Mr. Fisher held his office of justice of the peace and captain of the militia by appointment of the governor of Indiana territory, which territory then (1805) included also the whole of the present State of Wisconsin. Being an influential trader, Mr. Fisher, in his triple capacity, became the most prominent man in "Prairie des Chiens." His parents were Scotch, or of Scotch descent; and he was born near Lake Champlain, not far from the line separating the State of New York from Lower Canada, or Canada East. He came from Canada by way of Mackinaw and Green Bay, somewhere about 1790. He carried on a very extensive trade with the Indians in "Prairie des Chiens" region, and furnished outfits to other traders, some of whom traded above, and others below that place. The Sauks, Foxes, Sioux, Winnebagoes and Menomonees then resorted there in great numbers for the purpose of procuring supplies of clothing, ammunition, etc.
Mr. Fisher continued in trade at the "prairie" until 1815, when he left in company with his son, and a son of the late Michael Brisbois, to join the Hudson Bay company, as trader on the Red river of the north, and continued in the service of that company until 1824. In 1826 he had just returned from Lac Traverse, the head water of the Minnesota river, where he had passed two years in the employ of the American Fur Company. He then gave unmistakable evidences of a man of extraordinary activity and vigor for his age. He died at Prairie du Chien in 1827. He was a tall, well-built athletic man, and capable of enduring hardships and fatigue, and of course well calculated for a frontier life of those times. He was easily excited, and possessed indomitable courage and perseverance. The only judicial office that he ever held was that of justice of the peace, at Prairie du Chien, as before mentioned.
One of the daughters of Mr. Fisher was, first, the wife of Joseph Rolette; afterward, the wife of Hercules L. Dousman. Another daughter is Mrs. Henry S. Baird, of Green Bay.
After the formation of the Territory of Illinois, Prairie des Chiens passed under its jurisdiction, as did all the rest of what is now Wisconsin. The citizens upon the "prairie" were now residents of the county of St. Clair, in the Territory of Illinois, and they had as successor to Mr. Fisher, as justice of the peace, an Irishman, appointed by the governor of that territory, by the name of John Campbell.
This officer was also a sub-Indian agent at Prairie des Chiens." Concerning Campbell, we have an interesting narrative from the pen of James H. Lockwood, who says:
"Campbell charged, for celebrating the rites of matrimony, 100 pounds of flour, and for dissolving them, 200 pounds, alleging that when people wanted to get unmarried, they would willingly give double what they would originally to form the matrimonial connection.
"The coutume de Paris [law of Paris] so far prevailed in this country generally, that a part of the ceremony of marriage was the entering into a contract in writing, generally giving, if no issue, the property to the survivor; and if they desired to be divorced, they went together before the magistrate and made known their wishes, and he, in their presence, tore up the marriage contract, and according to the custom of the country, they were then divorced. I was once present at Judge Abbott's, at Mackinaw, when a couple presented themselves before him and were divorced in this manner. When the laws of Michigan were first introduced at Prairie du Chien, it was with difficulty that the justice of the peace could persuade them that a written contract was not necessary, and some of them believed that because the contract of marriage gave the property to the survivor, that they were not obliged to pay the debts which the deceased owed at the time of his death.
"There was an instance of this at Praire du Chien. A man by the name of Jean Marie Quen (de Lamouche,) who had been married by contract, died without issue, leaving a widow, some personal property and a good farm, but was indebted to Joseph Rolette about $300, which his widow refused to pay, alleging that the contract of marriage gave her all the property; nor could she be convinced to the contrary, until I had brought suit and obtained a judgment.
"In the absence of religious instructions, and it becoming so common to see the Indians use so little ceremony about marriage, the idea of a verbal matrimonial contract became familiar to the early French settlers; and they generally believed such a contract of marriage was valid without any other ceremony. Many of the women; married in this way, believed, in their simplicity and ignorance, that they were as lawfully the wives of the men they lived with as though they had been married with all the ceremony and solemnity possible.
"A woman at Prairie du Chien, respectable in her class, told me that she was attending a ball in the place, and that a trader, who resided on the lower Mississippi had his canoe loaded to leave as soon as the ball was over, proposed to marry her; and as he was a trader, and ranked above her, she was pleased with the offer, and as his canoe was in waiting, he would not delay for further ceremony. She stepped from the ballroom on board his canoe, and went with him down the Mississippi and they lived together, three or four years, and she had two children by him. She assured me she then believed herself as much the wife of this man as if she had been married with all the ceremony of the most civilized communities, and was not convinced to the contrary until he unfeelingly abandoned her and married another; and from her manner of relating it, I believed her sincere.
"In speaking of the courts of justice of the county, and of their county seats, Mr. Brisbois related to me that some time previous to the War of 1812, he and Mr. Campbell had a dispute about a heifer that was worth at the time, perhaps $8; and as each believed it to be his property, they applied to the lawyer at Cahokia to assist them in finding out who was the real owner. The mode of traveling in those days, was in a canoe, manned with six or eight men to paddle, and taking with them some flour, tea and sugar for the burgeois, and some hulled corn and deer tallow, enough to season the soup for the men, depending upon shooting game by the way, or buying wild fowl or venison from the Indians. The parties litigant were obliged to take their witnesses with them, paying them for their time and expenses, from their departure until their return home. The parties were also obliged to take a bundle of beaver skins, and dispose of them at St. Louis to pay the expenses of lawyers."
The plaintiff recovered in the action, which was brought in Cahokia, before a justice of the peace, the sum of $16. But the defendant appealed to the county court of St. Clair county. As "Prairie du Chien" was in that county, the sheriff had about 500 miles to travel to subpoena the witnesses for the new trial. But, being an Indian trader, he fitted out a boat, and having stocked it with goods adapted to the Indian market, proceeded thither with his papers. Having subpoenaed the witnesses, (including most of the residents of "Prairie du Chien") he made his return, and charging, as he had a right to do, a travel fee for each, his cost and the costs of the suit altogether, it is said, exceeded $900. Finally, before the suit came on for hearing in the county court, it was settled. The parties each incurred an expense of about $1,500.
Upon the death of Campbell, Nicholas Boilvin succeeded to his dignities, in consequence of which, when the British forces appeared in 1814, he hurriedly left the place, but returned after peace was declared, and resumed his functions. His off-hand way of administering justice may be illustrated by an anecdote:
"Col. Boilvin's office was just without the walls of the fort of Prairie du Chien, and it was much the fashion among the officers to lounge in there of a morning, to find sport for an idle hour, and to take a glass of brandy and water with the old gentleman, which he called taking a little 'quelque chose.' A soldier, named Fry, had been accused of stealing and killing a calf belonging to M. Rolette, and the constable, a bricklayer of the name of Bell, had been dispatched to arrest the culprit and bring him to trial. While the gentlemen were making their customary morning visit to the justice, a noise was heard in the entry, and a knock at the door.
Come in, cried the old gentleman, rising and walking toward the door.
Bell --- Here sir, I have brought Fry to you, as you ordered.
Justice --- Fry, you great rascal! What for you kill M. Rolette's calf?
Fry --- I did not kill M. Rolett's calf.
Justice --- (shaking his fist) You lie, you great rascal! Bell, take him to jail. Come, gentlemen, come, let us take a little quelque-chose."
Col. Boilvin was a native of Canada. Upon the erection of Crawford county, he was commissioned anew by Gov. Cass, holding the office of justice of the peace after the country became a part of Michigan territory. He died near St. Louis and was buried at that place. He was fully sixty years of age. He was of common height; rather stocky, stooped and bow legged. He left a son of the same name, who went to California and died there.
Of Col. Boilvin, James H. Lockwood says:
"Mr. Campbell, of whom I have previously made mention as Indian agent and justice of the peace, had passed to his long home before I came to the country [in 1816], and I found a Canadian of French extraction by the name of Nicholas Boilvin clothed with the dignified office of sub-agent and justice of the peace.
His law library consisted of a single volume of the old statutes of the Northwestern territory, one of Illinois, and one of Missouri territory; but in deciding cases, he paid no attention to the statutes, but decided according to his own ideas of right and wrong."
In another chapter it has been stated that the county court, upon the organization of the county, consisted of chief justice, John W. Johnson, associate justices, Francis Bouthellier and Walford Owens, whose successor, in 1821, was Joseph Rollette. The justices of the peace appointed at the same time were James H. Lockwood, Nicholas Boilvin and John W. Johnson. In connection with the judiciary of the county, nothing further can be given concerning justices of the peace and trails before them at an early day, except to narrate the following from the pen of James H. Lockwood:
"When the 5th regiment of the United States Infantry came into the country in 1819, and established their headquarters at the mouth of the St. Peters river, they brought with them a man by the name of John Marsh, a graduate of some eastern college, as teacher of the post-school at headquarters. He appeared to have a great fondness for the Sioux Indians, and was endowed with the faculty of acquiring languages with great facility. He soon learned the Sioux language so that he spoke it with as great ease as they did themselves. Getting tired of teaching an army school, he came down to Prairie du Chien in 1826, and went over to Green Bay. He afterward met Gov. Cass, who was much interested in getting Indian information, --- their traditions, anecdotes and tales; and he employed Marsh by the month for that purpose and procured for him the appointment of sub-Indian agent at Prairie du Chien, and appointed him justice of the peace for Crawford county.
"Some of his decisions were almost equal to those of Judge Reaume of Green Bay. He was in the practice of taking notes for collection, and issuing process on them. Some person sent him a note to collect from Green Bay against Benjamin Roy. Now there were two men in the country of that name, one resided at the Portage of Wisconsin, and the other was in the employ of the American Fur Company at Prairie du Chien. Neither of them could write his name. The note was signed with a mark, and witnessed by a man who wrote his name, and the witness had gone into the Black river country to winter. Marsh believing that the Roy that was here was the man, issued process and had him brought before him, but he denied any knowledge of the note; but Marsh, satisfied that he was the person who gave it, rendered judgment against him for the amount, and said he would examine the witness when he came down in the spring. Hercules L. Dousman hearing of this decision, went to Marsh and told him that if he proceeded any farther in the case, he would report him to Gov. Cass. That ended the proceeding."
As to some early trials before justices, Mr. Lockwood says:
"Of all the foreigners that came to this country, the Canadians of French extraction seemed to have the least idea of the privileges of American citizenship. It appeared almost impossible to instil into their minds anything of the independence of self-government, and this was not confined entirely to the uneducated, but would apply more or less to the partially educated classes. They do not consider it a privilege to vote for the officers who are to govern them; and consider it only desirable to use the elective franchise in order to gratify some friend who has asked them to vote for himself or his candidate; and when so requested, they are too polite to refuse, unless a previous promise had been made to some other.
"In the spring of the year 1824, a delegate to Congress was to be elected for Michigan; and Michigan, like all other portions of the Union, had several patriotic men who desired to sacrifice themselves to the service of their country. Among the numerous candidates, Mr. [Joseph] Rolette and I each selected one for our support, and solicited the votes of the Canadians for our respective candidates. Among the voters was a respectable and industrious farmer living in the lower end of Prairie du Chien, by the name Barrette, whose vote had been solicited both by Mr. Rolette and myself; but Barrette being engaged in getting in his spring crop of grain, and thinking if he went to the election he would offend one or the other of us, which he wished to avoid, concluded it would be wisest to remain at home, and work on his farm. Mr. Rolette's idea of the elective franchise was such, that he believed that every man was bound to vote, and, moreover, that he should do it precisely in accordance with the leader's wishes, without exercising any judgment whatever of his own. Mr. Rolette being a Canadian by birth, of French extraction, and although an educated man, considered himself insulted by Barrette's not coming to the election and voting for his candidate, and declared that he would be revenged on him.
