John M. (John McAuley) Palmer.

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the present dean of the local bar, has been in the practice over twenty years ;
Hon. David J. Baker was circuit judge before his elevation to the supreme bench;
Robert M. Fisher practiced here over twenty-five years, going west in 1897.

Of the present bar, P. T. Chapman has served as superintendent of schools,
county judge, and is at present state senator. George B. Gillespie is state's
attorney, with L. O. Whitnel as his business associate. W. Y. Smith, master in
chancery, is associated with O. R. Morgan, who is county judge. Hon. Thomas
H. Sheridan is an ex-state senator. The other members of the bar are George
W. English, George W. Ballance, David J. Cowan and Samuel A. Van Kirk.
All except Mr. Spann are young men, and all except Mr. Van Kirk are natives of
Illinois ; he was born in Pennsylvania, was admitted to the bar in Kansas, in
1880, and has been in Johnson county since 1890. Mr. Ballance is now circuit-
court reporter, and Hon. A. K. Vickers, at present circuit judge, resides in
Vienna, and practiced here many years before his elevation to the bench, in 1891.

Such, in brief, is a slight sketch of the history of the bench and bar of
Johnson county, to the present time. Reaching back to the first settlement of
Illinois and down through the trying days of the circuit rider, it is indeed mo-
mentous. The story of the county is the story of Illinois to a great extent.
Here were developed some of the greatest men our grand state ever knew;
here were experienced some of the most trying times of pioneer days ; here were
witnessed some of the most stirring events at the breaking out of the civil war;
here were heard some of the greatest contests of eloquence, learning, and wit
ever fought out in the state court-rooms. When the history of the state of
Lincoln and Grant shall have been written, our descendants will read with pride,
and will learn that Johnson county occupies a front rank in the long line of
grand counties that make up our noble state.



7T MONG the judiciary of the circuits to which Hancock has belonged have
j\ been a number of able men, quite as able, perhaps, as have fallen to the
-* *- lot of other circuits in the state.

Richard M. Young was the first judge who occupied the bench (the splint-
bottomed chair, we should say) in the county of Hancock, as well as in perhaps
a dozen other counties in the northwestern part of the state. It was he who first
put the wheels of justice in motion where now nearly a million of people reside.

James H. Ralston succeeded Judge Young on the circuit by legislative elec-
tion in 1837, but resigned the ensuing August and removed to Texas. He soon,
however, returned to Quincy. In 1840 he was elected to the state senate. In
1846 he joined the army to Mexico as assistant quartermaster, by appointment
from President Polk. After the war he settled in California, where he died,
having been lost in the Sierra Nevada mountains.

Peter Lott was from New Jersey, was elected by the legislature to succeed'
Judge Ralston, and held the position till 1841. He resided for a short time at
Carthage, but removed to Quincy. After his judgeship he served as circuit clerk
in Adams county for several years. Later he removed to California, where he
was appointed superintendent of the United States mint at San Francisco.
From this position he was removed in 1856 by President Buchanan. He had
served as captain in the Mexican war, and it is stated that he died at Tehuante-
pec, Mexico, where he was holding the position of United States consul. Judge
Lott was. a well educated man, had been a classmate at Princeton with Hon.
Samuel L. Southard, the eminent New Jersey senator, and studied law in his
office. He is remembered as jovial, witty, companionable and fond of fun, not
fond of study, and yet a good lawyer.

Stephen A. Douglas. The career of this eminent man is so well known as
to require a mere mention. He was elected judge in 1841, and held the office till
August, 1843, when he resigned to take a seat in congress. Some of his acts
while on the bench here gave great offense to the people of this county during
the troublous days of the Mormon period. He found the docket loaded with un-
finished cases ; but his dispatch and ability were such that he. soon cleared it.
Of Judge Douglas' career as a statesman, in the house of representatives, in the
senate, as a candidate for the presidency, it is unnecessary to speak.

