Franklin T Oldt.

History of Dubuque County, Iowa; being a general survey of Dubuque County history, including a history of the city of Dubuque and special account of districts throughout the county, from the earliest settlement to the present time (Volume 1) online

. (page 51 of 56)
Online LibraryFranklin T OldtHistory of Dubuque County, Iowa; being a general survey of Dubuque County history, including a history of the city of Dubuque and special account of districts throughout the county, from the earliest settlement to the present time (Volume 1) → online text (page 51 of 56)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

stir up the Irish to rescue him, but as soon as this movement be-
came known the law-abiding citizens called together a force of 163
armed miners and others headed by Lorin Wheeler to serve as a
guard and see that the execution was carried into effect.

In 1834, under Michigan Territory, P. A. Lorimier was supreme



court commissioner and Ira Williams, Warner Lewis and Patrick
Quigley justices of the peace.

The first regular court held in Dubuque was a probate session
convened by Ezekiel Lockwood, judge, January lo, 1835, and the
first act was to appoint Susan A. Dean and Daniel A. Parkerson
administrators of the estate of Noble F. Dean. This court was one
of inferior jurisdiction, and was held twice previous to the opening
of the district court in 1837 by Judge Irvin. Thus previous to 1837
Dubuque county had grown rapidly without otlier courts than the
above and those of justices of the peace. The act creating the Terri-
tory of Wisconsin took efifect July 3. 1836, but court under it was
not held until tlie following May, and even then but for a short
term, owing to the ill-health of Judge Irvin.

It is considered certain that William W. Coriell was the first
lawyer proper to locate permanently at Dubuque ; he probably came
in 1835. The Visitor of May 25, 1836, said, "A good omen, — We
have but one lawyer located at Du Buque." About June several
other lawyers arrived, among whom were Stephen Hempstead and
William W. Chapman, the first United States district attorney. In
this judicial district were the counties of Dubuque and Des Moines,
with David Irvin, associate justice of Wisconsin Territory, presid-
ing. The district w-as not created until November, 1836, and courts
were ordered held in May and October of each year. W. W. Chap-
man secured an interest in the Visitor in December, 1836, but con-
tinued his legal duties. Peter H. Engle, attorney, arrived in August
and became prominent in both law and politics. In December W. W.
Coriell became district attorney for Dubuque county. Stephen was
attorney for the town of Dubuque. Patrick Quigley was justice of
the peace in 1836 and one or two years before that date, probably
as early as 1834, when Michigan Territory was created. Late in
1836 Charles Dunn was chief justice of the newly created Wisconsin
Territory, and William B. Frazier and David Irvin, associate jus-
tices. In November, 1836, Thomas S. Wilson, attorney, arrived and
became a permanent resident and prominent in law and all public

The district court of Dubuque county was held in a two-story log
house, at Fourtli and Main streets, in May, 1837, Judge David Irvin
presiding. His first act was to appoint Warner Lewis clerk of the
court. The second was to adopt a seal made by a 2 5 -cent piece
pressed upon sealing wax. Thompson Campbell, Josepli Hoge and
John Turney, of Galena, were admitterl to practice. United States
Marshal Francis Gehon had summoned the following grand jury :

Thomas Childs, foreman ; Paul Cain, William Smith, John
Parker, David Sleator, David Hogan. James L. Langworthy, Ciies-
ter Sage, Ambrose Kennedy, Augustin Powers, James Smith, Leroy
Jackson, J. E. Miller and William Carter. County SheriflF G. W.
Cummins had summoned Presley Samuels, M. Patterson, N. Carroll,


Abram Wilson, James Gilham, B. B. Lawless, Jesse Yount and S.
Burtiss. The following talesmen were added : Andrew J. Divine,
Jacob Hamilton, Reuben Estes, Mathias Ham. Rufus Miller, James
Aliller, John Wharton, Thos. B. Brasher, Lyman Dillon and Andrew
J. Bankston, foreman. Two attachments were the first cases.

