D. Hamilton (Duane Hamilton) Hurd.

History of Plymouth County, Massachusetts : with biographical sketches of many of its pioneers and prominent men (Volume 2) online

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passed in 1685, which provided " that there be in the
Colony three counties, and that in each county there
shall be kept annually two county courts, which
courts shall be kept by the magistrates living in the
several counties, or by any other magistrate that can
attend the same, or by such as the General Court
shall appoint from time to time, and to make a Court
there shall be present not less than three magistrates
or Associates, and in no case shall judgment be given
without there be two consenting, or the major part,
if more than four judges; and in the absence of the
Governor or Deputy Governor, the eldest magistrate
shall be President of the Court ; which Court shall
have, and hereby have, power to order the choice of
Juries of Grand Inquest and trials in their several
counties, and to constitute clerks and other needful
officers ; the County Treasurer to be appointed and
allowed by said Court annually." It was also pro-
vided " that each County Court shall have, and hereby
have, power to hear, try, and determine, according to
law, all matters, actions, causes, and complaints,
whether civil or criminal, in any case not extending
to life, limb, or banishment, or matter of divorce ;
that all deeds, bargains, mortgages for houses, rents,
lands not already recorded in the public records, or
that shall not be recorded before the first County
Court of each county, shall or may be recorded in the
county where they lie by the County Recorder; which
shall from and after the first County Court that sits



in said County be accounted legal and sufficient record
for the same, it having been acknowledged or duly
proved before the recording; that such County Court
shall have, and hereby have, power to settle and dis-
pose according to law the estate of any person that
dies intestate within the county, and to grant letters
of administration and make the probate of wills." It
was further ordered " that County Courts have power
to make effectual orders about county prisons, high-
ways, and bridges, and when there is occasion, order
rates to be made in the several towns and places of
the county for defraying county charges ; the raters
of each town to rate the inhabitants or persons under
their const abler ick according to the proportion ordered
by the County Court, and the Constable to gather
such rates, and be accountable for the same to the
County Treasurer; that the Town Clerk in each town
annually return the names of such persons to the
County Court as by the several towns are chosen to
serve as constable, jurymen, surveyors of highways;
that they may take their oaths and be established in
their respective places, and the Selectmen to be re-
turned to the court of election on penalty of twenty
shillings fine for each neglect ; that the Clerk of the
Court shall be the Recorder of the County, who shall
record deeds and evidences for lauds lying within the
County, who shall be under oath for the faithful dis-
charge of lib place; said Clerk in open Court may
administer oaths to witnesses, aud in the name or
order of Court to grant summons, attachments, war-
rants, and to sign and give out executions for any
judgment obtained in any of the Couuty Courts,
which shall not be till twelve hours after judgment,
unless in any particular case the law hath otherwise
provided ; not then if the Court, on any special cause,
shall respite the same ; that there be a County Mar-
shall, who shull always attend said Courts, who are
empowered to serve all warrants, attachments, or sum-
mons that are directed to them, and to levy execu-
tions, who may require aid in the execution of their
office, which shall be yielded on the same penalty,
that is, for auy to refuse to assist a constable." It
was further provided " that in all criminal cases or
misdemeanors, besides their fines or punishments,
persons convict shall pay cost and needful charges of
prosecution."

It will be seen that under the provisions of the
above enactment the clerk of the court or recorder
was also register of deeds and register of probate,
while the court itself not only had cognizance of cer-
tain matters both civil and criminal, but acted also as
a Probate Court and as county commissioners. The
magistrates first appointed, in 1G85, were Nathaniel



THE COURTS AND BAR.



