James McMahon Graham.

History of Sangamon County Bar; online

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James M. Graham.

History of Sangamon County


3U0. 0977355



Sangamon County Bar

Address of


Delivered before Annual Meeting


Sangamon County Bar Association

January 27, 1931




Sangamon County Bar

Address of


Delivered before Annual Meeting


Sangamon County Bar Association

January 27, 1931

History of Sangamon County Bar

Mr. President and Members of the Bar of Sangamon County:

When your President honored me by asking me to prepare a
paper on the Bar of Sangamon County, my first thought was,
"What's the use of telling the lawyers what they know already."
but my second thought was that some of them are a little younger
than I and might be interested in hearing something of their pro-
fessional predecessors ; that what was personal experience to me
might be in the nature of history to them. After I got started
it became a labor of love.

I need hardly say that I shall not venture any comment on those
who are still with us, and but little on those who have recently
passed away, whose lives are still fresh in our memory.

Let me remark, by way of introduction, that you have a very
considerable burden of responsibility to carry if you are to maintain
the fine traditions of the Sangamon County Bar.

From the very organization of the County, in 1821, the Bar
of this County took a leading place among the lawyers of Illinois —
indeed, of the whole country — as lawyers and as statesmen. They
reflected credit on Springfield and Sangamon County, at the Bar,
on the bench, in the field, in the Legislative Halls of State and
Nation, and even in the White House.

It is significant that all three of the Representatives now in
the General Assembly from this District are members of the
Springfield Bar.

With so many illustrious exemplars from Sangamon a high
mark is set for them to emulate. Unlike Macbeth, they have a
spur to prick the sides of their intent and urge them on to great
achievement in the public interest.

The Bar of Sangamon County always occupied an enviable
position. Judge Joseph Gillespie, of Madison County, one of the
great pioneer lawyers of the State, in a eulogy on the life of Major
John T. Stuart, referring to the early Bar of this County, said:
"They had no superiors — if equals — in any State in the Union."

Many causes contributed to that result.

First, there was the natural advantages of the Sangamon
Country. In those early days, when agriculture was the only
industry, it meant much to have a practically unlimited area of
fertile soil ready for the plow.

It is difficult for us in this day of multiplied machinery, of
automobiles, and aeroplanes and radios, to realize the amount of
labor, time and patience it took to clear a forest farm with the ax
and then for years thereafter to cultivate among the stumps in
the clearing. In some way, not satisfactorily explained, nature
kept this rich prairie soil free from tree growth, ready and waiting
for the plow. As some wit has said, "All that was needed was to


plant the seed, tickle the ground with a hoe, and it laughed into a

In the days when subsistence was a problem the very name
was an attraction, for in the Indian tongue, Sangamo meant "the
land of plenty to eat."

With a rich soil, a salubrious climate, an abundance of pure
water, and plenty of timber along the streams for building and for
fuel, and with an abundance of game, the conditions were very
favorable to life and health and prosperity.

These favorable conditions, which soon became quite widely
known, led to an influx of settlers, mostly from Kentucky at first,
soon, however, to be followed by immigrants from other southern
States, and a little later, from the states to the East of us, and even
from New York and New England.

Other inducements followed quickly. The keen demand for
land led to the early establishment of a United States Land Office ;
and aided by our location near the geographical center of the State,
and by the political sagacity and activity of Lincoln and the "long
nine," Springfield became the capital of the State.

As a matter of course, the Supreme Court followed the capital,
as did also the United States District Court; for at that time, the
State constituted but one Federal Judicial District.

No wonder that this combination of advantages attracted the
attention of ambitious young lawyers from the older settlements.

Two days hence Sangamon County will be 110 years old. It
was established by act of the General Assembly on January 30,
1821 ; so that this meeting is in the nature of an anniversary —
the 110th.

On February 6th, 1821, an act was passed establishing a Court
of Probate, and James Latham was chosen as the first Probate

The first session of the Circuit Court was held on May 7th,
1821, in the home of John Kelly, with Chief Justice John Reynolds,
afterwards Governor of the State, on the Bench.

There were four cases on the docket, one civil case for tres-
pass, one indictment for riot, and two for assault and battery.

The Court had a rather inauspicious start; the civil suit was
dismissed, and the criminal cases were all continued.

