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

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aroused when there is a criminal trial and the matter of the
defendant's life and liberty is at stake.

Attorne3's were appointed by the court to prosecute actions
in behalf of the state in the early days until 1835 ; since then
they have been elected, their term of office being two years.

The following list of prosecuting attorneys for Darke county
is not claimed to be complete, but it is fairly accurate so far
as it goes.

Mr. Beers and Mr. Bacon to whom we have repeatedly
referred were among the prosecutors prior to 1830, also was
Henry Stoddart, and as heretofore stated Judge William M.
Wilson filled the same office after starting in practice here in

1835 and until 1830. John M. U. McXutt was the county
prosecuting attorney for four years until about 1833, also
serving as senator from this district 1833-1834. In about

1836 he was a candidate against Taylor Webster of Butler
county for Congress, but was defeated. McNutt died when
quite a young men about 1840, regretted by all who knew him.
He had white hair, was tall and erect, somewhat slender, and
the most perfect orator of the Eaton bar at that time.

The successful candidate in October, 1840. was David K.
Swisher, who was born in Montgomery county in 1818, and at
the age of eleven years came to Darke county. He received
part of his education at the old Studabaker school, which was
the nursery of some of the most successful men of later days.
After teaching school, he studied law in the office of Hiram
Bell and was admitted to practice by Judges Wood and Hitch-
cock in June, 1840. After his election he found that his youth,
inexperience and natural timidity were serious drawbacks,
but developed considerable zeal in seeing the laws carried out



DARKE COUNTY 481

against offenders. He received the nomination for second
term, but David Beers who had just been admitted to the bar
ran in the same party as an independent candidate and the
result was that Cyrus F. Dempsey of the opposite party was
elected. Swisher subsequently served for a number of years
as justice of the peace and was also in the mercantile busi-
ness. He wrote numerous articles on early history and social
life among the pioneers, which were published in the Green-
ville Courier, and some of his data is being used in the prep-
aration of this article. His articles possessed considerable
merit and all should have been preserved and published. Like
most men of literary inclinations he seems to have been of a
contemplative rather than an active disposition.

Cyrus F. Dempsey was a little red-headed and rather unso-
cial lawyer who settled here in 1839 and as heretofore stated,
defeated Swisher and Beers in 1842. He filled the office of
prosecuting attorney with fair ability and afterwards moved
to Cincinnati, where he died about 1856.

Sometime in the forties Luther Mont''ort came to Green-
ville, after having read law in the office of Judge Haines, of
Eaton. Swisher writes of him as follows : "He was a pretty
bright fellow with cheek like a brick, not very prepossessing,
but full of a rough kind o" eloquence, a terror to decency, but
the delight of the rabble. He got into some practice and was
in 1848 elected to the legislature and voted for Salmon P.
Chase, later left the country and died in California.

The next incumbent was James F. McDowell and he was
succeeded by William Allen, who served two terms from 1850
to 1854 and fuller account of whom appears under the com-
mon pleas court.

Charles Calkins, who was prosecuting attcrnev '"rom 1854 to
1856, was born in Pennsylvania in 1827 and received his early
education like other bovs of the age in an old log school
house. At the age of twenty-one he commenced to study
the law and then proceeded to Cuba. Panama and arrived in
California during the gold fever, ^^'hile in California he met
with success and after eighteen months came east with his
cousin, A^'ealthy Jaquay, with whom he read law in the offices
of A. R. Calderwood and William Collins. Charles Calkins
was reelected prosecuting attorney after the Civil war and
served four years until 1870. While prosecuting attorney, he
represented the state in manv important criminal cases in-
(31)



482



DARKE COUNTY



eluding the Lecklider murder case, a case in which a father
killed his son, and the French robbery case.

Succeeding Calkins as prosecuting attorney was David L.
Meeker who was elected in 1856 and two years later was re-
elected. A fuller account of Judge Aleeker as well as John ^^'.
Sater, who served from 1864 to 1866, can be found under the
account of the bench.

In the interim from 1860 to 1864, \"al. E. ^\'hitmer was
prosecuting attorney.

As above stated Charles Calkins was prosecuting attorney
from 1868 to 1872 and was succeeded by Charles Gordon
Matchett, who was the son of Eric Matchett and Johanna
Hendrickson, native of New Jersey, who came to Butler
county in 1820. Charles G. was born in Butler county in
1825 and spent his boyhood days in this county. He entered
the service during the Civil war as a sergeant and was after-
wards captain of Company G, Fortieth Ohio Volunteer Infan-
try. He distinguished himself on the field of battle and in
several charges commanded a batallion of the regiment. Be-
sides being a successful lawyer, he was prosecuting attorney
from 1866 to 1868, and was a Shakespearean scholar far above
the average.

