Samuel W Durant.

History of Oneida County, New York : with illustrations and biographical sketches of some of its prominent men and pioneers online

. (page 46 of 192)
Online LibrarySamuel W DurantHistory of Oneida County, New York : with illustrations and biographical sketches of some of its prominent men and pioneers → online text (page 46 of 192)
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respective county ; and to actions generally where the
amount involved in controversy does not exceed $1000 in
value, and where the defendants are in the county at the
commencement of the action. This court is held by the
county judge, who, associated with two justices of the
peace, may hold courts of the Sessions of the Peace, with
such criminal jurisdiction as may be provided by law.

The constitution of 1777 continued in force such por-
tions of the common law of England, and the statute laws
of England and Great Britain, and acts of the colonial
Legislature of New York, as together formed the laws of
the colony April 19, 1775, subject to further amendment
or repeal by the proper authority.

The resolves of the Provincial Congress of the colony,
which existed from the early part of 1775 to 1777, as also
the resolutions of the Convention of the State, not incon-
sistent with the constitution, were adopted as law. Any-
thing in any of the above-quoted legislation repugnant to
the constitution was abrogated and rejected. The consti-
tution also provides for trial by jury and the naturalization
of aliens. The constitution of 1821 still continued in force
the common law of England, and the colonial laws not
repealed or repugnant to the provisions of that instrument.

Courts of the Sessions of the Peace were provided for
the county of Albany April 17, 1691,* with three terms
per year, and a court of Common Pleas, from which no
appeal or habeas corpus would lie on matters under £20
in controversy. The old justices of the peace of the
colony were to be " good and lawful men of the best repu-
tation, and who be no maintainers of evil or barretors."

In 1778 the Legislature declared that paper would answer
in legal proceedings and documents in emergent cases, and
its use was held not to invalidate proceedings in the courts,
notwithstanding the requirement of vellum for such pur-
poses previously. In 1798 paper was still further advanced
in respectability in the courts, being declared lawful for use
in the Supreme and Chancery Courts for all purposes except
for the processes of the courts, for which parchment con-
tinued to be used.

The court of General Sessions of the Peace, under the
first constitution, had jurisdiction in all cases where the
penalty was not confinement for life or the death penalty.
In 1796 the criminal code was ameliorated, and State-
prisons first directed to be established. Previous to this
most of the offenses punishable by imprisonment for life
were under the death penalty. The claim of " benefit of

* Journal of Assembly.

clergy'' by criminals was abolished in New York Feb. 21,
1783. In May, 1788, the statutes of England and Great
Britain were abolished. The first fee-bill established by
law was dated May 24, 1709. The courts of Common
Pleas, established by the ordinance of the colonial Governor
in 1699, wore the germs of the courts of General Sessions.
Imprisonment for debt was abolished in New York April
26, 1831.


In connection with this subject the following paragraphs
wq copy by permission from a lecture delivered before the
" Young Men's Association" of the city of Utica, by Wm.
Tracy, Esq., in ]838."t

" On the loth of January, 179.3, an act was passed authorizing every
alternate term of the court of common pleas of Herkimer County to be
held at such place in WhitestownJ as should by the courts be directed
by orders to be entered in the minutes. The first court in this (Oneida)
County under this provision was held in a barn, in New Hartford, be-
longing to the late Judge Sanger (New Hartford then forming a part
of the town of Whitestown), in the month of October, in the year 1793,
Judge Staring presiding, and the late Judge Piatt, then Clerk of the
County of Herkimer, officiating as Clerk. The sheriif of Herkimer
County at that day was a Colonel Colbraith, an Irishman, who, in the
war, had done some service to his adopted country, and had acquired
his title as a militia officer since the peace.