The next term was held in the new court house, on June 4,

This court house was built on contract by John Kelly, the first
settler, at a cost of $42.50, and so far as I could find out, was located
on the south side of Jefferson, about sixty feet east of Second
Street. As has happened here a few times since, the contractor
made a claim for extras, and was allowed $5.00. A new jail cost
twice as much as the court house — $84.75.

Two years later — (1823) — the town was regularly laid out by
survey, and a United States Land Office established, with Pascal
P. Enos as Receiver,

In 1825, the County had outgrown its first court house and a
new one was built at the northeast corner of Sixth and Adams,

where the beautiful C. I. P. S. building has just been erected. This
second court house cost $575.00.

Six years later, in 1831, it was abandoned and a pretentious
two story brick building was erected in the center of the public
square, where the present court house stands, at the enormous cost
of $6,841.00.

It continued to be the seat of justice until 1838, when what
is now Lincoln Square was deeded to the State, and the building
was torn down to make way for the new State capitol, which,
with some changes, is the present court house.

Thus the County was compelled to seek other quarters for its

The next court house was built on the east side of Sixth, a
little south of Washington Street, about where the Savoy Theater
is now located. It and the old State Bank, both beautiful specimens
of architecture, were the only buildings in that half block. It
continued as the County's seat of justice until the present State
capitol was completed in 1876, when the County moved into the
old State House, where, with a short intermission, it has continued
ever since.

Historical accuracy requires me to state that from the time
Court House No. 3 was torn down in 1838, until Court House No.
4 was ready, in 1845, the County leased a part of "Hoffman's Row"
for court house purposes. "Hoffman's Row" was on the west side
of Fifth Street, a little north of Washington. And again when the
present court house was being raised one story, in 1899, the County
leased and occupied quarters in what was then known as the Odd
Fellows' Building on the southeast corner of Fourth and Monroe.

So much for the buildings where the lawyers assisted in the
administration of justice ; now for the lawyers themselves :

During the first decade of the County's history, that is, from
1821 to 1831, the names of 22 lawyers appear on the court docket.

Among these were Judge Latham, the first Probate Judge;
William S. Hamilton, a son of Alexander Hamilton, Secretary of
the Treasury under Washington ; John Reynolds, afterwards Gov-
ernor of the State ; Samuel D. Lockwood, afterwards a Judge of
the Supreme Court ; and John T. Stuart, who was generally recog-
nized as the Nestor of the early Bar, although Judge Stephen T.
Logan was conceded priority as the greater lawyer.

Here is a partial list of those early members of the Sangamon
County Bar, the year of their arrival, and the population of Spring-
field at the time :

Name Date Population

William Hamilton , 1823 about 150

John T. Stuart _ 1828 " 250

Stephen T. Logan 1832 " 750

S. H. Treat , _....- 1834 " 900

Ninian W. Edwards _ 1835 " 1000

Colonel E. D. Baker _ 1835 " 1000

Abraham Lincoln _....„ 1837 " 1100

Stephen A. Douglas „ _ 1837 " 1100


General James Shields 1839 " 1500

Ben. S. Edwards _ 1840 (census) 1600

Lincoln elected President 1860 " 9820

R. H. Patton, E. L. Chapin and I came in 1885 about 21000

Springfield Metropolitan area 1930 (census) 83000

1 hope you do not fail to see the connection.

When Illinois was admitted to the Union in 1818, Nathaniel
Pope was the Territorial delegate in Congress, and, as you are no
doubt aware, rendered the State inestimable service by securing a
shift of the northern boundary from the southern extremity of
Lake Michigan to its present location, about 60 miles north. As
originally located in the northwest territory, Illinois had no access
to Lake Michigan. The change, secured by Judge Pope, has been
of tremendous consequence to the State, and probably to the

When the new State was created a federal judicial district,
Judge Pope was made the first district Judge, with headquarters
at Kaskaskia. When the capitol was moved to Vandalia in 1820,
the District Court moved with it, and again, in 1839, when the
State capitol was moved from Vandalia to Springfield, Judge Pope
and his court came along. He continued as District Judge till his
death in 1850.

The District Court was for a time located on the Third Floor
of the old Farmers Bank Building, on the Southwest corner of
Sixth and Adams, the building in which Mr. Catron officed for some
years, and in which was my first office in Springfield.

