FIRST TERM OF THE CIRCUIT COURT—" FIAT JUSTICIA
RUAT COELUM "EARLY PRACTICES—FIRST JURY TRIAL—FIRST
NATURALIZATION PAPERS—THE MURDER OF ISAAC EDWARDS—SLANDER—FIRST COURT AT
BLOOMFIELD—DIVORCE CASES—THE PROBATE COURT—PENSIONS—NEW COURT HOUSE—FIRST
CASE "AD QUAD DAMNUM "—JOHN DOE VS. RICHARD ROE—EMINENT MEN—AN "AFFAIR OF
HONOR"—THE ROUSSEAU'S—WOMAN'S RIGHTS—THE BLACK CREEK MILL DAM—THE MURDER OF
PHOEBE GRAVES—MISCELLANEOUS ITEMS—THE MURDER OF WILLIAM WALKER—EXECUTION OF
THE first term of Circuit Court held in Greene County was held at the
residence of Thomas Bradford, one mile south of Bloomfield, in September,
1821. J. Doty was President Judge; John S. Buskirk, Associate Judge; Thomas
Warnick, Clerk; and Thomas Bradford, Sheriff. The Clerk was not required to
give surety on his bond. Henry Merrick and Amory Kinney were admitted to
practice as attorneys. Henry Merrick was appointed Prosecuting Attorney.
Amory Kinney was afterward well known throughout the State as an eminent
Judge. The first grand jury was composed of thirteen jurors—John O'Neall,
John Slinkard. Benson Jones, John Goldsherry, Reuben Hill, James Smith, Levi
Fellows, Jonathan Lindley, Benjamin Hashaw, Cornelius Bogard, Cornelius P.
Vanslyke, Eli Faucett and Joseph Ramsomers. Col. Levi Fellows was appointed
foreman of the jury. The first court docket has written on the back and
first leaf, in prominent and bold letters, this motto: "Fiat Justicia Ruat
Coelum" — (Let justice prevail if the Heavens fall).
The docket for this 'term of court contained two cases only. The first was
Thomas Mounts against Zebulon Hogue, and the action was styled, " Trespass
on the case for slander." It appears that even in that early day, when only
a few settlers had gathered together, and when they needed each other's
sympathy and assistance, that the strong passion of malignity invaded the
settlements, and arrayed one neighbor against another, and that they finally
resorted to the courts for redress. But in this instance it also appears
that finally "the better angel of their nature" prevailed, and the cause was
dismissed. The probability is, that these litigants made friends, as on the
same day Mr. Hogue went on Mr. Mounts' bond as surety for his appearance at
the next term of court. The other case on the docket at the first term of
court was Benjamin Hashaw against Thomas Mounts, and was styled, "Trespass
on the case for debt." This case was also dismissed. At this term of court,
Mr. Mounts seems to have monopolized the business of being defendant in
court. The grand jury returned four indictments, and they were continued
until the next term. The Associate Judges were paid by the county. The first
action of the commissioners in 1822 was to issue an order to pay the salary
of Judge John S. Buskirk for the year 1821. His salary was not as large as
Judges' salaries were at a
later period in history, his salary for the year being $2. Judge Buskirk was
a prominent and leading
man in the early settlement of the county, and a relative of the numerous
family of Buskirks who have ornamented the bench and bar of the State.
THE SECOND TERM OF COURT.
The February term, 1822, of the court was held at the same place as the
preceding term. It was held by Associate Judges Thomas Bradford and John S.
Buskirk. Thomas Warnick was Clerk, and was continuously Clerk until 1835.
John Seaman was Sheriff, and continuous!y so until 1829. Addison Smith was
appointed Prosecuting Attorney. Craven P. Hester, Thomas H. Blake, Joseph
Warner and Addison Smith were admitted to practice as attorneys, " they
having produced their proper license." The grand jurors were Robert
Anderson, Alexander Plummer, Richard Benson, Hiram Hayward, William Clark,
Edmund Gillum, John Breece, Jonathan Sanders, Peter Ingersoll, Samuel C.
Hall, Eli Faucett, Isaac Hubbell and William Bynum.At this term four
indictments were returned. On two of the indictments returned in 1821, the
Prosecuting Attorney entered a nolle prosequi, one was continued, and on the
other there was a trial by jury. This was the first trial by jury ever had
in the Circuit Court in the county. It was on a charge of assault and
battery, and against Daniel Carlin. The assault and battery was said to be
on Peter C. Vanslyke. The jury was composed of Joseph Smith, Orange Monroe,
James Stalcup, William Scott, Isaac Hicks, Thomas Stalcup, John S. Warner,
David Deem, Abel Burlingame, Aaron Stepam, Stephen Dixon and Jonathan
Osborn. Craven P. Hester appealed for the defendant. The jury found the
defendant guilty, and assessed his fine at $1. A motion for new trial was
made, and overruled, and excepted to. A motion in arrest of judgment was
made, and held under advisement until next term, at which time the motion
was sustained and the defendant discharged. At this February term, 1822, one
man pleaded guilty to an indictment that was returned, and was "censured by
the court," and fined $1.50. Philip Shintaffer, one of the earliest
settlers, was a man
of considerable notoriety. He was famous for ox driving, and it is said at
one time, he owned sixteen yokes of oxen, and could drive as well without as
with a road. He was noted for having a quick temper, which of ten brought
him to grief. At this term, be appeared in court, and caused to be spread
upon the record a retraction of a slander against one of his neighbors. He
figured extensively as defendant in State prosecutions, and Judge Kinney,
his attorney, realized that in one respect he was a law-abiding man, in
this, that he always paid his attorneys' fees at the end of a law suit, and
that suit was his attorneys' suit. At this term Robert Anderson, an emigrant
from Scotland was naturalized, being the first person who received
naturalization papers in Greene County.
