From: Goshen Trails,
Vol. 5; #2; #3
Hamilton County Historical Society Bulletin
This article has significant historical importance to the early Circuit Court history of Hamilton Co. and is important, genealogically speaking, as well. Many early residents are named in this article from the years 1821 to 1825. Mr. Daily presented this essay to the Hamilton County Historical Society in 1969 and it was published in Goshen Trails, the Society's bulletin.
residents mentioned some more than once:
Anderson, Benbrooks, Bond, Braden,
Briant, Brown, Burriss, Clark, Coffman, Compton, Cumpton, Conner, Crouch,
Daily, Dale, Dean, Eddy, Ellis, Ferguson, Flint, Garner, Gatlin,
Ghottson, Gordon, Griffith, Griswold, Hall,
Hand, Hardister, Harris, Hatch, Henceson, Hill, Hogg, Holiway, Hollingsworth,
Holoway, Hood, Hungate, Hurd, Hyatt, Krisell, Lane, Lasater, Lockwood, Maulding,
McBride, McKenzie, McLean, McLin,
McNema, Miller, Moore, Parker, Perry, Porter, Powell, Proctor, Ritchey, Richy,
Smith, Snelling, Stull, Thompson, Townsend, Tramell, Upton, Waller, Webb,
Wheeler, Willis, Wilson
Hamilton Co., IL
THIS ARTICLE deals with only the
Circuit Court of Hamilton County as it existed from the formation of the County
in 1821 to the year 1825, and not with any of the other Hamilton County Courts
in existence at that time. This
account is taken directly from the Circuit Court records in the present office
of the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Hamilton County, Illinois, with some
comment thereon by the writer.
The writer is quite proud of all of the people
mentioned in this article, both defendants accused of offenses who probably are
ancestors of most of us, as well as officers of the Court.
This treatment of the subject may add some new light and thought to our
precious heritage and pay honor to that rugged people who made our County
possible and its people great.
The first session of Circuit Court in Hamilton
County, Illinois was held on June 18, 1821, with his honor William Wilson, on
the of the Justices of the Supreme Court of Illinois presiding, and who also was
the presiding judge of the Second Judicial Circuit.
Jesse C. Lockwood presented to Judge Wilson his certificate of
appointment and his oath of office as clerk of the Circuit Court of Hamilton
County and Judge Wilson certified Jesse C. Lockwood as the first Circuit Clerk.
Jesse C. Lockwood also presented his official bond to Judge Wilson with
Samuel D. Lockwood, who was later a Justice of the Supreme Court of Illinois, as
surety, which Judge Wilson approved. Also
James Hall (or Hill) qualified as Sheriff; James Lane as Coroner; and then Judge
Wilson convened a Grand Jury composed of the following citizens: Ralph Hatch,
foreman, Merril Willis, John Dale, Robert Anderson, William Hungate, Hardy
Gatlin, Anderson McLin, Robert Porter, Danie Powell, Thomas Holoway, Willis
Wheeler, Henry Webb, James Lasater, Jesse Hyatt, John Hardister, Eli Waller,
John Griffith, Robert Miller and Adam Ritchey.
These men were sworn to enquire for the body of this County and
they retired to consider presentments.
Apparently all people in the new county were law
abiding, as we would like to consider our forebears, for the first Grand Jury
returned to Court and informed the Judge that they found no Bills of Indictment.
The Grand Jury was discharged by Judge Wilson, and there being no further
business before the Court, the Court adjourned Sine Die.
Thus, the morning and the afternoon of June 18, 1821 was the first day of
the Circuit Court for Hamilton County, Illinois.
This purity and freedom from sin of the people of
Hamilton County continued in the term of Circuit Court presided over by Judge
William Wilson on November 19, 1821 and also on June 17, 1822.
But the Court then became busy and some of the people slipped and fell,
for on November 19, 1822, Judge Wilson fined Elijah Burris $10.00 for showing
contempt the Court and this was not all for Elijah.
The Grand Jury, under the care of Constable William Miller, after due
inquiry and deliberation, returned a true bill of indictment against Elijah
Burriss for assault and battery and intent to commit murder.
Also indicted were Red Perry, James Braden and Hugh Snelling for riot.
These were the first two indictments returned in Hamilton County.
Elijah Burriss was tried on May 29, 1823 before Judge
Wilson, and the Jury composed of Benj. Hood, Samuel Smith, George Hand, James
Moore, Enos T. Allen, George McKenzie, John Ferguson, Thomas Holiway, John
Wilson, William Ellis, Merrie Willis and Lewis Lane, who, being sworn retired
from the Bar and after considering the case returned in to court and do say upon
their oath they find the defendant not guilty whereupon the defendant
Elijah Burris was set at liberty by Judge Wilson. Perry, Braden and Snelling, also fared well on their riot
charge, for on the next day, Friday, May 30, 1823, the riot charge was dismissed
on defendants motion.
