Pages 589-593, transcribed by Carolyn Ward from History of Allen and Woodson Counties, Kansas: embellished with portraits of well known people of these counties, with biographies of our representative citizens, cuts of public buildings and a map of each county / Edited and Compiled by L. Wallace Duncan and Chas. F. Scott. Iola Registers, Printers and Binders, Iola, Kan.: 1901; 894 p., [36] leaves of plates: ill., ports.; includes index.



The Bench and Bar


The early history of the events of the Bench and Bar of Woodson County are very difficult to obtain, and any attempt to write an exact account of that period is out of the question. If the writer seeks the records for information on this point, there are none. If he applies to the old settlers, they do not remember things alike. So the writer of this article will have little to tell of the judicial proceedings of Woodson County prior to 1864.

Chapter 78 of the session laws of the territorial legislature of 1860 divided the Territory of Kansas into three judicial districts, and placed Woodson County in the second district, and assigned Hon. Rush Elmore, one of the Associate Justices of the Territorial Supreme Court to the judgeship of that district. By this same act, Woodson County was attached to Coffey County for judicial purposes. The terms of court were held in Coffey County on the second Monday of March and September of each year. This arrangement continued until Kansas became a state under the Wyandotte Constitution, and Woodson County became a part of the fifth judicial district.

May 22nd, 1861, the state legislature passed an act detaching Woodson from Coffey County, and attaching Greenwood, Wilson and Godfrey Counties to Woodson for judicial purposes. By this act Woodson County was given one term of court commencing on the first Monday in September of each year.

This law further provided that the clerk of the district court of Coffey County shall make out and deliver to the clerk of the district court of Woodson County, "a full and complete transcript of all process and proceedings pending, and of cases tried and determined in the district court of said county between parties or against defendants resident in said county of Woodson together with all papers on file in his office belonging to or pertaining to such cases." This order of the legislature has never been complied with.

On February 2, 1865 the legislature detached Greenwood from Woodson County and attached it to Lyon County for judicial purposes. There were no other changes until 1867, when the legislature created the seventh judicial district, and placed Woodson County in that, with terms of court commencing on "the fifth Monday after the fourth Monday in March and September and on said days annually thereafter." In 1874


Woodson County was given three terms of court, commencing on the first Monday of March, and the second Monday of June and October of each year. The next change occurred in 1877 when the time of holding the June term of court was changed from the second to the first Monday in the month. The legislature of 1901 fixed the terms of court to begin on the third Tuesday in March, the third Tuesday in June and the Tuesday succeeding the second Monday in November.

The first judge of the fifth district of which Woodson County formed a part was Hon. O. B. Learnard, of Burlington, Kan. He was elected December 6, 1859, at the first election held under the Wyandotte Constitution. He resigned before entering upon the duties of his office and was appointed Lieutenant Colonel of the first regiment of Kansas volunteers and served as such during the civil war. Hon. R. M. Ruggles, of Emporia was appointed to fill the vacancy, and on November 5, 1861 was elected for the unexpired term. Hon. J. H. Watson was elected November 8, 1864, but before his term of office as judge had expired, the legislature had taken Woodson County from the fifth district and placed it in the seventh since which time the history of the bench of this county is identical with that of Allen County, already recorded in this volume.

The Bar of Woodson County has undergone many changes since 1860. The pioneer lawyers are all gone except A. Stewart who now resides at Yates Center, and W. B. Stine, who quit the practice of law in the latter 60's and has since engaged in farming. Samuel E. Hoffman was the first lawyer in Woodson County. He came from Pennsylvania to Kansas in 1858, and was 24 years old when he reached Woodson County.

He was a member of the Constitutional Convention of 1859 and helped frame the Wyandotte Constitution, and was the first State Senator from Woodson County. He is now a resident of St. Louis and is engaged in the banking business.

In the early 60's there was no resident lawyer in the county, and N. H. Bent, of Burlington, was appointed county attorney. Prior to 1867, the principal law business of the county was transacted by Eli Gilbert and Alex Johnson, of Garnett, N. H. Bent, Silas Pearl, Alex Stewart and A. Jones, of Coffey County, and Ruggles and Plumb, of Emporia. Soon after the formation of the seventh judicial district, William E. Grove located at Neosho Falls, then the county seat, and was appointed county attorney. He was then the only lawyer in Woodson County who devoted his entire time to the practice of law. He moved from Woodson County to Grand Rapids, Mich., and was there elected Circuit Judge, which position he held for many years.

