ALTHOUGH as a distinct county our records are recent, the early history of our bench and bar takes us back to judicial systems very different from those with which we are now familiar, and very similar to those of England. For the British governors, after the peace of Westminster, introduced such of the courts of the mother country from time to time as seemed adapted to the new colonies; and although our constitution of 1777 abolished such as were hostile to the democratic sentiments of the new era, it preserved with considerable entirety the legal fictions and the judicial systems of its inheritance. It was thus that our new country found in existence such courts as the Common Pleas, Chancery, Court of Probate, Court for the Trial of Impeachments and the Correction of Errors, and others long since abolished, or merged in those of the present day. The old Court of Assizes, and Court of Oyer and Terminer had already passed away, and the federal constitution had taken from the State the Court of Admiralty; but most of those mentioned above still attested our early relations with the complex systems of England.
The following brief history of the courts of our State, at the time when Cortland county was formed, is made necessary by the relations which some of the leading members of our bar have sustained to those tribunals.
During the exciting times succeeding the administration of the tyrannical Governor Andros, and just after the execution of Leisler and the arrival of Governor Sloughter, and while the new charter of liberties was agitating our colony, the Court for the Correction of Errors and Appeals was established. It consisted of the governor and council, its powers resembling our present court of final resort. The revolution necessitated a change, which gave rise to the Court for the Trial of Impeachments and the Correction of Errors, which was still in existence when our county was organized. The constitution of 1846, which made so many changes in our judicial systems, entirely remodeled this court. It divided it, in fact, creating the Court of Appeals in place of the Court for the Correction of Errors, and leaving the Court for the Trial of Impeachments still composed of the Senate and its president, together with the judges of the new court. The convention of 1867-68 reorganized the Court of Appeals, and in 1869 the people ratified the change, which resulted in the present court of final resort.
On account of the great mass of accumulated business, a Commission of Appeals was created in 1870, continuing until 1875, possessing powers very similar to those of its sister court, and designed to relieve the latter. With it, one of our early bar, Judge Gray, was connected as a prominent member.
The Supreme Court, as it now exists, is a combination of very diverse elements. The Court of Chancery, the Court of Exchequer, the Court of Oyer and Terminer, the Probate Court, the Circuit Court and the Supreme Court proper, have all combined to make up this important branch of our system. But during our early county history several of these courts existed independently of each other, some of our early lawyers being amongst their leading members. The Court of Chancery, which had been organized when the Court of Assizes was abolished in 1683, was the beginning of the equity branch of our present Supreme Court. It was reorganized shortly after the Revolution and, with some slight modifications by our constitution of 1821, and by subsequent enactments, it continued until 1846, when it merged into the new Supreme Court. Its descendant is our Special Term, the presiding judge representing the vice-chancellor, the duties of chancellor being filled by the General Term bench. The Court of Exchequer, having been erected in 1685, was made a branch of the old Supreme Court just after the Revolution, and so continued until finally abolished in 1830. In our earliest colonial history there had been a Court of Oyer and Terminer, but it was discontinued during the time of King William, its name, however, surviving to designate the criminal part of the Circuit. This brings us to the old Supreme and Circuit Courts with which the Court of Chancery united under the constitution of 1846 to complete the principal branch of our present system. At the time the history of Cortland county began the Supreme Court of this State consisted of five justices. It had been the practice to hold four terms a year, two in Albany and two in New York. But towards the close of the last century the Circuit system was established, somewhat on the plan of that of England. It was enacted that the judges should, during their vacations, hold courts in the various counties of the State, and return the proceedings to the Supreme Court when it convened again, when they should be recorded and judgment rendered. Just before the separation of Cortland county from Onondaga this system was simplified by the division of the State into four districts. To each of these districts was assigned a judge, whose duty it was to hold Circuits in each of the counties therein, at least once in each year. It had already been enacted that the Courts of Oyer and Terminer (the criminal part of the present Supreme Court) should be held at the same time and place as the Circuit, and should consist of the Circuit judge, assisted by two or more of the judges of the Court of Common Pleas of the county. This Circuit system was very similar to the present, except that our Special Terms are substituted in place of the Court of Chancery. After the constitution of 1821 the State was divided, as at present, into eight judicial districts, each being provided with a Circuit judge, in whom were vested certain equity powers, subject to appeal to the Chancery; while the Supreme Court proper held much the same position as our present General Term. In 1846 the new constitution abolished the Court of Chancery, giving the powers theretofore held by it to the Supreme Court, which it reorganized substantially as it exists to-day. Such is the history of the higher courts of this county and State.
The system of local judicature has also changed to correspond with that of the State at large. The Court of Common Pleas, organized contemporaneously with the colonial Court for the Correction of Errors and Appeals, has given way to the County Court; while the offices of county judge and surrogate have been combines where the county population does not exceed forty thousand. During the eighteenth century the Court of Common Pleas consisted of a first judge assisted by two or more associates, all of whom were appointed by the governor. Its powers were very similar to those of the present County Court, the associate judges corresponding to the justices of sessions on our present criminal bench. The constitution of 1846 abolished the Court of Common Pleas, and created the County Court and Court of Sessions as they exist to-day. A list of the first judges of the Court of Common Pleas and of the County Court appears in another place in this work, together with those of the surrogates and district attorneys of this county.
The Surrogate's Court has changed less than any of the others during the period covered by the history of this county. In the earliest times, even before the Dutch supremacy gave way to the English, there had been a short-lived Orphan Court. Then the English government introduced the Prerogative Court, which, in turn, gave way to the Court of Probates after the Revolution. Surrogates were then appointed in each county, having much the same powers as at present, from whose judgments appeals to the Court of Probates lay. This was the system in operation during the first fifteen years of our county history. In 1823 the Court of Chancery took the place of the Court of Probates, as to appeals, but the office of surrogate remained as before. This continued until the constitution of 1846, when, in this county, amongst others, the powers and duties of the surrogate were vested in the county judge, as at present.
Our Justice's Courts and Courts of Special Sessions have remained substantially unchanged since the colonial period, and require no extended history.
