(Note: Only Hamilton County is available here)
(See the Hall County section on the Hall County NEGenWeb Project site.)
THE boundaries of Hamilton were defined by an act of the twelfth session of the Territorial Legislature, Sections 2 to 31, as follows: An act to define the limits of Clay, Webster, Hamilton, Adams and Franklin Counties.
Be it enacted by the Council and Haouse of Representatives of the Territory of Nebraska:
An act of the Legislature approved Febrauary 24, 1873, provides that section lines in the county shall be public roads and highways.
Hamilton County, by an act of the Legislature of 1871, formed a part of the Twelfth Senatorial and Thirteenth Representative Districts, each of which was entitled to one member.
The Twelfth Senatorial District included the counties of Saline, Gage, Jefferson, Fillmore, Clay, York, Polk, Hamilton, Nuckools, Wester, Adams, Kearney and Franklin, together with all that portion of the State not included in any other Senatorial district, and which lies south of the Platte River and west of the counties named.
The Thirteenth Representative District included the counties of York, Polk, Butler, Platte, Hamilton, Fillmore, Clay and Adams. By the constitution adopted in 1875, the county was appointed representation as follows:
* * * * "District (Senatorial) No. 22, shall consist of the counties of York and Hamilton, and be entitled to one Senator." Representative Districts: "District No. 28 shall consist of the county of Hamilton, and be entitled to one Representative."
In the reapportionment of 1881, Hamilton and Hall Counties were constituted the Twenty-fifth Senatorial District, while Hamilton County formed the Forty-third Representative District, and was entitled to two members, which continued in force until 1887, when Clay and Hamilton were united to form the Twenty-fifth Senatorial District, and
Hamilton County constituted the Forty-first Representative District, entitled to two members, which continues at this time.
Hamilton County was organized at a general election held May 3, 1870, at the house of John Harris, called for that purpose by a proclamation of Gov. David Butler, issued March 13, 1870, of which the following is a copy:
WHEREAS, a large number of the citizens of the unorganized county of Hamilton have united in a petition asking that an election be called for the purpose of choosing county officers, preliminary to the organization of said county:
[seal.] By the Governor, David Butler.
In accordance with this proclamation eighteen citizens, the voting population, assembled at the house of John Harris, in what is now known as Farmers' Valley Precinct, on the Blue River, May 2, 1870, and organized the county, electing the following officers, as shown by the certificate of this election filed in the county clerk's office, which is as follows:
For county-seat, south half of northeast quarter, and north half of southeast quarter, Section (22), Town (9) north, Range (6) west, had (18) votes, being the whole number cast at the first election held in Hamilton County.
The officers elected were Josias D. Wescott, County Clerk; County Commissioners - William D. Young, Norris M. Bray, Alexander Laurie; Clarence O. Wescott, Treasurer; George F. Dickson, Sheriff; Rober Lamont, Probate Judge; John E. Harris, Surveyor; John Laurie, Superintendent Public Instruction; James Rollo, Coroner.
Josias D. Wescott
The county-seat, as located by the vote of the people, was named Orville City, and was surveyed by John Harris.
A court-house was built in May, 1872, in which the records of the county were kept until their removal to Aurora, January 1, 1876, at which date Aurora was made the county-seat after a long and bitter contest, duiring which five elections were held to decide the question of removal.
The question of removal was first submitted to vote in October, 1873, and resulted in favor of removal, upon which the commissioners decided that the electors of the county should, at the next general election, designate on their ballots the place of their choice. The next election was October 13, 1874, and resulted as follows: Aurora, 399; Hamilton, 147; Orville City, 53. The county clerk, William R. Mitchell, thereupon declared Aurora to be the county seat. The commissioners, however, rejected the decision, and refused to remove the records.
At this juncture Aurora mustered 150 of her faithful followers, and by the force of superior numbers captured the records and removed them to their present depository, but the following spring a writ of mandamus compelled their removal back to Orville, and a third court house election was ordered.
