David Torrance was born in Edinburgh, Scotland on March 3, 1840. Following his father's death, his mother and his brothers and sisters emigrated to Norwich. He worked in local mills as a child and continued to do that until he enlisted in 18th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry at the start of the Civil War. He was captured in Viriginia and sent to Libby Prison and later Belle Island before being paroled in 1863. However he then went on to serve with distinction as a captain in the 29th Regiment, C.V., Colored which was commanded by Col. William Wooster of Derby. He rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel before finishing his service in October, 1865. Under Wooster's tutelage, he began the study of law. In fact, he is said to have purchased his first law book on his way home from the service. When the war ended, he and his wife, Annie France, settled in Derby. He continued to study under Colonel Wooster who was practicing in Derby. He was admitted to the New Haven County Bar in 1868.
He represented Derby in the state legislature in 1871 and 1872 and was elected Secretary of State in 1879. He was appointed a judge in the Court of Common Pleas in 1881 and continued his rise in the judicial system until he was appointed Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Errors on October 1, 1901. Yale University gave him an honorary degree in 1883 and he became an instructor in the Yale Law School in 1893 and was promoted to professor of the law in 1898. - not bad for someone who had not graduated from college himself! He was very active in the community, was a member of the Congregational Church in the Birmingham, married Annie France in 1864 and had three children.
He died at his home in Derby on September 5, 1906. He had been suffering from heart disease for some time and was taken seriously ill while driving with his wife the day before his death according to the New York Times