William Henry Perrin.

History of Jefferson County, Illinois online

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neers of Jefferson County, and whose sketch
of Mount Vernon forms several interesting
chapters of this volume.

Among other pioneer families of the coun-
ty who will receive adequate mention as we
proceed with oui- work, we may note the
following who came in a few years after the
organization of the county: The Hickses,
the Wilkersons, the Jordan family, Overton
Harlow, the Baldridges, Fleming Greenwood,
Thomas D. Minor, the Maxwells, Mathew
Cunningham, and a number of others.

We have now given in this and in the
chapter on the early settlement a record of
some of the pioneer families. The sketches
as they appear in this book are drawn by
those who never saw the originals, and who
can know of them only by much talking
with those who did know them long and
well, and while they were here and playing
their part in life, and from the brief sketches
that have hitherto been written of them.
To pick out the representative peojale of all
the different classes of a community and
draw a true representation of them — so true
that any reader can gather an actual person-
al acquaintance with those who were, per-
haps, dead before he was bora, is no easy
task, yet one, if done well and truly, will
give him a just and correct idea of those
about whom he is studying history for the
purpose of learning. For a certain quality
of society will produca a certain kind of men
or a certain kind of character — a leading
character, with strong marks and signs, that
arrests attention and fixes upon him the duty
of furnishing posterity the key to the whole
mass of his fellow-men who were his neigh-
bors and cotemporaries.

The sketches, as we have said, ai-e not
drawn by those who personally knew the


A4. M'-iYc^



,/o'f aoHO)S



original. This is best, for then thons ia less
danger of prejudices, either for or against
the subject that constitutes the picture, and
false colors are not liable to slip in. There
is less incentive (there should be none) to
suppress here and overdraw there; in short,
less of prejudice, and consequently more of
truth. But men who write are affected by
much the same prejudices of color of vision
in viewing transactions of which they
formed a part, as other men, and for this rea-
son, history is written by strangers or the
sons and dausrhters of strangers, who live in
the long years and ages after the actors and
their immediate descendants have passed

So far, we have attempted to give the
names and settlement, as already stated, of
the first actual settlors of the county, together
with some of the old and prominent and
numerous families who came here over half

a century ago. These notices and sketches
have been necessarily brief. Many of those
already mentioned will receive further no-
tice in connection with works upon which
they were actively engaged, and with sub-
jects wherein they bore important parts. In
the chapters devoted to the history of the
different townships, many other pioneers
hitherto unnoticed will be written up and
receive full justice according to their merits.
That their works are confined to divisions so
small as townships does not imply that they
are of no moment or interest. Men, at
most, are but as coral, feeble, insignificant,
working out of sight, but they transmit some
occult quality o- power, upheave society un-
til, from the moral and intellectual plateau,
rises, as Saul above his fellows, a Shakes
peare, a Phidias or a Hamilton, the royal in-
terpreters of the finest sense in poetry, in
art and statesmanship.







"The ethics of the bar comprehends the duties
of each of its members to himself."

TO write a history of the bench and bar
of this or any other place is to write the
history of that department which absolutely
guarantees the freedom and safety of our
government. The perpetuity of our liberties
depends more upon an honest and intelligent
judiciary than upon anything else, and to ac-

*By George M. Haynea, Esq.

complish the noble purposes for which it is
created it must be supported by an honest
and intelligent bar. It is by the courts of
the land and the powers in them vested that
criminals are apprehended and punished; it
is through them that all wrongs are re-
dressed; it is by them that the wrongly im-
prisoned are given th(>ir liberty; it is through
them that the minister is permitted to occupy
his pulpit. In fact, our government could