THE THIRD TERM OF COURT.
The August term, 1822, was held by William Wick as President Judge and
Thomas Bradford, Associate Judge. Court convened at the residence of Judge
Bradford, and adjourned to meet at the court house in Burlington, the then
county seat of the county. Smith Elkins, Isaac Naylor, Hugh Ross and James
Whitcomb were admitted to practice as attorneys. James Whitcomb was
afterward Governor of the State. Several cases were tried at this term. Four
judgments were rendered, and three fines assessed. The
grand jury returned ten indictments; one for man stealing, one for selling
intoxicating liquors without license, and the others for various
The March term, 1823, was held by the same Presiding Judge, and Martin
,Wines, Associate Judge. Mr. Martin Wines was one of the earliest settlers
on the west side of the county. He lived to be an old man, and filled many
places of trust. He was noted for his hospitality far and near, and for his
upright life. He gained considerable notoriety as the author of a series of
chronicles published in the papers. Smith Elkins was Prosecuting Attorney.
John F. Ross was admitted to practice. There was very little business at
this term. There were six indictments returned by the grand jury, one of
which was for challenging a man to fight a duel. At this term, Richard
Huffman, long known as a quiet, peaceable, orderly and good citizen, was
fined 3711- cents for fighting.
The October term of that year was held by the same Judges. David Goodwin,
Edgar C. Wilson; John Law and Calvin P. Fletcher were admitted to practice.
John Law afterward became eminent in his profession, and was Judge of the
circuit and served several terms in Congress.
FIRST INDICTMENT FOR MURDER.
At this term the first indictment for murder in the county was found. Andrew
Ferguson and Julius Dagger were charged with the murder of Isaac Edwards.
The murder was charged to have been done with an ax Elkins Smith, the
Prosecuting Attorney, assisted by Addison Smith and Isaac Naylor, prosecuted
the case. These assisting attorneys were employed by the county to
prosecute. The defendants were defended by Craven P. Hester and John Law.
The defendants demanded separate trials, and Ferguson was tried at that term
and acquitted. The case was continued as to Dugger. Before the first trial,
the defendants were sent to Bloomington, Ind., for safe keeping, and after
Ferguson was acquitted, Dugger was sent to Spencer for safe keeping. The
trial created great excitement among the people throughout the county. The
original jury was challenged entirely, after which forty-eight others were
brought in, and with these they could not impanel a jury. Twenty-five others
were brought into court, making in all eighty-five. From this number they
selected a jury composed of Moses Ritter, John Burch, George Burch, Simon
Snyder, John Uland, Joel Benham, Daniel Ingersoll, George Padgett, Joseph
Mise, Alexander Craig, John Breece and John Moore. The case was ably
prosecuted and as ably defended. The jury found the defendant guilty of
manslaughter, and he was sentenced to the State prison for four years.
The May term, 1824, was held by Jacob Call, President Judge, and by Judges
Bradford and Wines Associate Judges. Thomas F. G. Adams was admitted to
FAMOUS SLANDER SUIT.
At this term, there was a famous slander suit between parties long and
favorably known in the county. The case was tried by a jury, after having
been continued and passed until the witnesses and parties were brought into
court on seven different days. The jury after a long and laborious trial
returned a verdict for 6 cents.
At the October term, John R. Porter was President Judge, and the same
associates as at the preceding term. Mr. Shintaffer, who had heretofore
signed what in common parlance was called a "lie-bill," appears not to have
profited by his past experience, and another slander case was presented
against him. During the year, more than half the cases were for affray, riot
FIRST COURT IN BLOOMFIELD.
The May term, 1825, convened at Bloom field, and was the first court ever
held at that place. At this term, Jacob Call was President Judge. John Law
was Prosecuting Attorney and filled that place until 1830. Judge Porter was
President Judge at the October term of that year, and his term did not
expire until 1830. This year, William B. Morris appeared as Associate Judge
in the place of Judge Bradford, whose term of office expired. The first
divorce ever granted in the county was this year, and was in favor of
Ezekiel Harrington. Gen. Jacob B. Lowe was admitted to practice. In the year
1826, Col. Levi Fellows and Robert Smith appeared for the first time as
Associate Judges. We have been unable to learn anything of Judge Morris or
Judge Smith, but Judge Fellows was one of the earliest settlers, and one of
the best educated and useful citizens. He settled at the old mill seat near
Mineral City, and resided there until 1865, when he moved to Terre Haute,
and has since died. During this year, there appears to have been a mania for
divorces, and a large number of cases, consi dering the population of the
county, were commenced, but nearly all of them were continued from time to
time, until the parties, wearied by the " law's delay," were reconciled. At
the October term of this year, Hugh L. Livingston was admitted to practice.
He afterward moved to Bloomfield, and made that place his home during the
remainder of his life. A more extended notice of him will be found in
another part of this history. This term was held by the Associate Judges
without the presence of the President Judge. There was no change in the
officers of the court during the next two years. In the year 182'7, E. H.