J. K. Riffle was prosecuting attorney from 1872 to 1876,
and was a son of David Riffle, one of the early pioneers. He
was born in Darke county in 1845, attended normal school at
Lebanon, taught school, was admitted to bar in 1868. He re-
moved to Kansas City and was killed in a railroad wreck in
December, 1890.

Henry Calkins was prosecuting attorney two terms from
1877 to 1881. Like his brother he was born in Pennsylvania,
was a student in Delaware college two years, afterwards stud-
ied medicine at Cincinnati. In August, 1862, he went out as
captain of Company C, Eighty-seventh Indiana Volunteer
serving in Kentucky and Tennessee. He was police judge of
Jerseyville, Illinois, in 1868 and came to Greenville in 1874.
engaging in the law business with his brother, Charles. One
of the most important criminal cases of this county was the
trial and conviction of Monroe Roberson for the murder of
\\'iley Coulter. Crime has had its votaries here as else-
where, but in no undue proportion. ]\Iurders have been com-
mitted, and there have been trials, convictions and escapades,
but this particular case becomes historical from the fact that
it is the first instance where the dread conclusion has been a



DARKE COUNTY 483

sentence of death on the gallows, which sentence was carried
out in this county. The difficulty between the two men that
led to the murder occurred at Painter Creek in Darke county,
a point nine and one-half miles from Greenville. Following
some hard language, Coulter while attempting to make his
escape, was pursued and fired upon by Roberson. Three
several and deliberate shots were discharged and Coulter fell
to the ground mortally wounded and soon died. His allailant
was taken to Greenville, tried at the February term, 1880. and
sentenced to be hung on July 16 of the same year. Governor
Charles Foster gave him a respite. The doomed man was a
native of Tennessee, forty-five years of age, had served in the
army, was a hard drinker and had lived about twelve years in
the county. His victim was his wife's brother, who lived
from childhood in the family, and was at the time of his death
about twenty-three years old. Prosecuting Attorney Henry
Calkins was assisted by Messrs. Anderson, Allen, Calderwood
and Charles Calkins. Roberson was hung on a scaffold
erected between the court house and the jail on Friday,
August 20, 1880.

Succeeding Calkins as prosecuting attornev in 1880, came
John C. Clark, whose fuller record can be found on preceding
pages.

James Calvin Elliott was next prosecuting attornev for
Darke county, being elected in 1885 and re-elected for another
term of the three years in 1888, thus serving until January 1,
1892. Mr. Elliott was born in Preble county, Ohio, in 1847,
of Scotch-Irish ancestr^^ He was a student at Miami Univer-
sity at Oxford and during the war of rebellion served his
country in Company A, One Hundred and Fifty-sixth Ohio
Volunteer Infantry. After studying law and being admitted
to the bar at Eaton, in 1870, he came to Darke county four
years later, since which time he has been in active practice.
During his term of office he sent thirty-five men to the pen-
itentiary, including Chris. Oelschlaeger, accused and con-
victed nf killing his mother-in-law, Charlotte Leis, who re-
ceived three fatal stabs and other wounds. He was assisted
by John W. Safer, the attorneys for the defense being An-
derson & Bowman.

The next prosecuting attorney was S. \^al. Hartman, son of
C. B. Hartman, of Weaver's Station. He was born in Mont-
gomery county in 1864 and spent his youth in Neave town-
ship and attended the high school at Greenville, Ohio. After



484 DARKE COUNTY

teaching two years he entered the National Xormal Univer-
sity at Lebanon and upon his return to Greenville, read law
with Judge J. M. Bickel and Judge J. I. AUread, being ad-
mitted in 1890. He served for a period of six vears as prose-
cuting attorney until 1898.

During part of Hartman's term he was seriously ill and
the court appointed Walter Scott Meeker to temporarilv take
his place. ^\^ S. Meeker, son of Judge Meeker, was born in
Greenville, September 25, 1862, and graduated from the
Greenville high school at the age of twenty ; studied law under
his father and took a full course in the law department of the
University of Michigan, graduating in 1886 with the degree of
Bachelor of Laws. He was admitted to the bar the same vear
and began practice in Greenville. He is now a member of
the firm of Meeker & Gaskill.