not exist without its judiciary. It is the "jew-
el that from the cluster riven woiild leave
all a dark and hopeless chaos." Localizing,
we can say that Mount Vernon and Jefferson
County may well be termed the seat of jus-
tice and the home of Judges. Since 1848,
the Supreme Court has been located here,
during which time the State has spent large
sums of money in a building and its equip-
ment. The library here is the largest and
most valuable in the State. There is noth-
ing written upon the law that has passed to
the dignity of authority that may not be
found here, and few finer collections can be
found in the United States. Perhaps few
towns of its size can boast of more Judges
taken from its bar than can Mount Vernon.
So marked has this been that it has almost
became a proverb to say " Mount Vernon, the
home of Judges." Although the county
had been organized for fifteen years before
we had a resident lawyer, the bar here has
ever since stood high in line with the pro-
fession of the State. Since 1864, the Mount
Vernon bar has been represented upon the
bench. In that year, the Hon. James M.
Pollock was elected from this county. He
was succeeded by Tanner, and he by Casey,
the present incumbent. Mount Vernon has,
since the county's organization, furnished
Baugh and Scales, in addition to those of
later date already mentioned.

Supreme Court. — Under the Constitution
of 1848, the State was divided into three
grand divisions, the people in each division
electing one Judge of the Supreme Court.
The divisions were known as the First, Sec-
ond and Third: this county was placed in
the First, and after a strong and bitter strug-
gle. Mount Vernon was selected as the seat
of the court for the First Grand Division,
which, through biennial tights, she has con-
tinued to retain until the present.

The first term of the court held in this
place convened in December, 1848, with
Samuel H. Treat, Chief Justice, and J. D.
Caton and Lyman Trumbull, Associates;
Finny D. Preston, Clerk. There were sev-
enteen cases on the docket. The first case
WHS Meridith Hawkins vs. Silas N. Berry,
error to Franklin. Jefferson County fur-
nished one case, William B. Thorn against
Joel F. AVatson, administrator of the estate
of James Ham. Thorn had a claim against
the estate which Watson thought had been
filed too late, and consequently barred by the
statutes. Watson defeated him in the lower
courts and Thorn took it up and was again
beaten. The second term convened in No-
vember, 1849, with twenty-three cases, one
from this county. Governor, etc., vs. E. H.
Ridgway et al., Eidgway being successful.
The court remained the same until November,
1853, when Trumbull resigneil and Scates
was made his successor.

In November, 1854, Preston resigned as
Clerk and Maj. Noah Johnston was ap-
pointed by the court to succeed him In
1855. Treat resigned and O. C. Skinner was
elected in his stead, and Scates became Chief

In 1857, J. D. Caton became Chief Jus-
tice; Scates resigned and Sidney Breeze was
elected, and as such he continued until his

In 1857, Skinner resigned and Pinkney
H. Walker was elected, since which time he
has been regularly re-elected, and is at^pres-
ent one of the Judges. In January, 1864,
Caton resigned, and Corydon Beckwith was
appointed and served until June of the same
year, when Charles B. Lawrence was elected.
By the constitution of 1870, the judicial de
partment of the State was reconstructed, th-
three Grand Divisions retained, but tht^
Court increased to seven Judges, instead of




thref. The State was divided into seven
districts and one Judge elected from eacti
district. After the election under this sys-
tem, the court consisted of Lawrence, Walk
er, Breeze, Thornton, Seates, Sheldon and
McAllister, and it is no reflection to say that
at no time since the organisation of the
court was it ever stronger. Its opinions were
cited and recognized during this period as
of the first of American authorities. In 1873,
Alfred M. Craig succeeded Judge Lawrence
and John Schotield went on in the place of
Thornton. In December, 1875, T. Lyle
Dickey succeeded McAllister, who resigned.

June 28, 1878, Judge Breeze died and
David J. Baker was appointed to succeed
him by the Governor, and on the 2d of June,
1879, John H. Mulkey was elected to succeed
Baker, since which time there has been no
change, leaving the court now consisting of
Sheldon, Schotield, Craig, Dickey, Walker,
Scott and Mulkey. June 3, 1867. R. A. D.
Wilbanks was elected Clerk, succeeding Maj.
Johnston, and so continued until November,
1878, when he was in turn succeeded by J.
O. Chance, the present incumbent. From
1848 until November, 1853, the court met in
the old Odd Fellows Hall on Main street, pay-
ing an annual rent of $75. From November,
1853, until the court house was completed in
about 1856, it met in the Masonic Hall, over
Joel Pace's store, at the same rent paid the
Odd Fellows. •