George W. Cummins was the first sherifif of Dubuque county
under Wisconsin Territory. Owing to the ill-health of Judge Irvin
the court session of October, 1837, was very short; nearly the whole
docket was continued until the June term of 1838.

A man arrested here for passing counterfeit money left a cash
bond for his appearance for trial, but failing to return the money
was forfeited. The citizens called a public meeting to determine
what should be done with the money.

In 1837 W. W. Chapman and Stephen Hempstead were associated
in the practice of law. T. S. Wilson, Peter H. Engle and William
W. Coriell were each practicing alone.

Lawyers who practiced here in 1838 were J. W. Parker, R. D.
Parker, Richard Farwell and John Turney, of Galena or elsewhere,
and W. W. Coriell, Stephen Hempstead, P. H. Engle, T. S. Wilson
and James Churchman, of Dubuque, and Edwin Reeves, John V.
Berry and Alexander McGregor also attended the courts here.

In February, 1838, Congress passed the law creating Iowa Terri-
tory, the same to go into efifect July 4, 1838. It was duly provided
that all suits instituted before that date should be prosecuted to
finality. The United States District Court, Territory of Wisconsin,
held a session in June, 1838, Judge Charles Dunn, presiding; there
was a large docket which was disposed of rapidly, though many
of the cases were continued until the next term.

"Monday next commences the June term (1838) of the District
Court of the United States for this county. As no court has been
held here for upwards of a year the docket must necessarily be large
and suits pending a deep importance to the litigants." — (Iowa News,
June 2, 1838). Judge Dunn presided and court was in session two
or more weeks in June, 1838.

Under the Iowa territorial law no definite time, through over-
sight, had been set for holding the courts. To remedy this omission
W. B. Conway, secretary of the Territory by proclamation, fixed the
next term to begin on the second Thursday in September, 1838.
Chief Justice Mason decided about this time that there was no
October term known to the law — that a recognizance was in the
nature of a contract and hence defendants were not bound to appear
and stand trial at a day earlier than specified in the recognizance.

Timothy Davis and James Crawford were here practicing in the
spring of 1839. In February, 1839, John V. Berry became attorney
for the Third district. The counties of Dubuque, Jackson, Scott and
Clayton were constituted the Third Judicial district, and Thomas


S. Wilson was chosen judge ; sessions were held in April and Sep-
tember of each year.

In about 1836 a negro named Ralph came here from Missouri
to work in the mines. He remained until 1839, when his master
arrived and claimed him on the ground that he had not paid for
himself. Aiter due proceedings the justice delivered him to his
master. Several luimane citizens took up the matter and asked for
a writ of habeas corpus before Judge Wilson, and by consent of
parties the case was referred to Judge Mason, then presiding in the
newly organized Federal District court, who decided that as Ralph
had come ivith his master's consent he might remain zvithont his
consent, and he did so. This case may be seen in Morris' reports
of that date. It was often referred to during the slavery period.

In 1 841 the Hyde-Murray murder case was tried, all the lawyers
here being on one side or the other : Hyde was found guilty of mur-
der and sentenced to be hanged.

Early in 1841 P. A. Lorimier. Augustus Coriell. Francis K.
O'Ferrall, James Langworthy, E. M. Bissell and C. E. Harbeson,
who had served at the December term, 1840, as grand jurors and
who had not yet been paid for their ser\-ices, addressed a communi-
cation to Thomas Ewing, secretary of the treasury, asking wliether
the funds for such services had yet been sent to Francis Gehon, late
marshal of Iowa Territory, and were answered as follows: "Upon
reference to the proper accounting officer I am informed that the
late marshal was duly provided with funds and if he fails to pay
you must apply to his successor." It was shown upon investigation
that General Gehon was slow and not culpable.

It was claimed by the press in 1842 that Iowa Territory for a
portion of that year was wholly without a judiciary. It was claimed
to be the fault of the Congressional delegate. The offices became
vacant and no new appointments were made to till them. Judge
Williams presided after August.