Jesse B. Thomas was a conspicuous man in the history of Illinois. He was
delegate in congress as early as 1808, while Illinois and Indiana were together
as one territory. From Washington he came home with a commission as
federal judge for the new territory of Illinois, which position he held till it was



admitted into the Union as a state, in 1818. Thomas, with Governor Ninian
Edwards, was then elected to the United States senate, the first senators from
the state. It was while in this position that the memorable contest came up in
congress on the admission of Missouri ; and Senator Thomas stands in history
as the reputed author of the measure known as the Missouri Compromise, though
it was taken up and strenuously advocated by Henry Clay. He was again elected
to the senate by the legislature, which passed the convention measure for mak-
ing Illinois a slave state.

This first Judge Thomas removed to and settled in Ohio, and was still living
in that state when his namesake and nephew was on the bench in this circuit.
Judge Thomas, junior, succeeded Douglas in 1843 an< ^ resigned in 1845. His
death occurred not long afterward while judge in another circuit.

Norman H. Purple occupied the bench on this circuit from 1845 f r about
four years, when he resigned for the alleged reason that the salary was insufficient.
He was a resident of Peoria. Judge Purple was regarded as a man of high legal
abilities and good executive talents.

William A. Minshall resided at Rushville, and was elected to the circuit in
1849, ar >d held the position till his death, which took place in October, 1851. He
was an emigrant from Tennessee in an early day ; attained to distinction and a
good practice as a lawyer, and had been a member of the legislative, and also of
the constitutional convention in 1848.

Onias C. Skinner resided a number of years in this county, coming among us
a little previous to the close of the Mormon war. He settled first, we believe,
in Nauvoo, and afterward resided at Carthage, where he became well known
and built up a good reputation and practice. He took his seat on the bench in
1851, occupying it till May, 1854, when he resigned and was transferred to the
state supreme court. His death occurred at Quincy many years ago.

Pinckney H. Walker succeeded Judge Skinner as judge in this circuit, and
afterward succeeded him on the supreme bench. He was a Kentuckian emi-
grated in his youth to McDonough county.

Joseph Sibley held the position of judge in this circuit for a longer period
than any other in all over twenty years. He was an attorney at law for several
years in the county previous to his election, and resided here several years after-

Chauncey L. Higbee was a resident of Pittsfield, in Pike county, where he
had been many years in the practice of law. In connection with the history of
the bench and bar of that county will be found detailed reference to Judge
Higbee. Hon. Simeon P. Shope, now on the supreme bench, was a judge on
this circuit, his associate being Hon. John H. Williams.

William C. Hooker. Instances are rare indeed of men who for close to a
half century pursue in one place the even tenor of a professional life : doing
unto others as they would that men should do unto them ; commanding the
love, respect and confidence of the entire community, and meriting it by the
sincerity, honesty and modesty of their daily carriage. William C. Hooker was
born near Auburn, New York, September 13, 1828. His parents were both of


Connecticut origin, his father, Harley Hooker, being in the direct line from
Samuel Hooker, who led the first colony into the wilds of Connecticut. His
mother was Mary (Beardsley) Hooker. Prior to his marriage Harley Hooker,
who was a physician, practiced his profession in the south, but returned to New
York state, where he was married, and in 1839 removed with his family to
Illinois, settling near Rockton, where he engaged in the practice of medicine,
commanding the confidence of the community up to the date of his death, in
1867. His wife followed him to the grave in 1877.

Illinois in 1839 was without advanced means of securing an education.
William C. Hooker was, therefore, compelled to look beyond the state for the
means of fitting himself for the career in life which he at an early day had decided
upon. Having, by close study at home and in the primitive schools of his
neighborhood, prepared for entry into some academy, he went in 1845 to Onon-
daga Academy, at Onondaga, New York, where he remained for one year, and in
the fall of 1847 ne entered the freshman class of Beloit College, Beloit, Wisconsin,
where he graduated in 1851, with the first class sent out from the institution, the
degree of M. A. being conferred upon him.

His purpose being to pursue the profession of law, he began his studies im-
mediately on leaving college, and to sustain himself while preparing he sought
employment at teaching. Following this calling, he filled acceptably the position
of master in schools in Alabama, Kentucky and in Illinois. In 1854, after com-
plying with the requirements then existing, he was admitted to practice by the
circuit court at Quincy, Illinois, and selected Nauvoo as a suitable place to begin
his life work. He remained there until 1858, when he removed to Carthage,
which has ever since been his home.