While the court was located there an event occurred which
I think worth relating. It was told to me more than once by Judge
A. N. J. Crook, with whom I then officed. He had served a term as
County Judge of this County. He was also a Mayor of Spring-
field, and a member of the General Assembly from the Sangamon
District, and very fond of reminiscensing.

In 1842 Governor Boggs, of Missouri, issued a requisition on
Governor Carlin of Illinois, for Joseph Smith the Mormon prophet,
as a fugitive from justice. Smith had been indicted in Missouri for
conspiring against the life of the Governor.

He was brought before Judge Pope in a Habeas Corpus pro-
ceeding. Justin Butterfield and Ben Edwards represented Smith,
and Josiah Lamborn, then Attorney General, appeared for the

The Court room was packed full of men and women. Ladies
occupied seats all about, even on the judge's platform — among
them being Mrs. Lincoln, two of Judge Pope's daughters, a Miss
Dunlap (afterwards Mrs. Gen. McClernand) and many others. The
Prophet was accompanied by his 12 apostles and several of the
Saints, as the Mormons called themselves.

Mr. Butterfield was a striking figure when he rose to address
the court. He wore a dress coat with shiny metal buttons, and a
buff low cut vest.


After a dramatic pause, during which the people scarcely
breathed, he began :

"May it please the Court:

"I appear before your honor under circumstances which might
well embarrass the ablest and most experienced lawyer, circum-
stances most novel and peculiar ; indeed — I may say — circumstances
without precedent, for when up to this very moment, in all the long
and glorious history of the Bar was a lawyer called upon to appear
before the Pope; surrounded by Angels, (indicating the ladies) in
the presence of the twelve apostles and the Saints, to defend a
Prophet of the Lord?"

The evidence showed that Smith had not been in Missouri, and
therefore could not have been a fugitive from Missouri Justice.

Judge Pope died in 1850 and was succeeded by Judge Thomas
Drummond, who came from Maine to Galena, Illinois, in 1835.
He was appointed Judge in February, 1850. He presided over the
Federal Court in Springfield until 1855, when the State was divided
into two Districts — Northern and Southern.

Judge Drummond took the Northern, or Chicago District.
Judge Samuel H. Treat was appointed in the Southern, or Spring-
field District, and held the place until his death in 1887.

Judge Treat came to Springfield in 1835 and spent nearly all of
his long life on the bench. He served two years on the Circuit
Court Bench, fourteen years in the Supreme Court of Illinois,
and thirty-two years as Federal District Judge, making a continu-
ous and successful judicial service of forty-eight years.

He was in many ways a notable man. When I knew him he
had almost grown to be a judicial automaton. I mean by that, he
administered justice without any apparent effort, with machine-like
accuracy and wholly regardless of personalities.

He was exceedingly economical of words, whether with tongue
or pen. His Supreme Court opinions are models of brevity and of
clarity. No one can fail to see the point in issue or how it was
decided. I never heard anything about him as a trial lawyer.

Many of you, indeed, most of you, remember his successor.
Judge William J. Allen, familiarly known in Southern Illinois as
Joshua Allen, one of the kindest, most courteous and most obliging
of old school gentlemen. He served a term as United States
District Attorney in the latter part of the '50's.

He came to Springfield from Southern Illinois in 1886, when
he was 57 years old, probably a little too old for successful trans-

He had a very wide and well-deserved reputation as a trial
lawyer. On the Bench he won and held the esteem of all who came
in contact with him.

In his early life he had been a partner of General John A.
Logan, and they always remained friends, although diflFering radi-
cally in politics in later life. i

Judge Allen's paternal grandfather was one of the seven men |

killed in General Jackson's army at the battle of New Orleans. i

Judge Allen's successor, Judge J. Otis Humphrey, passed away
so recently as to make comment unnecessary.

He read law in the office of Robinson, Knapp & Shutt. When
Mr. Hay withdrew from the firm of Hay, Greene & Littler it was
reorganized as Greene, Burnett & Humphrey. Judge Humphrey
had a brilliant mind, and an aggressive driving manner which some
thought better adapted to the Bar than to the Bench.

I always thought that he suffered somewhat as a trial lawyer
from his long association with Mr. Greene, who always took the
leading part in their trial work, leaving little for those who followed
him on his side of the case. Judge Humphrey passed away in his
intellectual prime.