Late in the thirties and early in the forties the lawyers here
were kept busy with numerous land and mining suits, contentions
growing out of pre-emption claims and rights, horse and cattle
stealing and an occasional murder. An important case in the spring
of 1843 was the trial of the three Winnebago Indians for murder,
the case coming here on a change of venue from Fayette or Dela-
ware county. All the lawyers here were retained on this case.
Their chief attorney was Judge Grant. They were found guilty
and sentenced to be hanged ; they asked to be shot instead of hanged.
The case went to the Supreme court, but the opinion of the lower
court was affirmed. Some complications arose and the execution
was postponed. About this time two burglars confined in the jail
burned a hole in the floor and escaped, taking with them one of
the Winnebago Indians ; the other two refused to leave the jail.

About 1844 Col. L. .A. Thomas began the practice at Dubuque;


in partnership with D. S. Wilson, who founded the Miners' Ex-
press. He was prominent in poHtics here as early as 1840; he and
wife were active in soldiers' relief work during the Civil War. Tliis
year the Prichard divorce case engaged the services of Dubuque
lawyers. Frederick E. Bissell began the practice about 1846-7.
He studied law with James Crawford and upon his admission to
the bar formed a partnership with his instructor. He was after-
ward associated with Timothy Davis, Lincoln Clark, and in 1855
with William Mills. In 1856 O. P. Shiras joined Mills & Bissell,
but Mills withdrew in 186 1. Five years later John M. Ballou joined
Bissell & Shiras. About this time Mr. Bissell was appointed attor-
ney general and later was continued by election. At his death in
1867 Burt, Cooley, Wilson, Davis, Poor, Barker, Mills, Beach,
Beck, Vandever and others at the bar meeting spoke in praise of his
eloquence, ability and high character, and referred to his loss with
intense feeling and regret.

The case of the Miners" Bank of Dubuque was tried here before
Judge Wilson in November, 1845 ; the best lawyers were engaged
at the trial. Judge Wilson decided that the act repealing the charter
of the bank was constitutional. The Iowa Supreme court affirmed
the decision. Judge Joseph Williams was on the bench of the
Second district in 1846. In 1847 the Supreme court consisted of
Joseph Williams, Thomas S. Wilson and Judge Kinney. At this
time Thomas Rogers and William J. Barney were law partners;
so also were Hempstead and Chenoweth. George Madeira prac-
ticed here. In the fall of this year Benjamin M. Samuels opened a
law office in Dubuque. He was a successful lawyer from the start
and became later one of the leaders of the county Democracy. He
was one of the most brilliant orators among the old bar ; he died
in 1863. When Thomas S. Wilson resigned from the Supreme
bench in 1847, George Greene, senior editor of the Miners' Express,
was appointed his successor.

A number of members of the Dubuque bar prepared and signed a
petition remonstrating against the appointment of George Greene
as a member of the Supreme Bench of Iowa, owing to his alleged
lack of qualification for that important post. It was stated that this
petition was burned by two members of the Legislature. There
were fifteen lawyers in Dubuque at this time, but only five of tliem
remonstrated against the appointment of Mr. Greene — four Whigs
and one Democrat.

The act of February 4, 1847, constituted four court districts in
Iowa: that of January 22, 1857 made fourteen. The Constitution
of 1857 gave the Legislature power to reorganize the districts and
increase the number of judges. Accordingly an act of March 20,
1858, reduced the judges to eleven; the twelfth was added in 1864;
the thirteenth in 1872. and the fourteenth in 1876. The act of May
3. 1868, established the Circuit court with two judges in each dis-


trict, with exclusive jurisdicticjii in probate matters and appellate
jurisdiction from inferior tribunals in civil actions and concurrent
jurisdiction with the District court in civil actions. This law abol-
ished countj' judges and greatly facilitated court proceedings. The
city court of Dubuque was still in existence until recently, though
no judge nor clerk had been elected to it for many years.