Arthur L. Clark was the next incumbent of the office under
consideration serving from 1898 to 1904. He was born near
Washington, in 1873 and attended the schools of his native
city : being admitted to the bar in 1895. He was a brother of
Judge Clark with whom he practiced law for a number of
years until he moved west.

Clark was succeeded by Henry L. Yount, who was born
in Aliami county in April, 1865, and has made his way in the
world since the age of fifteen years, at which time he was left
an orphan. He acquired a good common school education
and afterwards worked as a farm hand and attended district
school during the winter. He prepared for teaching and at
the age of twenty years entered upon that profession in the
district school of Adams township, Darke county, Ohio, where
he was employed at intervals for seven years. He pursued a
special course of study in the Ohio Normal L'niversity, at
Ada, Ohio, received a degree and during his summer vacations
conducted a teachers' institute. He was subsequently presi-
dent of the board of teachers' examiners, superintendent of the
Bradford schools, mayor of Bradford and deputy county
clerk. Li the Ohio National Guard he rose from the ranks to
lieutenant, later captain and at the time of his resignation,
was a major in the Third Ohio Infantry. He was prosecut-
ing attorney from 1904 to 1909 and subsequently served two
terms in the Ohio Senate.

The next prosecuting attorney was John F. Maher, born in
Greenville, June 7, 1876. His father, Patrick H. Maher. was
born in County Tinnerarv. Ireland, and rame to this county in



DARKE COUNTY 485

1864. John F. attended the public schools and St. Mary's In-
stitute at Dayton, graduating after taking a four-years course,
in June, 1896. After returning to Greenville he secured a
position in the old Greenville bank during which time he
studied law, and was admitted to the bar in June, 1900. He
has taken an active part in politics and in November, 1908, he
was elected prosecuting attorney and two }"ears later re-
elected. For a period of years county commissioners of this
county had been suspected of irregularities in ofifice and state
authorities in examining records and vouchers found those
suspicions well grounded. Indictments were returned
against the commissioners, their clerk, a janitor in the court
house and some contractors, who appeared to have been un-
duly favored by the commissioners. One commissioner was
found guilty and was sentenced to the penitentiary for one
year and later another was found guilty and sentenced for
three years. Others indicted were found guilty of having is-
sued false vouchers and of raising vouchers, and the case gave
Darke county an unenviable notoriety over the state. Prose-
cuting Attorney Maher was assisted in the trial of this case
by D. W. Bowman, whose biography appears in the other
volume of this work, and by Adam H. Meeker, oldest son of
James T. Meeker, referred to under the bench.

.■\dam H. ]\Ieeker spent his boyhood days in Greenville,
spent a year in the literarv department of the University of
^Michigan, being admitted to the Greek letter fraternity Delta
Tau Delta. .Subsequently he returnd to Ann Arbor and grad-
uated from the law department in June, 1885. He served two
terms as mayor of the city of Greenville and after the elec-
tion of President Wilson was appointed postmaster.

L. E. Kerlin is the present incumbent of the office of prose-
cuting attorney. He was born in Greenville, Ohio, in 1877,
and is a son of the late William K. Kerlin. He spent his boy-
hood days in Greenville, where he attended the public schools
and graduated in 1898, afterwards graduating from the Cin-
cinnati Law School in 1902, whereupon he took up the suc-
cessful practice of law in Greenville, also serving two terms
as city solicitor.

An important person in the administration of the afifairs of
the county is the sherifif and for want of available material
and data of this chief ministerial officer and administrator nf
afifairs within a county, we must content ourselves with
giving nnlv a list of names as follov^'s : Moses Scott, 1816 to



486 DARKE COUNTY

1820; William Scott, 1821 to 1824; Mark T. Mills, 1825 to
1828; Joshua Howell, 1829 to 1830; John Howell, 1831 to
1834; James Craig was appointed but died and William
Vance served until 1830. David Angel, 1835 to 1839 ; David
Stamm, 1839 to 1842; Thomas Vantilburg, 1843 to 1847;
George \V. Coover, 1848 to 1850; Thomas Vantilburg, 1851 to
1855; Joshua Townsend, 1856 to 1860; Oliver H. Long, 1860
to 1863; Gavin W. Hamilton, 1864 to 1860; Chauncey Riffle,
1866 to 1867; A. X. Vandyke, 1868 to 1872; X. M. Wilson,

1872 to 1875; John \\'. Hall, 1876 to 1879; Jerry Runkle, 1880
to 1883; Thomas Lecklider, 1884 to 1887; David E. Vantil-
burg, 1888 to 1889; John W^elker, 1890 to 1893; H. C. Jacobi,
1894 to 1898; William Runkle, 1898-1901; Milo Smith, 1902-
1903; Frank Smith, 1903 to 1906; John F. Haber, 1906 to
1910, and the present incumbent since 1910 is John C. Burns.