"There was a law at that time in Michigan preventing stud horses from running at large when over eighteen months of age, under a penalty of ten dollars for each offence, if willingly or willfully at large. At this time the water was high in the Mississippi, and the old village of Prairie du Chien was an island. One morning shortly after the election, Mr. Rolette with his men brought me two horses of the aforesaid description, and hitched them before my door. I was then a justice of the peace. Rolette entered my house under considerable apparent excitement, saying, he had brought me two horses that were running at large contrary to law. I answered him, that I did not want the horses, nor was I going to take charge of them. Mr. Rolette then asked, as they were at large contrary to law, what was to be done? I answered, that I would have nothing to do with the horses, and should not take charge of them; but if he wished to make a complaint against their owners, I was bound to take notice of it.
"Mr. Rolette then concluded to make such complaint against Barrette, the owner of one of the horses, and let the other off, as he had no pique to gratify in his case. Process was accordingly issued against Barrette, and soon returned served. On the day of trial, a man by the name of Perkins, heretofore spoken of, seeing that the suit was brought by an apparently wealthy man to oppress a poor one, volunteered his services to assist in defending him, and on calling the case the defendant demanded a jury. The Legislature of Michigan had some two or three years before this reduced the jury before a justice of the peace to six, and the year preceding this trial, they had repealed that law, without any saving clause.
"Under these circumstances, I decided that the repeal of the law, revived the old one of twelve jurors, and accordingly had a jury of that number summoned and sworn. It so happened that there were some Americans on the jury, and as the trial proceeded, the defendant admitted that his horse was at large, but not willingly or wilfully, and proved that his horse was old, and had been worked down very poor in the spring, and that when he was through with his work and wished to turn him out on the prairie, to save himself from the penalty of the law, he had taken him to be castrated to the only man on the prairie that pretended to perform such operations. But he declined doing so, saying that the horse was too poor and weak to live through it, and that he had better turn him out on the prairie to rest and recruit a few days, as he could do no harm. Under this testimony, the jury brought in a verdict for defendant, stating that Barrette's horse was neither willfully or willingly at large, contrary to law.
"After this Barrette, by advice of his friend, brought suit against Mr. Rolette, before N. Boilvin, Esq., another justice of the peace, for trespass, and swimming his horse across the slough of St. Ferule, and had another jury, who gave Barrette five dollars damages and costs, which mortified Mr. Rolette very much. He did not care so much about the money, as he did about attempting to punish a Canadian farmer for disobeying his wishes, and to have that farmer beat him."
The magistrates of Prairie du Chien gained for themselves a merited reputation for energy in the administration of the laws. They fined a man of ninety for indecency; scourged a soldier at the public whipping post, and looked with wonderful complacency upon the ejection of an Indian from a wheat field, in which he had been trespassing. There was a jail in the place calculated to keep delinquents, just so long as they wished to remain and no longer. Report has it, that the jailor was accustomed to bolt the door with a boiled carrot. In truth, up to this time law had exercised but little sway in the place. The traders made and executed laws to suit their own convenience and but little regard was had to justice.
The magistrates who held court in the place were for the most part illiterate men, and knew little about law or mode of procedure in legal matters. They decided all matters according to their own notions of right and wrong, and often-times justice became comedy in their hands. The following is an illustration of their mode of dispensing justice: A case was being tried before one of these magistrates, on which a jury had been empaneled, and lawyers employed. During the trial one of the lawyers made an objection to the character of the evidence offered by a witness. He informed the judge that it was not legal. His honor overruled the objection, and the case proceeded. The lawyer objected again, and was again silenced. A third time he objected, and, endeavoring to convince the obdurate judge that he was proceeding contrary to all law, when the foreman of the jury sprang to his feet, and thundered out, that he had taken his oath as a juror to decide the case according to the evidence; he wanted to hear the whole thing, and if that fool of a lawyer was going to keep on in that style, he would leave the court. It is needless to say that the lawyer was effectually "squashed."
Although the chief justice and the two associate justices were appointed in 1818, no record of their proceedings has been preserved anterior to 1823, when, in May, the "county court of Crawford county met in session." The record for this term is as follows:
May 12, 1823, Prairie du Chien, county court of Crawford county met in session; J. L. Findly, C. C. C. C.
The oath of the grand jury: The grand jury do solemny swear that you will dilligently and true presentment make in behalf of the United States of America, of all complaints made to you, and of all unlawful acts that should come to your knowledge, that shall be required of you according to law, without fear, fraud or partiality. So help you God.
The grand jury being sworn, retired, and brought in the following report: "No bill made." J. L. Findly, C. C. C. C.
The court adjourns until 10 o'clock to-morrow. J. L. Findly, C. C. C. C.
The court met agreeable to adjournment, and proceeded to business.
Nicholas Perrine } This process is a vs. > writ of Hardin Perkins. } Attachment.
Names of the jurors: Sandy Simprau, Francis Vertifeulle, Joseph Rivard, Oliver Cherriere, Michael Brisbois, Edward Persan, Joseph Brisbois, John Dis Pouse, Alexis Bailey, Frederick Barnard, James Reed, A. Range.
The complainant plead a non suit. The judges decided that the writ of attachment was illegal, and that complainant was non-suited, with all costs. J. L. Findly, C. C. C. C.
Ordered, that John Brunet and John Dispouse are licensed as tavern keepers in the borough of Prairie du Chien for one year. J. L. Findly, C. C. C. C.
Ordered, that James Reed be licensed as a tavern keeper in the borough of Prairie du Chien for one year. By order of the court. J. L. Findly, C. C. C. C.
The court decree that the proceedings of James H. Lockwood, Esq., are legal and proper and are to be filed in the clerk's office. By order of the court. J. L. Findly, C. C. C. C.
Ordered, that this court have designated the limits of the jail to be one mile square. J. L. Findly, C. C. C. C.
Ordered, that the court be adjourned until the next term in course. J. L. Findly, C. C. C. C.
No change was made in the county court from the time of the first appointment of the justices, until July 31, 1830, on which day Joseph Rolette was commissioned chief justice in place of John W. Johnson, and Jean Brunet, associate justice instead of Francois Bouthellier, both Johnson and Bouthellier having removed from the county. And this was then all the more a necessity, as the court, having previously been shorn of its powers, as will hereafter be more fully explained, was, by an act of the Legislative Council of the territory of Michigan, approved July 31, 1830, fully restored to its just powers, as originally possessed. On the 14th day of May, 1831, Joseph M. Street was appointed to succeed Joseph Rolette as chief justice, and James H. Lockwood was appointed an associate justice.
No other changes were made in the county court until September 6, 1834, when Hercules L. Dousman was appointed associate justice, in place of Jean Brunet. The court remained unchanged from this time until abrogated by the district court upon the organization of Wisconsin territory, according to the provisions of the organic law, as set forth in:
"Sec. 15. And be it further enacted, That all suits, process, and proceedings, and all indictments and informations which shall be undetermined on the third day of July next in the courts held by the additional judge for the Michigan territory, in the counties of Brown and Iowa; and all suits, process, and proceedings, and all indictments and informations, which shall be undetermined on the said third day of July, in the county courts of the several counties of Crawford, Brown, Iowa, Dubuque. Milwaukee and Des Moines, shall be transferred to be heard, tried, prosecuted, and determined in the district courts hereby established, which may include the said counties."
That justice was administered without much regard to the forms of law, at an early day, in Crawford county, is not to be charged against the justices of the county court as a dereliction of duty on their part. They were all men of the pioneer stamp and their honesty can not be impugned. John H. Fonda says:
"I remember that soon after I came to Prairie du Chien, Joseph Rolette was chief justice. I forget who his associates were, and it was rich to watch the proceedings and decisions of the court. Joseph M. Street, H. L. Dousman, M. Brisbois and James H. Lockwood were afterwards appointed to the offices of chief justice and associate judges, and a decided improvement was introduced in the manner of conducting the court. Severally, the associates had the powers of a justice of the peace; they could marry persons, issue warrants for arrest, etc., but it was only collectively that they had original jurisdiction in civil and criminal matters."
That those who come after them should desire to learn something of these men is a matter of no wonder. The first who held the responsible position of chief justice was, as already stated, John W. Johnson.
The nativity of Mr. Johnson is unknown, but is believed to have been American, as he came from Maryland to the "prairie." His advent here was as United States factor in June, 1816. He continued in that position so long as he remained here --- a period of sixteen years. He filled the office of chief justice of the county court from the spring of 1819, when that court was first organized, until succeeded by Joseph M. Street, in 1830. In 1832, he was relieved of his duties as factor, by the winding up of the factor system of Indian trade, when he removed to St. Louis, where he died some years after.
Mr. Johnson was a man of good sense and judgment, but had from quite a young man held the appointment of United States factor and resided in the Indian country, where he could obtain but little knowledge of the proceeding of courts or the ordinary transactions of civilized life.
Joseph M. Street emigrated from Richmond, Va., in the winter of 1805-6, to Frankfort, Ky., where he soon engaged in the publication of The Western World, and for several years took a conspicuous part in the gladiatorial field of Kentucky politics. Appointed in 1828, to the agency of the Winnebagoes, at Prairie du Chien, he remained there for a number of years. He died on the Des Moines river, Iowa, while agent for the Sacs and Foxes, May 5, 1840, at about the age of sixty years.
Of Francois Bouthellier but little is known. He was in what is now Crawford county, at an early day, and was agent of the Southwest Fur Company. On the 27th of May, 1816, he leased to John W. Johnson, United States factor, the buildings of that company, which were afterward attempted to be confiscated to the general government, but without success. Lot No. 16, in the main village of Prairie du Chiens was claimed by him in 1820, and the claim allowed by the agent of the United States, Isaac Lee. The testimony taken to substantiate his claim was in substance as follows:
"Michael Brisbois and Dennis Curtois, being duly sworn, depose and say that the above described tract of land [village lot No. 16] was occupied in the year one thousand seven hundred and ninety-two, by Michael La Bothe; that, after his death, Francois Bouthellier purchased said lot at auction, and that the occupation of said lot has been kept up by the said Michael La Bothe and Francois Boutheiller, from the year one thousand seven hundred and ninety-two, to the present time."
After leaving Crawford county, Judge Bouthellier moved to Galena, near which place he died in 1833.
Wilfred Owens ended his days in 1821, by cutting his throat, in a fit of mental derangement. The following notice of his death appeared in the Detroit Gazette, Oct. 5, 1821: "Died, at Prairie du Chien, on the 23d of August last, Mr. Wilfred Owens, merchant. He committed suicide by cutting an artery of his arm and of his throat, in the presence of two of his friends, and was supposed to be insane. Mr. Owens was judge of probate an associate justice in the county of Crawford, and a very respectable member of society."
Mr. Owens was a Kentuckian, and was sent to Prairie du Chien by Alexander McNair, of St. Louis, as his clerk in the sutler business, giving him an interest in the profits.
Joseph Rolette assistant and afterward, for a short time, chief justice of the county court of Crawford county, was a native of Canada where he was born about the year 1787. He was, while young, an auctioneer's clerk, and was remarkably expert in catching and announcing the rapid bids made for goods offered at public sale. He appears to have located at "Prairie des Chiens" in 1804. He early became a prominent and enterprising trader. Like other Canadian traders, he sided with the British during the war of 1812-15, and was active in the capture of Mackinaw from the Americans in 1812.