Thomas, John Cushiujr, and Ephraim Morton, and
Nathaniel Thomas, Jr., was clerk. In the same year
it was ordered by the Geoeral Court that the county
have the use of the lower rooms in the country house
for the courts, and the use of the country's prison.
The country house, as it was called, was the govern-
ment house, and stood where the Plymouth town
house now stands. The government land extended
to Summer Street, the present High Street not hav-
ing been laid out until more -than a century after-
wards, and the country prison stood on the land
between the store of Everett W. Sherman, on the
corner of Summer and Market Streets, and the house
of Peter W. Smith. The prison land, as described
in the records, began at a point thirty-one feet east-
erly of the corner of the house of Richard Cooper,
now occupied by James Cos, on Summer Street, and
nineteen feet westerly of the southwest corner of
the jail-house, and extended from that point north
eleven degrees west a little over fifty feet; thence
northeasterly sixty-six feet, and thence south twenty
and one-half degrees east to a point on Summer
Street eighty feet from the point of starting. Id
1778, after a new jail had been built in Court Square
on land bought by the county in 1773 of the First
Precinct, the old buildings and the land on which
they stood were sold. The land bought in Court
Square began at a point ninety feet easterly of the
westerly boundary of the present House of Correction
yard, and extended to a point a little in front of the
present court-house, about fifteen feet west of the
stone curbing across the inclosure. On this land the
new jail and jail-house were built. After the union
of the colonies, in 1692, and the extinction of the
government of the Old Colony, the old country house
in Town Square became the county house, and was
occupied as a court-house until 1749, when it was
taken down, and the building now owned by the town
and occupied as a town house was erected. Towards
the erection of this building, in 1749, the town con-
tributed one thousand pounds of old tenor money, on
the condition, which was agreed to by the county,
that it might be used for town purposes. It was
designed by Peter Oliver, of Middleboro', then a
judge of the Inferior Court of Common Pleas, and
originally had its door on the easterly end, which was
changed to its present position a little before the
Revolution, to make room for a market-house. In
1819 the couuty bought of the town forty feet addi-
tional on the west of their Court Square land, and
built the stone jail now standing, at a cost of eleven
thousand five hundred dollars, and the present keep-
er's house, at a cost of about two thousand dollars.



In 1820, after the old jail had been removed, as well
as the old keeper's house, the county built the present
court-house, having enlarged their lot on the east by
the purchase from the town, in 1785, of fifteen feet,
extending as far as the curbing above referred to.
The cost of the court-house was twelve thousand dol-
lars. In 1839 the county bought of the trustees of
the Fuller Ministerial Fund fifty feet more of land uu
the westerly end of their lot, and in 1852 built the
present House of Correction at a cost of sixteen thou-
sand dollars. In 1857 the court-house was altered
and enlarged, at a cost of twenty-four thousand dol-
lars. In 1821, after the new court-house was erected,
the old court-house in Town Square was sold to the
town of Plymouth for two thousand dollars, and has
since been used as a town house. During the present
year, under authority received from the Legislature,
the county commissioners are enlarging and remodel-
ing the House of Correction, at a probable cost of
thirty thousand dollars.

After the union of the colonies, in lb'92, one of
the first acts of the court of the province of Massa-
chusetts Bay, of which Plymouth County had become
a part, was to provide that the names and boundaries
of all the counties should continue as they had been
previous to the union. In the same year it was pro-
vided by law " that on or before the last Tuesday of
July next there be a geueral sessions of the peace
held and kept in each respective county within this
province by the justices of the same county, or three
of them at the least (the first justice of the quorum
then present to preside), who are hereby empowered to
hear and determine all matters relating to the conser-
vation of the peace and whatever is by them cogniza-
ble according to law, and to graut licenses to such
persons within the same county, beiug first approved
of by the selectmen of each town where such persons
dwell, whom they shall think fit to be employed as inn-
holders or retailers of wines or strong liquors, and that
a sessions of the peace be successively held and kept
as aforesaid within the several counties at the same
times and places as the county courts or inferior courts
of common pleas are hereinafter appointed to be kept."

And it was further enacted " that the county courts
or inferior courts of Common Pleas be held and kept
in each respective county by the justices of the same
county or three of them at the least (the first justice of
the quorum then present to preside), at the same times
and places they have been formerly kept according to
law for the hearing and determining of all civil actions
arising or happeniug within the same, triable at the
common law according to former usage; the justices
for holding and keeping of the said court within the



HISTORY OF PLYMOUTH COUNTY.



county of Suffolk to be particularly appointed and
commissioned by the Governor, with the advice and
consent of the council, and that all writs or attach-
ments shall issue out of the clerks office of the said
several courts, signed by the clerk of such court, di-
rected unto the sheriff of the couuty, his uuder sheriff
or deputy. The jurors to serve at said courts to be
choseu according to former custom by aud of the free-
holders and other inhabitants qualified as is directed
in their unijestie3 royal charter."

This act was disallowed by the Privy Council on
the ground that a distinction was made between the
couuty of Suffolk and the other counties. On the
25th of November, 1092, it was enacted " that there
shall be held and kept in each respective county
within this province yearly, at the times and places
hereafter named and expressed, four courts or quarter
sessions of the peace by justices of the peace of the
same county, who are hereby empowered to hear and
determine all matters relating to the conservation of
the peace and punishment of offenders and whatso-
ever is by them cognisable according to law, and that
at the said times there shall be held and kept in each
respective county an inferior court of Common Pleas
by four of the justices of and residing within the same
county respectively, to be appointed and commis-
sioned thereto, aud three of whom to be a quorum for
the hearing and determining of all civil actions arising
or happening within the same."