In 1854, an appropriation was obtained
from the Legislature of §0,000 for the build-
ing of a court house. T. B. Tanner, Maj.
Johnston, Zadok Casey, William J. Stephens
and Dr. John N. Johnson were appointed
Commissioners to take charge of the build-
ing and superintend its construction. Plans
were obtained, and it was found that the
fund was iusuflBcient, but finally parties in
St. Louis were found who contracted to in-

close it for the money, which was done, and
in 1854, T. B. Tanner, who had been elected
a member of the Legislature, obtained an
additional appropriation of $10,000, with
which the building was completed accordintr
to the original design. In 1874, an addi-
tional appropriation was obtained for the
purpose of remodeling the building, and
the nor^h and south wings were added, and
the building left in its present condition,
an oi-nament to the county and a credit to
the State.

Judge Sidney Breeze. — Illinois has pro-
duced some very great men — men whom all
the world has been proud to honor— men
who will go down in the national history,
yes, in the history of the world, as truly
gre<it. In wai', the Illinois' soldiers are said to
be the gi-eatest now living; in State-craft we
sent Douglas and Lincoln-men prominent
in statesmanship, men to whom the world's
history must accord befitting space. But,
great as they are, none have been greater in
their particular line than has Judge Breeze in
his — a jurist quoted in every civilized coun-
try, logical, analytical, just and blunt, se-
vere, yet impartial. Judge Breeze was born
in New York on the 15th day of July, 1800
— born at the beginning of the most brill-
iant century the world ever saw — born fitted
and destined to bear a most prominent part
in the many overshadowing achievements of
the world's history. He received a classical
education at Union College, New York, and
at a very early age started with the star of
empire westward. The year 1818 found
Judge Breeze at Illinois' first capital, Kas-
kaskia, as Assistant Secretary of State to
Elias Kent Kam — his old friend. During
this employment, the State capital was re-
moved to Yandalia. The responsibilty of
removing the Secretary's office was left to
Judge Breeze; he accomplished the task with



a yoke of oxen and the old two-wheeled cart,
and thus were the great State documents re-
moved from the old to the new capital.

In 1822, he was appointed State's Attorney;
in 1827, he was made United States DiMtrict
Attorney for Illinois by President John Q.
Adams. In 1831, he published Breeze's
Reports, to be found in every well-appointed
law library, and the first book ever published
in Illinois. In 1835, he first went ujion the
bench as Judge of the Second Judicial Cir-
cuit. In 1842, he was elected to the United
State Senate and served as such for six years.
His career in the Senate was not barren of
results. Then Clay, Webster, Benton and
Calhoun were there. In the forum c>r in the
committee. Senator Breeze ranked with those

While his mind, perhaps, was not em-
ployed in the more active and exciting ele-
ments of politics and State craft, yet he was
never idle, his giant intellect reached out
into the great unknown future; he read its
hidden pages; he saw the future wants of
this then young republic; he saw a few years
in the distance the great chains of iron that
were to bind this continent into indissoluble
union; he saw the rapid strides of commerce;
he realized its demands. He saw that in the
great and rich valleys and prairies of the
West was to spring the attributes of prosper-
ity and wealth to this Government. He
saw the great agricultural districts bending
beneath the rich harvests, asking for trans-
portation. 'Twas then his practical sagacity
and comprehensive mind discovered and
brought for the first time to the light of the
nation the necessity of railroad connection
between the Pacific and the Atlantic. He
availed himself of his opportunity as Chair-
man of the Committee on Public Lands in
the United States Senate in 1840, elaborated
in detail and brought in the first report ever

made, advocating and anticipating the con-
struction of the Pacific Railroad twenty-three
years in advance of its commencement. His
friends were incredulous; his enemies
thought, for the time, at least, that he had,
by his own blunder, succeeded in throwing
ridicule on himself. But no; he only lived
as many great men before his time.