Hamilton now entered the fight, and it became a three-cornered battle; the law required two-thirds of all the votes polled to move a county seat, and on this ballot Aurora failed to get a sufficient number of votes, the vote standing, Aurora, 394; Hamilton, 361; Orville, 5. Not dismayed by these unfruitful contests, Aurora quietly took its defeat, and in July, 1875, again, succeeded in getting the question of removal submitted. After a hotly con-
tested battle, it was badly defeated, Hamilton getting a majority of thirty votes over Aurora, but not enough to remove the county seat from Orville, the election being Hamilton, 434; Aurora, 404; Orville, 3. The vanquished charged fraud, corruption, ballot box stuffing, but at that time the trick of going behind the retuning board was unknown, and Orville still held the much-coveted county seat.
The fifth election in this somewhat extensive series was, however, the Waterloo for both Hamilton and Orville. Aurora had by this time learned the tactics of its rivals, for when the last vote was counted Aurora had a majority of eighty over all, and its enemies laid down their arms. The votes at this last election were confined exclusively to the two principal contestants, Aurora receiving 481 and Hamilton 400.
Aurora, according to agreement, built a courthouse, which, together with the public square, was transferred to the county August 11, 1877. This had been one of the most hotly contested county seat fight ever known in the State, almost every man in the county taking an active part in it. A great deal of ill-will and bad blood resulted from it, causing a bitter sectional feeling to prevail, which continued for many years, leaving its impress on the politics of the county, until time gradually healed the wounds and smoothed away the scars.
The following summary of commissioners' proceedings from 1872 to the present time is a record of the more important acts of that body: January 19, 1872, action to secure pre-emption of location for county seat; July 27, to establish each road district as a voting precinct, except North Blue, which constitutes one voting precinct; January 19, 1872, fix salary of probate judge $100 per annum; August 10, 1882, appropriate $250 to fencing square and planting trees; August 24, 1872, issue warrant for $220 for payment pre-emption claim - county seat; order consolidation of Scoville and Deepwell as one voting precinct; December 9, 1872, order special election in Farmers' Valley, Orville and Scoville Precincts to vote on $10,000 bonds to aid building grist-mill; March 23, 1873, first settlement with county treasurer since organization, balance on hand, $403.33; April 21, 1873, contract for iron cell 6½x7 feet, 7 feet high, price, $1,500; May 27, 1873, order submission of question of voting bonds in Aurora, Williamsport, Beaver Creek and North Blue Precincts, to aid in erection of wind grist-mill in Aurora; August 26, 1873, establish Deepwell as election precinct, to include Towns 10 and 11, Ranges 7 and 8; September 3, 1873, order submission at next general election of re-location of county seat; December 1, 1873, the following record is made: "According to the canvass of the last election there was a majority of the votes cast for the removal fo the county seat; it shall be the duty of the county board, in the notice for the next general election of 1874, to notify said electors to designate upon their ballots at said election the place of their choice of the county seat; " April 7, 1874, South Platte Precinct organized out of North Blue, to comprise Towns 12 and 13, Range 6; April 20, 1874, claim of Brown & England, attorneys in case of County vs Union Pacific and Burlington & Missouri River Railroad Companies, allowed $1,200; to appoint Stanford May probate judge in place of S. M. Hunter, resigned; re-district county as follows: First Comissioners' District, towns 9 and 10, Ranges 5 and 6; Second Commissioners' District, Towns 9, 10, 11 and 12, Ranges 7 and 8; third Commissioners' District, Towns 11, 12, 13 and 14, Ranges 5 and 6; May 11, 1874, S. W. Hunter appointed to fill vacancy; September as probate judge; June 9, 1874, special election called July 18, 1874, to vote on bonds for the construction of two bridges across the Platte; July 6, 1874, bond election postponed to general election October, 1874; September 9, 1874, special election ordered on re-location of county seat; Bluff Precinct organized, comprising all territory lying north of Town 12, in Range 5; appoint E. D. Preston sheriff in place of J. M. Smith, resigned; "Ordered that the clerk be instructed to destroy all claims against the county in his office." October 13, 1874, W. K. Ream and Clinton Broggs employed to collect the Union Pacific and Burlington & Missouri taxes for the year 1873, for ten percent; the vote on the re-location of county seat