This act was also disallowed by the Privy Council
iu consequence of certain provisions not quoted above
concerning the right of appeal. On the ll)th. of June,
1097, another act was passed providing among other
things for a county court called the General Sessions
of the Peace. This act was disallowed also by the
Privy Council because it provided for a trial by jury
in all cases, when, according to an act of Parliament,
" all causes relating to the breach of the Acts of Trade
may, at the pleasure of the officer or informer, be
tried in the Court of Admiralty, aud because the
method of trial in such Courts of Admiralty was not
by juries." On the 26th of June, 1699, it was en-
acted " that there shall be held and kept in each
respective county within this province yearly, and in
every year at the times and places in this act here-
after mentioned and expressed, a Court of Geueral
Sessions of the Peace by the justices of the peace of
the same county, or so many of them as are or shall
be limited in the commission of the peace, who are
hereby empowered to hear and determine all matters
relating to the conservation of the peace and punish-
ment of offenders, and whatsoever is by them cognis-
able according to law and to give judgment and



award execution thereon." The same act provided
that in convenient time, before the sitting of said
court, the clerk shall issue warrants directed to the
constables of the several towns within the county, re-
quiring them to assemble the freeholders and other
inhabitants of their town to choose as many men as
the warrant shall direct to serve as jurors. Ou the
same day another act was passed providing that in each
county at specified times and places an Inferior Court
of Common Pleas by. four substantial persons to be
appointed and commissioned as justices shall be held,
which shall have cognizance of all civil actions within
said county, and providing also for the choice of
jurors in the same manner as that specified in the act
relating to the Sessions of the Peace.

Either by the general act or by special acts a great
variety of duties was imposed on the general sessions
of the peace. Besides its criminal jurisdiction it
granted licenses to innholders and retailers of liquor,
it heard and determined complaints by the Indians,
it provided at one time destitute towns with miuisters,
it determined the amount of county taxes and ap-
portioned the same among the towns, it had charge of
county property and expended its money, it laid out
highways, it assorted and counted the votes for county
treasurer and audited his accounts, it appointed
masters of the House of Correction, and made rules
for the government of the same, it ordered the erec-
tion and repair of prisons and other county buildings,
and had the general care of county affairs and its
jrovernment.

The Court of General Sessious of the Peace re-
mained substantially the same until June 19, 1S07,
when it was enacted that it should consist of one chief
or first justice, and a specified number of associate
justices for the several counties, all to be designated
by the Governor with the advice of the Council.
These justices were to be commissioned and to act as
the Geueral Court of Sessions in the place of the
justices of the peace in each county as heretofore. Ou
the 19th of June, 1809, the powers and duties of the
Court of General Sessions were transferred to the
Courtof Common Pleas. On the 25th of June, 1811,
it was enacted " that from and after the first day of
September next an act made and passed the nine-
teenth day of June, 1809, entitled ' an act to transfer
the powers and duties of the Courts of Sessions to the
Courts of Common Pleas,' be and the same is hereby
repealed, and that all acts and parts of acts relative
to the Courts of Sessions which were in force at the
time the act was in force, which is hereby repealed,
be and the same are hereby revived from and after
the said first day of September next."



THE COURTS AND BAR.



On the 28th of February, 1814, it was enacted that
the last above-mentioned act, passed June 25, 1811,
be repealed, except so far as it relates to the counties
of Suffolk, Nantucket, and Dukes County, and that
all petitions, recognizances, warrants, orders, certifi-
cates, reports, and processes made to, taken for, or
continued or returnable to the Courts of Sessions in
the several counties, except as aforesaid, shall be re-
turnable to and proceeded in and determined by the
respective Circuit Courts of Common Pleas ; that
from and after the 1st day of June next the Circuit
Courts of Common Pleas shall have, exercise, and
perform all powers, authorities, and duties which the
respective Courts of Sessions have before the passage
of this act exercised and performed, except in the
counties of Suffolk, Nantucket, and Dukes County
as aforesaid. It was further enacted that the Gov-
ernor, by and with the advice of the Council, be au-
thorized to appoint two persons in each county, who
shall be session justices of the Circuit Court of Com-
mon Pleas in their respective counties, and sit with
the justices of said Circuit Court in the administra-
tion of the affairs of their county, and of all matters
within said county of which the Courts of Sessions
had cognizance.