Judge Carleton presided in place of Judge Grant in December,
1847. The bar passed resolutions complimenting him on his style
and dispatch in conducting court. The lawyers who signed these
resolutions were as follows : Piatt Smith, Thomas S. Wilson,
Stephen Hempstead, William J. Barney, Frederick E. Bissell, Lewis
A. Thomas, William Y. Lovell, Thomas Rogers, Lincoln Clark,
George L. Nightingale, John V. Berry, James L. Palmer, James
Clark and George Madeira.

In January, 1848, the Johnson-Bigger murder case was tried and
he was found guilty. A new trial was granted. This case brought
out the best legal talent. The act of January 22, 1848, changed
the time of holding court to the fourth Monday of April and the
third Monday of September of each year. Lewis A. Thomas was
prosecuting attorney. In October, 1848, Rogers & Barney were
partners; also Lovell & Samuels, Wilson & Smith, while Clark,
Hempstead and Madeira practiced singly. About 1848-9 David
S. Wilson, brother of Judge T. S. Wilson, began practicing. He
came here in 1839 and was one of the founders of the Miners' Ex-
press. He studied law in his brother's office. In the Civil War
he was commissioned colonel by Secretary Stanton, and took the
field with his regiment. He did not oppose Lincoln's adminis-
tration as his brother Thomas S. did. In 1872 he became circuit
judge and soon afterward district judge. He died in 1881. Late in
life he affiliated with the Republicans. At his death it was said that
he was the most popular man ever a resident of Dubuque.

The Supreme court held a session in Dubuque in July, 1850.
J. J. Dyer was L'nited States district judge in 1851. The new
code went into effect July i, 185 1, and under it William Y. Lovell
became the first county judge and held his first session in September.
John D. Jennings began practicing this year. He became one of
the editors of the Miners' Express, but after 1857 devoted his time
to his profession. Judge Grant held court in October ; there were
only seventy-five cases on the docket, one being that of Emer.son-
Goldsberg. Hempstead & Burt and Thomas S. and David A.
Wilson were law firms in 1851 ; the next year Clark & Bissell and
Wiltse & Lo\ell were prominent. Carson Graham also practiced.
In 1852 Judge Wilson succeeded Judge Grant on the district bench.
Beginning November 10, 1852, and ending in March, 1853, Judges
J. J. Dyer and T. S. Wilson conducted a law school in this city: $30
was charged for the term of five months; there was general instruc-
tion with lectures, moot courts, etc.


In 1853 railway cases began to figure in the local courts; one was
Dubuque vs. the Dubuque & Pacific Railway. In May Samuels
& Vandever were associated. In November, 1853, the second term
of the Dubuque Law School was opened : $40 was charged for
the term of five months; J. J. Dyer, T. S. Wilson and Rev. Joshua
Phelps were instructors. It does not appear that as yet the Dubuque
bar had been duly organized. In December, 1853, Judge Wilson
went to Washington to conduct the Dubuque claims case — Chouteau
vs. Maloney. The case went over until January, 1854, when it was
decided against the claimant. This was one of the most, if not the
most important cases in the history of the county. It removed
forever a cloud which had hung over the inhabitants since the
earliest settlement. At the bar banquet of January 19, 1885, Judge
Wilson said that he received only $200 for his two years' service in
this case — the most momentous in local history.

The ferry case of 1854 — Fanning vs. Gregoire and Bogy — was
tried in June; the plaintiff was suing for his alleged rights under
his twenty-year territorial license.

Among the lawyers practicing in 1855 were A. H. Dillon, A. E.
Harmon, Ben. M. Samuels, D. N. Coolev, William Vandever, David
S. Wilson, J. S. Blatchley, L. Hand. J. S. Covel, W. M. Crozier,
J. M. Griffith, S. Sawyer, H. and E. T. Wilder, William Tripp,
S. M. Pollock, William McNall, Colin Clark, F. E. Bissell.