Up to thirty years of age, Rolette used no liquor or wine --- an unusual thing for a trader. He died at Prairie du Chien, in 1841, over the age of sixty. His perception was quick, and he had a wonderful power in calculating figures. Though not daring in his character, he would fight when it seemed to be necessary. Once, in crossing the Mississippi at Prairie du Chien, at a dangerous time, when the ice ran heavily, the late H. L. Dousman was one of the party with him. Rolette got so alarmed for his safety, that he solemnly promised that, if spared, he would devote $1,000 towards the erection of a Catholic church on the prairie. After no little hard work, the icy obstacles were overcome and they approached the shore in safety. On landing, while one foot was yet in the boat, Rolette exclaimed: "Collect it if you can; you haven't got my note for it!" Dousman so badgered him that he subsequently paid the amount for the object promised.
Of the subject of this sketch, James H. Lockwood, in his published narrative, says:
"Joseph Rolette was a Canadian by birth, of French extraction, and an educated man. He told me he was educated for the Roman Catholic Church, but not liking the profession, he quit it and served a regular apprenticeship to mercantile business, and, about the year 1804, came to Prairie du Chien in business connection with Mr. Cameron, an old Indian trader, who usually resided at Lac-qui-Parle on the St. Peter's river. Mr. Rolette superintended the business at the prairie, and kept the books of the concern, wintering occasionally at, and in the vicinity of, Lake Pepin, and returning to Prairie du Chien early in the spring, to take advantage of the spring trade of the Indians visiting here. Mr. Rolette was an active merchant and trader, and I suppose would be called a clever merchant; that is, he was active in taking every advantage of his neighbor for making money, without regard to the morality of the transaction. Although he was active in business, and used every exertion to make money, it was not with the miserly disposition of hoarding it, for he was equally liberal in scattering it. Among many bad qualities as a citizen, Mr. Rolette yet possessed many redeeming traits. He was hospitable and generous, and liberal to the poor, and where a man had met with loss by accident, he was generally one of the first to afford relief; and, for an Indian trader, he had considerable enterprise for the prosperity and improvement of the country. I believe that he introduced the first swine into the country, but am not sure that such is the fact; I know that he introduced the first sheep, and that he was much imposed on in the purchase. He bargained with an American below this on the Mississippi, to deliver him a certain number of ewes on the prairie. The man brought the number of sheep, and told him they were according to contract, and Mr. Rolette, knowing very little about sheep, counted them and directed his man to take them to his farm, and paid for them agreeably to contract, and after a while some one examined them, and found that instead of ewes they were nearly all wethers.
"About 1840, a man by the name of Manhan, who was a tanner and currier, came to this place, and proposed to set up his business here, but not having the necessary means, Mr. Rolette advanced them to him; but it turned out a poor adventure. I must here relate an ancedote of Rolette. His ambition was always to be ahead of me in everything. I think that some time in 1823, I mentioned to some person that I thought a distillery would do well at the Prairie, and that I would introduce some rye; and if I could induce the French to raise it on the front of their farms that were sandy, I would build a distillery, but wished to get the rye growing first. Mr. Rolette, hearing of my suggestion, concluded at once that he would build a distillery; and in going to Mackinaw, he fell in with a man by the name of Curtis, who had been a captain in the army, and had been cashiered by court-martial, and being without means of support, was ready for almost anything. He persuaded Mr. Rolette that he was a scientific man and could do almost anything, and, especially, was well acquainted with distilling. Mr. Rolette engaged him, and brought him to the prairie, in 1824; but as the distillery was not yet built, Mr. Rolette employed him as a teacher in his family, for which he was very well qualified. During this time Mr. Rolette ordered and received the coppers and other apparatus for his distillery. For some reason, the building of the distillery was delayed until the spring of 1828, when a man by the name of Giapon, a Canadian by birth, clerk of our circuit court, and fond of a joke, told Mr. Rolette one day, that I would make him build a distillery; that I had only to say that I was going to build one, and he would be certain to immediately do so. It was not true that I had ever said so to Giapon; but Mr. Rolette soon after sent his coppers to St. Louis, and nothing more was heard of the distillery.
"It was so well understood that Mr. Rolette would oppose any measure that he did not introduce, that when I wished to carry out any object without opposition, that I considered for the public good, I would get some person to go to Mr. Rolette and tell him that I was going to introduce such a measure, and I would soon after hear that Mr. Rolette was going to do the same thing. I would, of course, second him and we would get along without any difficulty. Mr. Rolette was evidently the first man of this little village when he came to the country, and some may say that in representing his foibles, I have maliciously taken advantage of him, as he cannot now answer for himself. As we were for several years opposing candidates for the rank and consideration of the first man of our little village, and were rival Indian traders, I have introduced our respective names only when necessary to elucidate the events in the history of the region of Prairie du Chien.
"I have lived among this people of Prairie du Chien upwards of thirty years, and have taken considerable interest in elections, and frequently asked the people to vote for the candidate that I supported, and recollect but a solitary instance, in all that time, where a man had the independence to refuse my request. It was amusing, after the county of Crawford was organized, and an election was to take place for a delegate to Congress from Michigan, to see these people about election time. It so happened that Joseph Rolette and myself influenced about an equal number of voters, and as we generally supported different candidates, these people would meet, and talk among themselves about the election, asking each other who they were going to vote for? The answer invariably was, 'Je va vote pour Mons. Rolette;' or 'Je va vote pour Mons. Lockwood;' the names of the opposing candidates never being mentioned, and very seldom known; a rather amusing circumstance."
Mrs. Kinzie relates in her Wau-Bun the following capital story of M. Rolette. The scene was on Lake Winnebago, where M. Rolette was engaged with a trading boat, when he met another boat on which were his employes, directly from Prairie du Chien. "Of course, after an absence of some weeks from home, the meeting on those lonely waters, and the exchanging of news, was an occasion of great excitement. The boats were stopped; earnest greetings interchanged; question followed question.
'Eh! bien' --- inquired M. Rolette, 'have they finished the new house?'
'Et la cheminee, fume-t-elle? (Does the chimney smoke?)
'And the harvest; how is that?'
'Very fine, indeed.'
'Is the mill at work?'
'Yes, plenty of water.'
'How is Whip?' (His favorite horse.)
'Oh! Whip is first rate.'
"Everything, in short, about the store, the farm, the business of various descriptions being satisfactorily gone over, there was no occasion for further delay. It was time to proceed.
'Eh! bien --- adieu! bon voyage!'
'Arrachez --- mes gens!' (Go ahead, men.)
Then suddenly --- 'Arretez --- arretez!' (Stop! Stop!)
'Comment se portent Madame Rolette et les enfants?' (How are Mrs. Rolette and the children?)' "
Mrs. Kinzie also gives us another glimpse of M. Rolette's character. The Indians, she says, called him Ah-kay-zaup-ee-tah, or Five More; because, as they said, let them offer what number of skins they might, in bartering for an article, his terms were invariably "five more."
"Upon one occasion," continues Mrs. Kinzie, "a lady remarked to him, 'Oh, M. Rolette, I would not be engaged in the Indian trade; It seems to me a system of cheating the poor Indians.'
'Let me tell you, madame,' replied he with great naivete, 'it is not so easy a thing to cheat the Indians as you imagine. I have tried it these twenty years, and have never succeeded!' "
A general memoir of Joseph Rolette was commenced July 27, 1876, L'Opinion Publicque, a paper published in Montreal. It was written by Joseph Tasse, is in French, and is continued in a number of issues of that paper. This memoir, along with many others, has since been published in book form by Mr. Tasse.
James H. Lockwood died in Prairie du Chien, Aug. 24, 1857, in the sixty-fourth year of his age. He was born in Clinton Co., N. Y., in 1793. He continued until his sixteenth year, employed on his father's farm, getting such an education as the circumstances of the country then afforded; when to be able to read, write and cipher was considered sufficient qualifications to teach a common school. He engaged in the study of law for a time, but abandoned that to become a clerk for a sutler attached to a portion of Gen. Izard's army in 1841. In 1815 he was invited by Lewis Rouse, of Green Bay, to assist him, as he had secured the sutling of the rifle regiment, which was then in Buffalo. He accepted the invitation, and had the pleasure of riding to Buffalo on the stage, which, with colors flying, bore to that city the welcome tidings of peace. The troops were then ordered west --- at that day a word of very different signification from what it is now; and on the 15th of August, 1815, Mr. Lockwood arrived at Mackinaw. In 1816 Mr. Lockwood engaged as clerk for a party of traders. Green Bay and Prairie du Chien were the only settlements in this State at that time. He continued in this situation, until in the fall of 1819, he made his home in Prairie du Chien, where he resided ever since.
The subject of this sketch had been justice of peace, associate justice of Crawford county, postmaster and member of the territorial legislature. In 1842, he united with the Episcopal church. His funeral was attended by a large concourse of friends. Service was read by Rev. John H. Egar; an address was delivered by the Rev. A. Bronson. Prayer was offered by Rev. Mr. Radcliffe. Many incidents of Mr. Lockwood's life are to be found in other chapters of this history.
The Wisconsin press has noticed without distinction of party, the demise of Hercules Louis Dousman, of Prairie du Chien; and the press has done itself honor, by the respect it has paid to so eminent a man.
A great portion of the newspapers now printed in this State cannot, however, be aware of the most varied and striking incidents in the career of the subject of their obituaries. But an acquaintance with the affairs of the territory and of the State for more than thirty years, enables the writer of this article to state several particulars which bring the extraordinary capacity and excellence of Col. Dousman into strong relief. In 1834 he was known at Washington as a man whose influence in the vast regions of the upper Mississippi was only equalled by his intimate knowledge of its interests. By this is meant his familiarity with the geography of the country --- the disposition of the savage tribes --- his just and comprehensive views of the future progress of the great northern northwest; of its resources, agricultural, geological and commercial; and his personal influence in quelling frontier disturbances as well as giving counsel to the officers of the government. He was always the adviser of those who commanded troops at Fort Crawford, Fort Winnebago, Fort Snelling and the line of forts which watched the frontier. He was the friend of Col. Brooke, and the confidant of Gen. Dodge. When a civil commission was sent to the Colean de Prairie, in 1835, to examine the resources of this extraordinary tract, which as then was not even mapped, the United States geologist was instructed by Mr. Poinset, then secretary of war, to consult with Hercules L. Dousman, and with him alone.
Gen. Alexander Macomb, then commander-in-chief, directed thus: You will, on reaching Prairie du Chien and presenting the letters with which you are furnished, to Mr. Dousman, ask him to furnish such geographical, mineralogical and general statistics as will promote the efficiency of your command. Incidentally you will be able to secure the clue to a mass of information which the government requires, and which can be furnished so accurately and reliably by no other individual in that important tract of the northwest. At this period Mr. Nicolet and Gen. J. C. Fremont had not executed the government map of the space between the Mississippi and Missouri rivers; and in fact the traders and voyageurs estimated them as being 300 miles nearer to each other than they are now established to be. On the arrival of the State geologist, Col. Dousman produced a map which he had constructed for the use of the American Fur Company, which he presented. This map was constructed from years of close observation, extended business and keen judgment. It was made without instruments, and actually came within twenty-five miles of the true distance as afterwards established by the United States engineers. Those who were present can never forget his remark in reference to this manuscript chart. "Il-ya pent-etre quelque erreur, mais Jai examine le supet; vous' nalley pas rous egarer beaucoup." There is perhaps some error, but I have examined the subject; you won't be much out of the way."
After the return of the geological expedition (via New Orleans) to Washington, the secretary of war addressed an autograph letter of thanks to Mr. Dousman for the aid, information, and hospitality he had tendered to the command; in truth, next to his knowledge of the country, his hospitality was unbounded in it.