As of interest in connection with our judicial system, the office of district attorney may be mentioned as one which has undergone considerable modification. Before our county was organized, the State had been divided into seven districts for each of which was an assistant attorney-general, whose duties were very similar to those of our public prosecutors to-day. Indeed, the name now given to that officer arises from the fact that he was formerly the district attorney-general. The present office, as distinct from the attorney-generalship, was created just before our county organization, the number of districts being finally increased to thirteen. At first Cortland county was in the ninth district with Cayuga, Chenango, Madison and Onondaga, until 1817, when, for a year, it was in the thirteenth, with Broome, Seneca and Tompkins counties. Since 1818 each county has had its own district attorney, the name still being preserved in its original form. The list herein of those who have held this office dates from that year.
The offices of county judge, district attorney and first judge of the Court of Common Pleas have, with one or two exceptions, been filled by attorneys at law. Not so with that of surrogate, however, for in the early history of the county, and until the great changes of 1846, it was the rule that laymen should fill that office, as well as those of county clerk, sheriff and others of lesser rank; it should also be mentioned that for some time after the constitution of 1846, so great was the amount of law business in this vicinity, that general terms of the Supreme Court were held at Cortland; an honor which has not been ours, however, since the last war. Such has been the history of the courts of Cortland county; a development of a practical, complete system from the unnecessary, antiquated methods inherited from Great Britain.
Our county organization was scarcely complete until the year 1810, when, against much opposition, the county seat was located at Cortland. Homer and Port Watson, the latter being then the chief commercial point in this section, had both aspired to that honor, as elsewhere detailed in these pages. But the energy of Jonathan Hubbard and a few others decided the matter, and what was thereafter known as Court-House Hill was selected as the site for the county buildings. The court-house was completed three years thereafter, and with the jail adjoining, was used for a quarter of a century, a period of great legal interest, as will be seen as we proceed. In 1838 the Supervisors, unwisely enough, selected the present site, and erected the edifices now in use. It may be interesting to know that when they took the warranty deed of the present court-house lot from John J. Speed, in 1837, Speed deeded to them twice as much land as he had title to, and described it in such a way that by no possibility can the boundaries be ascertained, even were the title perfect.
The history of the bar of Cortland county presents the names of men whose reputation has not been confined to this section, nor to this State alone; names, however, mingled with the naturally large number of those whose only records are their scrawling signatures in the county archives. There is, in the clerk's office, a very interesting document which acts as an admirable guide in research relative to the early bar of the county. It consists of a musty roll of yellow, ragged paper, much the worse for dust and vermin, the sheets being fastened together by wafers, like some ancient chronicle. It has a veritably antique appearance, despite the fact that it is only three-quarters of a century old. It is interesting because it contains the official oaths of all of the attorneys of our Court of Common Pleas from the spring of 1808, down through the next forty years. Some thirty-five feet of this roll contain in the neighborhood of a hundred and fifty names, all but about a dozen long ago forgotten. Among the first eighteen signatures is that of Townsend Ross, a man of considerable prominence in his time, both in legal affairs and in the other walks of civil life. He was one of the assistant judges of Common Pleas for a time, as well as surrogate for some years, besides which his name appears in many other capacities in the early records. The name of the afterwards prominent Victory Birdseye also appears among the early ones. He, although a resident of Pompey, was for some time intimately connected with our courts as a prominent practitioner, and his eminent success in later life is well known by many now living in the county, his record as a member of the Constitutional Convention in 1821, of two Congresses, of several sessions of the Assembly and of the Senate, being of the highest character.
In old fashioned English script, opposite the date, "October 18, 1809," is the name of Glen Cuyler, the same who had already been surrogate of Cayuga several years, and was to be several years to come. His descendants are still well known in this vicinity, among his grandchildren being the late Mrs. R. H. Duell.
Although he was not an active practitioner, we find the name of Roswell Randall in the list, signed in a style the exact model of the penmanship of his son, sworn to in 1814, before Mead Merrill, a man likewise widely known in his day. Mr. Randall was a very active man, and one of the most public spirited citizens of that time. There is still preserved in the clerk's office, in a tattered condition, an old roll of official oaths, covering a period of ten years (1808-1818), very similar in appearance to the one heretofore described. Supplementing this is an ancient-appearing record book, with cover mostly gone, containing oaths of judges of the Common Pleas, justices, surrogates, officers of the militia, and numerous others, covering our first half century. And as an evidence of his popu-
larity and public spirit, the name of General Randall (as he was always called in later life) appears more frequently than any other in the long list.
Subscribed to the same oath as that of Roswell Randall is the well known signature of Henry Stephens, for many years one of the most prominent lawyers of Cortland county. Mr. Stephens had studied law with Eleazer Burnham, of Aurora, a man of wide reputation, both as an attorney and a publicist, and also with Glen Cuyler, of the same place, and consequently could boast of the best of legal training. He was a man of commanding presence, a strong man physically, as he was mentally and morally. Besides being for many years the first judge of Common Pleas in the county, and the great rival at the bar of Judge Nelson, he was a man of great public spirit, as was attested by his brilliant record in the Assembly, as president of the S. B. and N. Y. R. R. Company, as prime mover in founding the Agricultural Society, and in other important enterprises. Judge Stephens lived to a good old age, it being but a few years ago that he was seen on our streets. He was honored by the entire community, not only as among the best in his profession, but also because of his exemplary private life.
At this early period, the leading counselor of the county, and one whose opinions were also sought from distant part of the State, was Oliver Wiswell. Although not widely known as a trial lawyer, he was a man of great energy and prominence in public matters, an able assistant judge of Common Pleas, and one whose legal opinions were highly esteemed. For some years he was a partner of Judge Stephens, and their names figure largely in the calendars of that time. They constituted the earliest, and, for a long time, the leading law firm in Cortland.
The old (then new) court-house on the hill witnessed one of the most celebrated trials in the history of the county, in 1817. There had been a severe political struggle between the Republicans and the Federals the fall previous, during which Dr. John Miller, of Truxton, then the leading physician of the county, had been the candidate of the former party for Member of Assembly. Among the leaders of the Federals was Mead Merrill, one of the most prominent men in the county, one who had held the office of surrogate and of county clerk for many years, and whose opinion, even in political strifes, was of no little weight. In the excitement of the campaign he had charged Miller with stealing, a political accusation which, like many since, was prompted far more by malice than by truth. The result was a slander suit, the defendant pleading the truth in justification. The cause came on for trial at the Cortland Circuit amidst the greatest excitement. For the plaintiff appeared Elisha Williams, then and thereafter the leader in the Assembly chamber, and the celebrated Thomas J. Oakley, soon after attorney-general and prominent Member of Congress; while the defendant, besides having the best local counsel, had secured the services of John W. Hurlbert, of Auburn, who at that time stood peerless as a trial lawyer in this part of the State. The hearing lasted several days, and has never since been equaled in Cortland in interest, nor in the display of legal and forensic talent. The result for the plaintiff was received by the Republicans as a great victory, and slander was not so popular for the next half century or more.