Many people appearing before Judge Wilson were not so
fortunate as were Elijah Burriss and the alleged rioters.
Thomas Smith was charged with refusing to appear as a witness and to
testify and on October 30, 1823, Judge William Wilson, after finding the excuse
of Thomas Smith not be sufficient, fined him $4.00 and costs.
Also on the same day, Henry Krisell was found not guilty of assault and
battery with intent to murder. So
apparently in the early circuit court life of Hamilton County, it was all right
to fight, but not all right to fail to appear as a witness.
November 1, 1823, Judge Wilson convened court at 7:00
oclock a.m. to try Jacob Coffman and William Hungate for murder.
This was the first murder trial in Hamilton County.
Defendants Coffman and Hungate put themselves upon their county,
whereupon a jury was called, composed of the following men: Mastin Bond, Henry
Krisell, John Anderson, Adam Crouch, Nicholas Tramell, Lawrence Stull, Jarrett
Garner, Gilbert Griswold, John Richy, Anthony Richy, Daniel Benbrooks, and
Ambrose Maulding, who heard the evidence, and returned a verdict finding Jacob
Coffman and William Hungate not guilty of murder; and they were promptly
This must have caused another riot, for on the same
day the Grand Jury indicted John Hardisty, John Townsend, John Flint, Charles
Hurd, Stephen Parker, Samuel Hogg, Sr., Samuel Hogg, Jr., Major Hungate and
Charles Hungate for a riot. They
were all admitted to bail at $50.00 bond each.
A new Judge, Thomas C. Browne, came to hold court, and on May 28, 1824
all of the defendants, except Samuel Hogg, Sr., were tried before a jury of
Hamilton County men who promptly returned a verdict of not guilty, and Judge
Browne then dismissed the case as to Samuel Hogg, Sr.
While the records do not show the reason for Judge
Brownes short stay in McLeansboro, Judge William Wilson again returned on
October 28, 1824, to hold Circuit Court. Both
Judge Browne and Judge Wilson were members of the Illinois Supreme Court.
Sheriff Hall had the Grand Jury ready which was presided over by Gilbert
Griswold as foreman, who promptly went to work to return more indictments.
On the same day Jacob Conner was tried for assault and battery.
Conner did not have an attorney, but tried his own case.
One of the alleged rioters of the previous court term, Samuel Hogg, Sr.,
was on the jury, which returned a verdict of guilty, and Judge Wilson find Jacob
Conner $5.00 and costs and ordered that he be retained in custody until his fine
and costs were paid.
Most offenses charged were for assault and
batterya fancy designation for fighting.
Apparently in light of the murder charge previously referred to,
sometimes a man was killed in a fight. But
a short time later in the same October, 1824 term of court, a jury of twelve men
tried and true, one of whom was John Daily, found Thomas Smith not guilty of
assault and battery; but Felix McBride plead guilty to assault and battery and
Judge Wilson fined him $2.00 and costs of prosecution and ordered him held in
custody until the fine and costs were paid.
In addition to fighting, apparently some people knew
how to improperly use their tongues for at the same term of court, on Upton
plead guilty to the charge of slander and was fined $3.00 and costs.
This latter case took place on the first Thursday in November, 1824 and
Judge Wilson must have felt that he was about through for the week, as he
adjourned court to the next day, Friday, not to convene until the late hour of
Thereafter continued the many assault and battery
indictments. In one day in November
1824, the Grand Jury returned five true bills or indictments for assault and
battery, against such illustrious names as Lewis Lane, William Briant and Garret
Harris, and the amazing part about it all was that Lewis Lane plead guilty; and
was fined $2.00 and costs on the first Saturday morning in November 1824.
This fine did not detract from the good character of Lewis Lane in the
least, because on the day he entered his plea of guilty to assault and battery
he served on a jury that awarded John Townsend $8.00 in damages in a suit
against Thomas Smith. A few days
later the Grand Jury returned seven more indictments against Hamilton County
citizens for assault and battery. Fighting
must have been the most popular sport or occupation of gentlemen for again we
find the names of more of our illustrious ancestors in the role of defendants.
On March 28, 1825, James Hall, Judge of the 4th
Judicial Circuit called the Circuit Court of Hamilton County to order at the
Court House in McLeansborough, at which time Henry Eddy, Esq. Produced in
Court a Commission signed by the Governor of Illinois and dated January 19, 1825
appointing Henry Eddy Circuit Attorney for the 4th Judicial Circuit
which included Hamilton County, and Judge Hall entered an order on March 28.