McJunkins, Henry Chase and Mathias C. Vanpelt were admitted to practice, and
in the year 1828 Mr. Griffith was admitted. At the June term, 1820, Samuel
R. Cavins, who lived in Jackson Township, appeared as Associate Judge, to
fill the vacancy caused by the retiring of Judge Smith. At this term, Affey
Herrington divorced her husband, Ezekiel Herrington, this being the first
divorce granted in the county in favor of the wife. This same man was the
first man in the county to divorce his wife, and now in turn he is the first
man to be divorced on application of his wife.
THE PROBATE COURT.
This year, the first Probate Judge was elected in the county, and the first
Judge of that court was Willis D. Lester. He was among the very first
settlers in the county, his father having settled here before Willis D. was
grown. He was elected in 1829, and held the office until 1843. He was
elected again in 1849, and held the position until the court was abolished
in 1853. In the year 1830, John Law was elected by the Legislature Judge of
the circuit, and E. M. Huntington Prosecuting Attorney, each for the term of
seven years, but Greene County was soon legislated out of Judge Law's
circuit. Cornelius Bogard was Sheriff, having been elected the year before.
He was one of the earliest settlers, and took an active part in the county
business for many years. He was a mau universally
esteemed. At the April term, 1831, Tilghman A. Howard was admitted to
practice. He was one of the best men in the State, and certainly for Many
years the most popular man in his party in the State. In 1840, at the
earnest solicitations of his party friends, he resigned his seat in Congress
and became the Democratic candidate for Governor. It was thought that his
personal popularity throughout the State would enable him to defeat Gov.
Bigger. But the tide of enthusiasm for Gen. Harrison against Martin Van
Buren was irresistible, and Harrison's popularity elected the whole Whig
ticket. In 1842, Gen. Howard was the choice of his party for United States
Senator, while 0. H. Smith was the choice of the Whigs. Neither was elected,
but Edward A. Hanagan carried off the prize. Gen. Howard was afterward
appointed to an office in Texas, and while there died. At the October term,
G. W. Johnson acted as President Judge. Norman W. Pierce appeared as
Associate Judge in the place of Judge Fellows. Judge Pierce came to the
county in 1819 with Col. Fellows, they being brothers-in-law. He removed
from the county in 1834. In 1832, Amory Kinney appeared as President Judge,
and held the office for five years. John Robinson succeeded Judge Pierce as
Associate Judge, and John Crook was elected Sheriff. After this term, the
name of Philip Shintaffer ceased to ornament the records of the court. He
finally became disgusted with the "ups and downs" of Greene County life, and
especially with the courts, and silently glided down the waters of White
River, and still downward until he reached the "Father of Waters "—the
Mississippi—and on its banks he erected his cabin. The last time his name
appeared on the docket it was followed by a nolle prosequi.
Early in this year, Congress passed a law granting pensions to all who
served in the army, navy or militia during the Revolutionary war. The
applicants were required to make their proof before the court, and one of
the witnesses was required to be a minister of the Gospel, if such could be
done, and if the applicant could not procure the testimony of a clergyman,
he must show that fact and the reason why. During this , year, proof for
John Storm, Peter Ingersoll, Adam Rainbolt and Joshua Burnett was made. No
attorney was admitted to pra.ctiee in 1832. In 1833, R. C. Dewey, •Delana R.
Eckels and Paris C. Dunning were admitted. D. R. Eckels, many years
afterward, was Judge of the same court. P. C. Dunning was afterward Governor
of the State. All of these men were of first-class ability and achieved
distinction in their profession. In the year 1834, the attention of the
Board of Commissioners was called to a defect in the " temple of justice,"
in some degree affecting the comfort of those having business there, and
thereupon they ordered that the underpinning of the court house be repaired
so as to keep the hogs from disturbing the court. This year, William I. Cole
succeeded Judge Robinson, and Judge Bradford again appeared as Associate
Judge, taking the place of Judge Cavins, who had resigned. David McDonald
appeared as Prosecuting Attorney at one term, and John Cowgill at the other.
Mr. McDonald was afterward Judge of the same court, and still later Judge of
the District Court of the United States. He is the author of McDonald's
Treatise. *Mr. Cowgill afterward was Judge of a Common Pleas Court. George
R. H. Moore was Sheriff this year, and held the office four years.
THE NEW COURT HOUSE.
In 1835, the Board of Commissioners decided to build a new court house, and
they appointed John Inman, William Freeland, Levi Fellows, Ruel Learned and
Hugh. L. Livingston as a committee to draft plans, etc., and gave them
authority to borrow $1,500, but not to pay a higher rate of interest than 10
per cent. The report of ,the committee showed that the court house would
cost $5,157. The committee was authorized to superintend the building. The
contract was let to Calvin B. Hartwell, for $5,800—$1,000, to be paid April
1, 1836; $1,500, November 1, 1836; $1,000, April 1, 1837; and balance at
completion of building. The contractor, after receiving the first payment,
left the State, and his sureties, Andrew Downing and Samuel Simons, were
required to finish the building. Mr. Downing undertook the completion of the
building. The county failed to make the payments according to contract, and
after Mr. Downing had exhausted his means and his credit, the work was about
to stop. The committee on their own responsibility borrowed of the Bedford
Bank $2,000, at 12 per cent, and the work was completed. The building was
not finished until 1830, and cost the county $6,271,59. In the year 1835,
the term of service of Thomas Warnick as Clerk of the court expired. Up to
this time, he held the office of Clerk continuously from the first election
of Clerk in the county. Next to Judge Bradford, he seems to have been the
leading man in the organization of the county. In the earliest days of the
county, when no money could be collected on taxes, he advanced the money for
the purchase of the necessary books for records. Samuel R. Cavins, succeeded
Mr. Warnick as Clerk of the court, and he held the office continuously until
after the October election in the year 1856.