On the roll of attorneys' oaths, before mentioned, with the date January 1, 1816 (written, by the common January error, for 1817), appears the name of Samuel Nelson. By curious mistake, no jurat appears, so that the greatest light of our bar was never admitted with proper formalities. Mr. Nelson opened his office in what is now called the Samson Block, which had been erected but a year before, and began practice. He was, more than any of our bar since his time, an enthusiastic lover of the law. Like those great jurists, Kent, Story and Greenleaf, his contemporaries and thereafter his companions, he was thoroughly imbued with admiration for its principles, and with zeal for their proper interpretation. Add to this a stability of character that was the admiration of all who knew him, and it is not surprising that young Samuel Nelson arose to the highest position in our bar, the rival of Henry Stephens in all prominent litigation, and the most prominent of the local fraternity. Among other oaths there still remains one of Samuel Nelson dated July 13th, 1818, as judge advocate of the court martial, though what it amounted to in those days does not appear; probably to very little. In 1820 we find him one of the Monroe presidential electors. A year later he was the youngest member of the Constitutional Convention, associated with James Kent, Victory Birdseye, Stephen and Jacob R. Van Rensselaer, Abraham Van Vechten, and others of the leaders of that day. On that occasion Nelson was one of the strongest advocates of the abolition of the property qualifications, in which he met the opposition of such men as Chancellor Kent, Chief Justice Spencer, and others; but his cause was successful, and resulted in the new and much perfected constitution. Two years later, the eight judicial districts having been arranged by the Legislature, Nelson obtained the appointment of circuit judge of the Eighth. There still remain on the files in the clerk's office two official orders fixing the times and places of holding Circuits in the district, dated respectively August 31st, 1824, and May 5th, 1826, each providing for two courts a year in this county, and each bearing his signature. In 1831 Judge Nelson was advanced to the Supreme Court bench as associate, succeeding Hon. William L. Marcy, who had just been elected to the United States Senate. After serving for six years in that capacity, he was made chief justice, in place of Judge Savage, his former legal instructor, who had resigned. Seven years later he received the highest legal appointment within the gift of the government, that of justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. This position he held until advanced age and ill health compelled him to resign in 1872. He was also a member of the Constitutional Convention of 1846, when so many changes were made in our judicial system, in which body his extensive experience and clear foresight were of the greatest service. Judge Nelson died not long after his resignation, leaving the record of an exemplary life, --- his loss mourned by the bar of the whole nation.
It was during the years 1816 to 1820 that the great outcry against dueling went abroad. The pulpit had warred against it for years, and so scandalous had it become that legislative enactments were renewed, officers of the law were warned to vigilance, and every one was compelled under penalty to abjure it. Thousands of these old anti-dueling oaths exist throughout the State in the official archives, mostly faded and moth-eaten, curious relics of a comparatively recent barbarism. Every attorney was obliged to sign one before he could be admitted, or before he could hold any office. The following copy illustrates the righteous prejudice and strict legislation, as well as the ancient orthography, of that day:---
"I do solemnly swear that I have not been engaged in a dewel by sending or accepting a Chalang to fita a Dwel or by fiting a Dwel or in any other Manner in violation of the act entitled an act to surpress Dweling since the first day of July in the year of our lord one thousand Eight hundred and sixteen. Nor will I be so Consearned directly or indirectly in any Dwel During the continuance of the said act and whit an Inhabitant of this state."
Such was the anti-dueling oath of 1817, this particular one have been signed by Townsend Ross and others of his contemporaries.
Among those first admitted to practice at our Court of Common Pleas was Daniel Gott, then of Pompey, whose application was sworn to before "S. Nelson, comr." in 1819. Although not a member of our bar, Mr. Gott was an extensive practitioner in our courts, and was one of the leaders in Syracuse, where most of his life was passed.
Although it was the rule that the "first judge" of Common Pleas should be an attorney, it seems to have been broken in the case of John Keep, who held office for thirteen years, beginning in 1810, and continuing until the appointment of Wm. Mallory. He had been justice of the peace years before the organization of our county, and for that reason was considered best fitted for the new position. He was a man whom every one respected for his upright character and his unaffected concern for the public good.
The first attorney's oath in the handwriting of Samuel Hotchkiss, so long thereafter the clerk of the county, is subscribed, with an awkward attempt at a flourish, "H. Gray," and dated the last day of December, 1823. Next to Judge Nelson, Judge Gray has attained the highest eminence as a jurist of any member of the Cortland bar, having spent a large portion of his life upon the bench, and having been engaged in many of the most important cases of the last half century. He was born in 1802 in Washington county, and was graduated at Union College with the class of 1821. He had already studied law with Chief Justice Savage (with whom Nelson had studied before him), but soon after his graduation he came to Cortland and completed his preparatory work with Nelson & Dayton. Immediately following his admission to the bar Mr. Gray spent a few months in Dryden, Tompkins county, after which he returned to become a partner of Judge Ross in Homer. Subsequently his associations with our bar were severed in a great degree by his removal to Elmira, where he has since resided. In 1836 he was Member of Congress during one session, and five years later was district attorney of Chemung county. In 1846 he was made circuit judge of the Sixth Judicial District, which position he held until the Supreme Court was reorganized, when he continued on the bench for many years as one of its justices. When the Commission of Appeals, heretofore mentioned, was organized in 1870 he was one of its members, and so continued until the completion of its labors five years later. Judge Gray is a man of great judicial power, and is still one of the oldest and most honored of his profession in the State.