It so happened that the writer, present upon this occasion, was sent in a different capacity to Prairie du Chien in 1838. A quarter of million dollars, (a large sum in those days, thirty years ago), was to be paid by Indian commissioners to the Winnebagoes. Here was a labyrinth to unspread, a complication to simplify. The gentlemen comprising the commission candidly wrote to the President of the United States, that their instructions were ample, but that the Winnebagoes were discontented, and that the commission wanted more light as to their discretion in a matter which might not only embroil the government, but might lead to the past scenes of the Black Hawk War. The dispatch of the secretary of war, in answer, was this: "A gentleman upon your commission, can inform you that some years ago, when with his father, instructions were sent to the United States geologist to consult Hercules L. Dousman, Esq., at Prairie du Chien. Mr. Dousman has undoubtedly the letter addressed to him from the war department. In the meantime I renew the general statement. He is the most valuable man on the upper Mississippi. He has great influence over many tribes, and is esteemed by John Jacob Astor, Ramsey Crooks, and all connected with the western outfit, as the most competent civilian within that interesting portion of the valley of the Mississippi. It appears that a candid consultation with him is desirable, before returning to Washington, as you contemplate, without carrying out the objects of the commission which the Government is desirous to have accomplished. It is understood that his influence over the Winnebago Indians is unbounded, and it is very desirable to have them permanently removed west of the Mississippi."
So the commissioners opened their sessions. False claims were adjusted. Just claims were allowed, interminable difficulties solved, and general justice done. Nor were the fiscal duties those which involved the most peril. Five thousand Winnebago Indians were encamped between the plains of Prairie du Chien, and the Pointed Rocks, seven miles up the river. Occasionally the whole body assembled all around the stockade of Fort Crawford, which was garrison by only 100 men. At one time it was contemplated to call in volunteers from across the river, and pay them out of the specie held by the commission. In fine, if not a scene of terror and confusion, men held their breath, and thought of something else than dancing with ladies at military balls. The red heathen were upon us. To add to the dilemma, some soldiers broke into the magazine and pillaged kegs of specie, amounting to several thousand dollars. In fine, it was proposed to abandon a portion of the quadrangle of the fort, and defend the rest to the last. Besides this, the troops were not far from mutinous. In this extremity Hercules Dousman called a council of the Indians, upbraided, alarmed and deterred them. The Winnebagoes appointed a commissioner of their own, connected with their blood and interests. He sat on the board --- all animosities were appeased, all was unison and harmony. Hence the influence of a powerful character like that of Hercules Dousman, a man whose life was at the mercy of any desperate, discontented member of the most ferocious race known from Lake Superior to the Rocky Mountains, is unparalleled in the history of "such men who have only led the life of Kit Carson." Ex-United States senator, Hon. Simon Cameron, of Pennsylvania, in relating the treaty, payment and its results, remarked in the United States senate a few years ago: "I have lived in almost every State of the Union; I now represent in part the Keystone State but in all my experience, a more truthful, energetic, fearless, noble-hearted man I never met than Hercules Dousman. His talent, if possible, exceeded his great virtues."
A public print remarked sometime since that Mr. Solomon Juneau, Gov. James Duane Doty and Col. Hercules L. Dousman, were the men who possessed the greatest influence over the Indian tribes. Certainly Mr. Juneau was well acquainted with the Fol Avoines, or Menomonees; he had had dealings with many of their bands. He also had much influence with a certain portion of the Chippewas. His fairness and amiability entitled him to more than this. Gov. Doty, except as an old settler and prominent public man, had no influence at all with any tribe or band from Detroit to the Mississippi river; whereas, the absolute influence of Dousman extended everywhere over the Pottawattamies, the Chippewas living around the bounds of Lake Superior itself --- over the discontented chiefs of all of them, and over the ambitious half-breeds. The Menomonees called him father in four different treaties, for the substantial reason that for nearly forty years he supplied them with provisions during the Indian pestilence, "Lapicotte," or the confluent smallpox.
In the hereditary wars between the Ojibewas and Sioux, when the Indian bureau was paralyzed in its functions, Hercules L. Dousman was the only man in the length and breadth of the land who could or would, or dared to act as a pacificator between these powerful Indian Nations, and it is not less singular that he lived so long without any casuality in a region so wild and tempestuous. Nor were his relations with the capitalists of New York and St. Louis less remarkable. In case of the non-advent of specie to comply with treaty stipulations, to pay off soldiers, or of any general public necessity, a courier to either of these commercial centers, from Hercules L. Dousman, brought the money to any point within a circumference that is now measured by empires. No living man, ever in the United States, possessed the same direct visible and operative power over the aborigines. Personally, he was a remarkable man, quite unassuming, eminently gentleman-like, and of commanding presence. Cautious in his undertakings, but the soul of honor in fulfilling them; above all envy, detraction, or malice. But it may also be observed that his personal courage was so well known, and shown on remarkable occasions, that very few braves, either white or red, in the valley of the Mississippi, tried conclusions with him a second time. He knew the Indian languages and spoke French with the purity and precision of the Choulleaus and Pratts. In fact, the writer of these pages, a Frenchman by language but an American by birth, supposed that Col. Dousman had been educated in France. He had never crossed the ocean.
Death had already taken away but a short time before his brother, Dr. Dousman, of Milwaukee, and this new fiat of heaven has diminished the number of eminent and excellent men who came to the west even anterior to a very
No sooner had the three counties of Brown, Crawford and Michillimackinac been organized and their county courts established, than it was felt to be a great draw-back to the prompt administration of justice that, in all civil cases of over $1,000, and in criminal cases that were capital, as well as in actions of ejectment, in the allowance of writs of error, and mandamus, recourse must be had to the supreme court at Detroit; the latter place being the seat of government of Michigan territory. Therefore, in January, 1823, an act of Congress provided for a circuit court, and for the appointment of a judge for these counties. This court had concurrent jurisdiction, civil and criminal, with the supreme court of the territory, in most cases, subject, however, to have its decisions taken to the latter tribunal by a writ of error. The law provided for holding one term of court in each year, in each of the counties named in the act; so, at last, there was to be a speedy administration of justice at home, and the people were to be relieved from all military arbitrations, which frequently had been imposed upon them. James Duane Doty was appointed judge of this court at its organization. Appeals were taken from the county court to the "circuit court of the United States for the county of Crawford," as Judge Doty's court was called. A May term was held in Prairie du Chien; a June term in Green Bay; a July term in "the borough of Michillimackinac," in each year. In 1824 Henry S. Baird, of Brown county, was appointed district attorney. Doty held the office of judge until May, 1832, when he was succeeded by David Irvin. The new circuit included all of Michigan not in the peninsula, the now State of Wisconsin, and the country north of St. Croix river and east of the Mississippi to latitude 49 --- now under the government of Minnesota. In the winter or spring of 1823, Doty was appointed by President Monroe the additional judge. At the session of 1823-4, Congress changed the tenure of office of the judges of Michigan from "good behavior" to the term of four years, and Judge Doty's re-appointment was announced in Nile's Register of Feb. 28, 1824. The first term of Judge Doty's court was held at Mackinaw, in July, 1823.
James Duane Doty was born at Salem, Washington Co., N. Y., in the year of 1799. He received a common school education, and then devoted himself to the study of law. In 1818, he removed to Detroit, in the territory of Michigan, where, in the following year, he was admitted to the bar. He early attracted attention, and, in 1820, accompanied Gov. Cass on one of his extensive tours, and was present when the governor hauled down the British flag displayed by the Chippewas on the American side of the straits of Mackinaw, despite their menaces. In the winter of 1821, while visiting Washington, Doty was admitted to the bar of the United States supreme court. A year later, upon the passage of the act forming northern Michigan into a judicial district, he was selected by President Monroe to occupy the bench. In the fall of 1823 Judge Doty, with his wife --- he had recently married a daughter of Gen. Collins, of Oneida Co., N. Y., --- removed to Prairie du Chien for the purpose of entering upon his duties; but, the following spring, because the traders did not manifest a very friendly spirit, and believing that Green Bay was a healthier place, established his home there. During this year the organization of the courts was completed, and thereafter he held his terms with strict regularity until 1832, when he was succeeded by Judge David Irvin. Thus relieved of official duties, he made repeated tours over the then unsettled territory, became thoroughly acquainted with its natural resources, and contributed not a little towards obtaining the good-will of the Indian tribes toward the government. In 1831-2, he was one of the commissioners who surveyed the United States military roads from Green Bay to Chicago and Prairie du Chien. In 1834 he was elected to the territorial council of Michigan, in which he served two years with distinction. In that body he introduced the proposition for the formation of a State government, and the separate territorial organization of Wisconsin, which prevailed in 1836. Meanwhile, at the Green Bay land sales of 1835-6, he was intrusted with large sums of money for investment in eligible locations, and many flourishing villages now stand on sites of his selection. He was chiefly instrumental, at the Belmont session of the Wisconsin legislature, although not a member, in securing the location of the seat of government at the Four Lakes, now Madison. In 1838, he was elected delegate in Congress from Wisconsin territory, serving until 1841. He became governor, by appointment from President Tyler, in September, 1841, which office he held until June, 1844, being the second territorial governor of Wisconsin. He was a member of the first convention chosen to draft a State constitution in 1846. He was elected to Congress from the third or Green Bay district, in 1848, and re-elected in 1850. At the close of his term in 1853, he retired to private life. His last residence in Wisconsin was at Menasha, on Doty's island, of Lake Winnebago. In 1861 he was appointed superintendent of Indian affairs by President Lincoln, and subsequently governor of Utah, holding this position until his death, which occurred June 13, 1865. He was emphatically one of the most eminent pioneers of Wisconsin, and his important public services entitle him to lasting honor.
To reach Prairie du Chien from Green Bay, Judge Doty had to travel the distance in a bark canoe, by way of the Fox and Wisconsin rivers. Annual journeys were undertaken between the two points, from 1825 to 1828, by the judge and district attorney, Henry S. Baird, in one canoe. It was usually manned by seven Indians, and the trip each way occupied about seven days. Baird took his family along. Mrs. Baird, who is now (1884) still living, relates the journey was rendered very enjoyable by its sociability and novelty. It was through a wilderness, on wild waters, and no white inhabitant found along its entire course.
In 1829 Morgan L. Martin came to Green Bay, and was subsequently admitted to the bar by the court. In May, of the same year, he and Judge Doty, and the district attorney (Baird), with a Menomonee Indian for a guide, traveled on horseback from Green Bay to Prairie du Chien and back. It took them seven days each way. During the journey, they saw no white man. Their course led through what is now Fond du Lac, Green Lake, Madison, Blue Mounds and Dodgeville; crossing the Wisconsin river six miles above its confluence with the Mississippi.
In those early days, courts were held in rooms in log dwellings, log school houses, and barns, in an emergency, as was the case at the May term, 1826, at Prairie du Chien, when the site of the village was inundated by the Mississippi. "It would naturally be imagined that, under such circumstances [as the flood] court could not be held. But not so; a large barn, situated on dry ground, was fitted up for the occasion. The judge and the attorneys occupied the extensive threshing floor, and the jurors the mows. When the latter retired to make up a verdict, they were conducted by an officer to another barn or stable." After Iowa county was created, and the county seat established at Mineral Point, the court was also held at that place, as well as at Green Bay and Prairie du Chien.
It was thought advisable to try the Indian prisoners confined for the murder of Gagnier and Lipcap at Prairie du Chien, in Judge Doty's court; so, in order to give him jurisdiction, and, at the same time not to bring his court in conflict with the county court of Crawford county, the following acts were passed:
An Act to restrict the jurisdiction of the county courts of the counties of Michillimackinac, Brown and Crawford.
Be it enacted by the Legislative Council of the Territory of Michigan, that from and after the first day of July next ensuing, it shall not be lawful for the county courts, in the counties of Michillimackinac, Brown and Crawford, to take or to hold, or entertain jurisdiction of the trial of any civil or criminal cause; nor shall it be lawful for the clerks thereof, as such, to issue any venire whatever, for any jury or juries, returnable at the said county courts, or either of them.