During the year of 1870, W. H. Slavens, W. A. Atchison, T. J. Petit, and C. B. Graves opened offices in Neosho Falls, and the following year Willard Davis, afterward attorney general of the state, and W. P. Talbott located there. About this time Peter Bell, who lived on a farm near Kalida commenced the practice of law. Then H. D. Dickson opened an


office at Neosho Falls, and following him during the 70's came J. E. Pickett, W. H. Thurber, J. P. Shively, M. V. Yoder. G. R. Stephenson, W. E. Hogueland, J. H. Sticher and J. W. Dickson. Of these attorneys, Slavens, Atchison, Petit, Davis, Thurber and Bell are dead. Talbott lives at Parsons, Kan. Graves moved to Burlington, Kan., and was elected judge of that district which position he held for twelve years. He now lives at Emporia and is actively engaged in the practice of law. H. D. Dickson served one term as Representative of Woodson County, one term as county attorney and now lives at Emporia, Kan. Since moving to that place he has served one term as county attorney of Lyon County, and was for several years attorney for The A. T. & S. F. Ry. Co. J. E. Pickett served five years as county attorney, and in 1888 he abandoned the practice of law to enter the ministry, and is now pastor of the Christian church at Boulder, Colo. J. P. Shively is farming near Paola. M. V. Yoder went to Washington Territory (now state), and the last known of him here he was probate judge of one of the counties in that territory. J. W. Dickson served as postmaster at Neosho Falls during the Harrison administration and went from there to Danville, Ill., where for several years he served as bookkeeper for a coal company at that place. In February, 1901 he returned to Woodson County and is now bookkeeper for the Yates Center Bank G. R. Stephenson and W. E. Hogueland and J. H. Sticher are the only attorneys of this period who still reside in Woodson County, and are engaged in the practice of law.

During the 80's D. C. Zimmerman, M. C. Smith, C. N. Warner, C. C. Clevenger, W. P. Gregory, G. M. Martin, E. H. White, W. A. Reid, P. S. Ray, G. H. Lamb and F. M. Sutton became members of the Woodson County Bar. Mr. Zimmerman now lives in Indiana and has recently been a prominent candidate for member of congress from his district in that state. M. C. Smith is now a leading lawyer of Springfield, Mo. C. N. Warner is practicing law at Seattle, Wash. W. P. Gregory served one term as county attorney of Woodson County and is now located at Trenton, Mo., and is practicing law at that place. C. C. Clevenger served four years as Probate Judge of Woodson County and then entered the newspaper business. He is now editor and proprietor of the Osawatomie Graphic of Osawatomie, Kan., and is postmaster at that place. E. H. White is engaged in the mercantile business at Yates Center. F. M. Sutton lives on a farm near Toronto. W. A. Reid is in the railway service in Texas, and the other gentlemen named are still residing at Yates Center and engaged in the active practice of law.

During the past ten years S. C. Holcomb, A. J. Jones, S. C. Holmes, J. S. Gilson, R. Sample, Jr., E. Q. Stillwell, E. E. Kelley, J. E. Wirick and A. Howard were enrolled as members of the legal fraternity of the county, E. E. Kelley is county superintendent of public instruction of this county, and is fast winning fame as an author. All of the rest of these last named


gentlemen still reside in Woodson County and are engaged in the practice of law except J. S. Gilson who is dead.

The first case that appears on the docket of the district court of Woodson County, as shown by the records, was filed September 9, 1864. The title of the case is: The State of Kansas, against D. H. Miller, charged with breaking jail. This note appears on the trial docket: "Case continued on account of the absence of the defendant." The defendant is still absent.

In these early days when the lawyers were young, inexperienced and without books, questions were raised and discussed that would surprise and startle the lawyers of to-day. Among many instances of this kind is the following: A man was arrested in the city of Neosho Falls for selling intoxicating liquors without a license. The defendant before the Police Judge pleaded "not guilty," and demanded a jury. No provisions could be found by court or counsel authorizing such a proceeding. The constitutional provision giving to every man a trial by jury was paraded by counsel for the defendant and thereupon the City Attorney confessed the right of trial by jury, and proposed to the Police Judge to impannel one, which he proceeded to do. To this the defendant objected, but the trial went on and the defendant was convicted, whereupon he appealed to the district court. In the district court the defendant moved to dismiss on the ground that the defendant had been convicted in a manner not provided for by the statutes; but the Judge held the appeal good, and stated that the defendant was now voluntarily in a court where he could have the benefit of a constitutional jury, and thereupon the trial proceeded. There being no jury room, the jury was left in the court room to consider their verdict, and remained there all night. The defendant at the time of the trial was running a saloon in a room adjoining the court room. During the night he slipped through the thin partition to the jury bottles of beer and other liquors.

In the morning the jury were called into the box and delivered to the court a verdict of not guilty. The City Attorney insisted upon having the jury polled. During this examination of the jury one of them said that he had not agreed to the verdict, but that he had been compelled by other jurors to assent thereto; that he had been knocked down and with an uplifted chair and violent threats forced to consent to the verdict; but he now claims protection of the court in repudiating it; but the jury were discharged, the defendant was not to be found, and he is still at large.

The warmest feelings of friendship have always existed between the members of the Woodson County Bar, and the different persons who have presided as judge of the district. They have mutually aided each other in arriving at the correct solution of the various questions that have arisen.

Woodson County is purely an agricultural and stock raising county, and is not a fruitful field for litigation, yet its bar ranks among the first in the state. Several of her lawyers having a large practice in the adjoining


counties. They have taken an active part in all movements for the uplifting of the county, all of them who have families, with possibly one exception, own their own homes, and they may truly be said to be part and parcel of the various communities where they reside.

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