Prominent in our earlier annals was Major Adin Webb, who, though not a lawyer bred, was surrogate of the county for many years, and whose name has often appeared in this work. He was born in Connecticut in 1780, and as a young man came to Cazenovia, and later to Homer. In early life a teacher, later a merchant, he passed most of his maturer years in public service. He was surrogate from 1816 to 1823, and from 1840 to 1844, besides holding many other positions of responsibility. He is always spoken of as a man of the highest morality, whose exemplary life made him esteemed by all who knew him, as well in the strife of politics as in the more peaceful walks of life.
Mention should be made of Judge Ira Harris, late of Albany, now deceased, who, when a boy, was a law student in the office of Judge Donnelly. When he was six years of age (in 1808) his family moved to Preble, where his boyhood was passed. At the age of twenty-two he was graduated from Union, three years after Judge Gray. After having studied in Cortland a short time, he went to Albany, and, like his distinguished companions, Judges Nelson and Gray, entered the office of Chief Justice Savage. From that time his residence continued to be at Albany until his death, a few years since. He was twice elected Member of Assembly, was a member of the Constitutional Convention of 1846, and was once State Senator. His course as Justice of the Supreme Court from 1847 until 1859 was marked by many of the ablest opinions to be found in our reports. At the beginning of the war he succeeded Mr. Seward in the United States Senate, where he proved himself the careful statesman as well as the profound jurist. His later years were devoted to the Albany Law School, of which he was for a long time dean, and the excellent reputation of which is largely due to his efforts.
Among the early lawyers and judges not heretofore mentioned, Edward C. Reed, Nathan Dayton and Joseph Reynolds were so prominent as to deserve mention. Mr. Reynolds, as a young man of twenty-four, came to Cortland county in 1809, his sole possessions consisting of two cows which he drove through the woods from Saratoga county. Purchasing a small farm in Virgil, on credit, he soon paid for it through his indomitable perseverance, and thereupon began one of the most successful careers which we have to record. As his relation to the bar was only through his judgeship, it is improper in this place to follow his course minutely; it is briefly outlined by saying that he held most of the important county offices in succession; that he was many years a judge of the Common Pleas, and for five years first judge (corresponding to county judge at this time). As presidential elector, congressman, and Member of Assembly he left a brilliant record, and at his death his large fortune and the high esteem in which he was held, stood as monuments to his ability and character.
Dayton was born in the same county as Reynolds (Washington) and was nine years his junior. He was admitted to the bar in 1819, settling in Truxton, whence he removed to Cortland to enter into partnership with Samuel Nelson. He was afterwards district attorney in our county, but in 1831 his connection with our bar was broken by his removal to Lockport. There he was soon elected first judge of the Court of Common Pleas, and in 1834 he became circuit judge. He died in 1859, one of the most respected citizens of Niagara county.
Edward C. Reed came from New Hampshire in 1816, and became a partner of Judge Ross in Homer. Although not an advocate of prominence, he twice filled the office of district attorney, and was a member of the Twenty-Second Congress, and was esteemed a wise and careful counselor.
Under the date of December 11th, 1827, on the roll of attorneys' oaths, appears the name of William Henry Shankland, and immediately following it, that of Horatio Ballard, each looking as if written but ten years since, so like are they to those of half a century later. Judge Shankland was born in Cherry Valley, Otsego county, in 1804. Four years later his parents, who were farmers of the well-to-do kind, moved to Onondaga county, where the boyhood and early manhood of the future judge was passed. Like so many other leading citizens of the second and third quarters of this century, he received his academic education at Pompey. This being completed, he entered the law office of Sanders Van Rensselaer, in the same county; but with a natural desire to revisit his native place he returned to Otsego, and entered the office of Robert Campbell, a man of considerable prominence at that time at Cooperstown. His legal studies were completed at Pompey Hill, in the office of Daniel Gott, where he remained until his admission to the bar in 1827. He immediately opened an office in Cortland, where he soon secured an extensive practice, and where, five years later, he was appointed district attorney of the county. This office he filled longer than any other incumbent either before or since him, holding it for ten years (according to private records; six according to the State records). When the constitution of 1846 took effect, Mr. Shankland was appointed a justice of the Supreme Court of this district, and at the expiration of his short term, was re-elected, in 1849. While a member of this court, Judge Shankland was one of those who, under the constitution, formed part of the Court of Appeals bench, a position which he filled with the highest credit. His opinions, which are frequently met in the reports, are marked by great clearness, and are prized by the bar for their brevity and decision. From 1852 until 1866 Judge Shankland resided in Syracuse, but the later years of his life were passed in Cortland. Here he was engaged in extensive practice, with his son as partner, until old age compelled him to relinquish business a year or two before his death. At the age of seventy-nine, respected by all of the State bar and by all who know him, in January, 1883, Judge Shankland's life closed; a life characterized by justice, integrity and all of the virtues of a Christian man.
Horatio Ballard was born in Homer in August, 1803, thus being the senior, by several months, of his confrère, Judge Shankland. He received his early education in the Pompey and Cortland Academies, both being well known in those days as very excellent schools. He studied law with Judge Stephens at Cortland, and with the Hon. Freeborn G. Jewett, at Skaneateles, the latter one of the most prominent of the lawyers, jurists and publicists of his time. It was while here that he met and conversed with Daniel Webster and Joseph Story, who were coaching through the State, a reminiscence which he delighted to recall in later life. Mr. Ballard was admitted to practice at the age of twenty-four, and for many years thereafter was the partner of Judge Stephens in Cortland. He very soon arose to prominence at the bar, and the firm of Stephens & Ballard became one of the best known in this part of the State. In 1842 Mr. Ballard succeeded Mr. Shankland as district attorney, and thereafter was delegate to the national convention that nominated Polk, and to the one that nominated Buchanan. In 1861 he was elected secretary of state, and in 1866 represented this county in the Assembly. The succeeding year he was a member of the Constitutional Convention, in which body he was one of the most active workers. Mr. Ballard died in 1879, the most widely known and respected man in our county; "A man of worth; a man of letters and of manners, too:" an honor to the bar, the county and the State.
In our list of county judges appears the name of Lewis Kingsley. He was born in Cincinnatus in 1823, where he afterwards studied law with Barak Niles, and later with Benjamin F. Rexford in Norwich. He was admitted to practice at Utica in 1846, and five years later was elected to the bench of the county. Before the war his relations with our bar were broken by his removal to Norwich, where he continued the practice of the law until his death, some years since.