1825, that Henry Eddy be recognized as Circuit Attorney and admitted to
prosecute in behalf of the people of the State of Illinois in the Circuit Court
of Hamilton County. Jesse C.
Lockwood likewise produced his appointment as Clerk of the Circuit Court of
Hamilton County, Illinois, which appointment was signed by the presiding Judge,
and to which was attached a certificate signed by Benjamin Hood, a Justice of
the Peace in and for said County. The
Sheriff whose name was not given, on the same date returned his panel of grand
jurors with Enos L. Allen, foreman, and among others with John Dale who served
on the first grand jury to convene in Hamilton County four years before.
Believe it or not, the first case tried at the March
1825 term of court was against our old friend Elijah Burriss for assault and
battery. You will remember that he
was the first man indicted in the Circuit Court of Hamilton County on November
19, 1822 also for assault and battery to which charge he was found not guilty in
May 1823. Elijah was not so
fortunate in March 1825 as Circuit Attorney Henry Eddy prosecuted vigorously and
the jury, after due deliberation, returned a verdict of guilty, and Elijah
Burriss was fined $3.00 and costs of suit.
The fact that John Daily was one of the jurors may have had something to
do with the change in fortune for Elijah. Anyway,
Elijah hadnt lost his ability to defend himself.
A case tried before Judge Wilson at the October 1824
term of court surely produced great interest in the new county.
Elizabeth Compton had been indicted for Larceny, and the Circuit Attorney
on behalf of the people and the Defendant Elizabeth Cumpton in her own proper
person who being arraigned at the Bar on an Indictment for Larceny pleads not
Guilty of the charge Aforesaid, and puts herself upon her county.
Wherefore came a Jury to-wit: William A. McLin, Jeremiah McNema, Eli
Waller, Ruben Procter, Nathaniel Ghottson, Isaac Hill, Robert Porter, Elisha
Gordon, Randolph Smith, Mastin Bond, William Henceson and Denny Thompson, who
being elected and sworn a true verdict to give according to evidence do say upon
their oath We the Jury find the defendant not guilty William A. McLin,
Foreman. It is therefore considered
by the Court that the Defendant be dismissed from further prosecution on said
Indictment and goe hence without day.
The lady appears to have been her own lawyer and did a good job in
convincing twelve Hamilton County me that she was innocent of larceny.
But at the same October 1824 term Isaac Bates did not
do so well as the lady defendant. Bates
was tried for Larceny before a jury, which contained part of the jurors who
turned the lady loose, and this jury, with Abraham Hollingsworth as foreman
found Isaac guilty and found the value of the goods stolen to be three dollars
and have been restored. But
Judge Wilson took a dim view of larceny apparently, even though the stolen goods
had been restored by the defendant, for the sentence given was that the
Defendant Isaac Bates receive fifteen lashes and pay to William Dean the sum of
Three Dollars and be fined in the sum of One Hundred Dollars to be paid to the
County and the cost of this prosecution and Execution Issued.
Larceny was therefore a much more serious offense than assault and
Several other criminal cases, mostly for assault and
battery, were handled by the Circuit Court during the period 1821-1825, but
those mentioned herein appear from the record to be the most illustrative of the
activity of the Circuit Court during this period of time.
Thus, the first four years of the Circuit Court of
Hamilton County end on a similar but more active note than when they began.
The further activities of the Circuit Court during its first four years
concerning disputes between citizens of Hamilton County in civil matters are not
commented upon, but perhaps reserved for a later time.
Only the names of three attorneys appear in the
record during this time: Edwin B. Webb, John McLean and Circuit Attorney Henry
Eddy. The Judges names appear
frequently in the record. Many of
the cases tried have reference to plaintiffs attorney and
defendants attorney but not by name.
Most of the attorneys surely were circuit riders from other localities.
It has not been determined by the writer whether or
not Edwin B. Webb was a regularly licensed attorney, but he apparently had some
formal education and attraction to the law, and of some stature in the County.
Judge William Wilson on October 30, 1823 entered the following order:
Ordered by the Court that Edwin B. Webb be permitted to act as an Attorney
during this term. Whether Mr. Webb continued as an attorney after the October
1823 term of court and his residence is not known to the writer.
Attorney John McLean was from Shawneetown, was a
lawyer of prominence, served in Congress, and was a circuit riding lawyer of
distinction. The History of
Hamilton County published in 1887 by Goodspeed Publishing Company says on
page 294 that the first resident attorney in McLeansboro was Samuel S. Marshall.
Judge Marshall, well known in local history, appeared on the scene as a
lawyer at a later period of time.