AD QUOD DAMNUM.
The first ad quod damnum case in the county was this year. It was on the
application of Ruel Learned, for the purpose of establishing a mill on
Richland Creek, about one mile southeast of Bloomfield, and for , assessing
damages incident thereto. The jury was composed of John T. Freeland, Paris
Chipman, John Milam. A. B. Chipman, Jesse Barnes, Barney Perry, Benjamin
Brooks, Hilton Waggoner, James H. Hicks, Thomas Patterson, Carpus Shaw and
John Van Voorst. The jury reported no damages to any one, and that all the
lands on the stream, for two miles above the dam, were public lands. Two
years and a half passed without the admission of an attorney at the bar. In
1836, Willis A. Gorman was admitted. He was afterward Colonel in the Mexican
war, and a General in the late war; a member of Congress, and Governor of
Minnesota. David McDonald was admitted to practice. In 1837, Elisha M.
HuAtington appeared as President Judge. He remained on the bench only two
years, and was appointed Judge of the District Court of the United States.
George F. Watterman and William Smith were admitted to practice. The first
case of John Doe vs. Richard Roe was instituted this year. These mythical
parties adorned the court docket almost every term from 1837 until 1853,
when they disappeared from the State under the practice adopted under the
constitution adopted in 1852.
OTHER TERMS OF COURTS.
In 1838, Judge Levi Fellows again appeared as Associate Judge, to take the
place of Judge Cole, whose term of office expired; Judge Cole lived to be
quite an old man, but was not afterward an officer of the court. He was a
soldier of the war of 1812, from Kentucky. In his native State he had been a
leading, influential man in his county, and had served one term as Sheriff.
He was a Baptist preacher. During this period, there is considerable
confusion in the records as to who was Prosecuting Attorney. David McDonald
seems to appear more frequently than any other, but Craven P. Hester, D. R.
Eckels and others occasionally appear. Thomas J. Throop, George R. Gibson
and Basil Champer were admitted to practice. In 1839, David McDonald
appeared as Judge, and continued in office as Judge until the close of the
year 1852. John S. Watts appeared as Prosecuting Attorney, and continued
four years. John R. Dixson, was Sheriff, and continued in office four years.
He was remarkable for his gallantry toward the ladies, his kindness to
children, and his general cleverness toward the people, with whom he was
very popular. He be longed to the " cornstalk militia," and had been
promoted to the rank of Major, and was uniformly called Maj. Dixson. He was
considerable of a stamp speaker, but only a part of one of his speeches has
been reported. It was delivered at Fairplay, near which place he had resided
from the very earliest settlement of the county. It was as follows:
" Fellow citizens: It has been circulated at the settlements of the county
that I have not been in the county long enough to entitle me to the votes
of the people. I an glad to meet so many of my fellow-citizens to-day,
for there is not a man, woman or child in this settlement, but what knows
I made the first cow track ever made by a white man on these prairies."
This speech was electrical. Such a charge against such a man was
so preposterous that all parties in that settlement felt constrained to re
buke the calumniator, and they voted for and elected the gallant Major.
EMINENT LEGAL PRACTITIONERS.
This year, John S. Watts, Thomas H. Carson, Richard W. Thompson, George G.
Dunn, Samuel H. Smydth, Samuel B. Gookins and Henry Secrest were admitted to
practice—an array of able and distinguished men, most of whom filled places
of trust and distinction, after this. Thomas H. Carson had just located at
Bloomfield. He practiced law about ten years, and went to Kentucky from
whence he came. While here, he held the office of Auditor one term. During
the war, he served as an officer in the Union army. Samuel Howe Smydth was a
very brilliant young man. He was sent to France as an officer of the
Government, and died there. Each of these men have relatives in Greene
County. where the brother of one married the sister of the other. John S.
Watts was afterward appointed Judge in New Mexico by President Fillmore, and
remained there during his life. R. W. Thompson was afterward a Member of
Congress, and was Secretary of the Navy in President Hayes' Cabinet. George
G. Dunn was afterward in Congress several terms, and was regarded as the
greatest orator in Indiana. Henry Secrest achieved very high rank in his
profession. Samuel B. Gookins was a lawyer and Judge of the
highest grade. For a short time he was Judge on the Supreme Bench of
Indiana. In 1840, no change occurred in the officers of the court. Elias S.
Terry was the only attorney admitted to practice that year. He was located
at Washington, Ind., at that time. He afterward was Judge of a circuit in
the northern part of the State. He was a graduate of West Point, but
resigned and devoted himself to the practice of law. He was a man of fine
ability. In what was called an " affair of honor" between George G. Dunn and
James Hughes, he acted as second for Mr. Dunn, while Maj. Livingston was
second for Judge Hughes. The " affair of honor " was settled by the seconds
in such a manner as to make it satisfactory and honorable to all parties,
without the effusion of blood.