Henry S. Randall's name is one of the most prominent in the catalogue of Cortland county attorneys. He was born in Madison county in 1811, and after preparation in the Cortland and Geneva Academies, entered Union College, graduating with the class of 1830. He studied law with Judges Stephens and Shankland, and was admitted to the bar in 1834. We might end our sketch at this point, so far as relates to his history as a lawyer, since he never devoted any time to practice. But on account of his prominence as a citizen, we add the following brief summary. The year after his admission to the bar Mr. Randall was a member of the national convention which nominated Van Buren. It had been his intention to be a farmer in the highest and most scientific sense, and in this he succeeded, writing and editing several books and papers on the subject, and being among the foremost movers of great agricultural enterprises. In 1851 he was elected secretary of state, and in 1871 Member of Assembly, both times on the Democratic ticket. In 1853 Mr. Randall began the great work of his life, the biography of Thomas Jefferson. This was completed several years later, in three volumes, and ranks as one of the most carefully prepared and exhaustive biographies by any American author. For a long time he was president of the State and the National Wool Growers' Associations, and was the author of several important laws and works on the subject. He also devoted a large portion of his time to educational matters both in this county, and, while secretary of state, in the various other counties of New York. As a result of his zeal in this respect he was made president of the State Normal School at Cortland, and so continued until his death. He also occupied many other positions of trust, all of which he filled with eminent ability. More than any other man who has made Cortland his permanent home, Mr. Randall was characterized by the broadness of his views, and his energy in laboring for the public good. The friend of scholars and the companion of statesmen, he died in 1877, his loss mourned by the community that knew him, and the State and nation as well.
The most brilliant orator of thirty-five years ago, in Cortland, was Robert O. Reynolds. He was admitted to the bar in 1839, and soon thereafter removed to Chenango county, where he was extensively engaged in the practice of the law both in Norwich and in Greene. In 1843 he was elected district attorney of that county; but four years later he returned to Cortland, where the remainder of his life was spent. He was a fine trial lawyer, a fluent and witty speaker, but in later life a victim of intemperance, which ended in misery a brilliant and promising career.
Roswell K. Bourne was among the energetic lawyers of his time, and one of the comparatively small number whose descendants are still among us. He was born in Otselic, in 1813, and, indeed, spent most of his life in Chenango county. After completing his academic education at Cazenovia Seminary, he began the study of law with Barak Niles, in Cincinnatus. While studying for the bar he taught school in Pitcher Springs, and, on being admitted, opened an office there, where he remained until 1857 as an active practitioner. In that year he removed to Cincinnatus, where the remainder of his life was passed. Mr. Bourne is described by those who knew him as a very positive, energetic man, and a thoroughly public spirited citizen.
Augustus L. Ballard, a younger brother of Hon. Horatio Ballard, was a student in the office of the latter, and was admitted to the bar in 1844. His son entered into partnership with his brother, and for a number of years the firm of H. & A. L. Ballard was the leading one of the county. He was district attorney in 1847, a position to which his great abilities as a trial lawyer especially adapted him. He was a very active, energetic man, a characteristic which probably hastened his death. He went west before the war, for the benefit of his health, and died while there.
Among the best criminal lawyers of the State was the late Hon. Milo Goodrich who, though not a member of our bar, had a large practice in our courts. He was admitted in 1845, in the same class with Judge Duell, at our present court-house. For many years thereafter he resided in Dryden, during which time he represented his district in Congress one term, and in the Constitutional Convention of 1867. He afterwards removed to Auburn where he died a few years since.
In 1847 James A. Schermerhorn was admitted to the bar at Cortland, where he opened an office on the site of the present edifice which bears his name. He did not enter extensively into the practice of the law, however, and subsequently spent but a small portion of his time in Cortland. Being a gentleman of wealth, he lived in retirement, in his early years traveling extensively both in Europe and America, and latterly residing in his beautiful home at Glen Haven.
Among the oaths and certificates of study, signed by applicants for admission, is one subscribed in a very correct, neatly shaded hand, in marked contrast to his well known signature of later years, by Hiram Crandall. Mr. Crandall was from Chenango county, but he received his early education in the Homer Academy, going thence into the office of Judge Shankland, where his legal studies were pursued until his admission to the bar in 1846. He then entered into partnership with his former legal instructor, with whom he remained until the later was made member of the Supreme Court. He then entered into partnership with Robert O. Reynolds, with whom he remained nine years. He was for a time, before the war, the postmaster at Cortland village. Thereafter, in 1859, he was elected county judge and surrogate, which office he held for eight years until succeeded by Judge Smith. He was for many years, and until his death in 1881, attorney for the First National Bank in Cortland, and as such did a large office business, which was more to his taste than the labors of the courtroom. He was one of the most genial, good natured of men, an ornament to the community as well as to the bar of the county.
Charles Foster was a native of Rensselaer county, and, like many others whose names appear herein, received his early education in Pompey Academy. He then entered Yale College, where he was graduated in 1844. After his graduation he entered the office of the Hon. Victory Birdseye, at Pompey. He also attended the New Haven Law School for a time, studied in Syracuse with B. D. & G. Noxon, and was finally admitted at Catskill General Term in 1847. He then returned to Pompey and entered the office of Daniel Gott, where he remained five years, removing thence to Cortland. Here he continued the practice of the law until his death some years since. During the latter part of his life he was a member of the prominent law firm of Duell & Foster. In 1869 he was elected to the Assembly, where he remained one winter. Mr. Foster was a very careful counselor, and a highly respected citizen.
The present bar of our county consists of between thirty-five and forty active practitioners. As has always been the case, however, the business is monoplized by a comparatively small number, say one-fourth of those whose names appear upon the rolls. It is judged impracticable at this time to give more than a passing glance at those who are still actively engaged in business. While custom has decreed de mortuis nil nisi bonum concerning the living, it is impossible to write so uniformly, or to totally lay aside the bias which is necessary to personal acquaintance. The limits of this chapter, moreover, will not allow more than is here attempted, lest it encroach too much upon other portions of the work.