Sec. 2, That all its suits, indictments, recognizances, process, writs, appeals and all other matters and things whatsoever, relating to causes civil and criminal, pending in or returnable to the said county courts, are hereby transferred and made returnable to the circuit court of the United States, to be held in each of the said counties where the same are pending; and the circuit court is hereby authorized and required to hear, try, and determine all such suits, indictments, recognizances, process, writs, appeals and all other matters and things aforesaid, according to law, and in like manner as the said county courts would have been required to hear, try, and determine the same, if this act had not been passed.
Approved June 18, 1828.
According to the provisions of this act, Judge Doty convened his court on the 25th of August 1828. On the 1st day of September, Chickhongsic, or the Little Boeuf, and Waniga, or the Sun, were indicted for murder, as accomplices of Red Bird in the killing of Gagnier and Lipcap, in June of the preceding year, as related in a previous chapter. The two Indians (Winnebagoes) just mentioned were convicted and sentenced to be hung on the 26th of December following; but, before that day, they were pardoned by the President of the United States. Two other Indians, charged with the murder of Methode and family, were at the same term discharged under a nolle prosequi. Afterward the jurisdiction of the county court was restored by the act which follows:
An Act to provide for holding a special session of the circuit court of the county of Crawford.
Be it enacted by the Legislative Council of the Territory of Michigan, That "the additional judge for the Michigan territory, in the counties of Michillimackinac, Brown and Crawford," be and he is hereby authorized to hold a special session of the circuit court for the county of Crawford, at such place in the borough of Prairie du Chien, as he may appoint, on Monday, the twenty-fifth day of August next, and so long a time thereafter as may be necessary for the trial of all such criminal cases as shall then and there be moved and prosecuted in the said court; and the clerk of said court shall issue veniries for fifteen grand, and twelve petit jurors to attend the said session.
Sec. 2. That the jurors aforesaid shall be free white males of this territory, above the age of twenty-one years, and shall have resided therein one year previous to the said twenty-fifth of August, and, no other qualification shall be required by the court, of the said jurors; and if any juror is subpoenaed as a witness in any criminal case, to be prosecuted as aforesaid, or does not possess a full knowledge of the English language, he shall not be discharged for such cause alone.
Sec. 3. That no person, indicted for any crime at the said session, shall be allowed by the court to challenge peremptorily, and without cause, more than twelve jurors of the said panel, anything contained in any law to the contrary notwithstanding: Provided, That any deficiency in said panel, from any cause whatever, shall not operate to prevent the court from causing a sufficient number of jurors to complete the panel aforesaid, to be summoned from among the neighboring citizens.
Approved June 3, 1828.
An Act to restore the jurisdiction and powers of the county court of the county of Crawford.
Be it enacted by the Legislative Council of the Territory of Michigan. That it shall hereafter be lawful for the county court of the county of Crawford, to take and entertain jurisdiction of all causes, civil and criminal, that may arise in said county, and to direct the issuing of all necessary process for carrying the same into effect, in as ample a manner as was possessed by said court, previous to the passage of the act entitled "An Act to restrict the jurisdiction of the county courts of the counties of Michillimackinac, Brown and Crawford, approved June 18, one thousand eight hundred and twenty-eight, or as said court would have possessed, provided the act aforesaid had not been passed.
Sec. 2. That there shall be one term annually of said court, to be held on the first Monday of November, in each and every year.
Approved July 31, 1830.
While Judge Irvin, the successor of Judge Doty, was holding his office, it was thought best to better provide for the publication of all legal notices in the counties of Brown, Iowa and Crawford; so the following act was passed, applicable, however, to both circuit and county court:
An Act to provide for the publication of all legal notices in the counties of Brown, Iowa and Crawford.
Section. 1. Be it enacted by the Legislative Council of the Territory of Michigan, that when notice of any application to any court or judicial officer in any of said counties of Brown, Iowa and Crawford, of any proceeding in any court, or before any judicial officers, in either of said counties, is required to be published in any newspaper, the said notice shall be published by posting one copy of it on the door of the house where the circuit court was last held, in the county in which said application is made or proceeding had; and the court or judge may order a further publication, if, in their discretion, the nature of the case shall require it, by inserting a copy thereof in a newspaper.
Sec. 2. The provisions of the foregoing section shall not effect any application made or proceeding had as aforesaid, previous to the 1st day of June next.
Approved Feb. 1, 1833.
The territorial circuit court, with David Irvin as judge, continued until the year 1836, when it was, along with the Crawford county court, abrogated by the organization of the territory of Wisconsin.
David Irvin was born in Albemarle Co., Va., in 1794, and was of blended Scotch and Irish parentage. His father was a Presbyterian minister and a teacher of the ancient languages of much local reputation. Young Irvin was educated for a lawyer and started in life in the Shenandoah valley. As he did not meet with much success there, he applied to his old school-mate, William C. Rives, who was at that time in high favor with President Jackson, to get him an office. Mr. Rives suggested a judgeship. The term of office of Judge Doty, as judge of the additional district for Michigan territory, having expired, (1832), that position was tendered Irvin and accepted. Upon the organization of the territory of Wisconsin, he was appointed associate justice of the supreme court by President Jackson.
Being a bachelor, Judge Irvin's residence was not necessarily confined to any locality. He always preferred southern society; and as soon as his last office was ended, he went to St. Louis, where he remained some length of time. He subsequently became a citizen of Texas and a wealthy man.
Though only thirty-six years old when he first came to what was afterward the territory of Wisconsin, Judge Irvin seems never to have been regarded by the people as one of their number. He was free from the vies which too often, in those days, injured or even ruined some of the most promising men in the west. He was generally regarded as a fair and upright judge, of respectable ability. The peculiarities of his character, and his entire withdrawal many years ago from all connection with the State of Wisconsin, have led to numerous attempts, on the part of early settlers, to describe him. "Judge Irvin," says one who knew him well, "was about six feet in height, very erect and well proportioned. His hair was auburn, eyes blue, features narrow. He was not a laborious judge, but was attentive to duty, honest and upright in every particular. He was candid, and without intrigue or deception. For integrity and moral principle, he enjoyed general confidence. He was fond of a horse and a dog; always esteeming his horse and dog the finest and best. Being a bachelor, these animals seemed to be the especial objects of his care and attention. He was fond of hunting, particularly for prairie chickens. Upon these excursions he would frequently take members of the bar with him. He was very economical, but scrupulously just in all his dealings. He indulged in acts of kindness to his relatives, but did not show much sympathy for others. While he treated all with urbanity and respect, he did not form particular attachments for strangers."
A description of Judge Irvin, by the late Judge C. M. Baker, of Walworth Co., Wis., is interesting:
"He [Judge Irvin] was a Virginia gentleman of the old school. Social, kind-hearted, aristocratic, as became a Virginian of the F. F.'s, he was a bachelor with his whims and peculiarities. He was a great lover of hunting, particularly of prairie hens, in the shooting of which he was an expert. On this he prided himself; and no one must excel him, if he would keep in his good graces. He was also learned in the knowledge of horses and dogs, as well as in the law. His own horse, Pedro, and his dog, York, to whom he was much attached, and whose superior blood often formed the theme of his conversation, were as well known to the bar as the judge himself. They were necessary appendages to the judge and the court. It was said by the wags that, if one wanted to win his case before the judge, he must praise his dog and his horse. But of truth it can be said of him that he was a lover of justice, detested meanness, was well grounded in the principles of the law, and was possessed of very respectable perceptive and reasoning powers. He seldom consulted law books, with which the bar of those days was poorly supplied; but, on the whole, for the times, was a fair and respectable judge."
The act of Congress which provided for the organization of Wisconsin territory, declared that the judicial power therein should be vested in a supreme court, district courts, probate courts and justices of the peace. Charles Dunn was commissioned chief justice and David Irvin and William C. Frazer, associate judges. The act of Congress before mentioned required that the territory of Wisconsin should be divided into the three judicial districts. The three judges of the supreme court were district judges. The counties of Crawford and Iowa were constituted, by the territorial Legislature, the first district, to which was assigned Chief Justice Dunn. He also, upon the erection of Grant county, held court therein. Judge Dunn continued chief justice and judge of the first district until the territorial district court was abolished by the admission of Wisconsin as a State, in 1848, notwithstanding a strong effort was made to have him ousted from office by certain citizens of the district, who circulated the following petition:
To his Excellency, James K. Polk, President of the United States:
The undersigned, citizens of the first judicial district, composed of the counties of Crawford, Grant and Iowa, in the territory of Wisconsin, would most respectfully represent to your excellency, that many persons in this judicial district, whose practice or business brings them in contact with our court, complain that Charles Dunn, chief justice of the territory, and presiding judge of our district, is in the constant habit of favoring the practice and clients of his brother, Mr. Francis J. Dunn, a practicing lawyer in said district, in all rules of court, pleas, motions and points of law, made by him, to the injury of those persons who may be so unfortunate as to have Mr. Dunn retained against them. Your petitioners are aware that charges of this nature cannot be sustained otherwise than by circumstantial evidence. The circumstance, therefore, on which they would rely to convince your excellency of the truth of this charge, is, that the docket of the district court of the county of Iowa alone contains over 250 causes, set for trial at the last term of court, and the brother of Judge Dunn, a very young lawyer, is retained in fully one-half of these causes. Notwithstanding the lucrative and successful practice of young Mr. Dunn in the circuit of his brother, the murmurs and complaints of the members of the bar and their clients, at this state of things, might pass unheeded if Mr. Francis J. Dunn possessed talents to warrant such success. But with abilities not above mediocrity, there is nothing to justify so great and lucrative a practice, over older and better lawyers, but the fact of his being the brother of the judge.
Your petitioners would also represent to your excellency, that the said Charles Dunn has, in violation of the laws of the territory, presided in suits at law wherein his brothers have either been plaintiffs or defendants, which the records of our courts will show, in numerous instances. We would particularly call the attention of your excellency to the case of Dunn vs. Marsh, in the Crawford district court. The notorious Jeffries, in the corrupt reign of Charles II, could not have been guilty of a more shameful prostitution of justice to subserve his master, than this act of Judge Dunn to put money in the pocket of his brother.
Your petitioners would further represent to your excellency, that the said Charles Dunn, acting as judge of the first judicial district, did, in the year 1841, on the complaint of one John Dowling, of Galena, in the State of Illinois, now deceased, grant an injunction against the Bank of Mineral Point, appointing his brother, Mr. John Dunn, and two others, his personal friends, receivers to close the affairs of said bank. It is a matter of some notoriety that one of the receivers, thus appointed, boasted that they would each make at least $10,000 out of the pickings of the bank.
About the time this injuction was granted, the cashier of the bank absconded. He was pursued and overtaken by Mr. John Dunn, one of the receivers, and Dr. William Davidson, who took from him acceptances and bills of exchange to the amount of $70,000 or $80,000. In a newspaper publication made about the time of the arrest of the cashier, to satisfy the public mind, the receivers state that the assets taken from the cashier and other officers of the bank, independent of the bonds, notes, banking house and other property of the bank, amounted to nearly $100,000! In the meantime, Dowling, the complainant against the bank, dies, and Mr. Francis J. Dunn obtains the administratorship of his estate in this territory, being at the same time agent and attorney for the receivers. Acting thus for the plaintiffs and defendants, he holds the keys of the front and back doors of the bank; and having at the same time associated with him, in the practice of the law, Mr. D. Walter Jones, the president of the bank at the time of its failure, and having further cemented that partnership by the marriage of that person into the family, the door has been effectually closed to all inquiry, and the affairs of the bank have been wrapped in mystery now for over four years.