" His education had not been conducted with special reference to the
usages of what is technically called good society ; and indeed his man-
ners bore unequivocal evidence that they originated from a native
mine of genuine good humor and a most capacious soul, rather than
from the arbitrary rules of a professor of polite breeding. A gentleman
who attended the court as a spectator informed me that the day was
one of the damp, chilly days we frequently have in October, and that
in the afternoon, when it was nearly night, in order to comfort them-
selves in their by no means very well appointed court-room, and to keep
their vital blood at a temperature at which it would continue to circu-
late, some of the gentlemen of the bar had induced the sheriff to procure
from a neighboring inn a jug of spirits. This, it must be remembered,
was before the invention of temperance societies, and we may not, there-
fore, pass too hasty an opinion upon the propriety of the measure.

" Upon the jug appearing in court, it was passed around the bar
table, and each of the learned counselors in his turn upraised the ele-
gant vessel and decanted into his mouth, by the simplest process im-
aginable, so much as he deemed a sufficient dose of the delicious fluid.
While the operation was going on, the dignitaries on the bench, who
were no doubt suffering quite as much from the chilliness of the
weather as their brethren of the bar, had a little consultation, when
the first judge announced to the audience that the court saw no reason
why they should continue to hold open there any longer and freeze to
death, and desired the crier forthwith to adjourn the court. Before,
however, this functionary could commence with a single ' Hear ye,*
Colonel Colbraith jumped up, catching, as he rose, the jug from the
lawyer who was complimenting its contents, and, holding it up towards
the bench, hastily ejaculated, 'Oh, no, no. Judge j don't adjourn yet!
Take a little gin. Judge, — that will keep you warm ; 'tain't time to
adjourn yet' j and, suiting the action to the word, he handed His
Honor the jug. It appeared that there was force in the sheriff's ad-
vice, for the order to adjourn was revoked and the business went on.

" Judge Staring continued in office until after the erection of Oneida
County, and finally resigned his office shortly after that event. His
death took place after the year 1800, but at what precise period I have
been unable to learn. "g

f From a volume of public papers belonging to Hon. W. J. Bacon.

J Whitestown was then the most considerable town in the territory
now constituting the county of Oneida.

J When Herkimer County was organized, in 1791, Henry Staring
was appointed Fint Judije, and Michael Myers, Hugh White, and
Abraham Hardenburg, Judges and Justices of the Peace; Jededinh
Sanger and Amos Wetmore, of Whitestown, Alexnnder Parkman and
Ephraim Blaekmer, of Westmoreland, and John Bank, Patrick Camp-
bell, and William Veeder, Assistant Justices and Justices of the Peace.
[Jones' Annals.]



According to Mr. Jones, the first Court of Record held
within the present limits of the county was a term of the
Herkimer Common Pleas and General Sessions, at the
meeting-house in the town of Whitcstown (village of New
Hartford), on the third Tuesday in January, 1794. Pres-
ent — Henry Staring, Judge, and Jedediah Sanger and
Amos Wetmore, Justices.* In the list of assistant jus-
tices of the peace found in the minutes of this term, occur
the following names of those living within the present limits
of Oneida County : Hugh White, Judge Sanger, A. Wet-
more, Alex. Parkman, Ephraiin Blaekmer, Moses Foot,
Edward Paine, Seth Phelps, David Ostrom, Needham
Maynard, Elizur Mosely, Samuel Sizer, William Fanning,
Ebenezer Wright, and Jedediah Phelps. Among the con-
stables named are Uriah Seymour, Simeon Pool, and Sam-
uel Ensign, of Whitcstown; Curtiss, Nathan Marsh,
Amos Dutton, Samuel Branch, John Finch, and Ezekiel
Goodrich, of Paris; Joseph Jones, of Westmoreland ; and
Samuel Dickinson, Edward S. Salisbury, Jasper French,
and Benjamin Gifford, of Steuben. Grand Jury — William
Stone, foreman ; Archibald Beach, Jared Chittenden,
Waitstill Dickinson, Matthias Hurlburt, Nehcmiah Pratt,
Abijah Putnam, Nathaniel Gilbert, Alexander Enos, Coon-
rod Edee, Debold Dedriuk, Joseph Jennings, R. Mills,
Matthew Hubbell, Benjamin Ballou, Nathan Seward,
Thomas Jones, Alvin Wheelock, James McNutt, Benjamin
Tisdale, Justin Giifiith, Duty Lapham. William Colbraith,
Sheriff; Jonas Piatt, Clerk. Joseph Strong was admitted
as an attorney and counselor, and took the oath. Eight
men were convicted of assault aud battery, and fined from
sixteen shillings to three pounds each. . . . This term ap-
pears to have been the only one held at New Hartford.
Courts were held at various times at Whitesboro' until the
organization of Oneida County, and in 1802 Wiiitestown
was made a half-shire town with Rome, and so continued
until superseded by Utica, about 1851. "I"