The senior member of the present bar is Hon. R. H. Duell, who was admitted in the same class with the late Milo Goodrich, in 1845. Judge Duell is a native of Herkimer county, having been born in the town of Warren in 1823. His academic education was completed at Syracuse, where, at the age of nineteen, he began the study of law in the office of Hon. Charles B. Sedgwick. Two years later, in July, 1845, he was admitted to the bar and began practice in the town of Fabius, Onondaga county. He moved thence to Cortland in 1847, to accept a partnership with Judge Stephens, and has since resided here. Judge Duell's political career has been remarkably successful from the first. In 1850 he was elected district attorney, and in 1855 county judge and surrogate. This office he resigned just before the close of his term on account of his election as a member of the Thirty-sixth Congress. In 1870 he was a member of the national legislature, and at the close of his term was appointed commissioner of patents. After serving in that capacity until 1877, he returned to Cortland, where he resumed the practice of the law.
Next in seniority at our bar stand Geo. B. Jones and Amos L. Kenney, both admitted at the Cortland General Term, in 1848. Mr. Jones was born in Columbia county, but a greater portion of his life has been spent in this part of the State. He was educated in Homer and in Cazenovia, and received his early legal training in the office of Hon. Horatio Ballard. Soon after his admission he opened an office in McGrawville, where he remained several years. Just before the war he removed to Cortland, where, in 1860, he succeeded Judge Smith as district attorney. This office he held two consecutive terms, a distinction not customary in this county. He was for a long time one of the justices of the peace of Cortlandville, and has enjoyed a good practice at the bar.
Amos L. Kenney was born in Truxton and was a member of the graduating class of 1843 at Hamilton College. After studying five years he was admitted to the bar and has since been an active practitioner in his native town, making a specialty of surrogate proceedings and conveyancing.
In 1855 Oliver Porter came to Cortland from Delaware county, where he had been admitted to the bar, and began practice in Homer, where he has continued to reside. He was born in Sullivan county in 1824, receiving an academic education at Monticello, and pursuing his law studies there. He has been one of the most active practitioners in our courts for many years.
Of the legal class admitted at the January General Term of 1856, held at Cortland, three names are especially prominent --- those of Nathaniel C. Moak, Merton M. Waters and Abram P. Smith. Mr. Moak was from Cherry Valley and was never connected with our bar. He has resided of late in Albany, where he has attained a wide reputation as editor of various legal text-books and reports, and as one of the leading Court of Appeals practitioners of the State.
Hon. A. P. Smith was born in East Virgil, April 9th, 1831. He was educated for the profession of teaching, attending the Homer Academy and graduating from the State Normal School at Albany in 1853. After teaching about a year in Marathon he came to Cortland and began the study of law with Hon. Horatio Ballard, with whom he remained until his admission to the bar. In the fall of that year he was elected district attorney of the county, having been in the profession but eight months. During the war Mr. Smith was connected with the 76th New York Volunteers and subsequently wrote a history of that regiment, which has attained a wide circulation among the soldiers of the State. In the fall of 1867 he was elected county judge and surrogate, being re-elected in 1871 and again in 1877. He thus held that office for sixteen consecutive years, having been at the time of his retirement longer on the county bench than any one in the State. Judge Smith has had a very extensive law practice, and has now in partnership with him his son, the firm being A. P. & D. E. Smith.
Mr. Waters was born in Truxton, receiving his academic education in De Ruyter. He studied law in the office of Reynolds & Crandall, in Cortland, and immediately after his admission began practice in the same village. His brother, Alvah D. Waters, admitted shortly after, entered into a partnership with him, which continued until 1870. In 1865 Alvah D. Waters was elected district attorney and held that office at the time of his death. In 1875 Mr. Waters took into partnership with him his son-in-law, Stratton S. Knox, who had studied in his office and who had been admitted to the bar in September of that year. The firm continued doing an extensive business until December, 1881, when Mr. Waters removed to Syracuse. Mr. Knox continued in business until the fall of 1883, when he was elected county judge and surrogate on the Democratic ticket, which office he still holds.
Ira L. Little, of Marathon, is also among the older members of the bar at present. He was born in Wallkill, N. Y., in 1830, and was graduated at Harford University, Pennsylvania. He studied law and was admitted in Pennsylvania in 1853, but removed to Binghamton two years later and in 1855 was admitted to practice in this State. Soon after he came to Marathon, where he has since resided. Mr. Little has devoted a large portion of his time to literary work, although keeping up considerable business as counselor in our courts.
In the same town of Marathon resides another of the earlier bar. George A. Hulbert is a native of Truxton, where he was born in 1829. His early education at the Cortlandville Academy was followed by legal studies in Hamilton and in Ballston, until his admission in 1851. He spent a short time in the west, where he was admitted to the Chicago bar in 1853. For the last twenty years Mr. Hulbert has resided in Marathon, being extensively engaged in the produce trade, as a member of the old New York firm of Wm. Hulbert & Brothers. He has not been engaged in law practice for some years.
In 1858 there were admitted at the Cortland and Binghamton General Terms John S. Barber and William H. Warren. Mr. Barber was a native of Broome county, having been born in Colesville, November 1st, 1824. His academic course was completed at Ithaca, and his legal studies with M. M. Waters in Cortland. In the January term of 1858 he was admitted to the bar at Binghamton, and has since been in business in Cortland. Mr. Barber's health for some time made active practice impossible, but he has devoted a large amount of time to real estate business, and has become one of the most careful and successful financiers of our county.
William H. Warren was born in Exeter, Chenango county, N. Y., and was one of those whose names have added to the roll of Pompey Academy. He studied law with Hon. Horatio Ballard, and for a long time was his partner. He was admitted in November, 1858, and immediately arose to the first rank as a trial lawyer. He was also for a time in partnership with his brother, L. E. Warren, now of Auburn; and later with Hon. O. U. Kellogg. He has been one of the most successful advocates at our bar.
Benjamin T. Wright studied law in the office of McDowell & Edwards, in Lisle, and was admitted in 1864. He served in the Union ranks during a portion of the war, and on his return settled in Marathon. In 1873 he was elected district attorney of the county, and has since resided in Cortland, doing a very flattering law business.
Frank M. Benjamin came to this county from Herkimer in 1840, when eight years of age. He studied law with R. K. Bourne, at Cincinnatus, and was admitted in 1859. In 1863 he went to Chenango county, but returned in 1867 and began practice in Cincinnatus, where he has since remained.