Another important officer in the procedure of the court is
the clerk, whose general duties are to endorse and file all
papers, to enter all orders, decrees and judgments. The fol-
lowing list is fairly accurate : Elinas Bascom, appointed in
June, 1817, for one year; Easton Morris, appointed in June,
1818, for seven years ; David Morris, appointed in 1825, for
seven years, but died in 1829, and L. R. Brownell served as
clerk pro tern from August to Xovember of that year ; John
Beers then served from 1829 to 1850; David Beers then served
a few months, after which Joseph W. Frizell was appointed
for a term of seven years, but the new constitution which was
adopted in 1852, reduced the term three years. Samuel Robin-
son, elected October, 1854; William C. Porterfield, elected
October, 1860, but died before his term was out, and was suc-
ceeded by Henry Miller, who served as clerk pro tem until
October, 1862, when he was elected and served two terms ;
Hamilton Slade, elected in 1868 ; Wesley Gorsuch elected in

1873 and John H. Martin filled three months of the unexpired
term following Gorsuch's resignation ; then John H. Alartin
was elected in 1879, and served until 1886. Patrick H. ^laher,
1886 to 1892; Jacob R. Stocker, 1892 to 1898; F. G. Wiley,
1898 to 1904: George York, 1904 to 1909; J. E. Williams, 1909
to 1913 and the present incumbent is Ed Shafer.

The Bar.

X'^ow will follow a short sketch of the attorneys who prac-
ticed at this bar, using such information as I have been able



DARKE COUNTY 487

to obtain from articles in newspapers and in conversation
with the present members oi the bar. It can not be claimed
that the list is complete nor that what is written will disclose
the relative merit of those referred to.

The lawyers who attended the courts at Greenville in the
early days were from Dayton, Hamilton, Eaton, Troy, Sidney
and Lebanon. The resident bar at Greenville for several years
consisted of John Beers only. This able lawyer settled here
very early in the history of our county, perhaps immediately
after its organization in 1816. He acted as prosecutor of the
county several years prior to 1830. Prosecutors were then ap-
pointed by the court. We have heretofore given a sketch of
his life and services.

In the early days among the lawyers from Dayton who
practiced at the bar in Darke county were Joseph H. Crane
and George B. Holt, to whom extended reference has been
made under the bench.

William Stoddart, a man of medium heighth, but heavv set
was also a practitioner from Dayton. He was not a fluent
speaker and his practice was chiefly confined to probate mat-
ters.

In the forties other lawyers from Dayton were at each
term, among them was Charles Anderson-, a tall somewhat
slender youth of light hair, blue eyes and fair complexion.
Mr. Anderson was subsequently elected lieutenant gov-
ernor of Ohio, at the time John Brough, and by the death of
that functionary, became governor of Ohio. He had served
as prosecuting attorney of Montgomery county and also in
the State senate in 1845. His brave, chivalrous nature there
found expression in a bold single-handed assault upon what
were known as the black laws of Ohio — one provision of
which prohibited negroes from testifying in courts of justice.
Although a native of Kentucky, born and reared in a slave-
holding family, he was the first man in the legislature of
Ohio to raise a voice in protest against these laws. It was
many 3^ears before public sentiment advanced so far as to
demand their repeal.

At the close of his senatorial term. Anderson made a visit
to Europe, and upon his return went to Cincinnati, where he
formed a law partnership with the Hon. Rufus King. Cin-
cinnati supplied a most congenial place of abode to Mr. An-
derson, being the place of residence of his brother Larz. one
of its most eminent and esteemed citizens, and embracing a



488 DARKE COUNTY

very large society of gentlemen as well as ladies, of the high-
est culture and social distinction. Returning to Dayton along
in 1855, he resided there until his precarious state of health
induced him to remove to Texas, where he remained until the
breaking out of the rebellion. Becoming known as a pro-
nounced union man, he was placed under arrest by the seces-
sion authorities in Texas, and his property confiscated. He
eflfected his escape and was entrusted by President Lincoln
with a special mission to England, to attempt to stem the tide
of opposition to the union cause in that country, but found
the task hopeless, and returned to the United States. He
went into the field as colonel of the Xinety-third Ohio Regi-
ment, raised in Montgomery county and was wounded at the
battle of Stone River. His wounds and exposure impaired his
health and after his service as governor of Ohio, he settled
upon a tract of land in southern Kentucky, where he resided
for many years widely known and honored as a- hospitable,
chivalrous and accomplished christian gentleman.