He has held many places of honor and trust in the county and town, giving
of his time and means to develop the best interests of the county and bearing his
share of the burdens of those home offices which carry much work and little
pay. He has served as school director, alderman, supervisor and mayor of the
town ; has been an active participant in all that made for the advancement and
betterment of the people. In politics he has always been and is now a Demo-
crat, believing most firmly in all tenets of true Democracy, but could not endorse
the platform of 1896 in its financial plank of "sixteen to one," so followed
General John M. Palmer and voted for electors pledged to his support. He has
never sought political office, preferring the quiet of his home and the pursuit of
his profession to the uncertain honors of political advancement. He served for
a number of years on the county Democratic committee, as chairman on several
occasions, and has also represented his party in the state central committee.

His practice has been of a general character, in Hancock and adjoining-
counties, in the state supreme court and in the federal courts. Early in his
career he took an active part in the extensive litigation over land titles arising out
of the location of bounty warrants in the military-land district of Illinois, and was
associated with many of the most eminent lawyers of the state in the settlement
of the law applicable to that branch of real estate. Amongst others whose names
have given strength and glory to the profession of law he was in the beginning


of his practice intimately connected with such men as Archibald Williams,
Nehemiah Bushnell, Orville H. Browning, Charles Lawrence, Jackson Grimshaw,
Norman H. Purple, Julius Manning, George Edmunds, and Onias C. Skinner.
He was master in chancery from 1862 to 1874, and in 1892 was again appointed
to the same office, of which he is the incumbent at this time (January, 1899).

Mr. Hooker has been twice married. June 24, 1856, he was united to Miss
Annie M. Hume, of Clark county, Kentucky, who died in December, 1857, and
in December, 1862, he married Miss Mary C. McQuary, of Hancock county,
Illinois. Of four children born of the last union two survive, Harley Hooker,
of San Jose, Costa Rica, where he is making for the advancement of American
industries in introducing them to the markets of Central America ; and Chellis
E. Hooker, who has followed in the footsteps of his father by adopting the legal
profession. He is a graduate of the law department of the Northwestern Uni-
versity, of Illinois, and is now filling his first term as judge of the county court
of Hancock county.

William C. Hooker is above all noted for his liberal views and his tolerance
of the wishes and feelings of his fellow men. A member of the Masonic fratern-
ity, he is deeply interested in all that pertains to its best development and daily
practice, being active in his relations to his lodge and commandery. He is a
member of Hancock Lodge, No. 20, and of El-Aksa Commandery, No. 55,
Knights Templar, Quincy, Illinois.

While his family attend the Protestant Episcopal church, he has given to
all denominations alike, but leans to the more liberal Unitarian views. While
past seventy years of age, Mr. Hooker is still an active practitioner, and attends
daily at his office and in court, supervising a large and constantly growing busi-
ness, with branch offices in adjoining counties. He is erect of carriage and
youthful in appearance for one of his years, showing in his person the effect of
right living, temperate habits, industry and fairness to his fellow men.

Among the members of the bar of Hancock county may be counted a num-
ber who have acquired a wide and even national reputation. Not all of them
have made the county their homes ; but many, while residing in adjacent coun-
ties, have practiced more or less in our courts, and are therefore justly entitled
to notice in these pages. Probably most conspicuous among them have been
those from the older counties of Adams and Schuyler. Indeed, in the earlier
days of our legal history, the Rushville and Quincy bars supplied the only legal
talent we had, we believe, with one exception, Robert R. Williams. If we mis-
take not, the county was without another attorney until 1834 or 1835, when
Mr. Little located at Carthage.

In 1836 there were three attorneys at the county-seat, viz: Sidney H. Little,
James W. Woods and John T. Richardson ; and about that time Messrs. Calvin
A. Warren and Isaac N. Morris were locating at Warsaw.

Robert R. Williams was a native of Kentucky, and brother to Wesley Will-
iams, the first county clerk, and to Hon. Archibald Williams, of Quincy. But
little is known of Mr. Williams ; he died at an early day, and consequently his


acquaintance with the people was limited. He settled in the county about the
date of organization.