In 1841, Lewis B. Edward and Joel B. Sexton appeared as Associate Judges,
which was the only change in the officers of the court. Judge Edwards was
one of the earliest settlers 'where Bloomfield now stands, and filled many
offices of honor and trust. He was a printer and editor, and worked in the
office of the Vincennes Sun, when that paper was first started, and at the
time of his death was the oldest printer and editor liv. ing in the State.
Judge Sexton was an early settler in that part of Burlingame Township,
afterward formed into Center, and was long and favorably known throughout
the county. He held the office until the close of the year 1851, when it was
abolished. He died in 1868. During the year, Richard H. Rousseau and Lovel
H. Rousseau located at Bloomfield, and were admitted to practice law. They
were both first-class lawyers. R. H. Rousseau served one term in the
Legislature. L. H. Rousseau served two terms in the House and one in the
Senate. He was Captain of the only company of soldiers raised in the county
for the Mexican war, and was in the Second Indiana Regiment. He afterward
achieved great distinction in the war of the rebellion, and was promoted to
the rank of, Major General. He served one term in Congress, and at the time
of his death was Brigadier General in the regular army. At the time at which
R. H. Rousseau, familiarly and generally called Dick Rousseau, was admitted
to practice, he and George G. Dunn, Basil Champer, Thomas H. Carson and the
Hon. David McDonald, President Judge of the court, were each indicted by the
grand jury for nuisance. The cases were continued one year, when all except
the Judge were tried and found not guilty. John S. Watts was appointed
special Judge to try the case against Judge McDonald, and the Prosecuting
Attorney entered a nolle in that case.
In that day there seems to have been some grave doubts about the status of
women as persons in their relation to certain business positions. But the
Hoosiers took a more liberal and sensible view of the question than Gov.
Butler of Massachusetts has since taken. Sarah Smith applied to have the
ferry across White River, near Worthington, re-established in her name. Some
Ben Butler of an attorney sprung the question as to whether such a
privilege' could be extended to a woman. The case was held over until the
next term for decision. At the next term, Mrs. Smith's case was pressed with
great vigor by Maj. Livingston, and was resisted vigorously by L. H.
Rousseau, on behalf of a man
who wanted a ferry near by. To the honor of the officials of Greene County
Mis. Smith gained her cause.Those who have read the history of the courts up
to this time may remember that Ezekiel Herrington was the first man who
divorced his wife in the county, and that in turn he was the first man
against whom a divorce was granted. This year he is again brought into court
on a complaint for a divorce. For two years he and his wife met only in
strife, the case being continued from time to time for that period. They bad
a long struggle, but at last his wife came out victorious.
THE BLACK CREEK MILL DAM.
During this year (1841), an ad quod damn= case was commenced by Polly SkoMp
and Thomas Carrico, to establish a mill dam across Black Creek at a point
near where the town of Marco now is. Livingston and Roni3seaus appeared for
applicants, and Dunn, Hester and Carson ap. peared for various parties who
opposed it. A large number of cases grew out of this mill dam, and the
dockets of the State were not entirely clear of them for thirteen years.
Several parties were indicted for nuisance for establishing the dam, and one
man was convicted and fined, but most of the State cases were nolled. The
indictment for nuisance charged that the defendants had erected a dam seven
feet high, and that the water in the dam covered 10,000 acres of land. A
large body of men from between Marco and Linton tore out the dam on two
different °ma, sions,if not more. Several were indicted for riot, and
several suits for damages were commenced. One suit against eighteen men hung
in the courts for several years, and finally dropped out, probably without
any record as to how it got out. One case was taken from the county on
change of venue and was sent to Parke County. These additional attorneys,
Usher and Terry, appeared on the mill dam side, and Gookins and Maxwell on
the other side. In the meantime, Josiah Johnson married Mrs. Skomp and
appeared as a plaintiff. There was a judgment rendered in this case in favor
of plaintiffs for $200, and costs. There was an immense amount of costs in
the various cases. In the last case alone the costs amounted to $774.33. Up
to 1841, no election returns are preserved, and no records of them kept,
which renders it difficult to give the terms of office. In 1842, no change
was made in the courts, and no attorney was admitted to practice. In 1843,
William G. Quick was the only attorney admitted to practice, and he served
as Prosecuting Attorney for two years. James Vanslyke appeared as Sheriff,
having been elected the year before. He was a son of Peter C. Vanslyke, and
came to the county in 1819. He was very popular with the people, and was
re-elected at the expiration of his term, and held the office four years.
This year, John R. Stone appeared. as Probate Judge. He was an early settler
in what is now known as Jack son Township, and held many positions of trust
in his township before he was elected Judge. During his judicial career,he
had the reputation among the members of the bar of deciding his cases right.
If a case was not clear he would take it under advisement, and think it over
in a calm hour, and then he would almost uniformly decide the case
correctly. He was one of our best citizens, and had one virtue in an eminent
degree that many persons are sadly deficient in; he was true to his friends.
Early in 1842, McHenry Dozier went into the Clerk's office as Deputy. His
records are models of beauty and perfection, and are admired by all who see
them, none others being equal to them. He enlisted as a soldier in 1846, in
Capt. L. H. Rousseau's company in the Second
Regiment of Indiana Voluntary Infantry, and was killed at the battle of
Buena Vista in Mexico.