When the county was organized, in March, 1798, the
following persons were commissioned as conservators of the
peace: Judges, Jedediah Sanger, Hugh White, James
Dean, David Ostrom, George Huntington ; Assistant Jus-
tices, Amos Wetmore, Thomas Cassety, Garret Boon,
Adrian Fr. Van der Kemp, Elizur Mosely, Henry McNeil,
Peter Colt, Needham Maynard ; Justices of the Peace,
James S. Kip, James Steel, Matthias Hurlburt, James
Sheldon, Jared Chittenden, Joseph Jennings, Reuben Long,
Ithamar Coe, Jesse Curtiss, Kirtland Griffin, William
Blount, James Kinney, Ephiaim Waldo, Thomas Con-
verse, Joseph Jones, Daniel Chapman, Ebenezer 11. Haw-
ley, Abram Camp, Joshua Hathaway, Jesse Pearce,
Matthew Brown, Jr., David W. Knight, Samuel Sizer,
Ebenezer Weeks, William Olney, Henry Wager, John
Hall, Isaac Alden, Joseph Strickland, Samuel Royce, John
W. Bloomfield, Benj. Wright, Luke Fisher, Jonathan Col-
lins, John Storrs, Pascal C. I. De Angelis, Stephen Moulton,
Abel French, Daniel J. Curtiss, Samuel How, Rozel Fellows,
Rudolph Gillier, Medad Curtiss, John Townsend, Abiel
Lindsley, 6. Camp, Alexander Coventry, Joel Bristol.

« In his history of Whitcstown, Mr. Jones mentions William Feeter
as one of the justices.

t See proceedings of Board of Supervisors.

The first Circuit Court in the county was held on the
second Tuesday of September, 1798, at the school-house
near Fort Stanwix, Hon. John Lansing, Jr., Chief-Justice
of the State, presiding. The first jury in a civil cause at
this term was composed of the following persons : Jotham
Warden, Benjamin Case, Allen Risley, Ithiel Hubbard,
Caleb Smith, Jr., Phineas Kellogg, Andrew Warner,
Comfort Lee, George Stewart, Enoch Higby, Elias Merrill,
and Peter Sloan. There were only five causes upon the
calendar. Circuit Courts were held at Fort Stanwix until
the erection of Whitesboro' into a shire-town, when they
were held alternately at that place. Previous to 1818 only
one term in each year was held.

The first Court of Oyer and Terminer was also held at
the school-house near Fort Stanwix, June 5, 1798, Hon.
James Kent, Justice of the Supreme Court, presiding;
George Huntington, Judge of Common Pleas Court, and
Thomas Cassety and Elizur Moseley, Assistant Justices.
The Grand Jury was composed of the following persons :
Ebenezer Wright, foreman ; Matthew Brown, Jr., John
White, Andrew Clark, Hugh White, Jr., Aaron Roberts,
Ezra Paine, Samuel Wells, Timothy Pond, Michael Frost,
Jesse Woodruff, Ozias Marvin, John E. Howard, Stephen
Eldridge, and -Joshua Wills. Stephen Ford and Thomas
Converse were each fined five dollars for non-attendance.
A single criminal trial took place at this term, — that of
Sylvia Wood, for the murder of her husband.