as ascertained by board of canvassers, presented, and the town of Aurora declared by county clerk to be the county seat of Hamilton County (on motion it was voted that the said declaration be rejected); December 8, 1874, "charges and articles of impeachment brought against William R. Mitchell, clerk, and J. H. Faris, trasurer, by H. W. Hickox, received, and summons issued returnable December 14, 1874," charges and articles of impeachment filed against P.C. Housel, commissioner, by Darius Wilcox, summons issued returnable December 16; B. F. Iseman, commissioner, protests against all business transacted December 8, except settling with road supervisors;; December 14, 1874, writ of injunction served on commissioners to restrain action in case of H. W. Hickox vs William R. Mitchell; December 15, 1874, separate voting precincts formed of north half of Aurora Precinct; January 5, 1875, special election ordered to vote on issuing $60,000 aid bonds (the election resulted in their defeat, 559 voting against, to 23 for the bonds); Commissioners Nugent and Housel issued order commanding county clerks "to return the property belonging to his office to Orville City, against Monday, January 11. 1875" (this property was the records, etc., heretofore removed to Aurora).
March 5, 1875, a special election was ordered for April 6, to elect member of constitutional convention (J. H. Sauls was elected, receiving 207 out of 211 votes cast); Monroe Precinct, formed by cutting from Deepwell all of Towns 10, 11 and 12, Range 7; appropriation of 12½ per cent of taxes collected is case of Union Pacific Railroad Company vs McShane et al., in full settlement of attorney's fees of Brown & England; ordered county treasurer to pay Brown & England 20 per cent of taxes received from Union Pacific Railroad Company, for year 1872 as attorney's fees; April 6, 1875, election ordered for May 20, 1875, on relocation of county seat; suit ordered brought against Darius Wilcox, David Stone et al. for damages, for removal of county property from Orville City to Aurora; May 27, 1875, Hamilton Precinct created by cutting from Monroe, Town 10, Range 7, Union Precenct created by cutting from Scoville, Town 9, Range 7; election ordered for June 28, 1875, on relocation of county seat; special election ordered to vote on granting bonds to aid in construction of Midland Pacific Railroad, in Bluff Precinct, $5,000; North Blue, $5,000; South Platte, $4,000 (election resulted, North Blue, yeas, 52, nays, 0; Bluff, yeas, 35, nays, 0; South Platte, yeas, 52, nays, 8); September 1, 1875, submission of question of re-location of county seat at general election, October 12, 1875; September 16, 1875, Briggs & Ambrose, of Omaha, retained to defend Hamilton County in action brought by Union Pacific Railroad Company to recover taxes heretofore paid; fee, 10 per cent of amount saved; ordered settlement with Burlington & Missouri River Railroad Company for taxes of 1873 - 74, on basis of Judge Dillon's decision; October 28, 1875, election ordered for November 30, 1875, to vote on issuing bonds for $89,000 to aid in construction of Nebraska Railway through the county (proposition was defeated, vote standing for bonds, 295; against bonds, 341); resignation of J. T. Price, as superintendent accepted; bids ordered for removal of all county property form Orville to Aurora immediately after January 1, 1876; April 19, 1876, suit against Darius Wilcox et al. withdrawn; July 5, 1876, Town 11, Range 8, annexed to Monroe Precinct; $1,000 appropriated to assist in building bridge across Platte east of Grand Island; September 16, 1876, A. W. Agee employed to attend suit brought by Burlington & Missouri River Railroad Company to restrain treasurer from collecting tax for 1875; proposition to vote bonds for $1,000, to complete and furnish court house (proposition defeated, for 84, against, 595).