The Circuit Court of Common Pleas was a court
established June 21, 1811. The act passed at that
date provided that the commonwealth, except Dukes
County aud the county of Nantucket, be divided iuto
six circuits, as follows : The Middle Circuit, made up
of the counties of Suffolk, Essex, and Middlesex ; the
Western Circuit, made up of the counties of Worcester,
Hampshire, and Berkshire; the Southern Circuit, made
up of the counties of Norfolk, Plymouth, Bristol, and
Barnstable ; the Eastern Circuit, made up of the coun-
ties of York, Cumberland, and Oxford ; the second
Eastern Circuit, made up of the counties of Lincoln,
Kennebeck, and Somerset ; and the third Eastern
Circuit, made up of the counties of Hancock and
Washington. It further provided that there shall be
held in the several counties, at the times and places
now appointed for holding the Courts of Common
Pleas a Circuit Court of Common Pleas, to consist
of one chief justice and two associate justices. To
these were added, as has been stated above, two ses-
sious justices from each county to sit with the court
in their county. The management of county affairs
wits in the hands of this court from 1814 until 1819,
duriug which time Thomas B. Adama was chief jus-
tice, Jairus Ware and Nahum Mitchell were associate
justices, and Elisha Ruggles and John Thomas ses-
sions justices, for Plymouth County. On the 20th
of February, 1819, it was enacted "that from and



after the first day of June next an ' act to transfer
the powers and duties of the Courts of Sessions to the
Circuit Court of Common Pleas,' passed on the 28th
day of February, 1814, be hereby repealed." It was
further enacted that from and after the 1st day of
June next the Court of Sessions in the several coun-
ties shall be held by one chief justice and two asso-
ciate justices, to be appointed by the Governor, by
and with the advice and consent of the Council, who
shall have all the powers, rights, and privileges, aud
be subject to all the duties, which are now vested in
the Circuit Courts of Common Pleas, relative to the
erection and repair of jails and other county buildings,
the allowance and settlement of county accounts, the
estimate, apportionment, and issuing warrants for as-
sessing county taxes, granting licenses, laying out,
altering, and discontinuing highways, and appointing
committees, and ordering juries for that purpose.

The management of county affairs remained iu the
hands of this court until March 4, 1826, when that
part of their duties relating to highways was trans-
ferred to a new board of officers called " commission-
ers of highways," consisting of five members, appointed
by the Governor, and their chairman appointed by him
also. On the 26th of February, 1828, a law was
passed providing for the appointment of three county
commissioners for three years, one of whom should be
chosen chairman by the board and two special commis-
sioners, and the acts providing for a Court of Sessious
and a Board of Commissioners of Highways was re-
pealed. On the 8th of April, 1835, it was provided by
law that the three commissioners and two special com-
missioners should be chosen by the people in the mouth
of April, and that, in case of a failure to elect, meetings
should be held until the board was tilled. On the 17th
of March, 1841, it was further provided by law that,
in case of a failure to choose, report should be made to
the Governor, and that he should fill the vacancies.
It will be remembered that these acts were passed
when a majority of votes were required to elect, and
that in consequence failures to elect were frequent.
On the 11th of March, 1854, a law was passed pro-
viding for a division by lot of the board into three
classes, one to hold office for one year, one for two,
and one for three, and for the election of one commis-
sioner yearly at the annual November election, and of
two special commissioners every three years, beginning
with 1856. It was also provided that a plurality of
votes should elect.

The following is a list of county officers, as com-
plete as available accurate data will permit :

Marthul— William Bossett, 1686.

Sheriff,.— John Bradford, 1692; James Warren, 169'J; Seth



HISTORY OF PLYMOUTH COUNTY.



Arnold, 1700; Nathaniel Warren, 1701; Itaao Lothrop,
17dil; Thomas Barker, 1721; John Holmes, 1731 ; James
Waneo.Sr., 1733; James Warren, Jr., 1762; George Part-
ridge, 1779; Albert Smith, 1812; George Partridge, 1813;
Nathan May ward, 1S14; Branch Harlow, 1845; William
Thomas, 1852; Branch Harlow, 1354; Daniel Phillips,
1855; John Perkins, 1856; Daniel Phillips, 1857; James
Bates, I860; Alpheus K. Harmon, 1875.