During that time no expose of the condition of the Bank has been made, although frequently required by public meetings and otherwise, and no dividend has been made, except a private one of about $3,000, which was divided among a very small number of bill-holders, at the rate of fifty cents on the dollar, to the exclusion of a large body of creditors of the bank, who were not advised of the terms and condition on which that dividend would be made.
However, before this partial and private dividend was made there was a payment made out of the assets of the bank to Dr. William Davidson, of Grant county, one of the persons who assisted in arresting the cashier, and who held the bills of the bank to a considerable amount. It is alleged that Dr. Davidson obtained this payment by threats that he would make an expose of certain illegal acts of the receivers or their agent. Be that as it may, it is the opinion of legal men that the payment to Davidson, and the partial division shared by a few of the bill holders, is a violation of the condition of the bond given by the receivers, and that the creditors of the bank could recover from the receivers and their securities, if not the full amount of their claims, at least the same rate of dividend which their agent had paid to others.
But to seek justice before the presiding judge of the district, when it is known that he did not emigrate to the territory with a character like Caesar's wife, who is openly accused of presiding in cases wherein his brothers were parties, which is in direct violation of the laws, would be adding another act to the farce of justice which has so frequently been enacted in this district.
If the conduct of Judge Dunn, in any public capacity in which he has acted through life, was such as to place him above the suspicion of doing a dishonorable act, the murmurs and complaints against him would not have the weight with us they otherwise possess.
But it is asserted that, he did, while a member of the Legislature of the State of Illinois, in the year 1839, receive from a certain Samuel Wiggins a fee or bribe of $200, to procure the passage of an act through the legislature, known as the "Wiggin's Loan;" a more corrupt and swindling act never having been passed by any legislative body in the Union!
This rumor considered, your excellency will not be surprised that the man against whom the broad charge is brought, true or false, that he sold himself as a legislator, may on slight grounds render himself obnoxious to the suspicion that he is corruptible as a judge! But there are other and graver charges against Judge Dunn, which are not based on suspicion. The proofs to sustain them are tangible and can be produced before any competent tribunal.
These proofs must serve to convince your excellency that, under any circumstances, Charles Dunn, chief justice of this territory, is unworthy and unfit to fill his present high and responsible office. They are first ---
"That while holding court in the county of Iowa, at the spring term of said court, in the year 1838, Judge Dunn was intoxicated during the whole term of court. That during the said term a certain McCumber was indicted and tried for the murder of George C. Willard, a nephew of Gen. Dodge. The defendant, owing to the charge of the judge to the jury, was convicted of manslaughter, and received the sentence of the law, although from the testimony it was clearly a case of self-defense. These facts can be established by the testimony of W. W. Chapman, late United State's district attorney, Iowa territory; John Catlin, Esq.; Madison; Moses M. Strong, Esq., Iowa county; Thomas P. Burnett, Esq., Grant county; J. D. Selhorst late sheriff, Iowa county; I. T. Lathrop, late postmaster, Mineral Point; F. Gheon, late marshal Wisconsin territory, and Thomson Campbell, Esq., secretary of state, Springfield, Ill.
"Second. --- That at the October term of the Grant circuit court, held at Lancaster in 1838, Edward C. Oliver was indicted for the murder of John Russell at Cassville. In the trial of this case, after hearing the testimony, the jury retired and remained out all night. Having disagreed as to the testimony of John Allen, the principal witness for the prosecution, they came into court, and at their request this witness was recalled. At his previous examination, Allen was intoxicated; on being recalled into court, he was still more so. During his re-examination by the jury, the prisoner was not in court, nor had he been ordered in for that purpose! The testimony of Allen on his re-examination, was stronger against the prisoner than it had previously been. The jury again retired, and immediately returned into court with a verdict of guilty, against the prisoner. The counsel for Oliver then moved the court for a new trial. One of the grounds on which this motion was based, was that a witness for the prosecution had been recalled at the request of the jury, and was re-examined in court without the prisoner being present. This motion was overruled by the court, and sentence of death was pronounced on him! A bill of exceptions was then drawn up and tendered to the judge, who suffered the prisoner to be executed with this bill of exceptions in his pocket! During the whole term of this court the judge was intoxicated; after its adjournment he was attacked with delirious tremens, jumped out of his chamber window, and was thereby disqualified from attending to his official duties in Crawford county, which court immediately succeeded that at Lancaster. The witnesses to this outrage on law and decency, are John S. Horner, Esq., register of the land office at Green Bay; Hon. Thomas S. Wilson, judge of United States district court, Iowa territory; Mortimer Bainbridge, Esq., Dubuque; John S. Fletcher, G. M. Price, J. Allen Barber, Nelson Dewey, Thomas P. Burnett and John H. Rountree, Esqs., Grant county.
"Third. --- That at a previous term of the Grant circuit court, Judge Dunn was intoxicated during the term of the court, and was attacked with mania a potu. The witnesses are Dr. Wood, John S. Fletcher, Clovis Le Grand, Thomas P. Burnett, J. A. Barber, G. M. Price and Nelson Dewey, Grant county; W. W. Chapman, Parley Eaton and Moses M. Strong, Esqs., Hon. Judge Wilson and Joseph P. Hoge, member of Congress from Galena, Illinois.
"Fourth. --- That at a special chancery term appointed by Judge Dunn to be held at Mineral Point, in January, 1840, he was so much intoxicated as to disqualify him from holding the said term of court. The witnesses are Moses M. Strong, Parley Eaton and J. T. Lathrop, Esqs., and James H. Gentry, late sheriff, and John Bracken, late under-sheriff of Iowa county.
"Fifth. --- That while holding a court at Prairie du Chien, in Crawford county, for the trial of Che-ge-wais-cum, a Chippewa Indian, indicted for the murder of Mr. Akins, an Indian trader, Judge Dunn was intoxicated during the whole term of the court. The witnesses are, the Hon. Judge Wilson, James Churchman, Esq., Galena, Ills.; Thomas P. Burnett, D. G. Fenton, clerk of the court, William Wilson, J. H. Lockwood and H. Dousman, Prairie du Chien.
"Sixth. --- That on the 23d of February, 1843, Judge Dunn having become intoxicated at a ball, spent the day in Platteville, playing cards in a grocery, with James R. Vineyard, indicted for the murder of C. C. P. Arndt, a member of the Legislative Council, whom he had recently had before him on a writ of habeas corpus, and released from the jail of Dane county, on bail. Witnesses: Alonzo Platt, William Davidson, Dr. Bevans, John Morrison, J. M. Gordhue and B. C. Eastman, of Grant county; and J. H. Gentry, of Iowa county.
"Seventh. --- That at a late term of circuit court, for the county of Crawford, at Prairie du Chien, Judge Dunn was again intoxicated during the term of the court. The witnesses are: Moses M. Strong, B. C. Eastman, Thomas P. Burnett and D. G. Fenton, Esqrs., and Ira Brunson, Esq., postmaster, Prairie du Chien."
In presenting to your excellency charges of so serious and degrading a nature against the chief justice of our territory, your petitioners are aware that they ought to be sustained by the accompanying depositions of the witnesses named, but as the majority of the witnesses are members of the court over which Judge Dunn presides, many causes operate on them to prevent their giving their voluntary testimony against him. We would, therefore, most respectfully request that you cause the records of our courts to be examined and the testimony of the witnesses named to be procured, and if they should sustain the charges herewith made against Judge Dunn, that you will, in conformity to the opinion of the late attorney-general, the Hon. Felix Grundy, remove him from office. If, however, you should not concur in that opinion, and question your power to remove a territorial judge, for an open violation of the laws, and for drunkeness on the bench; then we would further request you to lay this petition before the Congress of the United States.
How extensively this petition was circulated and signed is unknown; neither has it transpired as to whether it ever reached the eye of the President; one thing is certain, however, if the attention of the chief executive of the Nation was called to it, he gave it no heed.
Although the territory of Wisconsin was created in 1836, yet Judge Dunn did not hold court in Crawford county until the next year, as appears from the following entries in the court journal:
"Territory of Wisconsin, } > County of Crawford. } Monday, May 1, 1837.
"This being the day appointed by law for the commencement of the term of the district court of the United States for the county of Crawford, and the judge of the said district court not attending, the court stands adjourned until tomorrow.
Thomas P. Street,
Entries of a like tenor were made May 2 and 3, when on May 4, 1837, the entry was as follows:
"4th day, May term, 1837. Thursday morning, May 4, 1837. The court met; present, the Hon. Charles Dunn."
And he continued to hold court every year in Crawford county until 1848, when he was succeeded by the judge of the fifth judicial circuit of the State of Wisconsin.
John H. Fonda, in 1858, says:
"I believe that I sat on the jury when the first criminal case was tried under the territorial law of Wisconsin. As no harm can be done, I will give a brief history of this case, to show how such things were then managed. Judge Dunn was presiding at that time, and Ezekiel Taintor, who summoned me, was acting sheriff. The defendant was a Dacotah Indian, charged with the crime of murdering a young man named Akins, whose father was prosecuting. From the evidence it appeared that Akins, the senior, was a trader at the head of the Mississippi, where he had a trading house. Young Akins attended to the trading house department, while his father, who resided in a house some distance off, furnished the goods and capital. In his intercourse with the Indians, the son had seen a remarkably handsome young squaw, and taken some kind of liking for her. The squaw was the wife of a young brave. By means of numerous presents, Akins persuaded the squaw to desert her husband, and live with him in the trading house. When the Indian came for his squaw, Akins locked the doors and refused to let her go. The Indian went away, but returned the next evening about dusk, and walked into the house where Akins was sitting, and again asked for his squaw. Akins refused to let her go, and the Indian shot him dead on the spot. The father of young Akins had the Indian brought down here [Prairie du Chien] for trial.
"The case was conducted with very few formalities; and whenever the court took a recess, the jury were locked up in a grocery, where, for the sum of seventy-five cents each, we could have all the liquor we wanted, provided we did not waste or carry any away. Now, imbibing was quite prevalent among all classes, in that day, and if each of the jurymen drank his seventy-five cents worth in one night, the judge and counselors could not have been far behind in that respect, and some individual was heard to say, that the prisoner was the only sober man in the court room. After the jury were charged, we were locked up two days and three nights. I generally got out and went home nights, but came into court in the morning; and on the third morning we brought in a verdict of 'not guilty,' and the Indian was discharged."
Charles Dunn was born December 28, 1799, at Bullet's Old Lick, Bullett Co., Ky., which is about sixteen miles from Louisville. He was the eldest of a family of five sons and four daughters, and at the age of nine was sent to school at Louisville, where he remained a number of years, when he was called home and sent on a business tour to Virginia Maryland and Washington. Upon his return home he read law a short time with Worden Pope, a distinguished lawyer of Louisville. He afterward proceeded to Frankfort and continued his law reading for about two years with the eminent John Pope, then secretary of state, and who was the first law professor in the Transylvania University, at Lexington.
Mr. Dunn, in May, 1819, went to Kankakee, at that time the capital of Illinois, where he completed his studies under the direction of Nathaniel Pope district judge of the United States. In 1820 he was admitted to the bar, Sidney Breese being admitted at the same time. He then commenced practice at Jonesboro, Union Co., Ill. In 1821, he married Mary E. Shrader, daughter of Judge Ostro Shrader, who had been a United States judge in Missouri territory. He remained in practice at Jonesboro for several years, and then removed to Golconda, Pope Co., Ill.