Sidney H. Little was a Tennesseean by birth. But little is known of his
early life. He came to Carthage about 1834 or 1835, and began the practice of
law, and soon took rank among the able young attorneys who frequented this
bar from abroad. Mr. Little was a man of decided talent, a good speaker, a
clear reasoner and affable and urbane in his intercourse with the people. In a
word, he was popular, and in the election of 1838 was chosen by the Whigs and
elected to the state senate. In this body he took a leading position as an active
working member. With Secretary Douglas, he took a leading part in obtain-
ing for the Mormons their celebrated charters in the legislature charters which,
gotten up in haste and without due consideration, contained powers and con-
ferred privileges the application and use of which could never have been antici-
pated by him. Mr. Little's tragic death, by being thrown from his buggy by a
runaway horse, occurred on the loth of July, 1841.

James W. Woods remained in the county only a year or. so, long enough to
acquire citizenship and run for the legislature in 1836, and, although so confident
of election as to bet freely on it, came out hindmost of four candidates, with a
score of eighteen votes ! This result disgusted him with the county and he left
it for Iowa territory, where in time he became a lawyer of some prominence.

John T. Richardson remained only one summer in the county that of
1836 when he went further west. He was a genial, good sort of a fellow, with
no special talent for the law. Of his nativity or after career, we know nothing.

Isaac Newton Morris died at Quincy, October 29, 1879. The press notices
thereof furnish the following : "He was the son of Hon. Thomas Morris, of
Ohio, long a Free-Soil senator in congress ; was born in Clermont county, Ohio,
January 22, 1812, came to Illinois in 1835 and settled in Warsaw in 1836. A few
years afterward, having married a Miss Robbins, of Quincy, he removed to that
city, where he continued to reside till his death, engaged chiefly in the practice
of the law. Mr. Morris was a strong Democrat in politics, was twice elected to
congress in this district, in 1856 and in 1858, and always made an industrious and
active member." He held other offices of honor and trust, both under state and
national authority. The Carthage Gazette says of him : "Colonel Morris was
a man of strong character. He possessed fine natural ability, was a good speak-
er, was full of vim, a warm friend, and a bitter, unrelenting enemy."

Louis Masquerier was of French origin and was learned, eccentric and com-
munistic. He had imbibed* the theories of the French philosophy, and came
west to disseminate them, and practice law. In this last he met with indifferent
success ; in the other, had he lived on another planet, where human nature was
not in the ascendant (if there be such an one), he might have succeeded better.
He was a theorist only ; had no practical ability with which to buffet the world's
selfishness. He had resided in Quincy; in 1836 he was in Carthage, but soon
went back to New York.

Of Governor Thomas Ford so much is said in other chapters that little must
suffice here. He was a prosecuting attorney for the circuit in the early years of


the county. As such there are few who remember him. He attended court here
only a few times, often enough, as he states in his History of Illinois, to conclude
that the people here were a "hard set." 'Mr. Asbury, of Quincy, speaks of him
thus kindly : "All agree that Tom Ford was a bright, conscientious and just
man. In 1833, when the cholera was raging in Quincy, he was here and stood
his ground and helped the sick, like a man."

William A. Richardson, usually called "Dick" Richardson, resided at Rush-
ville, and had considerable practice in this county. Like his friend, Douglas,
Colonel Richardson was best known as a politician. He was at one time prose-
cuting attorney for this circuit. He was not distinguished as a mere lawyer,
though his sturdy, hard sense and experience, rather than study, made him suc-
cessful. As an officer in the Mexican war he was brave and acquired distinction.
After his return home it was that he became famous, not only in his district, but
in the house of representatives and the senate at Washington, as a politician. He
was born in Kentucky, and died in Quincy on December 27, 1875.

Archibald Williams, a Nestor of the bar in the Military Tract, was a Ken-
tuckian, and settled in Quincy as early as 1825 or 1826, where he continued to
reside and practice his profession many years, acquiring a very high reputation.
He had not an extensive practice in this county, but was often called to take part
in cases of great magnitude ; and his management was always such as to gain
him a wider and more enduring fame. He was not an orator, in the common
acceptation of the term ; but his direct, plain and earnest reasoning always made
an impression on a court or jury. He talked to convince ; never aimed at rhet-
oric, or descended to vulgarity or abuse. He served for a short period as United
States attorney for the district of Illinois, and was appointed by his friend, Presi-
dent Lincoln, judge of the United States district court in Kansas. He died Sep-
tember 21, 1863, and his remains sleep in Woodland cemetery, in the city he had
so long made his home, and where he had established an enduring fame.

