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History of Darke County, Ohio, from its earliest settlement to the present time .. (Volume 1) online

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duced commissions, signed by Thomas \\'orthington. gover-
nor of Ohio, and at once entered upon the performance of
their duties. The records show no grand jury in attendance
at this first term, for the good reason, as the minutes show,
that there was "no sherifl", coroner or other officer qualified
to ser\e and return process," and that there had been "no
venire facias for a grand jury served and returned." These
facts having been officially made known to the court, it was
"ordered that a venire facias issue, directed to Moses Scott,"
who was especially authorized and empowered to serve and
return, commanding him to sunnnon fifteen good and lawful
men o' the county, to appear forthwith, at our court house
in Greenville, to serve as grand jurors: upon which writ the
said Moses Scott returned that he had summoned John \.nr-
ing, John Andrews, James Cloyd, Daniel Potter. Robert
Douglas, Abraham Miller, Filder G. Lenham, Daniel Holley,
Joseph Townsend, James Williamson. John Rversop, David
Rri?gs, Levi Elston. Martin Ruple and Peter Rush, who, be-
ing chosen and sworn and charged, retired to their room. '
Few are left who had a personal acquaintance with these men :
and they, the first Darke county grand jurymen ever impan-
eled, have long since passed away. The latest survivor was
James Clovd, who was a resident of German townshin. and
died at a ripe old age, a few years before the civil war.


On June 3, 1817, the court appointed Henry Bacon, of Day-
ton, to act as prosecutor, on behalf of the state of Ohio, for
the county of Darke, until the further order of the court
thereon. The grand jury found several indictments at this
term. Among others, there was one against Robert Hood, for
"selling whisky to the Indians." Another indictment was
found against William R. Jones, for assault and battery, it
being alleged and proved that he had flogged an eavesdropper
for peeping through the cracks of the log cabin at the grand
jury, while they were holding their session. The constable
was convicted and fined $8 and costs. This may have been
right, but the fellow deserved what he got, and the constable
was not wanting in the discharge of his duty. His ignorance
of legal technicalities and his zeal outran his discretion, and
his punishment by fine and dismissal was severe.

The various defendants to several indictments found were
duly arraigned, and, as a matter of course, entered a plea of
"not guilty." Matters were now brought to a dead halt, as a
reference to the record showed "no persons returned to serve
as petit jurors." Acting Sheriff Scott was, therefore, at once
ordered to "summon twelve good and lawful men of said
county to serve as petit jurors," upon which writ the said
Moses Scott returned that he had summoned Charles Sump-
tion, John McFarlin. James Williamson, John Break, Charles
Reed, Jacob Aliller, William Alontgomery, Robert Mclntyre,
James Perry, Aaron Dean, Alexander Smith and Zachariah
Hole." Of these, the first petit jury ever impaneled in Darke
county, none were known to be living in 1880. The last sur-
vivor, so far as ascertained, was John McFarlin, of the town-
ship of Jackson. At the close of this term, the following
entry was placed on record: "The court allows Henry Bacon,
prosecutor for Darke county, $10 for services at this term."

On the second Monday of August, 181,7, Moses Scott pre-
sented his commission from the governor, as sherifif, and gave
a bond of $4,000. On the same day, William Montgomery
presented his commission as coroner, and gave a bond for
$2,000. There were two courts a year. Each term lasted but
one or two days. It took a ride over nearly the entire count}'
to summons men enough to make up the two juries. The
grand jury rarely sat more than one day. Services were paid
for in county orders, which were current in exchanges, at
about fifty cents cash on the dollar, as there was no money in
treasury. The allowance to each grand juror was seventv-five

462 DAKKi; cuuN rv

cents per day; the petit juror was paid but half a dollar, but
received this on each trial, and this was paid by the winning

The first court had been held in the bar room of Azor Scrib-
ner and as was just and fair, the second was appointed for the
14th of November, 1817, in the bar room of Scott's Tavern.
The first case called was an action for debt, in which Anthony
Ricard appeared as defendant. The clerk's fees were $2.50,
those of the sheriff were ?1.17 and of the attorney $5, making
a total of $8.67. At this time, William, son of Moses Scott,
had been elected sheriff. The tavern in those days was the
place for assembly to exchange items of news, join in a so-
ciable glass and partake perhaps of the plain but abundant
fare offered.