THE MURDER OP PHOEBE GRAVES.
On the 20th day of June, 1843, Phoebe Graves was murdered in the county. As
to the fact of her being murdered there could be no doubt. She was murdered
near a public road, and her body dragged some thirty or forty yards further,
into a thicket of woods, and was laid out and covered with sticks and brush.
Only one person murdered her, and it was consummated, after a great
struggle, as the tracks of the struggle were plainly visible, and the tracks
of the murderer dragging her to the place of concealment, and the tracks
fleeing from the scene of the crime. She was murdered in daylight, between
11 o'clock A. M. and 1 o'clock P. M., and it was done by breaking her neck.
The strong probability was that it was done before 12 o'clock. Her body was
found next morning before daylight, and an. inquest was held on that day, at
which hundreds of people attended. Suspicion rested upon three persons, and
each of the suspected parties was required to put his foot in the track (The
track was of a bare foot). One person suspected was the brother-in-law 'of
the deceased (Peter C. Graves); but he came promptly to the track, and it
did not fit him, and besides that, he could prove a clear alibi. A mute by
the name of Christopher Nations was also suspected. He was plowing in a
field near the scene of the murder on that day. When he was required to put
his foot in the track, he evidently did not understand the object of their
action, and struggled against putting his foot in the track. He was charged
with the crime before a Justice, and tried and bound over to the Circuit
Court, but no indictment was ever returned against him. Paris C. Dunning, R.
H. Rousseau and L. H. Rousseau prosecuted this case, and Hugh L. Livingston
defended. There were two boys working in a field adjoining the field in
which Mr. Nations was working, and knew that Mr. Nations was not out of the
field until after 1 o'clock on that day; but they were too young to be
witnesses, under the law at that time. One of these boys was William G.
Sergeant, who now resides in Bloomfield, and remembers the affair
distinctly. He was eight' years old at the time, and saw Nations the whole
time, from 8 o'clock A. M. until after 1 o'clock P. M. of that day. The
third man upon whom suspicion rested was James Graves, the husband of the
deceased. Three men joined in an affidavit against him before William 0.
Hicks, a Justice of the Peace. The case was as fully investigated as the
circumstances enabled the attorneys to investigate it at the time, and the
defendant was adjudged guilty, and was remanded into the custody of the
Sheriff. H. L. Livingston prosecuted this case, and Dunning and Rousseaus
defended. The defendant was taken out of the custody of the Sheriff by writ
of habeas corpus, and after an investigation of the case before the
Associate Judges of the Circuit Court, he was admitted to bail. No
indictment- was ever returned against him. In the investigation of the
charges, there being no doubt about the deceased being murdered, the
attorneys for each party tried to show that some one else perpetrated the
crime. The attorney of James Graves tried to show that Mr. Nations committed
the crime, and the attorneys for Mr. Nations tried to show that James Graves
committed the crime. The only evidence on the record in the case is a
written admission, signed by the attorneys on the trial of the case against
Nations. The admissions were that on the trial of the habeas corpus case of
James Graves, that it was in proof that he, James Graves, was at home on the
turn of 12 o'clock, on the day of murder, and was pulling weeds in the
garden, and had his little child with him. Also it was in proof at the same
time, by Franklin Hodges, that on the same day, about 2 o'clock P. M., he,
Hodges, heard some one hallooing, and that we went out from the field where
he was plowing and saw James Graves about 300 yards from the place where the
body was found next morning. That Graves was standing in the road, and had
his little child in his arms, and stated that he had sent his little girl to
Mr. Dueast's to hunt for her mother, and that he also stated that Phoebe
(deceased) had gone that morning to Mrs. Nations', and that he supposed that
she had gone to Dueast's from Nations', and that Graves was hallooing for
his wife and little daughter, and that said Graves returned home. The theory
of those who believed James Graves guilty, was that he left home at about 11
o'clock A. M., and his wife left Mrs. Nations' about the same time. That
they met in the road at a point near the place of the murder, and that the
struggle commenced in the road, and that they struggled about forty or fifty
yards from the road, where her neck was broken. That after concealing the
body, the accused then returned home and remained there until near 2
o'clock, and then took his infant child back to a point near the scene of
the murder. This theory was supported by the evidence offered by the State,
and by all the actions of the accused A daughter of the deceased stated that
he had left home at 11 o'clock, with a curse upon his tongue against his
wife, and the testimony of Mrs. Nations was that the deceased left her house
at 11 o'clock, saying that she must go home to get dinner. Graves proved by
the woman he afterward married that he was at another place during the whole
time in which it was probable that the murder was committed. Why the grand
jury, under the circumstances, failed to return an indictment against Graves
is somewhat astonishing. For years after this„ persons would talk about
their being something wrong in the disposition of the case against Graves,
and this same Frank Hodges, who was a witness in the investigation, publicly
denounced James Graves as a murderer, and reiterated the charge on several
occasions. Three years after the murder, Mr. Graves appealed to the court
for redress for what he claimed to be injured innocence, and he sued Mr.
Hodges for slander for accusing him of murder. Mr. Hodges, by his attorney,
answered the complaint by admitting saying the words charged against him,
and alleging that the words were true, and that James Graves did murder his
wife, etc. When the issue was thus presented, Mr. Graves dismissed his
action, and thus ended all matters in court connected with or growing out of
this cruel murder. James Graves and his family soon after this moved West
and never returned to the county.