Another Dayton lawyer, who frequently attended our court
was Daniel A. Haynes, who was a sprightly little fellow full
of zeal, fun, a good lawyer and fluent speaker. He was elected
first judge of the superior court in 1856 and was continu-
ously on the bench of the superior court until 1870. when he
resigned to enter into a partnership with Hon. C. L. A'allan-
digham.

Among the early attendants at our court of the members
of Butler county were Jesse Corwin (brother of Tom Corwin)
heavy set, tolerably tall and of dark complexion. John Woods
was here a few times. He was o' medium size, well built, his
forehead receding sharply from the brow, a fluent speaker, but
a very squeaking and rather unpleasant voice. . .\bnut 1837
or 1838. L. B. Campbell from that county, began to attend our
court. He was tolerably good speaker, confined himself to
the facts in his case and seldom attempted flourish. Drifting
into his natural current of politics, he became entirely ab-
sorbed bv his ambition for congressional honors, which he
finally achieved, serving six terms.

From the bar of Preble countv our court was attended trom
its organization, J. S. Hawkins being always present. He
was rather a small man, a fluent speaker, alwaj's listened to
by court and jury, and a delighted bystander, of which the
court house in those days was always full. About 1834 or
1835 he was engaged to defend Jacob Hartle, who was ac-



DAKKE COUXTY 489

cused of having forged a receipt for money by one of the
heirs of estate of which he was administrator. This was the
hottest case that had ever came before our court. J. ]\1. U.
AIcNutt, an exceptionally bright young man, was the State's
attorney at the time. He was also of the Preble bar. As the
case progressed, the wrestling between the two became
harder. Now very dark for the accused, then again bright
and confident for the defense. The community was about
equally divided when the jur}- went to their room. Long and
anxious hours slowl}- crept by, suspense was on tip-toe, but
at last it was announced that the jury had agreed. The court
house was crowded to suffocation. The verdict was handed
up to the court, who read it, then handed it to the clerk, who
slowly and distinctly read it: "^^'e, the jury, find the defen-
dant not guilty." The court house was soon emptied. Then
it was that the friensds of Hartle rolled a barrel of wriskey
into the public square, knocked in the head and everybody
was getting drunk, when some one, seeing the situation,
threw into the barrel, a peck of salt, which spoiled the
whiskey. Hawkins died about 1849, the first victim of Asiatic
cholera in Eaton.

There was also Mr. Heaton of the Eaton bar, that fre-
quently attended our courts. He was a tall, slender man, al-
wa\-s well dressed and was eccentric in that he always wore
his hair, which was coal black and long as a woman's,
]ilaited nicely hanging down his back over his coat.

I\Ir. Hawkins also had a younger brother that often at-
tended our court with him ; also a very respectable lawyer.
Like Joseph S., he was small of stature but lacked the vim.

One of the few members of the Miami bar practising here
at times was William L Thomas, a small, quiet, pleasant man,
who represented Miami county in the state senate six terms.

Jacob Burgess, a very tall, and heavy man from Troy, was
also an occasional visitor at our bar, and was later elected
recorder of Aliami county.

From Shelby county we had onlv the occasional visit of
Judge Metcalfe, an excellent man and a good lawyer.

Among the early lawyers coming to Darke county to reside
was Hiram Bell, who had been admitted to the bar at Ham-
ilton, Butler county. He was thorough and industrious and
had a fair share of the business in the court. In 1836 he was
elected auditor of the county and was elected to the state
legislature in 1841. Later he was appointed an ofificer in the



490 DARKE COUNTY

State militia and was elected to congress, serving in the thir-
ty-second session. General Hiram Bell died in 1855 in his
forty-eighth year.

About 1834, William Cram, a la\v\-er from Butler county,
came here, stayed several years, but not meeting the desired
success in the law, taught school a few terms and then moved
away.

J. B. Underwood settled here about 1844 and was a candi-
date for prosecuting attorney in 1846, but did not succeed in
the election. He afterwards moved away and has been lost
sight of.

David Beers read in the office of his father and was ad-
mitted to the bar in 1842. He was a fair student, attaining
a very good and correct knowledge of the principles of the
law, had a tolerable knowledge of surveying and civil engi-
neering and much of his time was occupied by that business.