District of Columbia, held at the Court Room on Friday, December 15, 1848, John Marbury Esq. was called to the chair and Walter D. Davidge Esq was appointed Secretary.
Genl Eaton announced to the meeting the death of Colo. Brent, clerk of the Courts, and moved that the District Attorney, Mr. Fendall and Mr. Morfit be a committee to propose & report for the action of the meeting, resolutions on the melancholy occasion. The motion was carried. The Committee after retiring for a short time returned and reported the following resolutions:
Resolved, that this meeting deeply lament the death of William Brent clerk of the Circuit Court of the District of Columbia for Washington County for the last forty three years and clerk of the Criminal Court of said District and County, from its beginning: an officer who during this long period discharged his duties faithfully to the public, and acceptably to individuals; one of the earliest inhabitants of this city and prominently connected with enterprises for its benefit, a public spirited citizen; a gentleman whose clear & cultivated intellect, retentive memory and bland demeanor made his society instructive and agreeable; a man who lived fearing God, and the friend of all men; and who died in the christians hope of a blessed immortality and without an enemy.
Resolved that in testimony of our grief for his loss, and of our respect for his memory, we will attend his funeral and wear the usual badge of mourning for thirty days.
Resolved that a copy of these proceedings be transmitted by the chairman of this meeting to the Family of the deceased with an assurance of our sympathy in their affliction.
Resolved that a copy of these proceedings be presented to the Honorable Judges of the Circuit & Criminal Courts with a request that the same be entered on their respective minutes.
The Resolutions were unanimously adopted; and on motion of Richard Wallach Esq. it was unanimously resolved that the proceedings of this meeting be signed by the chairman and Secretary and published in the several city news papers.
Walter D. Davidge, Secretary
John Marbury, Chairman
To which the Chief Judge made the following reply:
It is with no ordinary feeling of sorrow that we have heard of the death of the late William Brent Esq. who, for nearly half a century has filled the office of clerk of the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of Columbia; the duties of which office he performed with honor to himself and fidelity to the public. The relation in which he stood to the Court has enabled us to know and deeply appreciate his integrity as an officer of the Court; his mild and gentlemanly deportment towards the Court and the bar, and his kindness and urbanity in all his official transactions. As a man we can bear witness to his concientious discharge of all the relations of life, as a husband, as a father, as a citizen, as a friend, and as a neighbour.
We sincerely sympathize with the bereaved family in their affliction, and with the public generally in the decease of a citizen so benevolent, so kind, so useful, so honorable, and so exemplary in the discharge of the duties of the religion which he professed.
The Court therefore will order the Resolutions which have been presented to us by the Gentlemen of the bar and the officers of the Court to be entered upon the minutes as requested; and that a copy of them and of this order be presented to the afflicted family of the deceased.
On 8 January 1849 John A. Smith was appointed Clerk of the Courts, replacing William Brent.
Col. William Brent left a wife, Elizabeth Neale, and six children by her, only one over the age of twenty. His first wife, Catherine Walker Johnson, with whom he had six children, had died in 1822. William Brent was buried in the Carroll family graveyard - St. John the Evangelist Cemetery - in Forest Glen, Maryland, where many in his family are buried.
William Brent, biographical sketch
Will of William Brent, 1848
Gravestone of William and his second wife, Elizabeth Neale, Forest Glen, Maryland
Gravestone of William's first wife, Catherine Walker Johnson, d.1822, Forest Glen, Maryland
Robert and Ann Carroll Brent, parents of William Brent
Minutes of the Circuit Court for the District of Columbia, 1801-1863. Washington, D.C., National Archives, FHL MF 940134, Court minutes, 1847-1856, images 132-134, on the pages following the Monday, 8 January 1849 appointment of John A. Smith to the position of Clerk of the Circuit Court.