It has so happened that no man has left to
his age or his country a more enduring mon-
ument by which he is to be known to poster-
ity. This one act, had he done no other,
would hand him down in history as long as
the whistle of the engine and the rumbling
of the cars are heard ujion oiu" great plains.
But this was not all that Judge Breeze did
in the Senate. He was a continual worker
for the development of his adopted State and
the resources of the nation, but to write of
his activities and public services while in the
Senate would of itself make a volume. The
building of the Illinois Central Railroad was
under consideration while he was in the Sen-
ate, and in Judge Breeze that enterprise
found a strong and valuable champion.

He was defeated in 1848 for reelection to
the Senate by the hero of Cerro Gordo, Gen.
Shields, who had just returned from the
Mexican war, covered all over with glory.
The military sentiment ran riot, as it has
many times before and since, and a greai
mind was forced to retire for the advance-
ment of one who, while brilliant and brave
on the field, yet had no qualification to rep-
resent the rising State of Illinois in the na-
tion's councils. And again we have illustrated
the senitmeut, "Put a man on a charger, call
him a warrior, and the American people are
ready to blindly follow him they know not
whither, neither do they care; so long as the
shouts of the ' General ' are heard they go."
A few military gentlemen have been called
to the White House from the same senti-




ment, and the experiment has in almost every
instance shown the folly of such a selection.
The better the soldier, the poorer the states-
man. But we are digressing. After his
retirement from the Senate, Judge Breeze
remained in private life until 1850, when he
was elected to the Seventh General Assem-
bly, of which he was elected Speaker of the
Lower House, defeating Gov. Z. Casey of
this county. In June, 1855, he was again
elected Judge of the Second Judicial Circuit,
and from this time it may be said he began
that course of life which has handed him
down as the greatest jurist this State has
ever produced, and the peer of any in the
nation. This marked his final retirement
from politics, not, perhaps, from his own
inclination, for he early evinced a strong
desire for political preferment, and for years
cherished his political aspirations, but his
defeat by Shields so mortified him that he
never afterward pressed his claims or wishes.
In 1857, he resigned the Circuit Judgeship
to accept a seat upon the Supreme Bench,
nevermore to leave it until the final sum-
mons, and it is as such that he achieved his
highest honors. He was upon the Supreme
Bench in 1841, when he was elected to the
State Senate. He died June 28, 1878, a
member of the court. We know of no more
fitting words by which his judicial life may
be reviewed than the remarks of Mr. Justice
Scott, of the Supreme Court, at Ottawa,
upon the presentation of resolutions an-
nouncing Judge Breeze's death. He says:
" Judge Breeze was a man of gi'eat learn-
ing in the best and broadest sense of that
term. To the studies prescribed by the col-
ege of which he was graduate, he added a
life-time of study. Notwithstanding his
constant employment in public life, he found
time for the study of classic literature, both
in Latin and in English. After the close of

the labors of the day, extending to a late
hour of the evening, I have often known
him, in his private room, before retiring, to
spend hours in reading standard works on
literatm*e or scientific subjects. It was his
constant habit. It is a marvel the amount
of intellectual labors he could endure. What
relates to his personal history will soon fade
from the recollections of the living and be
forever forgotten. He will only be remem-
bered by his public works.

" In two particulars Judge Breeze will stand
out prominent in history. First, in his
character as a statesman, and second as a

^ 9ft" T^t ^Jt t|c fl|c 9jr ^ 5fc ifr ^ ■3^t

" Few men have influenced in so large a
measure the jurisprudence of this State or
nation in which they lived as^Judge Breeze.
Every one, to some extent, creates the oppor-
tunities for success in life. The means he
possessed were within the reach of others,
had they possessed the ability to combine
them. Genius makes opportunities as well
as employs those at hand for successful i
achievements. We call men great only in
comparison with othei's. and hence we are al-
ways looking to see what others have done
in the same field of labor. When the real
does not exist we may conceive the ideal, and
institute comparisons. As no one appears
anywhere in judicial history who conforms
exactly to the ideal of the true Judge, it is
no easy task to express the conception of such
a character. Some few of the essential qual-
ities readily suggest themselves. * * *
While we may not expect to find in him
whose character we are considering, nor in
that of any other Judge of the present or past
ages, all that we might conceive to belong to
the ideal Judge, yet some of the grand es-
sentials do appear in his character. Although
making no parade of it, he possessed in a



full measure that absolute incorruptibility
that insures purity in the administration of
the law — qualities which belong to the true
Judge. His judgments were always dis-
tinctly marked with impartiality and even-
handed justice. He believed in those fun-
damental principles embodied in our organic
law — that every person ought ' to obtain by
law right and justice freely and without be-
ing obliged to purchase it,' and that he
ought to ' find a certain remedy in the laws
for all injuries and wrongs which he may
receive in his person, property or reputation.'