The event of a court was a noveltv. and a number of the
settlers gathered about and curiously observed the proceed-
ings. A panel of grand jurors, among whom was John S.
Hiller, was sworn in, as a matter of course, and received the
charge from Judge Crane, then on the circuit. General James
Mills was foreman, and the party was conducted to Azor Scrib-
ner's bar room, and duly furnished by the hospitable inn-
keeper with a bottle of good whisky and a pitcher of water.
Soon a man was admitted who testified that he had been as-
saulted, wounded, beat and otherwise ill-treated. On his re-
tirement, another entered, who witnessed that his predecessor
before the jury had committed a like offense upon him. The
case was by no means a clear one. The foreman was about to
take the sense of the jury, when he announced that "it had
been-rulable in Butler county, where he came from, to require
the youngest juryman to vote first." This chanced to be
Hiller, who naturally entered an objection, saying that as
this was his first experience on a jury, he did not wish to be
forward in giving an opinion. The bottle was then brought
into requisition, and after disposing of the liquor to general
satisfaction, the case was formally decided. At the close of
the day, the jury was discharged and court adjourned sine

Seven years later Rush and Terrv were reappointed asso-
ciate justices and John Briggs added to take the place of John
Purviance. Two years later in 1826 David Purviance was
added to fill a vacancy and the following year George Adams
was appointed. Adams had been a drummer boy in the Revo-
lution and served with Harmar, being badlv wounded in the



latter's defeat. His life was despaired of, and on the retreat
of the army to Fort Washington, he was carried on a litter
between two horses to Cincinnati, although on the way a
grave was dug for him three evenings in succession. Adams
recovered sufficiently to join St. Clair's army and was one of
those fortunate enough ro escape massacre at Fort Recovery.
Adams was also a spy under Wayne in 1794, was a major of
the Ohio militia in the war of 1812 and commandant of Fort
Greenville. Later he erected a mill in Adams township and
was one of the most prominent persons in the early history
of Darke county. Major Adams lies buried in the Martin
cemetery near Greenville and in his grave are doubtless a
number of bullets which the surgical skill of those days could
not remove.

In 1831 the legislature reappointed James Rush an asso-
ciate judge, from which it would appear that he must have
served in that capacity more than fourteen years. Xo further
record of the early justices was found until 1840, when
George Adams, Jr., James Hayes and Newberry Yorke were
appointed by the legislature. In 1847 the appointees were
John Armstrong, Josiah D. Farrer and Thomas C. Brawley.
The last appointment for this county was Judson Jacqua in

We have now given the names of all the associate judges
appointed from Darke coimty, who served as advisors to the
respective president judges from 1817 to 1850. We have no
means of knowing at this date to what extent these men in-
fluenced the decisions of the court. They were not men
learned in the law and we presume the main burden rested
upon the president judge.

As stated on preceding pages, in the account of the first
court the first president judge was Joseph H. Crane, who was
elected January 18, 1813, and whose associates were John Pur-
viance, James Rush and Enos Terry. Judge Crane was at
that time regarded as the father of the Montgomery county
bar, not only for his age, but for his ripe and profound learn-
ing in his profession. Outside of mere professional and tech-
nical learning, he was a man of wide and varied reading, and
prodigious memory, especially familiar with English history
and the English classics and poets. Judge Crane came from a
family identified with the heroic struggle for American inde-
pendence. From 1813 to 1816 Crane acted as prosecuting at-
torney for ^Montgomery county and was elected to the judge-


ship in 1817 when Darke county was organized. In this ca-
pacity he rendered valuable and satisfactory service until the
year 1828, when he was elected to congress, where he served
eight years, at the expiration of which period he withdrew
from public life and resumed the practice of his profession in
Dayton. Judge Crane was regarded as the best type of the
early American lawyer and left an indelible impression upon
the tone of the bar, which has been perpetuated, it may be
truthfully said, to a large extent through its membership down
to the present hour.