The first term of the Oneida Common Pleas and General
Sessions of the Peace was held at the same place, on the
third Tuesday of May, 1798. Present, Hon. Jedediah
Sanger, First Judge ; George Huntington and David
Ostrom, Judges. At this term a rule was entered on the
record that any attorney or counselor who had been ad-
mitted to the Common Pleas Courts of Herkimer County
should be admitted to this court upon taking the prescribed
oath. Thomas R. Gold, Joseph Kirkland, Arthur Breese,
Erastus Clark, Joshua Hathaway, Joab Griswold, Nathan
Williams, Francis A. Bloodgood, Jonas Piatt, Rufus
Easton, and Medad Curtiss subscribed the oath and were
admitted to practice.

The names of the grand jury were as follows : Loan
Dewey, of Whitestown, foreman ; Gershom Waldo, John
Barnard, Ebenezer Wright, Jr., Amos Noyce, Cyrus Fellows,
of Rome ; Abraham Ogden, Levi Butterfield, of Floyd ;
Alpheus Wheelock, Jonathan Swan, Reuben Bockwith, of
Western ; Stephen Reed, Jacob T. Smith, of Trenton ;
Gurdon Burchard, Pliilo White, William Smith, of Whites-
town ; Richard Whitney, Josiah Whitney, Stephen Barret,
of Paris; Shadrach Smith, William Fanning, Caleb Willis, of
Deerfield; Josiah Stillman, John Baxter, of Westmoreland.

The following-named persons served as petit jurors:
Matthew Brown, Reuben Merrill, John Hewson, Frederick
Selleck, Abraham Handford, John Bristol, Stephen White,
Asa Knapp, William Walworth, Rufus Barnes, of Rome ;
Ejihraim Bobbins, Timothy Bronson, Josiah WoodruflF,
Stephen Cummings, of Floyd ; Ezekiel Cleveland, Daniel
Spinning, Luther Miller, Richard Salisbury, David Hicks,
John Hawkins, Ichabod Brown, Daniel Eames, of Western ;
Isaac Chamberlain, Joseph Martin, Allen Pierce, Garret
Becker, of Trenton ; Aaron Clark, Arnold Wells, Barnabas



Brooks, Zebediah Tuttle, John Hobby, William Brown, of
Whitestown ; Simon Hubbard, Abiel Simmons, Luther
Richards, Elijah Dresser, Samuel Nickols, Zebediah Plank,
of Paris ; Hazard Shearman, John Weber, Zadock Warren,
George Damewood, John Damewood, John Reeves, of Deer-
field ; Alexander Dorchester, Nathaniel Townsend, Benja-
min Blackman, and Joshua Douglass, of Westmoreland.

At this term a, committee, consisting of Messrs. Gold,
Kirkland, Breese, Clark, Piatt, and Williams, was ap-
pointed to draft, a system of rules for the government of
the court, and at the May term, in 1799, they reported
twenty-two rules, which were adopted.

The first civil cause tried in this court was at the Sep-
tember term, in 1798, at which time Hon. Hugh White
took his seat upon the bench. Hon. James Dean took his
seat at the December term, in 1799.

The county courts, previous to May, 1802, were held at
the school-house near Fort Stanwix. At the December
term of Common Pleas for 1801, C. C. Brodhead, sheriff",
announced that the new jail at Whitestown was completed,
and that the prisoners from Oneida County, who had
been kept in the Herkimer jail, had been removed to the
new one. An order was accordingly entered on the record
that " the next term of the court be held at the school-
house near the jail in Whitestown." The May term was
held in accordance with the above order. Present, — Hon.
Jedediah Sanger, First Judge, David Ostrom, James Dean,
Hugh White, Thomas Hart, and Henry Coffeen, Judges ;
and Amos Wetmore, Needham Maynard, and Joseph Jen-
nings, Assistant Justices. This court was held at Whites-
town during the year 1802, and subsequently, alternately at
Rome and Whitestown. The terms commenced upon the
third Tuesday in May, first Tuesday in September, and last
Tuesday in December.

By an act of Legislature, passed April 2, 1806, the
board of supervisors was authorized to raise |4000 for the
purpose of erecting two court-houses, one at Rome and
one at Whitesboro', and they were soon afterwards erected.
The justices of the Supreme Court, by an act passed April 21,
1818, were authorized to hold terms of the Circuit Courts
and Courts of Oyer and Terminer between the regular
terms of August and January, at such places in the county
as they should deem proper ; and it would appear that they
were held at Rome, Whitestown, and Utica, the academy
building at Utica being used for the purpose.