William J. Mantanye was born at Freetown in 1843, and after graduation at the Homer Academy, studied law with Hon. A. Holmes, and with Hon. A. P. Smith, of Cortland. He was among the first to enlist at the beginning of the war, and served with the Army of the Potomac until discharged, after the surrender of Lee. He was in all of the principal battles in which the 76th N. Y. Vols. Were engaged, and was taken prisoner at Gettysburg. In 1867 he was admitted to the bar, and opened an office in Marathon, where he has been favored with an extensive practice.
Admitted in the same year as Mr. Mantanye, at the November General Term, was Irving H. Palmer. He was born in Virgil in 1841, and was graduated at the Cortland Academy. His law studies were pursued in the office of Duell & Benedict, after which he began practice in Cortland. In 1882 he was elected district attorney, which office he still retains.
Mr. Palmer's predecessor in office was Byron A. Benedict, who was elected in the presidential year of 1876, and re-elected three years after. Mr. Benedict is a native of this county, and a graduate of the Homer Academy. He was admitted to the bar in 1869, and soon after, on the death of Mr. Foster, entered into partnership with Judge Duell, with whom he still remains. The firm has been one of the most prominent ever in the county.
The oldest law firm in the county at present is that of Bouton & Champlin, the partnership having been formed in 1869. Lewis Bouton was born in Virgil in May, 1838, and was admitted to the bar in 1867. In November, 1870, he was elected to the office of district attorney, which position he held three years. He was elected one of the justices of the peace in 1883, and is still in office. His partner, Riley Champlin, was born in Solon in 1838, and studied law in the office of Ballard & Warren, in Cortland. He was admitted to the bar in November, 1868, at Binghamton, and within a few months entered into partnership with Mr. Bouton. In April, 1870, he was appointed district attorney of the county in place of Alvah D. Waters, deceased. The firm has been very successful in business, and has attained a very satisfactory position at the bar of this section of the State.
Prominent among the younger members of the bar is Hon. O. U. Kellogg, a native of the town of Cincinnatus. Mr. Kellogg was graduated at the Albany Law School in 1869. In the same year he came to Cortland, and entered the office of Hon. A. P. Smith, where he remained until 1874. In 1875 he was one of the leading counsel for the contestants in the celebrated Shaw will case, the most important action of the kind ever tried in the county. In 1877 he was elected Member of Assembly on the Democratic ticket. Mr. Kellogg, in addition to his extensive law practice, is largely engaged in stock raising, having one of the finest stock farms in New York, besides several others in the west.
George S. Sands was born in Delaware county, August 19th, 1849, but came to Cortland when quite young. Here he received his preparatory education in the Academy and Normal School, afterwards attending the Andes Collegiate Institute. After a three years' course in the law office of M. M. Waters, he was admitted to the bar in 1873. Mr. Sands has served as town clerk two terms and as justice of the peace for six years, and is now in active practice.
Among the graduates of the Albany Law School of the class of 1875 was Horace L. Bronson, born in Virgil in 1853. Mr. Bronson received his education in the Homer Academy and Cazenovia Seminary, after which he entered the office of Hon. A. P. Smith, where he remained until he entered the Law School. He has since resided in Cortland, where he has an extensive and successful practice.
Among the leading firms of the county is that of Eggleston & Smith, composed of Joseph E. Eggleston and Dorr C. Smith. Mr. Eggleston is a native of Cortland, and a graduate of the Normal School. He was admitted to the bar in September, 1875, and immediately opened an office in Cortland, where he has met with flattering success. His partner, Mr. Smith, was born in Moravia, in 1851. He was graduated at Genoa Academy, after which he entered the office of Hon. A. P. Smith in Cortland. He was admitted to the bar at the Albany General Term in January, 1875, and began practice immediately in Cortland. The firm was established in 1880, and has had a very large calendar of cases at each term since that time.
Miles E. Burlingame was born in Willet, N. Y., November 8th, 1838, and received his education in the common schools of the county. He studied law in the office of A. McDowell, at Lisle, Broome county, N. Y., and at the Albany Law School. He was admitted to the bar at Albany in 1872, and received a diploma from the law school soon after. He has continued his residence in Willet, where he is now practicing.
Lucius P. Hollenbeck was born in Tully, N. Y. in 1837. He was admitted to the bar in 1873. He has made a specialty of the pension business, since that time, in Cortland.
Although not now an active member of the bar, mention should be made of William H. Shankland, jr., son of the late Judge Shankland. For several years the firm of Shank land & Shankland did a large business in Cortland, but the death of the senior member, and the removal of his son to Albany to accept the deputy clerkship of the Court of Appeals, deprived the county bar of two of its most valued members. Mr. Shankland intends to remain permanently in Albany.
Among the older and retired members of the bar should be mentioned Hon. A. Judson Kneeland, the present Member of Assembly from this county. Mr. Kneeland was born in Spafford in 1821, and was graduated at the Cortland Academy in 1843. He studied law with Hon. Ira Harris in Albany and was admitted to the bar in 1848. He has held a number of offices of trust in this and Yates counties, but has not actively engaged in practice in some years. Since 1875 he has been justice of the peace in Homer, and in the fall of 1883 was elected to the Assembly on the Republican ticket.
John W. Suggett, a native of this county, and a graduate of the Cortland Normal School, completed his scholastic work at Cornell University. He studied law with the late Judge Crandall, and opened an office in Cortland immediately on his admission to the bar. He has devoted much of his attention to patent law, and has a large practice in the Federal court, as well as in those of our own State and county.
Henry D. Waters, of Cuyler, brother of M. M. Waters, of whom a sketch has already been given, and of A. D. and George L. Waters, also members of the bar, is a member of a legal family. He is a native of the county, and during the rebellion was among the most active in the army, where he received wounds, the effect of which he still bears. He is now engaged in practice in Cuyler and is the present clerk of the Board of Supervisors.
William P. Robinson was born in Cortland in 1848, and received his education in the Cortland Academy and Normal School. His law studies were pursued with Hone. H. Crandall, and he was admitted to the bar in 1876. He has since devoted his attention to other pursuits, and is now one of the leading merchants of the county.
James T. Steel was born in Solon in 1840, and after studying with Ballard & Warren in Cortland, was admitted to the bar in 1871. He was a member of the 185th N. Y. Volunteers during the rebellion.