"He had not that degree of self-conlideuce
possessed by many, yet he was free from
that hesitancy that so embarrasses many
Judges, as to destroy, in a marked degree,
their efficiency. Although he wrote with un-
usual facility, fet so careful was he in pre-
paring his opinions, I have known him when
he deemed the case of importance, to write
the same over as many as three or four times.

" His style was singularly perspicuous — as
specimens of line writing, it is my judgment
that his opinions will suffer nothing in com-
parison with the best, the most distinguished
jurists of this country and of England.

"In clearness of expression and splendor of
diction, they are fashioned after the best

" Chief Justice Marshal was on the bench
for a period of thirty-fom- years. His opin-
ions, with the other members of the court,
are comprised in thirty vohimes, exclusive of
his decisions on the circuit, many of which
were written and published. Judge Breeze
was a member of our Supremo Court not
quite twenty-three years, and yet his opin-
ions, with those of the other Justices, compose
seventy volimies, including the opinions now
in manuscript. Some idea of the magnitude
of his labors may be obtained when it is
stated as the truth, he did his full share of

the work, aad that for the grea'^er portion of
the time he was on the bench the court was
composed of three Justices.

" If wo except one of his associates still on
the bench, he has, perhaps, written more
opinions than any Judge who ever occupied
the bench in any of the American States.
The exception, if any, is Chancellor Kent,
and it is, perhaps, quite correct to say that

so many opinions do not appear to his name.

*** *********

" There is scarcely a question that concerns
the public welfare or the jurisprudence of
this great State upon which he has not writ-
ten, and almost always with great clearness
and accuracy.

" More enduring than a monument of solid
granite are the official reports of the State to
his learning and ability as a jurist. laclud-
ing the opinions now in manuscript, in
which he participated, we will have eighty
more volumes of reports, with every one of
which his name is connected, either as a re
porter, counsel or as a Justice delivering the

"The questions discussed in the sixty years
he was in some way connected with the
court are of the utmost importance, and are
such as would naturally be expected to arise
in that formative period of a rapidly grow-
ing State, and especially in one that has so
suddenly risen to the proportions of an em-
pire in itself.

" He rests from his labors, but how truly
can it be said of him his works do follow
him. His fame as a judicial wi'iter will en-
dure as long as the common law is adminis-
tered anywhere among the nations of the
earth; and the beneficent princples his learn-
ing and ability assisted to maintain will aid
in establishing right and justice in behalf
of the humblest as well as the most exalted



of our race, so long as our civilization shall

He was a jurist of clear and keen per
ceptions, surpassed by none and equaled by
few. In polities, Judge Breeze in early life
was a Whig. He was a bitter opponent of
Andrew Jackson, and never lost an opportu-
nity to strike. He afterward took a different
view and became a zealous Democrat, and
as such he died.

It is impossible for the writer hereof to
paint with pen the true character of this
man He was too great for any but great
men to write. He was at times cross and
sensitive, at times kind and pleasant; when
he felt like it, he was one of the most com-
panionable men, well versed in literature,
always entertaining in conversation. His
knowledge of Illinois and the men and par-
ties of the State was, perhaps, superior to
that of any other man. and it is to be re-
gretted that he did not find time from his
labors to put his recollections in history. He
made Hon. Melville W. Fuller his literary ex-
ecutor, and among his effects it is hoped
that much valuable manuscript may be

He was extremely sensitive about his age,
and seldom permitted an inquiry upon that
subject. Upon one occasion a few years
before his death, when asked by an old citi-

Online LibraryWilliam Henry PerrinHistory of Jefferson County, Illinois → online text (page 19 of 76)