On the 4th of February, 1836, " An act relative to the
county jails, county courts, and courts of oyer and termi-
ner in the county of Oneida" was passed by the Legis-
lature, under which Squire Utley, Daniel Twitchell, S.
Germond Mott, Fortune C. White, William T. Gregg,
Allanson Bennett, and Noah E. King were appointed com-
missioners to erect two new jails in the county, and fix the
location. One to be erected at Rome, the other at Whites-
town, '' unless the said jail shall be located at Utica ;" based
upon the conditions that the citizens should furnish a
suitable lot free of expense to the county, and keep the
rooms in the academy in good condition for the use of the
courts " as long as the county shall choose to use them."
The jail at Whitestown was to be occupied until the new
one was built.

''In case ODe of the said new jails shall be located at Utica, the
county courts now required by law to be held at Whitestown shall,
from and after the time of filing such certificate in relation to the
jail last mentioned, as is provided for in the eighth section of this
act, be held at the court-room in the building called the Academy, in

Under the provisions of this act, Utica became the demi-
capital of the county.*

sureogate's court.

These officers, under the first constitation, were appointed
for an unlimited period by the Council of Appointment, and
an appeal lay from their decisions to the Judge of the
Court of Probates of the State. Under the second con-
stitution they were appointed by the Governor and Senate
for four years, and appeals lay from their decisions to the

The constitution of 1846 abolished the office of surro-
gate, except in counties where the population exceeds 40,000,
and devolved its duties on the county judge. In counties ex-
ceeding in population 40,000 the Legislature may authorize
the election of surrogates. They are elected for a term of
four years (except in New York County, where the term is
three years), and are allowed to take the acknowledgment of
deeds and administer oaths in the same manner as county
judges. The date of the first appointment to this office in
Oneida County was March 19, 1798, four days after the
organization of the county. The office at present is located
in Rome. The tribunals which exercise legal jurisdiction
in Oneida County and the constitution of the various courts
are as follows :


Chief-Justice, Morrison R. Waite, Ohio ; Associates,
Ward Hunt, Utica, N. Y. ; William Strong, Philadelphia,
Pa. ; Nathan Clifford, Portland, Maine ; Noah H. Swayne,
Columbus, Ohio ; Joseph P. Bradley, Newark, N. J. ;
John M. Harlan, Louisville, Ky. ; Samuel F. Miller,
Keokuk, Iowa ; Stephen J. Field, California ; Daniel W.
Middleton, Clerk; William T. Otto, Indiana, Reporter;
John G. Nicolay, Illinois, Marshal. The court holds one
general term annually at Washington, D. C, commencing
on the first Monday in December.


Hon. Ward Hunt, Utica; Hon. Samuel Blatchford,
New York, and Hon. Wm. J. Wallace, Syracuse, Judges ;
Hon. Charles Mason, Utica, Clerk ; William L. Bonney,
Utica, Deputy Clerk ; Hon. Richard Crowley, Lockport,
N. Y., United States District Attorney ; Clinton D. Mc-
Dougall, Rochester, United States Marshal ; Thomas Hig-
gison, Utica, Deputy United States Marshal. Terms:
third Tuesday in January, at Albany ; third Tuesday in
March, at Utica; third Tuesday in June, at Canandaigua ;
second Tuesday in October, at Albany.


Hon. William J. Wallace, Syracuse, Judge; Hon. Rich-
ard Crowley, Lockport, United States District Attorney ;

I See proceedings of Board of Supervisors.