William D. Tuttle was born in Salisbury, Herkimer county, in 1849. He was a student in the McGrawville Academy and the Cortland Normal School. His legal studies were pursued with Judge Crandall. From 1878 to 1881 Mr. Tuttle served as one of the school commissioners of the county, since which he has practiced law in Cortland.
Franklin Pierce was born in Marathon in 1853, and received his preparatory education in Cortland Normal School and Cazenovia Seminary. For a time he was a student at Amherst, but completed his college course at Syracuse in 1879. He studied law with Waters & Knox and was admitted to the bar in September, 1879. He has since removed to Homer, where he is practicing in his profession.
John O'Donnel, after pursuing his legal studies with H. C. Miner at DeRuyter, was admitted to the bar in May, 1881. He immediately opened an office in Truxton, where he has since remained. He has held the office of town clerk several terms, and has had a fair share of the legal business of his vicinity.
Willard J. Van Auken was born in Albany county in 1862, and attended common schools and Union Classical Institute at Schenectady until 1881, when he was graduated at the latter. He studied law with Hon. J. H. Clutes at Albany, and was graduated at the Albany Law School in 1883. He was admitted to the bar at Binghamton in May, 1883, and in the fall of that year began the practice of the law at McGrawville, where he now resides.
Jerome Squires was born in Lapeer, March 10, 1845. He was a student at the Marathon Academy, and studied law with Judge Smith and with John Courtney, jr., until 1880, when he was admitted to the bar. He has since resided and practiced law in Cortland.
Arthur L. Knight is a native of Scott, and was born in 1852. He was graduated at the Homer Academy in 1871 and at Syracuse University in 1878. He studied law with Duell & Benedict until 1882, when he was admitted to the bar. He is now engaged in the practice of law at Canastota.
Eliot F. Stone was born in Homer, April 1st, 1857, and was graduated at the academy at that village in 1877. He studied law with Waters & Knox, and was admitted to the bar in 1882. He is now one of the justices of the peace in Homer.
Rufus T. Peck, was born December 24th, 1836. His father, Lyman Peck, was a resident of Solon, in which town his grandfather, Stephen N. Peck, was one of its first settlers in 1805. His paternal ancestors were of English stock, and the progenitor of the family in this country, Deacon William Peck, was one of the charter members of the New Haven Colony in 1638. His mother, Almira Thompson, daughter of Zenas Thompson, is of Scotch descent, and her ancestors were among the early families of New England. His early education was obtained in the common school and at New York Central College, and for fourteen years he was a successful teacher, followed by three years as a merchant in his native town. In the fall of 1874 he was elected, on the Republican ticket, school commissioner of the northern district of Cortland county, by re-election served two terms, and received the nomination for a third term, which he decline. He read law with Hon. R. Holland Duell, of Cortland, and was admitted to the bar at the January term of the Supreme Court held at Albany in 1876, but has only practiced law in connection with his private business affairs. In February, 1876, he became identified with the publishing house of Maj. L. H. Evarts, of Philadelphia, and since that date, the firm of Evarts & Peck have published the history of many of the largest cities and counties in the United States. Their published works are popular and will go down to future generations as the authentic record of these localities.
Henry L. Gleason studied law with Holmes & Palmer at Cortland, and was admitted to the bar in 1872. Soon after he entered into partnership with Mr. Palmer, and so remained for some time. For the last few years he has not been in active practice, but is now secretary of the Hitchcock Manufacturing Company.
E. D. Crosley was admitted to the bar in 1879, having studied law with Judge Duell at Cortland. He is now located in Scott.
Gage E. Tarbell was born in Chenango county, in 1856. He was educated in the Clinton Liberal Institute at Clinton, N. Y. He began the study of law in the office of E. J. Arnold in Greene in 1877, and was admitted to the bar three years later. He moved to Marathon the same year, where he is still engaged in the practice of law.
One of the most enterprising of the younger firms of the county is that of J. & T. E. Courtney. The senior member studied law in Marathon, in the office of Wm. J. Mantanye, and began practice there, but soon removed to Cortland where he has been located some six or seven years. His brother, Thomas E. Courtney, studied in Cazenovia Seminary, and pursued his legal work in the law department of Hamilton College. He began practice in Cortland, and in 1881 entered into partnership with his brother. The firm has been very energetic and successful, and is now doing a large business.
John E. Winslow is a native of Virgil. He studied law at home and in the office of Hon. O. U. Kellogg at Cortland. After his admission to the bar he was elected justice of the peace of the town of Virgil, although he still keeps his office in Cortland with Mr. Kellogg, where he has a very successful practice.
Another of the younger members of the bar is Fred Hatch, the present clerk of the village of Cortland. Mr. Hatch studied law in the office of Judge Shankland, after which he opened an office in Cortland, where he still remains. His practice is flattering to his efforts, and his success is assured.
M. Stanley Bierce, one of the justices of the peace of the town of Cortlandville, is also a member of the bar, although he has not devoted his attention to the practice of the law.
Benton B. Jones and Hon. Wm. H. Clark, editors of two of the village papers, are also members of the bar, but have not followed their profession.
James Dougherty, for several years supervisor from Solon, has recently removed to Cortland, and opened a law office with I. H. Palmer. Mr. Dougherty has all of the qualifications of a good lawyer.
The youngest member of the present Cortland bar is D. E. Smith. Mr. Smith was born in Cortland in 1860, and completed his collegiate studies at Syracuse University. He studied law with his father, Hon. A. P. Smith, and is now in partnership with him. Mr. Smith is the compiler and author of the first part of this article, down to the history of the living members of the bar.
|Name.||Date of Election or Appointment.|
|R. Holland Duell||1855|
|Abram P. Smith||1867|
|Stratton S. Knox||1883|
|Name.||Date of Election or Appointment.|
|Luther F. Stephens||1811|
|Jabez B. Phelps||1823|
|Charles W. Lynde||1828|
|County Judge since 1847.|
|Augustus A. Donnelly||1819|
|Edward C. Reed||1827|
|William H. Shankland||1836|
|Augustus S. Ballard||1847|
|R. Holland Duell||1850|
|Edward C. Reed||1856|
|Abram P. Smith||1856|
|George B. Jones||1859|
|A. D. Waters||1865|
|B. T. Wright||1873|
|B. A. Benedict||1876|
|I. H. Palmer||1882|
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