"Hon. T. S. Wilson. — The thanks of the legal fraternity and
the public are due to this gentleman for the straightforward, ener-
getic discharge of his duties in the late protracted session of the
District court of this county. The cases on the docket embraced
64 chancery cases, 206 civil cases and 28 state cases, all of which
were disposed of owing in a great measure to the business tact and
address of the judge." — E. & H., December 21, 1855.)

The United States District Court sat here in July, 1855, Judge
Dyer presiding; there was a light docket.

In September, 1855, Judge J. J. Dyer died in Virginia of typhoid
fever. He was the dean of the law school which expired when he
died. "His sudden death has spread a gloom over the whole city,"
said the Express and Herald of September 21, 1855.

M. McLaughlin, attorney of Dubuque, became commissioner of
the Court of Claims in December, 1855.

In December, 1855, ^I- ^- Mulkern was admitted to the bar; he
was a graduate of Cambridge Law School. He soon became county
attorney and afterward was prominent as a lawyer and more so as
a politician. He was for a while one of the editors of the Norih-
zvest, a newspaper supposed to be owned by George W. Jones. In
January, 1856, Lucius Robinson succeeded J. S. Covel as county
attorney. At the February (1856) term there were 242 cases on
the docket, twenty-five of which were criminal and fifty-five chan-
cery ; Judge Wilson presided. J. M. Griffith and M. B. Mulkern


were partners in 1856. A mayor's court, as provided by the con-
stitution, was demanded in April, 1856, wlien D. S. Wilson was
chosen mayor. On August 7, 1856, Oliver P. Shiras was admitted
to the bar upon motion of Ben. M. Samuels. The latter, who had
examined the applicant, said the examination was one of the most
brilliant he had ever witnessed. A mayor's court was held first in
July, 1856; the first case was a fine of $3 for drunkenness. The
Crowley-Gleason murder case was tried about this time.

Late in 1856 the county court was given criminal jurisdiction.

In February, 1857, Franklin T. Goodrich was admitted to the
bar. Wilson, Utley & Doud was a strong firm at this time.

On June 27, 1857, the bar met at the court house pursuant to
notice for the purpose of revising the rules of practice, of organiz-
ing an association of the nature of a law institute and of considering
the expediency of taking a pleasure excursion. Messrs. Baker,
Bissell and Harvej' were appointed a committee to revise the rules.
Messrs. Dillon, Cooley and Cram were appointed a committee to
report on an attorney's mininuim fee bill. The following resolu-
tion was adopted: "That a committee of three be appointed to
prepare a plan for an incorporation of a law institute, and that said
committee be instructed, after they have prepared such plan and
articles, to call a meeting of the bar, at which they shall report."
Blatchley, Cram and Griffith were appointed such committee. The
committee to revise the rules was instructed to report a rule for
making up issues in vacation and to allow parties prevailing in suits
a fee on the decision of demurrers and a fee generally. Mulkern,
Rupert. Harvey, Cram, Goodrich, Dillon, Lovell. Jennings and
Jones were appointed a committee on excursion. On motion of
Mr. Crosier the following resolution was adopted : "That the
thanks of the members of this bar are due to Benjamin Rupert, the
clerk of the District court of this county, for his untiring energy
and industry in the faithful discharge of his official duties and the
courtesy extended to us all while performing the same." Of this
meeting William Mills was chairman and C. S. D. Jones, secretary.
— (Daily Times, June 30, 1857.)

The Ti>ncs having attacked Judge Wilson, both professionally
and politically, the bar of Dubuque, on August 6, 1857, met and
passed a resolution of unbounded confidence in that official.

On August 18, 1857, M. B. Mulkern, lawyer, entered the editorial
rooms of J. B. Dorr, of the Express and Herald, and after demand-
ing that he retract certain statements in Sunday's paper and being
conditionally refused opened fire on the latter with a revoh-er.
Three shots were fired, neither of which took effect. The news-
paper had charged Mr. Mulkern with a criminal offense. — (E. &
H., August 19, 1857.)

The grand jury failing to find a true hill against Mr. Mulkfrn.