Charles Oilman was better known as a law-reporter than as a lawyer, had a
good education, fine literary taste and acquirements, and industrious habits. His
reports have become standard publications. His practice was limited in this
county, but as a partner with Mr. Sharp, for a period, he became somewhat known
to our citizens. He was from Maine, resided, and died in Quincy, of cholera,
in the year 1849.

Edward D. Baker, a resident of Springfield, and a compatriot with Murray
McConnell, John C. Calhoun, the Edwardses, Abraham Lincoln and others, and
possessed finally of a national fame, "Ned Baker," may be classed as belonging'
to our bar. His appearance at our courts was not frequent ; yet when he did
appear, the occasion was sure to be an important one. Mr. Baker may justly be
ranked as among the finest orators the country has produced. His speeches
made in the Carthage court-house have been among the ablest and most impres-
sive ever made there. He possessed all the natural gifts of an orator, an easy
flow of language, a good imagination, an attractive and graceful manner and an
earnest honesty of purpose. He went in command of a regiment to the Mexi-
can war, and achieved distinction at Cerro Gordo, removed thence to the Pa-


cific coast, where he became a United States senator from Oregon. In the senate
he stood high as a statesman and an orator. He resigned to take a position in
the Union army, and laid down his life for his adopted country, at Ball's Bluff.
General Baker was by birth an Englishman, and was raised in Adams county,

Nehemiah Bushnell. Of the many attorneys who have practiced at the Han-
cock bar, no one has gone to the bar beyond leaving a brighter fame and a
purer reputation, perhaps, than Nehemiah Bushnell. He came to Quincy in
1837, and entered into a law partnership with Mr. Browning, which was only
terminated by the death of the former. He was a New Englander, a graduate
of Yale College and a highly educated and finished gentleman. Mr. Bushnell
was fond of books, was one of the best read men in the state, and had accumu-
lated a most valuable library. Perhaps Illinois never held a more modest and
unassuming really great man than Bushnell ; and perhaps few, if any, really in-
tellectually stronger men than he. He was a very pleasant speaker, though not
what the world calls an orator. His manner was graceful, dignified and earnest.
Mr. Bushnell was an active worker in behalf of the Quincy & Galesburg railroad,
the city of Bushnell, on said road, being named in his honor.

Cyrus Walker. For ability as a lawyer, and for persistence and force in the
prosecution of a case, there were no superiors at the Hancock bar to Cyrus Walk-
er. He had been a successful practitioner in Kentucky, and was a man of middle
age when he settled at Macomb. He had a good deal of practice in the "hard"
cases, not only in this, but in other counties in the circuit and out of it. He was
very strong in criminal cases, both on the side of the people and in the defense.
When Cyrus Walker was thoroughly aroused, and in dead earnest, with a de-
termination to win the verdict from the jury, he was as terrible as an army with

William Elliott was a citizen of Fulton county, and was prosecuting attorney
here for some eight years, embracing the period of our Mormon difficulties. He
was regarded as a lawyer of medium ability, but not an eloquent orator. In the
celebrated trials growing out of Mormon affairs, he usually had associated with
him in the prosecution lawyers of more decided reputation. He afterward served
as quartermaster in a volunteer regiment in the Mexican war, and died at home
soon after the war was over.

George C. Dixon was a Quincy lawyer who sometimes not often prac-
ticed at our court. He was from New York, where he had previously prac-
ticed ; was a well educated and well read lawyer, and withal a good speaker,
though he never became popular with our people. He removed to Keokuk,
Iowa, where he died some years ago.

Robert S. Blackwell was admired and esteemed by all who knew him. Re-
siding in Rushville, he was a frequent practitioner at our bar. Urbane, com-
panionable, witty, lively, generous, he soon gained a position among our law-
yers, and might have made did make a shining light in our midst. Some of

Online LibraryJohn M. (John McAuley) PalmerThe bench and the bar of Illinois : Historical and reminiscent (Volume v.2) → online text (page 38 of 83)