October 3, 1876, agreement with commissioners of Merrick County, for construction of wagon bridge across the Platte (Chapman bridge); Hamilton County to pay $800 toward cost of bridge, and maintain in repair the bridge over south channel; November 8, 1876, established Cedar Valley Precinct, Town 13, Range 6; ordered that proceedings be begun on bond of Robert Miller et al. for failure to complete court house; April 18, 1887, ordered that road supervisors work the north and west boundary lines of their districts; July 3, 1877,
appropriate $5,000 for construction of wagon bridge across Platte, Town 11, Range 8; incorporate town of Aurora; August 11, 1877, court house building accepted from the trustees of Aurora; suit against Robert Miller et al. discontinued; lightning rods ordered for court house at 32½ cents per foot; October 2, 1877, ordered the submission of township organization at the next general election, and also question of issuing funding bonds; November 14, 1877, E. Nugent resigned as commissioner; George M. Hollenbach resigned as surveyor; a majority of 371 of the votes cast having been in favor of issuing the funding bonds, clerk was ordered to have prepared Series "A," 110 bonds of $500 each, at 10 per cent per annum, interest payable semi-annually, bonds to mature in twenty years; December 4, 1877, negotiated $10,000 of the funding bonds at 96 per cent of par value, and $15,000 at 91 per cent, and placed $30,000 in the hand of the county treasurer for negotiation at not less than 90 per cent; December 15, 1877, organized "Towns," appointed officers, etc., under "Township Organization" law (the supreme court deciding the law uncontitutional, on February 5, 1878, the board annulled their action of December 15, 1877); appropriated $5,000 to building Chapman bridge across the Platte; December 31, 1877, office of coroner declared vacant, and Goodman Noble appointed to fill the vacancy; February 5, 1878, election ordered in Monroe Precinct, March 8, 1878, to vote on issuing $1,200 bridge bonds (vote resulted, for 71, against, 2); March 13, 1878, D. A. Scovill appointed coroner; April 2, clerk ordered to contract for planting of trees in square; April 18, old court-house sold to W. H. Streeter for $200; arranged for building jail 14x20 and ten feet high; provided for issuing Series "B," $20,000 of funding bonds; May 8, William G. Brotherton appointed coroner.
June 18, reward of $300 offered for the capture and return of H. C. Case, who broke jail Sunday night, June 16; August 2, appropriated $125 to spike one half of Chapman bridge; August 14, issued the Monroe Precinct bridge bonds, $1,200; appropriated $641.50 for Chapman bridge; $5,000 appropriated for building Hall County bridge, one end to be in Hamilton County; January 7, 1879, settled in full with John Burlingham for recapture of H. C. Case for $150; fixed salary of superintendent at $4 per day actual service; January 29, met in joint session with commissioners of Hall County and settled in full for Grand Island bridge, issuing warrants for $5,000; June 7, special election called to vote on the question of the bonds of the county for $40,000 - Aurora Precinct $8,000 and Valley Precinct $2,000, to aid in the construction of the Republican Valley Railroad (election resulted, for 956, against 238, blank 7); July 1, settled attorneys' fees, Briggs & Ambrose, for collecting taxes from Union Pacific Railroad Company, in accordance with contract September 16, 1875, for $3,625; September 1, made provision for leasing poor-farm, formerly county seat; October 8, ordered question of appropriating $1,500 for building poor-house submitted to vote at next general election, also sale of county lots in Aurora; November 17, issued $50,000 bonds to Republican Valley Railroad; October 5, 1880, ordered submission of question of selling county lots in Aurora to vote at the general election November 2, also of appropriation of $2,000 to build poor-house; January 15, 1881, salary of superintendent fixed at $3.25 per day actual service; March 8, application ordered to be made to supreme court for mandamus to compel county