Charles B. McDougal, Rochester, Marshal ; Wiiifield Rob-
bins, Buffalo, Clerk. Terms: third Tuesday in January,
at Albany ; third Tuesday in March, at Utica ; second
Tuesday in May, at Rochester; third Tuesday in August,
at Buffalo; third Tuesday in November, at Auburn; and
a special term, by appointment, at Oswego, Plattsbuvg, or


Sanford B. Church, Chief Judge, Albion ; William F.
Allen, Associate Judge, Odwego ; Charles A. Rapallo, As-
sociate Judge, New York ; Charles Andrews, Associate
Judge, Syracuse; Charles J. Folger, Associate Judge,
Geneva ; Theodore Miller, Associate Judge, Hudson ;
Robert Earl, Associate Judge, Herkimer; Edwin 0. Pcr-
rin. Clerk, Jamaica.


General terms for the Fourth department consisting of
the Fifth, Seventh, and Eighth judicial districts. Joseph
MuUin, Presiding Justice ; John L. Talcott and James C.
Smith, Associate Justices. Terms in Oneida County :
second Tuesday in April, Utica ; third Tuesday in August,
Uticii; last Tuesday in October, Rome.


Terms held in Oneida County : second Monday in Janu-
ary, at Utica ; third Blonday in IMarch, at Rome ; second
Monday in May, at Utica; second Monday in December,
at Rome. Judges: Joseph Mullin, Watertown; George
A. Hardin, Little Falls ; Milton H. Merwin, Utica ; James
Noxon, Syracuse.


William B. Bliss, Judge; Robert 0. Jones, Special
Judge. Regular terms : third Monday in February, at
Rome; second Monday in June, at Utica ; third Monday
in September, at Rome ; second Monday in December, at

surrogate's court.

Stephen Van Dresar, Surrogate, Rome ; Elliott S. Wil-
liams, Special Surrogate, Clinton. Terms : first Tuesday
of every month, at Rome. Utica office at Baggs' Hotel.

THE justices OP THE PEACE.

In the several towns, and the cities of Utica and Rome.


The Legislature of the county dates back, in its origin, to
an act of the Colonial Assembly of New York, passed in
April, 1691. This act provided that the freeholders should
elect, in their respective towns, two assessors and one super-
visor ; the form;:r to establish rates and make out assess-
ment lists which were to be delivered to the supervisors,
who took them to the general meeting, which body ordered
the taxes to be collected by the constables or collectors of
the several towns.

The Board of Supervisors, as a body, elected a county
treasurer, who received and disbursed the county's funds.

The act of 1691 was repealed Oct. 18, 1701, and courts of
general and special sessions, held by justices of the peace,
were created to make the necessary levy of taxes, and were
also constituted an auditing board, who certified their ac-
counts to two assessoi-s and a collector in each town for
collection pro rata. This court also appointed the county

The supervisor system was restored by an act passed Juno
10, 170H, and the courts of sessions were relieved from the
care of the financial concerns of the county. The power
to appoint the county treasurer was also again vested in the
Board of Supervisors. They were required to meet annu-
ally at the county town, on the first Tuesday in October,
and at such other times as they might deem necessary.
The supervisor system has been continued under the
various constitutions to the present time. It is undoubtedly
of Dutch origin.

It has been an unfortunate thing for the county of Oneida
that it has had, since 1802, more than one shire town. In
that year Whitestown was made, in conjunction with Rome,
a half-shire town, which it continued to be until superseded
by Utica in 1851. Rome was the original county-seat.
In 1802 to 1851 the sessions of the board of supervisors
were held alternately at that place and Whitesboro'. The
clerk of the board was usually a lawyer, or some person
who had very little convenience for keeping the records
and papers, which were constantly accumulating, and which
became such a burden that the matter was seriously consid-
ered as to what disposal should be made of them. They
were finally disposed of by a resolution of the board di-
recting that all, except the original reports of committees,
•should be destroyed, and the resolution was no doubt carried
into execution.

The existing records do not go back farther than to 1824,
and the published ones only to 1845. From the date of
the organization of the county in -1798 down to 1871, the
board had no room of their own in which to hold meetings.
Their ordinary course was to meet at the court-house in
Rome, Whitestown, or Utica, as the case might be, organize,
and adjourn to some hotel.

Online LibrarySamuel W DurantHistory of Oneida County, New York : with illustrations and biographical sketches of some of its prominent men and pioneers → online text (page 46 of 192)