For two years Mr. Dunn was engrossing clerk, during two sessions of the House of Representatives of the Illinois Legislature, and for five years its chief clerk. In 1829 he was appointed by Gov. Ninian Edwards, acting commissioner of the Illinois and Michigan canal, and with his associates on the commission, Edward Roberts and Dr. Jane, surveyed and platted the first town of Chicago. The first town lots of this embryo metropolis were sold by the commissioners on behalf of the State in the latter part of 1829, and the sales continued in 1830 and in 1831, during which years the survey of the canal and railway line was made and reported.
In the early part of 1832 Indian troubles commenced and a requisition was made upon the State authorities of Illinois for troops to engage in service against the Indians led by Black Hawk. Three brigades responded to the call, and Mr. Dunn entered the service as captain of a company he had raised in Pope county, where he then resided. His company was assigned to the 2d regiment, which was commanded by Col. John Ewing, and attached to the first brigade, under Gen. Alexander Posey.
Soon after in an engagement with the Indians (what engagement is unknown) Capt. Dunn became the victim of a blundering mistake on the part of a sentinel, by which he was severely, and at first it was thought mortally, wounded. 2 On approaching the sentinel he was severely wounded by him in the groin, of course through the mistake of the soldier. Dunn was taken back to Fort Dixon, where he was confined by his wound until after the war was ended by the battle of Bad Ax.
As soon as he was sufficiently recovered, Capt. Dunn returned home, and in the spring of 1833 acted as assistant paymaster in paying off the first brigade. During that year he resumed the practice of his profession. In 1835 he was elected a member of the House of Representatives of the State Legislature, from Polk county, and was chairman of the committee on the judiciary during the session. Upon the recommendation of the Illinois delegation in Congress, and the delegate of the territory of Wisconsin, George W. Jones, he was appointed by President Jackson, in the spring of 1836, chief justice of Wisconsin territory. He arrived at Mineral Point July 4, 1836, and was then and there sworn into office, which he held until the organization of the State judiciary. The last term of his court was held at Mineral Point, in October, 1848.
Judge Dunn was a member of the second constitutional convention of the State from La Fayette county, and was chairman of the committee on the judiciary of that body. He took a leading part in framing what afterward became and still is, the constitution of Wisconsin. Subsequently, he was elected State senator for the district composed of the county of La Fayette. He served in that capacity during the sessions of that body in 1852 and 1853, and was chairman of the committee on the judiciary during both of those years.
On the expiration of his term of office as chief justice, Judge Dunn engaged in the practice of the law in La Fayette and adjoining counties. He was regarded one of the most eminent among those who were or had been in the profession, in Wisconsin. While chief justice, his judicial studies were especially onerous, as, during the greater portion of the time he was on the bench, his district, as circuit judge, was the most populous and important in the territory, and produced, it is believed, the greatest amount of litigation. His judicial and official duties were performed with rare ability, fidelity and integrity; and, although he had a few enemies (who has not?), he always commanded during his residence of thirty-five years in Wisconsin, both in public and private life, the confidence and esteem of a very large proportion of the people. To near the time of his death, in 1872, at the advanced age of seventy-two, he continued in the vigorous practice of his profession at Belmont, and was, at that time, the oldest lawyer in the State.
Mr. William Hull says of him: "As a lawyer, Judge Dunn ranked as one of the best. As a judge, he was as honest and impartial as a man of his temperament could possibly be. A good pleader himself, he held us all to the strict technicalities of the common law practice, which then prevailed, and, although at times prone to give way to the violence of his personal feelings, he was generally liked and respected by the members of the bar in his district and territory. He could never forget his dignity on the bench; on the road traveling from court to court; at the stopping-places for the night; and during the sessions of the courts; he was, with his friends, at all times courteous and a gentleman; to those whom he did not like, he could and did occasionally preserve a different course. This trait in the judge's character can only be accounted for by premising that, like all other descendants from the first families of Virginia, the Dunns claimed to have the royal blood of Powhatan flowing in their veins, through his daughter, the historical, abused Pochahontas.
"In all places and at all times Judge Dunn never put off his dignity. One instance of this ruling trait will bear to relate. Game of all kinds was very plentiful in those early days and deer-hunting was a common practice. After the fall terms of the courts had terminated, on one occasion the judge, his brother Frank, a henchman of Frank's, Abe. Fields, a gentleman now prominent in an adjoining State, and Mr. Hull, of La Crosse, were in camp on the Kickapoo river, near Wayne's mill. The judge, for some cause, did not, as had been observed, take much interest in the unnamed gentleman. The second day of the hunt, the judge, a true sportsman, had killed a magnificent buck, and it had been brought into camp. The deer was hung up for dressing. Judge Dunn, with coat off, sleeves rolled up and knife in hand, had commenced work. After a few cuts with the knife had been made, the gentleman wishing to make some remark to the judge, spoke loudly --- 'Dunn!' As quick a flash Judge Dunn stopped his work, turned facing the gentleman, and with piercing black eyes flashing lightning, responded, --- 'Judge Dunn, if you please, sir!' After this explosion there was silence in the camp for awhile."
The constitution of the State of Wisconsin vested the judicial power of the State in a supreme court, circuit court, courts of probate and in justices of the peace. The State was divided into five judicial districts. The fifth circuit was composed of the counties of Crawford, Iowa, La Fayette, Grant and St. Croix, as organized in 1848; the county of Richland being attached to Iowa county, Chippewa to Crawford, and La Point to St. Croix, for judicial purposes. By an act of the State Legislature, of 1850, a sixth judicial circuit was formed. In this circuit was included among others the county of Crawford. In 1861 this circuit was made to include the counties of Crawford, Bad Ax, LaCrosse, Monroe and Jackson.
In 1864 Crawford and Richland counties were, by the following act, made a part of the fifth judicial circuit of the State:
An Act to detach the counties of Richland and Crawford from the sixth judicial circuit, and to attach said counties to the fifth judicial circuit.
The People of the State of Wisconsin, represented in Senate and Assembly, do enact as follows:
Section 1. The counties of Richland and Crawford, in the State of Wisconsin, are hereby detached from the sixth judicial circuit, and the same are hereby attached to, and shall hereafter constitute a part of the fifth judicial circuit, in said State of Wisconsin.
Sec. 2. This act shall take effect on the first day of January, A. D. 1865, and be in force from and after that time. Approved March 31, 1864.
Crawford county still remains in the fifth judicial circuit of the State.
At the first judicial election, Mortimer M. Jackson was chosen judge of the fifth judicial circuit, which, as we have seen, included, in 1848, along with other counties, that of Crawford. The first term of the court began in Prairie du Chien, Nov. 13, 1848.
The following are the judges who have dispensed justice upon the Crawford county bench, since Wisconsin became a State:
M. M. Jackson, 1848 - 1850.
Warren Knowlton, 1850 - 1856.
George Gale, 1857 - 1862.
Edwin Flint, 1863 - 1864.
J. T. Mills, 1865 - 1876.
M. M. Cothren, 1877 - 1882.
George Clementson, 1883 - (still in office).
The June term, 1861, of the court was held by Judge I. E. Messmore. He had been appointed by the governor as judge upon a change in Judge Gale's district; but the supreme court decided the law changing the district unconstitutional, and Messmore was ousted from office.
Mortimer M. Jackson, the subject of this sketch was born in Rensselaerville, Albany Co., N. Y. He studied law in the city of New York, and came to Wisconsin in 1838. He was afterward attorney general of the territory. On the organization of the State government in 1848, he was elected, as already stated, judge of the fifth judicial circuit, by virtue of which he was also a member of the supreme court. On the expiration of the term of Judge Stow as chief justice, Judge Jackson, was chosen by his colleagues chief justice, but declined to serve. In 1861 he was appointed United States consul at Halifax, Nova Scotia, and in 1880 was promoted to consul general of the United States for the British maritime provinces, in which capacity he acted until 1882, with residence at Halifax. He then returned to Wisconsin.
Wiram Knowlton was born in Chenango Co., N. Y., January 24, 1816. He was brother of James H. Knowlton, one of Wisconsin's eminent lawyers. In May, 1837, he came with his father's family to Wisconsin, locating at Janesville. Commencing the study of the law, he subsequently completed it with Parley Eaton, at Mineral Point. He was afterward admitted to the bar, and commenced the practice of his profession at Plattville.
In 1840, Mr. Knowlton settled in Prairie du Chien and practiced law for some five years. When the Mexican war broke out he raised a company of volunteers in Crawford county, and was captain of the company. His company, however, did not go to Mexico, but were assigned to detached service on the frontier with headquarters at Fort Crawford. After the war closed he resumed the practice of law, and in 1850 he was elected judge of the sixth judicial circuit embracing among other counties, that of Crawford. During three years of this time, he was ex-officio justice of the supreme court. He served six years as judge of sixth circuit. He remained in Prairie du Chien until about 1864, then removed to the north part of the State, where he died in June, 1873. He was a man of very fine ability.
George Gale was a native of Burlington, Vermont. He was the youngest son of Peter and Hannah Tottingham Gale, and was born on the 30th of November, 1816. He had the advantage of a good common school education. In March, 1839, he commenced reading law. In 1840, he was appointed postmaster at Waterbury Center, Vt. He was admitted to the bar in 1841; emigrated west, and settled in Elkhorn, Walworth county, Wisconsin. Here he opened an office, and entered into a successful practice of his profession.
Mr. Gale, besides holding several town offices, was, in the autumn of 1847, elected a member of the convention to form a State constitution, serving in that body on the judiciary committee. He was elected, the same fall, district attorney and a year after a member of the State senate. On the 4th of July, 1851, the subject of this sketch received from Gov. Dewey the appointment of brigadier general of militia. In the fall of that year, he removed to the upper Mississippi, locating at La Crosse. He was soon elected county judge for a term of four years, for the counties of La Crosse and Chippewa. He resigned his office Jan. 1, 1854, and in April, 1856, was elected judge of the sixth judicial circuit, his term of office commencing Jan. 1, 1857, and continuing six years. He served the whole term, and discharged the duties of his office with ability. During 1857, he removed from La Crosse to Galesville, Trempealeau county.
Mr. Gale's health partially failed in the summer of 1862, and he spent the three following winters in the south and east, most of the time in the service of the sanitary and christian commissions. During February and March, 1863, he had charge of the United States sanitary commission depot on Morris island, South Carolina. He died in Galesville, Wisconsin, on the 18th of April, 1868, in the fifty-second year of his age.
Judge Gale, however, is best known to the State as a friend of education. Seeing that all northwestern Wisconsin was without college advantages, he first urged upon the people of La Crosse to take the inititaory steps toward founding an institution near that village. Failing in this, he decided to remove to the Trempealeau valley, start a village and found a college. Accordingly, in 1853, he purchased a large tract of land, where Galesville now stands, and in 1854, secured from the Legislature of the State the organization of Trempeleau county, and the location of the county seat on his land. He also obtained a charter for a university for the same location. The board of trustees was organized in 1855, and the college building commenced in 1858. The preparatory department was opened in 1859, and the collegiate in 1861. In 1865, Mr. Gale resigned the presidency of the college. He was a graduate of no college, but from his great interest in education, he was made master of arts by the Vermont university, in 1857, and doctor of laws by the Galesville university, in 1863.
His contributions to literature have been considerable and valuable. In August, 1845, he started the Western Star, the first newspaper in Walworth county, Wisconsin. In 1846, he issued the first edition of the Wisconsin Form Book. 1864, he contributed to the historical society of the State a valuable paper on the history of the Winnebago Indians. In 1866, he published the Gale family genealogy. In 1867, his history of the upper Mississippi was published, embracing a history of the northwest from A. D. 1600 to the present time. His writings all show close investigation, vigorous research, and a clear delineation of historical facts.