The next judge to hold court here was George B. Holt,
whose term of office began in 1829. Judge Holt was a native
of Connecticut, where he had been admitted to the bar and
came to Dayton in 1819. He served acceptably his first seven
years term on the bench up to 1836, and afterwards in 1842
to 1843, and was again elected judge the last term expiring in
1849. In 1850 Holt and C. L. \'alandigham were rival candi-
dates for the state convention, called to adopt a new state
constitution for Ohio. After his election Judge Holt took
part in the labor of the constitutional convention, which was
composed of many of the ablest men of the state. Later he
retired from active professional and political life, was a strong
supporter of the union during the rebellion and died at Day-
ton at the age of eighty-two.

The next president judge to hold court with Darke county
associate judges was William L. Helfenstein, who served from
1836 up to 1842 when Judge Holt again resumed the bench, as
heretofore stated.

John Beers of Darke county was then presiding judge for a
short time and was succeeded by Ralph S. Hart.

The constitution of 1851 contained the following provisions
by which the state was permanently subdivided into common
pleas districts, and these again di\ided into three subdistricts
each, and the election of the judges of these courts vested in
the people of the subdivision instead of in the general assem-
bly as heretofore.

"Article 4, Section 3. The state shall be divided into nine
common pleas districts, of which the countv of Hamilton shall
constitute one. of compact territory, and bounded bv county
lines, and each of said districts, consisting of three or more
counties, shall be divided into three parts of compact terri-
tory : and bounded by county lines, and as nearlv equal in
population as practicable, in each of which one judge of the


court of ccmmon pleas for said district, and residing therein,
shall be elected by the electors of said subdivision. Courts of
common pleas shall be held by one or more of these judges in
every county in the district, as often as may be provided by
law : and more than one court, or sitting thereof, may be held
at the same time in each district.

"Article 4, Section 4. The jurisdiction of the courts of
common pleas, and of the judges thereof, shall be fixed by

Under this new arrangement three judges of a district to-
gether constituted a district court, they succeeded to the func-
tions of the old supreme court in their respective counties, and
the new common pleas court succeeded to the old common
pleas court except in probate jurisdiction, for which probate
judges were provided to be elected, one in each county.

In 1852 an act of the legislature divided the state into five
circuits for the district court and a judge of the supreme
court was required to preside, and the district court was made
a court of appeals from the common pleas court. This prac-
tice continued until the supreme judges were relieved of this
duty in 1865, after which the common pleas judges of the dis-
trict court were authorized to consider appeals from their own
judges. This undesirable condition of things was removed in
October, 1883, by the adoption of an amendment to the con-
stitution, authorizing the creation of a circuit court and abol-
ishing the district court but leaving the common pleas judges
and courts undisturbed.

The first election for judge under the new constitution was
held on the second Tuesday of October, 1851. The term of
the old judge having been extended to the second Monday of
February, 1852, the new judges began their term of office at
that time. Butler. Preble and Darke formed the first sub-
division of the second district. .Subsequent judges other than
citizens of Darke county were Abner Haynes, James Clark.
^^'illiam J. Gilmore, Alex. F. Hume and Ichabod Corwin.

^\'illiam M. ^^^ilson, lawyer, judge and legislator, w^as born
near Mifflin, Juaniata count}', Pennsylvania, March 11, 1808,
and died in Greenville, Ohio. June IS, 1864. His parents were
Thomas Wilson and Jane Martin and in 1811 they came to
Ohio, passed about a year in Fairfield county and in 1812
settled in Butler county where Mr. Wilson was reared. He
was educated in IMiami University, at Oxford, Ohio, studied
'aw with the late Hon. Jesse Corwin, of Hamilton, Ohio, was