In 1844, H. H. Throop, S. H. Buskirk, W. E. Taylor, A. J. Thixton and John
M. Clark were admitted to practice. H. H. Throop located at Point Commerce,
at that time the most enterprising town in the county. He was a careful,
painstaking and conscientious lawyer, was educated for the law and was
regarded as a very fine special pleader. In 1855, while preparing to move to
the. county seat, he died. He was one of the best men who lived in the
county, honored by the people when alive and mourned for when dead. He was
the first resident attorney who died in the county. S. H. Buskirk afterward
became eminent in his profession, and was one of the ablest Supreme Judges
of the State.
Mr. Thixton located for a short time at Bloomfield. In 1845, Craven P.
Hester, who had been admitted to practice at the second term of court in the
county, appeared as Prosecuting Attorney, and continued in that office until
the latter part of 1849. At this term. John Osborn, Alanson J. Stevens,
Francis M. Williams and William M. Franklin were admitted to practice. W. M.
Franklin was afterward Prosecuting Attorney, Judge of Common Pleas and
Circuit Courts, and at this writing is a Commissioner of the Supreme Court.
In 1846, the only change in the officers of the court was the election of
Edward E. Beasley as Sheriff. He was an early settler in Beech Creek
Township, and a farmer by occupation. He was very popular with the people
and always ran ahead of his party
strength. He was elected Sheriff for two terms in succession. He was a
candidate for Representative in the State Legislature at two elections, but
was defeated by small majorities.. The last time he was a candidate was in
1856. His friends generally wished him to indorse Mr. Fillmore for
President, as a large majority of his political friends were in favor of
Fillmore. But he was conscientiously in favor of Mr. Fre• mont, and openly
avowed himself in favor of the " path-finder." He said he would rather be
right and suffer defeat, than to be wrong and be elected. He was too honest
to act from policy, where his convictions of right were otherwise. The
attorneys admitted to practice during the year were Augustus L. Rhodes,
Alexander McClelland and Robert Crockett. Mr. Rhodes located at Bloomfield
and resided there until 1854. He was a man of classical education, having
graduated at Hamilton College, New York, in the next class after Gov. A. P.
Willard graduated. He was a clOse student and fine lawyer. While in Greene
County, he was elected and served one term as Prosecuting Attorney of the
Circuit Court. In 1854, he moved to California, where he took front rank in
his profession, and where he served sixteen years on the Supreme bench,which
was the longest term ever held by any one, and for two years was Chief
Justice. Robert Crockett was also a resident of Greene County. He was a
candidate for Judge of the Common Pleas Court, but was not elected. Mr.
McClelland was from Monroe County. No changes occurred in the officers of
the court during the years 1847 and 1848. In 1847, George H. Munson and
Lewis Bollman were admitted to practice. Mr. Munson was a law partner of
George G. Dunn, and was a lawyer of superior legal attainments. He died
comparatively early in life. Lewis Bollman did not continue in the practice
many years. He has spent many years at Washington City in Government
service, but is probably now at Bloomington. Nearly forty years ago an old
Whig song ran in this style- "John Watts and Lewis Bollman, made a mighty
They pounced upon poor Whitcomb, and tore him all to smash."It turned out
when the votes were counted that there was more poetry than truth in the
song, and it is hardly probable that an admirer of Shakeipeare or Byron
would regard it as very poetic. About this time, John V. Knox was appointed
Deputy Clerk, and served five or six years with great efficiency. He died in
1856. In 1848, James S. Hester, Richard Clements and Samuel W. Short were
admitted to practice. Mr. Hester was a son of Craven P. Hester, and
afterward became Judge in an adjoining circuit. Mr. Clements was afterw and
Judge of the Common Pleas Court of an another circuit. Samuel W. Short
afterward filled several offices of honor in the county where he resided. In
1849, Augustus L. Rhodes was elected Prosecuting Attorney, and continued in
that office until 1851. Jesse Rainbolt was elected Associate Judge to take
the place of Judge Edwards. He was an early settler in Center Township. He
was one of the leading and best citizens of his part of the county,
and continued in that office until it was abolished. He lived to be quite an
old man, but has been dead several years. Judge Willis D. Lester, who has
been heretofore noticed, was elected Probate Judge. William J. McIntosh was
elected Sheriff. He was one of the early setlers in Highland Township. He
was elected for three successive terms, one being under what was called the
Old Constitution. He was emphatically a man of the people, and was a
candidate each time without-a party indorsement. He was a very entertaining
public speaker. While Sheriff, he discharged his duties with fidelity and
ability, and amid the most trying. scenes in the county. No attorneys were
admitted to practice dliring the year. About the year 1850, Allen T. Rose
and W. R. Harrison were admitted to practice. Mr. Rose was an able lawyer
and advocate. He was the wit of the circuit, and whenever it was known that
he was to speak, he always drew a full house. He entered the army early
during the late war, and was badly wounded. He is now practicing his
profession in Martin County. Mr. W. R. Harrison has occupied front rank in
his profession for over a quarter of a century, and is now in the full vigor
of his intellect practicing his profession at Martinsville.
THE MURDER OF WILLIAM WALKER.