Edwin Flint settled in Mason City, Iowa, in 1869, where he now resides, and where he entered into a partnership with B. F. Hartshorn, forming the law firm of Hartshorn & Flint. He was born in Braintree, Orange Co., Vt., May 25, 1814. He is the son of Phineas and Abigail Weld Flint, of Vermont, who were the parents of seven children. His father was a farmer and died in 1826. His mother died in Mason City, in 1874. Mr. Flint remained on his father's farm until he was thirteen years old, and the following year he went to Windsor, where he passed a year in the office of the Vermont Chronicle. He went thence to Burlington, where he was employed by Chauncey Goodrich, a book publisher of that city. He there prepared for college, paying his way in the printing office. He was matriculated at the Vermont University, at Burlington, in 1833, and graduated in 1836. Soon after that event, he went south and became a teacher in Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee. In 1840 Mr. Flint was admitted to the bar at LaFayette, Ind.; and, after a brief time went to Jackson, Mich., where he began the practice of his profession, remaining there until 1841, when he became impaired in health and returned south. In 1848, he went to Fond du Lac, Wis., and entered fully into the practice of the law. In 1851 he moved to La Crosse, and the next year was elected district attorney, and in the same year, chairman of the board of supervisors. In 1861 he was chosen to the State senate from the La Crosse district. The next year, 1862, he was elected judge of the sixth judicial circuit of Wisconsin, which position he filled with credit for six years; but as Crawford was detached from that district in 1864, he only presided in this county two years. In 1876 he retired from the practice of the law.
Joseph T. Mills was born in Crane Ridge, Bourbon Co., Ky., Dec. 18, 1812. He received an academic education, studied law, was admitted to the bar, came to the west and located in Bond Co., Ills., in 1831. In 1843 he removed to Wisconsin, and permanently settled in Lancaster, Grant county, where he entered upon the practice of the law. He was elected circuit judge of the fifth judicial circuit, and served from 1865 to 1877. He was a member of the assembly in 1856, 1857, 1862 and 1879.
Montgomery M. Cothren was born at Jerusalem, Yates Co., N. Y., Sept. 18, 1819. His father was Nathaniel Cothren, and his mother Clarinda Weed. Mr. Cothren was educated in New York, and subsequently studied law at Kalamazoo, Mich. Having removed to Mineral Point, he was admitted to the bar of the United States district court in 1843, by Judge Charles Dunn, since which time he has been in active practice of his profession or upon the bench. He was a member of the last territorial Legislature of Wisconsin, and served in the State senate in 1840 and 1850. In the presidential election of 1852, he was one of the electors for the State at large, and cast his vote for Franklin Pierce and William R. King. During the same year he was elected judge of the fifth judicial circuit, and served in that capacity twelve years. At the close of his second term as circuit judge, he declined a re-election, and for the twelve years ensuing, engaged in the practice of the law; but, in 1876, he was again chosen judge this time, of the fifth judicial circuit, which now included within its limits, Crawford county. He served one full term. In 1879 Judge Cothren was nominated for associate justice of the supreme court by a caucus of the Democratic members of the Legislature, but the nomination was not confirmed at the polls. In the campaign of 1880, he was the Democratic candidate for member of Congress in the third district, but was defeated by George C. Hazelton. The bar of southern Wisconsin has been, and now is graced with many lawyers of commanding ability; second to none in this list is the name of Montgomery M. Cothren.
George Clementson, a native of England, was born March 13, 1842. His parents came to this country in 1849; they came west to Wisconsin the same year, and located in Grant county. Here the boy grew to manhood, receiving his education in this State. He read law here and completed his law studies at the State University of Michigan. He was admitted to the bar in March, 1868. After his admission, he engaged in the practice of law. In November, 1869, he associated with Hon. Allen Barber, of the firm of Barber & Clementson holding a leading position as members of the bar in this section of the State.
In the fall of 1868, Mr. Clementson was elected district attorney, and held that office for four years. After that he was repeatedly solicited to accept the nomination for office, but steadily refused, preferring to devote all his time to the interests of his profession. However, he could not well refuse the call of friends to run for judge of this judicial circuit, and was elected, still holding that office. He was united in marriage May 10, 1869, to Mary Burr, a native of Vermont. They have four children: George B., Joseph A., Martha and Bessie.
The counties in the fifth circuit, the times of holding court in each and the places where held, are set forth in the following tabular statement:
|Grant||1st Tuesday in Feb. }|
1st Tuesday in Sept. }
|Lancaster||Sec.2424, R. S.|
Ch.43, L 1879.
|Iowa||4th Tuesday in March }|
1st Tuesday in Oct. }
|Dodgeville||Sec.2424, R. S.|
|La Fayette||4th Tuesday in June }|
1st Tuesday in Dec. }
|Darlington||Sec.2424, R. S.|
|Richland||2d Tuesday in April }|
4th Tuesday in Oct. }
|Richland Centre||Sec.2424, R. S.|
|Crawford||4th Tuesday in May }|
2d Tuesday in Nov. }
|Pr. du Chien||Sec.2424, R. S.|
It will be remembered that mention has already been made that, among other courts provided for by the constitution, was one entitled court of probate, now very generally known as county court, as, in the act establishing the court, it is so designated.
The first proceedings of this court taken from the record are as follows:
"State of Wisconsin, } > County of Crawford. } "Monday, Jan. 7, A. D., 1850.
"This being the day appointed for the holding and organizing of the county court of the county of Crawford, in the State of Wisconsin, agreeable to and in pursuance of an act of the Legislature of the State of Wisconsin, approved March 31, A. D., 1849, entitled 'An act establishing a system of county courts in and for the State of Wisconsin.'
"Whereupon the Hon. Daniel G. Fenton, judge elect, took his seat as judge of this said county court, and produced his certificate of election as judge of said county court, by virtue of an election held on the 7th day of September, A. D., 1849, for the election of county judges, together with his oath of office endorsed thereon, which said certificate and oath of office was read in open court and filed in the clerk's office of this court in words and figures following, to wit:
"State of Wisconsin,} > ss. County of Crawford. }
"We the undersigned, clerk of the county board of supervisors and justice of the peace in and for said county aforesaid, hereby certify that on the 14th day of September, A. D. 1849, we procured and canvassed the returns of the election held in said county on the 3d day of September, A. D. 1849, for the election of county judge, and the following is the result of said canvass, to-wit:
"For the office of county judge, Daniel G. Fenton received the greatest number of votes, and is declared by us duly elected judge of the county court in and for the said county of Crawford, and for the county of Chippewa, thereunto attached for judicial purposes."
"In witness whereof, we have hereunto set our hands the day and year above written.
H. Baldwin, Clerk of the Board of County Supervisors.
Wiram Knowlton, Justice of the Peace.
Aaron Hogan, Justice of the Peace.
"The above is certified to as correct, by the clerk."
Judge Daniel G. Fenton then took the oath of office, and his first order as judge was this:
"Ordered that Alexander Leclerc be appointed inspector of this court."
Mr. Leclerc was duly sworn into office, and court adjourned until the following day at 11 o'clock A. M.
At the next day's session the court ordered that "the rules of the circuit in and for the State of Wisconsin, be adopted as the rules of this court until otherwise ordered." The court then adjourned until court in course.
The next session convened on March 4th, and the first business was the examination and admission to the bar of Hiram Wright, as attorney and counselor at law. The record shows considerable business done at this term.
Judge Fenton died the 11th day of Aug. 1851. Hiram A. Wright was appointed as his successor, on Nov. 3d, 1851, by Gov. Nelson Dewey, and took the oath of office on that day, on the opening of the November term of court. Judge Wright resigned the office after the close of the November term, of 1853; and on Jan. 18, 1854, Gov. William A. Barstow appointed Ira B. Brunson as Judge Wright's successor. Judge Brunson held the office until his death, Aug. 21, 1883. His successor, and the one now (1884) in office, is C. S. Fuller, who was appointed county judge, Sept. 1, 1883.
Ira B. Brunson was the oldest son of Rev. Alfred Brunson. He was born at Fowler, Ohio, on the 5th day of November, A. D. 1815, and at the time of death was in his sixty-eighth year. He came to Wisconsin and settled at Prairie du Chien in the year 1836. He was a man of strong mind, of great energy, and possessed of that kindness of heart and disposition and honesty of purpose that has endeared him to all the community. The people among whom he lived for nearly a half century appreciating his intellectual greatness and his incorruptibility have from time to time forced upon him its official positions, many times to his great pecuniary disadvantages, the duties of which have, however, always been so acceptably performed by him that the people refused to take no for an answer. Coming into what was the extreme limits of the western frontier when a young man, he was at once recognized as capable, brilliant and upright, and was by almost a unanimous vote elected a representative from Crawford county to the first Legislature of the territory of Wisconsin. The territory at that time consisted of the counties of Brown, Iowa, Crawford, Des Moines, Dubuque and Milwaukee, and being the same territory now comprising the two States of Wisconsin and Iowa. During the Legislative session of 1837 and 1838, convened at Burlington, Des Moines county, he attended as such representative, his associate from this county being Jean Brunet. The journals of the House of Representatives for these two sessions show that none was more active than he, and none better understood the wants of the people of the vast territory over which their laws were to operate. Some of the best statutory provisions possessed to-day by these two great States were inspired by him. He was also elected from Crawford county to the second Legislative assembly which convened at Madison in 1839, and was a member of the Legislature of 1840. In looking over the record he appears to be the last of all those who composed the Council and House of Representatives that assembled at Burlington Nov. 6, 1837. Soon after returning from his legislative duties he was appointed postmaster at Prairie du Chien, which office he held for several years; then he was elected register of deeds, county surveyor, sheriff of Crawford county, clerk of the circuit court, and in 1854 county judge, which last named position he has held to the time of his death, making nearly thirty years service in that office. His kindness to those in want, his care for the rights, and his sympathy for the distress of those with whom he came in contact in this office, his just judicial mind as exhibited in his judicial decisions have endeared him to the entire people of the county, who will sincerely mourn his loss, a loss that is especially felt to be irreparable by his old settler friends. The judge, in politics, was a democrat, and during the War of the Rebellion, was a prominent war democrat. Being too far advanced in years to go himself, he readily assented to the enlistment of his three sons, who volunteered with his approbation, and all of whom to the great joy of the father were gallant Union soldiers. The judge, socially, was one of the most genial and affable of men, one who, by his manners and his conversation, left the impression upon all, of his broadness of mind and extreme kindness of heart, and he in fact was a great broad-minded man with a heart and conscience as tender as a child's. He is gone; like the mighty monarch of the forest, around which vines had wound themselves and smaller trees had grown up in the shadow of its branches, that has been prostrated by violent storms, and in its fall has carried vines and trees down with it, so to-day as death lays low this kindly and good man, around whom his wife and children clung, and his innumerable admirers and friends so loved and trusted, they too lie crushed and prostrate with grief.
John L. Findly, 1823 - 1829.
Joseph Brisbois, 1830 - 1836.
Thomas P. Street, 1837.
Daniel G. Fenton, 1841 - 1848.
Daniel G. Fenton, 1848.
Hiram Baldwin, 1849 - 1850.
Ira B. Brunson, 1851 - 1853.
O. B. Thomas, 1854 - 1855.
Samuel Cowden, 1856 - 1857.
James Fisher, (Nov. Term) 1857.
Walter B. Hunt, 1858 - 1860.
N. McCartney, 1861 - 1862.
P. S. Bibbs, 1863 - 1864.
N. McCartney, 1865 - 1868.
James E. Campbell, 1869 - 1875.
W. A. Vaughn, 1875 - 1876.
David B. Richardson, 1877 - 1878.
T. G. Brunson, 1879 - 1880.
James E. Campbell, 1881 - 1882.
William G. Campbell, 1883 (in office).