Judge William Wilson, who presided most of the time
over the Circuit Court of Hamilton County during the first four years came to
Illinois in 1817 and is believed to have settled near Carmi.
He was appointed an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court on August 7,
1819. Judge Wilson was only 24
years of age when he was appointed to the Supreme Court, was an amazing young
man and was 26 years old when he first presided over the Circuit Court of
Hamilton County. The Supreme Court
Justices in that day spent most of their time holding court in the various
counties of the state, and the Supreme Court consisted of only four justices.
Judge Wilson was elected Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Illinois
in August 1824, at the age of 29 years. He
continued on the Supreme Court until 1848 when he retired to his home near Carmi
where he died in 1857.
Henry Eddy, the first recorded Circuit Attorney in
Hamilton County, went to every county in his circuit to represent the people of
Illinois and prosecute criminal cases. He
had the same duties as our present States Attorneys in each of our counties, but
his duties and responsibilities covered several counties.
Eddy was a citizen of Shawneetown, a very competent attorney and his name
appears in many early decisions of the Supreme Court as attorney for litigants
on appeals from Gallatin and other Counties in Southern Illinois.
He also was a prominent newspaper Editor, being editor and publisher of
the Shawnee Chief and the Illinois Emigrant, published at
Shawneetown in 1818, the name of which latter paper was changed to Illinois
Gazette in 1819.
Digressing from the time period covered in this
article, and of possible interest to this society, is the first appealed case
from Hamilton County to the Illinois Supreme Court. Apparently the decisions of Judge William Wilson as trial
judge of the Circuit Court of Hamilton County in the early years of the county
were very sound and abided by by both the loser as well as the winner, as no
recorded appeal from the decisions of Judge Wilson is found.
However, in December of 1833, our Judge William Wilson as Chief Justice
of the Supreme Court of the State of Illinois delivered the opinion in the first
case appealed from Hamilton County; the case appealed from being a jury case
presided over by Judge C. Browne, already mentioned, who also was a member of
the Illinois Supreme Court, as was Samuel D. Lockwood who signed Jesse
Lockwoods bond as Circuit Clerk mention heretofore.
The first appealed case from the Circuit Court of
Hamilton County was the appeal of Reuben Clark who was convicted of arson by a
jury in the Circuit Court of Hamilton County at the March Term 1833, and the
presiding judge at the trial, Judge Browne, gave sentence that Clark should be
imprisoned in the County Jail for three weeks, pay a fine of $360.00 and cost of
prosecution and that he should be publicly whipped thirty-nine lashes on his
bare back. Chief Justice Wilson, in
speaking for the majority of the Supreme Court, surely remember the sterling
qualities of his old friends, both defendant and plaintiff, from his court days
in Hamilton County, for he found sufficient error in the trial to reverse the
verdict of the jury and judgment of the Hamilton County Circuit Court, and
promptly discharge the prisoner Reuben Clark.
It is impossible to reproduce in this article all
that took place in the Circuit Court sessions of Hamilton County during the
first four years of existence of Hamilton County. Lost are the physical appearances of the many people involved
the judges, clerk, sheriff, deputies, constables, grand jurors, petit
jurors, litigants, defendants in indictable offense, wives, children and
relatives of the accused, traveling men, lawyers, and others involved in the
early day in McLeansboro and Hamilton County.
Lost is the manner of action of the people involved
in the Circuit Court, their mode of speech, tones of their voices, the words
they used, their emotions, their fierce qualities, their mode and manner of
living. Lost are the smells,
noises, struggles, legal oratory, and antics of the early courtroom.
But we do find that they were a strong people, intent on fair play,
intent on a system of government by law and not by the whims of men, and certain
that they would fight for their rights.
We who are descendents of those caught up in the
affairs of the Circuit Court of Hamilton County during that time can given them
thanks that they sired and gave birth to a strong, independent and industrious
people, for which Hamilton County is so well known. So little is touched in this article---so much remains to be
Vol. A. Circuit Court Records, Hamilton County, Illinois
Deed Records A and B, County Recorders Office, Hamilton County,
History of Southern Illinois, Vol. 1, p. 157, 135, 471 (1912 Ed.)
by George Washington Smith
The History of Hamilton, Gallatin and other
published in 1887 by Goodspeed Publishing Company, p. 194 and other pages.
Mr. John Davis Daily was b. in 1913 In McLeansboro, the son of Whitson W. and Nora Ellen Davis Daily and descends from John and Polly Maulding Daily who settled in Hamilton County about 1815. He married Juanita Leslie in 1938. He practiced law in McLeansboro, was a special agent for the FBI and assistant Attorney General of Illinois and Circuit Court Judge.
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