admitted to the bar in 1832 and tiien began practice in that
place. In the fall of 1835 he located in Greenville and at once
took a leading position as lawyer. For a number of years
he served as prosecuting attorney of Darke county. On
September 19, 1837, he married Miss Louise Dorsey, of Green-
ville, Ohio. She was born in Butler county, April 23, 1815,
and died August 2, 1856. In December, 1837, he started the
Darke County Advocate, which, with a change of name, is now
the Greenville Journal. In October, 1840, he was elected
auditor of Darke county and was twice re-elected, thus serving
six years. In the fall of 1846 he was elected to the Ohio Sen-
ate from the district composed of the counties of Darke,
Miami, Mercer and Shelby and held the seat two years, during
which time he rose to very prominent position in that body and
came within one vote of being elected state auditor, ha-ving
already gained the reputation of being one of the most effi-
cient county auditors in the state. This one lacking vote he
could have supplied by voting for himself, a thing which his
manly modesty forbade. In the fall of 1856 he was appointed
by Governor Chase as common pleas judge of the first sub-
division of the second judicial district of Ohio to fill a va-
caiicy. His decisions were distinguished for great research and
c'lbility. Reing too eld to enter the service during the war for
the union he was, nevertheless, as member of the military com-
mittee of his district, an active and earnest supporter o' gov-
ernment. He stood for many years at the head of the Green-
ville bar, and was regarded as one of the best jurists in Ohio,
and by his moral worth gave a higher character to the profes-
sion. He was a man of unusually quiet and retiring: disposi-
ticm: his wrirds were few, but well chosen, and his sarcasm
and repartee were like a flash of lightning on an opponent. At
the same time he bore a heart of the warmest and tenderest
sympathies. For a number of years he held the office of
elder in the Presbyterian church of Greenville. He lived and
died an honest, upright man, in whom, as friend, neighbor
and citizen, the community had the fullest confidence.

In 1861 David L. Meeker was elected common pitas judge
of this district but resigned in 1866. Upon the resignation of
Judge Meeker, in January, 1866, he was succeeded by \\'m.

William Allen was born in Butler county, Ohio, August
13, 1827. His father, John Allen, was born in Ireland, and
emigrated to America in 1812; after residing six years in the


State of New York, he moved to Butler county, Ohio, in 1818;
he moved his family into the woods of Darke county, in 1838,
his dwelling being a log cabin with puncheon floors and a
mud and stick chimney : in the latter part of his life he was
a preacher in the United Brethren church. Our subject was
favored with no educational advantages, except those af-
forded by the common schools of the day, yet by making
most of these, he was able to teach at the age of fifteen, and
for several years followed that vocation ; at the age of nine-
teen, he commenced the study of law, under the late Felix
March, of Eaton, Ohio ; was admitted to the bar in 1849, and in
the same year commenced practice in Greenville; in 1850 he
was elected Prosecuting Attorney of Darke county, and re-
elected in 1852 ; in the fall of 1858 he was elected to congress,
from the Fourth District, comprising the counties of Darke,
Shelby, Mercer, Auglaize and Allen, and re-elected in 1860,
tlius serving in the Thirty-sixth and Thirty-seventh Congress ;
in the winter of 1865 he was appointed by Governor Cox
as judge of the court of common pleas of the first subdivi-
sion of the second judicial district of Ohio, composed of the
counties of Butler, Darke and Preble, to fill a vacancy made by
the resignation of Judge D. L. ]\Ieeker ; in 1878. Judge Allen
was nominated for Congress, by the Republicans of the
fifth district, but he declined. In 1851 he married Miss
Priscilla' Wallace, whose father settled in Darke county in
1834; the issue of this marriage was four sons and four
daughters, of w^hom only one son survives. Four of his chil-
dren died with diphtheria under the most affecting circum-
stances, in the space of as many weeks ; this was in the winter
of 1861, when he was summoned from Washington City to a
despoiled home. Mr. Allen, although he had risen from poverty
to affluence by his own unaided exertions, was one of the
most charitable of our citizens and his integrity has never
lieen questioned ; his positive character while he won friends
true as steel, also made enemies, but even his enemies con-
ceded to him great ability and unflinching honesty of purpose;
he was rice-president of the Greenville Bank, and died presi-
dent of the Greenville Gas Company.

From Alay, 1868, to October, 1872, the common pleas judge
for this sub-division was John C. McKemy. He was a son
of William and Elizabeth fKirkpatrick) McKemy, the Mc-
Kemys being Irish and the Kirkpatricks. Scotch. Judge
McKemv was reared on his father's farm in Rockbridge


county, Virginia, recei\ing such education as was afforded in
that country at that time. Coming to Darke county, before
the Civil War, he lived near Wiley Station and was a mer-
chant before he took up the practice of law. He removed
to Greenville, in 1865, and began practicing law. just prior to
being elected probate judge, in which capacity he served
from February, 1867, until he took his seat on the common
pleas bench, in May, 1868. Judge McKemy was a man of
bright, active mind, resourceful, very ambitious, of genial dis-
position, and popular manners. Resigning before the end
of his term, he resumed the practice of his profession, in
Dayton, and later moved to Hamilton, Ohio, to practice law,
where he continued until his decease in 1889.