^ L



the Express and Herald of November 18, 1857, denounced that
body and Mulkern in withering terms.

"The Circuit Court of Dubuque county has been in session three
weeks. The grand jury found a number of indictments, but the
criminal cases have not yet been tried. Such cases and about one
hundred on the civil calendar will occupy two or three weeks longer.
On account of the absence of Judge Wilson for the rest of the
November term the court will be held by Hon. Samuel Murdock,
judge of the Tenth Judicial district."

Law firms here in October, 1857, were Bissell (P. E. j, Mills
(William) & Shiras (O. P.); Burt (James). Barker (W. T. ) &
Pierce (S. T.): Wilson (D. S.), Utley (B. T.) & Doud ( [ohn,
Jr.) : Franklin T. Goodrich, Samuels (B. M.) & Allison (W. B. ),
Oscar Taylor, D. N. Cooley.

Thomas M. Monroe, a distinguished lawyer, died in Fei)ruary,
1877; he was born in Virginia in 1818 and graduated in law from
Front Royal College. He located in Dubuque in 1858 and at
once took a prominent place in his profession and maintained it
until his health failed a short time before his death.

By 1858 Dubuque had a powerful bar^ — one of the strongest in
all the West. In February, 1858, there were here Bissell, Mills &
Shiras, Burt, Barker & Pierce, Wilson, Utley & Doud, Samuels &
Allison (Crane joined them a little later), Bancroft & Goodrich,
Newberry & Robb, Cooley, Blatchley & Adams, Pollock & Munson,
Peckham & Beach, Lovells & Williams, Vandever, Friend & Shiras
(George), Chapline & Dillon, Smith, Poor, Adams & Cram, Oscar
Taylor, John L. Harvey, Samuel Duncan, A. E. Harmon, Henry
S. Jennings, R. Stewart, H. T. McNulty and Frank M. Robinson.
Here were lawyers who then and afterward made themselves

The Gullick case was tried here in 1858; he shot his wife with
pistol; he was convicted and in the end hung. Many brilliant
passages at arms occurred while this case was on trial. The year
before John Regan killed a Mr. Goldrick and was bound over for
murder. In April three murderers were in the county jail : Ryan,
Crowley and Gullick.

In 1858 W. T. Barker began the practice and at once took high
rank. He helped to revise the code of i860, and later was a mem-
ber of the State Board of Inquiry. In i860 he became public
prosecutor of the Ninth district ; he was at times associated with
Burt, Pierce, Barney, Chapline, Dillon, Pollock, Shields. In 1869
he became circuit judge ; he had much to do with railroad law and

This year the Johnson-Ostland murder case was tried ; also the
McGee-Kelly murder case: both cases ran over into 1859 or longer.
At this time the Ninth Judicial district embraced the counties of
Dubuque, Delaware, Buchanan, Blackhawk and Grundy.


The Gibbons-Donahoe and the Clifford and Mooney-W'ood mur-
der cases were tried in 1859-60. Clifford and Mooney were found
guilty in December and sentenced to be hung. The former was
executed in the jail yard in Dubuque.

Among the attorneys here in May, 1859, were the following:
Wihse (H. A.), Friend (W. C. ) & Jennings (H. S. ): Wilson
(D. S.), Utley (H. T. ) & Doud (John, Jr.) : Oscar Taylor; Xew-
berrv (S. S.) & Robb (Patrick); John D. Jennings; Barker
(W.'T.). ChapHne (J. A.), Barney (W. J.) & Dillon (A. H., Jr.) ;
Clark (Lincoln) & Beach (M. H. ); Pollock (S. H.) & Munson
(S. ) ; Duncan (Samuel) & Tavenner (G. A. ) ; Charles G. Loeber;

Online LibraryFranklin T OldtHistory of Dubuque County, Iowa; being a general survey of Dubuque County history, including a history of the city of Dubuque and special account of districts throughout the county, from the earliest settlement to the present time (Volume 1) → online text (page 51 of 56)