From its organization until his death, he was the President
of the Lincoln Centennial Association. His introductory addresses
at the annual meetings of that organization are models of sparkling

It is quite unnecessary to say that he was succeeded by Judge
Louis FitzHenry, the present genial, capable and painstaking
District Judge, who we hope will rival Judge Treat in length of

The creation of the Eastern District of Illinois greatly dimin-
ished the volume of important business in the Southern District.
East St. Louis, as a great railroad center and an interstate terminal,
formerly furnished a large amount of the business of the District
Court here, none of which comes to us now, although there is
plenty of a less desirable kind.

Turning from the Federal judiciary to the State courts, I want
to go on the record as saying that Sangamon County has been ex-
ceedingly fortunate in the judges who have presided over our
Circuit Court, as a mere calling of the roll will show. John Reynolds,
John Y. Sawyer, Samuel Lockwood, Stephen T. Logan, Jesse B.
Thomas, Samuel H. Treat, David Davis, E. Y. Rice, Benjamin S.
Edwards, General John A. McClernand, Chas. S. Zane, William
Vandeveer, Judge Welch, William L. Gross, Jesse Phillips, Jacob
Fouke, Robert B. Shirley, and James A. Creighton.

Judge Smith and Judge Briggle, who are still with us, you are
all quite familiar with, and know they are worthy of places in that
illustrious line.

When I came to the Bar, James H. Matheny, Sr., was, — and
for 12 years theretofore had been, Judge of the County Court,
which then included probate business. I knew him, and remember
him, quite well. He was the personification of kindness, especially
to young lawyers. He did no trial work in my time, but he had
the reputation of being a power with juries, especially in criminal

I can testify that he was a very powerful speaker before mixed
audiences. I have heard him often addressing old settlers' meetings
and picnics; but it was at Grand Army gatherings that he was at
his best.

When talking to his old comrades of the Civil War, and com-
pletely carried away by his emotions, he actually thrilled his au-

dience with a torrent of eloquence, his old eyes would literally
sparkle with excitement as he described their battles, and their
marches, and their camp fire scenes, while his enraptured audience
hung on every word.

In the strength and fervor of appeal to the old soldiers of the
Civil War, among those I have heard, I would place Judge Matheny
and Governor Dick Oglesby in a class by themselves.

Judge Matheny died in 1890, a few months before the end of a
term, and Robert L. McGuire was appointed by the Governor to
serve out that term.

Judge McGuire was succeeded by George W. Murray, who
became almost as popular in the County as Judge Matheny had
been. He served several terms in that office and passed away so
recently as to be well remembered by all.

I should state that Charles P. Kane dovetailed one term in that
office between the terms of Judge Murray. Judge Kane, who died
in 1918, did not court experience as a trial lawyer, but he knew
the law very well. He was a great student, both in the law and
in general literature, and a very genial companionable man.

Gentle, genial, lovable Eugene E. Bone was the latest of the
County Court Judges to answer the last call. We all remember
him with affection.

The census of 1900 showed that Sangamon County had sufficient
population to justify a separate Probate Court, and W^illiam H.
Colby, whom I have already referred to as a member of the firm
of McGuire & Colby, was elected as the first Probate Judge of
the County. He was both successful and popular. He died sud-
denly in the Court room during his term of office.

Judge Henry A. Stevens, father of Albert H. Stevens, succeed-
ed Judge Colby and served a very successful term.

As the other gentlemen who served in judicial positions in
the County are still with us and we hope will long continue to
be with us, they do not come within the scope of this paper.

Under the constitution of 1848, States Attorneys were elected
for Judicial Districts, but under the Constitution of 1870 they were
elected for Counties only.

Mr. L. F. Hamilton was the first States Attorney under the
Constitution of 1870.

Robert Hazlitt, who came from Gardner Township, followed

James B. Jones, a Ball Township boy, came next.

Noah Turner followed Jones and died during his term. Mr.
W. H. Colby served during Mr. Turner's illness, and until the end
of that term. I followed next, in 1892, and was succeeded by E. S.

W. E. Shutt, Jr., followed Judge Smith, and was followed by
Frank Hatch.

Mr. Hatch was followed by Edmund Burke, and he by C. F.