Upon the resignation of Judge McKemy, he was suc-
ceeded by David L. Meeker, who was appointed by Gover-
nor Noyes to fill the vacancy. Judge Meeker was born in
Darke county, Ohio, on the 18th day of July, 1827, a son of
David M. and Nancy Ann (Miller) Meeker; the former a
native of Newark, New Jersey, came to Ohio in 1802 when
about ten years of age. Upon his father's farm Judge Meeker
spent his boyhood, becoming familiar with all of the
hard work and discomfort of clearing the land and culticat-
ing the soil when the financial reward of agriculture was
scarcely greater than the advantages offered for education.
The privations of pioneer life were more than offset by the
helpfulness of neighbors and the genuine, unpretentious hospi-
tality characteristic of the occupants of log cabins in pioneer
times. After teaching district school for several winters,
he read law with the late Judge Ebenezer Parsons, of Mi-
ami county, and was admitted to the bar in 1851, opening an
office in Greenville in May 1853. He was elected prosecu-
ting attorney in 1856 and re-elected two years later, serving
four years. His preference for the practice of law rather
than the duties of public ofifice was so pronounced that he
yielded reluctantly to the solicitation of friends to accept
even the judgeship. As hereinbefore stated, he served four
years as common pleas judge from 1862 to 1866.

His appointement by Governor Noyes, for the unexpired
portion of the term to which Judge McKemy had been
elected, was on the unanimous recommendation and petition
of the bar in every county of the judicial district. Judge
Meeker's service on the bench was so acceptable to all the
people that he was chosen at the next election for the post-


tioii without opposition. Both of the leading political par-
ties nominated him, and the members of the bar without
dissent recommended his election. After this he was re-
elected for two terms and declined a third because of fail-
ing health. Judge Meeker filled a place in the history of
this judicial district that is creditable to himself and honor-
able to the profession. A judge for a period of almost twenty-
one years, he retired from the bench with the highest re-
spect of the profession and admiration of the public. He was
always a close student and when in practice was known as
a hard working lawyer, and likewise a successful one. His
greatest reputation, however, will rest on his work as a
judge. In his decisions he was almost unerring. He pos-
sessed what is termed a legal mind ; understood thoroughly
the principles of the law ; was painstaking in his investiga-
tions and accurate in his decisions. One of the sources of
his popularity was undoubtedly his unassuming manners,
unfeigned cordiality and readiness to help his fellow men.

Judge Meeker died suddenly, September 5, 1896, at his
home in Greenville, and the tributes to his character and
worthiness, expressed in a memorial meeting of the bar, and
ill the funeral services, were hearty and sincere.

Upon the expiration of the term of Judge Meeker he was
succeeded, in 1883, by John W. Sater, who as Judge Clark
said was the bull dog of the bar. He was born on Juh' 9,
1839, in Maryland. He was large, well formed, weighed
over 200 pounds, with light complexion and dark hair, be-
ing always a good dresser.

Judge Sater was admitted to the practice of law by the
supreme court of Ohio in December 1862, a'ter having served
in the Civil War, and began the practice of law in Green-
ville, in January, 1863. He served one term as prosecuting
attorney of the county and was a good pleader and most
thorough in the preparation of his causes. He was connect-
ed with many of the most important cases, tried at the bar,
while he was in practice. John W. Sater was judge of the
court of common pleas of the first sub-division of the second
judicial district of Ohio, for five years, ending May 1888. In
those days there were few court stenographers and the only
way to preserve testimony was by memory or for the
lawyers and the court to take notice of the testimony of the
witnesses. Judge Sater always took full notes of the testi-
mony. J. W. Sater, it is written "while on the bench, had


the well desemed reputation of being one of the most able
judges who ever held court in this district." He died March
22, 1897.

Upon the completion ol" another term of five years of Judge
Meeker in Jilay 1893, he was succeeded by John C. Clark,
whose term of service was for five years until May 1898. Mr.
Clark was born in a log cabin in Washington township, Darke
county, on the 17th of January, 1849, a son of Benjamin H. and
Mary (Alartin) Clark. His father was of English and Ger-
man e.xtraction and his mother was of German and Irish
lineage. Upon the family homestead John C. Clark was rear-
ed, working in the fields through the summer months while