Beoiatera of Probate. — Nathaniel Thomas, Sr. t 1686; Samuel
Sprague, 1693; Nuthjniel Thomas, Jr., 17U2; Josiah Cot-
ton, 1729; Edward Winslow, 1756; Isaac Lothrop, 1776;
Biza Hay ward, 1810; Jacob H. Loud, 1831; Moses Bates,
1352; Joseph S. Beal, 1853; Samuel H. Doteo, 1357;
Daniel E. Damon, 1859; Edward E. Hobart, 1884.

Judya of Prolate. — William Bradford, 1693; Nathaniel
Thomas, Sr., 1702; Isaac Winslow, 1713; John Cushing,
1738; William Sever, 1775 ; Joseph Cushing, 1778; Joshua
Thomas, 1793; Wilkes Wood, 1822; Aaron Hobart, 1844;
William H. Wood, 1858; Jesse E. Keith, 1884.

Clerk* of the Court*. — Nathaniel Thomas, 1686; Samuel
Sprague, 1692; Thomas Little, 1702; William Little, 1714;
Josiah Cotton, 1713; John Winslow, 1715; Edward Win-
slow, 1762; John Cotton, 1775; Josiah Cotton, 1781 ; Her-
cules Cushman, 1795 ; John B. Thomas, 1811; William U.
Whitman, 1851.

County Treasurer*. — Samuel Sprague, 1693 ; Josiah Cotton,
1713; John Cotton, 1756; Hossiter Cotton, 17S9; William
11. Sever, 1838; John Morissey, 1877.

HegUtcra of Deed*. — Nathaniel Thomas, 1635; Samuel Sprague,
169.,; Josiah Cotton, 1713; John Cotton, 1756; Rossiter
Cotton, 1789; Roland E. Cotton, 1337; William S. Russell,
1846 ; Willium S. Danforth, 1363.

County CommimiionerH. — 1829-33, Thomas Weston, of Middle-
boro'; Jarod Whitman, of Bridgcwater; John Collamorc,
of Scituato ; 1834, Bartholomew Brown, of East Bridge-
water; Jured Whitman, of Bridgewater; John Collamore,
of Scituato; 1335-43, Isaac Alden, of Middlehoro'; John
B. Turner, of Scituute; Thomas Savery, of Wareham ;
1844-46, John B. Turner, of Scituate; Thomas Savery, of
Wareham; Joshua Smith, of Hanson; 1347-52, Joshua
Smith, of Hanson: John Ford, of Marshtield; Ebenezer
Pickens, of Middlehoro'; 1853-54, Ebenezer Pickens, of
Middlehoro'; Isaac Hersey, of Abington; John Ford, of
Marshneld ; 1355, Ebenezer Pickens, of Middlehoro';
Martin Bryant, of Pembroke; Isaac Hersey, of Abington ;
1S5G, Isaac Hersey, of Abington; Martin Bryant, of Pem-
broke; William H. Cooper, of North Bridgewater; 1857,
Martin Bryant, of Pembroke ; William H. Cooper, of North
Bridgewater; James Bates, of East Bridgewater; 1S58,
William II. Cooper, of North Bridgewater; Thomas South-
worth, of Carver; James Bates, of East Bridgewater; 1859,
James Bates, of East Bridgewater; Thomas Soulhworth,
of Carver; Caleb W. Prouty, of Scituate; 1860, Thomas
South worth, of Carver; Caleb W. Prouty, of Scituate;
Charles II. Paine, of Halifax; 1861, Caleb W. Prouty, of
Scituate; Charles II. Paine, of Halifax; James Ruggles, of
Rochester; 1862-63, Charles H. Paine, of Halifax; James
lluggles. of Rochester; William P. Corthell, of Abington;
1864-72, Charles H. Paine, of Halifax; William P. Cor-
thell, of Abington ; Harrison Staples, of Lakeville; 1373—
76, Charles H. Paine, of Halifax ; William P. Corthell, of
Abington; Joseph T. Wood, of Middlehoro'; 1877-81,
Charles H. Paine, of Halifax; Joseph T. Wood, of Middle-
horo'; Jedcdiuh Dwclley, of Hanover; 1382-84, Charles
H. Paine, of Halifax; Jedediah Dwelley, of Hanover;
Walter 11. Faunee, of Kingston.



The county commissioners have charge of all the
county property, the court-house and jail, and House
of Correction, and provide for their erection and



Online LibraryD. Hamilton (Duane Hamilton) HurdHistory of Plymouth County, Massachusetts : with biographical sketches of many of its pioneers and prominent men (Volume 2) → online text (page 2 of 118)