This brings us to the present States Attorney — Mr. H. E.
Fullen wider.

Time will not permit me to even mention any of the many
cases of public interest which were handled through that office.

For a better understanding of the situation in 1885 it is neces-
sary to go back of that date for perspective.

The firm of Robinson, Knapp & Shutt was dissolved in 1881
by the death of A. L. Knapp, familiarly known as "Tony" Knapp.
It was later reorganized as Palmers, Robinson & Shutt.

The firm of Hay, Greene & Littler had been dissolved in 1879
by the retirement of Mr. Milton Hay, and was reorganized in
1883 under the name Greene, Burnett & Humphrey.

Henry S. Greene came to Springfield from Clinton, DeWitt
County, and at once took a place in the front rank at the Bar.

He was born in Ireland, his parents having emigrated to
Canada when he was six years old.

While yet a mere boy he crossed over to New York State
and later on drifted to Indiana and finally to Illinois.

He read law with Mr. Hugh Crea, then of Indiana, and later
with Mr. Lawrence Weldon, of Clinton, Illinois. He was admitted
to the Bar at Springfield on motion of Abraham Lincoln. He
served a term in the State Legislature, and at the end of the term
located here as a member of the firm of Hay, Greene & Littler
in 1869.

Mr. Greene was generally recognized as a very able lawyer.
He argued a case to the court with consummate skill. He had a
large railroad clientele.

He rarely spoke to general audiences. I heard him only once
out of court. He delivered an address on the Irish Land Question
in the old Chatterton Opera House to a very large audience.

His language was fine and his points well chosen but his voice
was not equal to the occasion. It was about the time his health
began to fail.

I was present in the Circuit Court when he broke down while
arguing a case before Judge Creighton. He lost the power of utter-
ance and would have fallen had he not been caught and placed
in a chair.

I think it was his last appearance in that Court. He died in
1899, after a lingering illness.

Mr. Greene was a very fine character and enjoyed the respect
of all who knew him.

The firm of Stuart, Edwards and Brown was still in existence
in 1885, but the death of Major Stuart in the fall of that year, and
the death of Judge Edwards in the spring of 1886 left only Mr.
C. C. Brown, who soon afterwards reorganized the firm under
the title of Allen, Brown & Brown, the junior member of the firm
being Mr. Stuart Brown, son of Christopher Brown, whom most
of you remember as a good lawyer and a fine scholarly gentleman.

The firm of Patton and Hamilton was in full swing and doing
a large volume of business.

Bradley & Bradley were also active, and the senior member
of the firm, L. H. Bradley, was recognized as one of the leading


trial lawyers of the city. In the late '80's he moved to Omaha,
Nebraska, where he died not very long ago.

Gross & Broadvvell were also prominent. Judge Broadwell
had served a term as County Judge beginning 1862. He also
served as member of the legislature, and as Mayor of Springfield.
He was a good lawyer and a kind, genial gentleman. William
L. Gross was also a good lawyer. He had been a stenographer in
the army during the Civil War, and was breveted Colonel at its

Conkling & Grout were not yet associated as partners. Joe
Grout had been associated with Thomas Sterling under the style
of Sterling & Grout. That firm was dissolved by Mr. Sterling's
migration to South Dakota. He had been principal of schools
at Bement, Illinois, for a few years while I taught in Ivesdale,
the next town to the East. I met him there at teacher's meetings
and other places. We next met in Washington about 35 years
later when he came to the United States Senate from South Dakota
while I was a member of the House. He died last autumn.

Conkling & Grout formed a partnership about the end of
1885, which continued till Joe's death.

They made a strong team. Each was in a way the comple-
ment of the other.

Joe Grout was a good trial lawyer. Very bright and quick
as a steel trap. Mr. Conkling looked after the law of the case.
He supplied the dignity. If any comedy was needed Joe furnished
that. They handled much business of large importance, very

Major Bluford Wilson was well established here in 1885.
He was appointed United States District Attorney during the
first Grant administration, and was afterwards made solicitor
of the Treasury during the activities of the infamous whiskey
ring, and would have turned things upside down by the vigor of
his prosecution if he had been given leeway.

When President Grant learned about the things that were
going on he sent the famous laconic telegram :

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Online LibraryJames McMahon GrahamHistory of Sangamon County Bar; → online text (page 1 of 3)