In September, 1850, Hiram Bland was indicted for murder. He was charged with
the murder of William Walker. Contrary to the usual practice, and in
opposition to the opinion of one of his attorneys (Maj. Livingston), he
entered upon his trial at that term of court. The State was represented by
A. L. Rhodes, and the defense wa's conducted by George G. Dunn and H. L.
Livingston. It was a clear and aggravated case of murder. He murdered his
victim in daylight, for revenge. The main effort in the defense was to save
the defendant's life. He was found guilty, and sentenced to be hung by the
neck, on the 15th day of November next following. This is the only case in
the county where the accused has had the death penalty pronounced upon him.
On the 28th of October, 1850, at night, the defendant broke jail and
escaped. He was concealed near his house, and did not make an effort to
escape from the county. Great efforts were made to find him, but for a long
time they appeared unavailing. His hiding place was finally revealed by one
of his pretended friends for the price of a new saddle, and on the 2d day of
January, 1851, he was retaken. His hiding place was in a corn pen, in the
center of which was a place prepared for the purpose. The corn pen was
against the house in which his family lived, and he had a secret passage
under the floor from one place to the other. At the April term, 1851, a
motion was made for a new trial, and affidavits were read contradicting
several particulars in the testimony that was given by the State on the
trial. Mr. George G. Dunn made a powerful effort to procure a new trial, but
it was unavailing. The court pronounced judgment that he should be banged on
the 25th day of April following. On that day an immense concourse of people
assembled to witness the execution (in that day execution were public),but
it was postponed by the Governor until the Supreme Court could review the
decision of the Circuit Court. The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of
the Circuit Court, and Mr. Bland expiated his crime on the gallows on the
13th day of June, 1851. On that day, another large body of men, women and
children assembled to witness the execution: The gallows was erected a short
distance southwest of the place where the southwest corner of the depot now
stands, and from it, in public view, the unfortunate man was suspended by
the neck until he was dead. The land on which be was executed belonged to
Peter C. Vanslyke, who now resides in Bloomfield, and it was made a part of
the contract of permitting the execution there that the gallows should,
after execution, remain on the ground until it disappeared by decay, and it
was left standing until it rotted down. William J. McIntosh was Sheriff at
the time, and conducted the proceeding with intrepidity, and great credit to
himself. One thing that contributed largely toward bringing about the death
penalty in this case was the turbulent charac; ter'of the accused. He and
several brothers were powerful men'phy, sic-ally, and when drinking were
very quarrelsome and dangerous. When not under the influence of intoxicating
liquor, as a rule, they were peaceable. Then this trial came off when the
public mind was excited to the very highest pitch, and it is impossible for
jurymen to be different from other men. All persons become excited over a
sudden and seemingly unprovoked murder. If the advice of Maj. Livingston had
been taken, and the case bad been continued one term, the probabilities are
that, after the first burst of excitement abated, the jury would have sent
him to State prison for life. During this year, Hiram S. Hanchett, James
McConnell, Wells N. Hamilton, William P. Hammond and Aden G. Cavins were
admitted to practice. Mr. Hanchett was a student in the office of the
Rousseaus, and soon after his admission to the bar moved West. W. P. Hammond
was afterward Governor of the State.
At the September term, 1851, William M. Franklin appeared as Prosecuting
Attorney, and continued in that office until 1853. During the year, Daniel
McClure and E. D. Pearson were admitted to practice; Mr. McClure was
afterward Secretary of State, and during Mr. Buchanan's administration was
appointed Paymaster in the army, and is at this writing Assistant Paymaster
General of the army. E. D. Pearson was afterward Judge of an adjoining
circuit. This year, the office of Associate Judge was abolished, since which
there has been no Associate Judges. At the April term, 1852, R. S. Clements,
Jr., W. D. GriswOld, Nathaniel Usher, F. T. Brown and John P. Usher were
admitted to practice. During this term, J. P. Usher and George G. Dunn met
each other in the legal arena for the first time. Each of them had achieved
great distinction in their State before that time. It was the judgment of
the bar that each had " met a foeman worthy of his steel." Mr. Usher was
afterward Secretary of the Interior in President Lincoln's cabinet. The
Trustees of the Wabash & Erie Canal were indicted by the grand jury at this
term for nuisance. The alleged nuisance was the erection and maintenance of
a dam across White River at Newberry, and thereby backing the water over the
lowlands adjoining the river. There was a trial by the court, and the case
was held under advisement until the next term. At the next term, the court
found the defendants guilty, and assessed a fine of $10 against each one of
them. The case was appealed to the Supreme Court and reversed. The Revised
Statutes of 1852 fixed the terms of court in April and October, but no
business was transacted that year after the September term.
is the research of many people across the United States and may contain
errors. It is presented as the best information to date. Like all of those
whose work I have incorporated herein, my research is a work in progress
and subject to change without notice. A special thanks to Marlene Ricci of
CA, Dwayne Meyer of CA, Jacqueline Bean of TX, Debbie Dick of IN, Milus
Miller of IL, Carol Hendricks Miller of IN, Clarence Miller of IN, and
Harold Glen Miller of IN. There are numerous others too; many of which are
unknown, but their findings and stories are still much appreciated.
Much of this would not have been possible with out their information. Also
this website includes historical facts gathered from Washington County
History, Indiana History, Rowan County and Salisbury North Carolina
Historical sources and other US Historical sources.
James A. Miller- Great -Great -Great -Great Grandson of Adam Miller
and Hannah Sheets.