clerk to report fees for year 1880, and pay over to county all in excess of $2,050; April 19, vote on sale of lots declared carried - number voting, yeas, 349, nays, 206; May 19, appropriated $70 to secure quit-claim deed from David and Mary A. E. Stone to county property in Aurora; August 16, levied tax of 10 per cent in School District No. 6 for payment of judgment of $1,632.40 and costs $108.06 in favor of School District No. 9 et al.; also levy three mills tax on all taxable property in Beaver Precinct, formerly constituting School District No. 3, to pay balance of judgment of $291.46 against said district; November 15, provided for construction of plank walks through the square; rescinded action levying tax of 10 per cent on School District No. 6; January 11, 1882, accepted report of W. L. Whittemore, ex-county clerk, and case in supreme
court dismissed; January 13, fixed pay of superintendent at $3 per day; February 23, on request of D. P. Wilcox, board began re-examination of books of W. L. Whittemore, ex-county clerk; February 24, issued summons to W. L. Whittemore to appear and make further report; February 25, on examination find $789.52 due county from Whittemore; April 19, settled in full with Whittemore; September 24, E. J. Hainer employed to prosecute T. C. Klumb, ex-county clerk, for fees not reported; January 10, 1883, incorporated village of Hampton, with the following trustees: E. D. foster, S. W. Holden, D. M. Zook, Levi Cox, M. E. Gerdes; February 14, George W. Pierce resigned as commissioner Second District, and S. N. Case appointed; February 28, county clerk ordered to purchase for the county all lots heretofore sold in Orville City, to clear title of "poor farm," price not to exceed amount received for same by the county; March 30, fixed per diem of superintendent at $3.25; September 4, ordered the submission of question of township organization at next general election; January 10, 1884, contracted with Ira Longcor for building poor-house; April 4, W. K. Ream, county judge, requested to report fees, refused to do so in order to test constitutionality of the act; A. J. Rittenhouse ordered to take steps to compel rendition of report; May 29, Marquette incorporated - trustees, Elias Farr, J. W. Ward, J. J. Farley, C. F. Berry, Reuben Cox; June 10, incorporation of Marquette annulled; August 6, poor-house established on south half of the northeast quarter of Section 22, Town 9, Range 6; September 16, Phillips Precinct established with the following boundaries: "Commencing on town line between Townships 10 and 11, on line dividing Hamilton and Merrick Counties, running thence east to the southeast corner of Section 31, Town 11, Range 7, thence north to the county line, dividing said counties, thence southwest along said county line to the place of beginning;" January 16, 1885, Hainer & Kellogg employed as county attorneys at $400 per annum; fixed salary of superintendent at $900.
January 28, established the following road district boundaries: No. 38 - Sections 20, 21. 28, 29, 32 and 33, Town 11, Range 7; No. 39 - Sections 19, 30, 31, Town 11, Range 7, and Sections 23, 24, 25, 26, Section 35 and 36, town 11, Range 8; No. 40 - Sections 4, 5, 8, 9, 16, 17, Town 11, Range 7, and Sections 32 and 33, and fractional Sections 28, 29 and 21, Town 12, Range 7; No. 50 - Sections 34, 35, 36, 25, 26, 27, 22, 23, 24, 13, and fractional Sections 14, 15, 11, and 12, Town 12, Range 7; No. 59 - Sections 22, 27, 33, 34, and fractional Sections 21, 28, 29, 31 and 32, town 11, Range 7, and fractional Sections 30 and 31, Town 12, Range 7; March 3, settled with T. C. Klumb in full for fees; May 19, grand jury having condemned jail as unsafe, resolved that a proposition be submitted to the electors, as therein recommended, for the building of a jail, and provided for commissioners visiting other jails in the State; June 2, appropriated $250 for securing conviction of band of outlaws supposed to exist in the county; June 15, special term of district court requested, to try seven prisoners apprehended in the county; Western Union Detective Association employed to secure conviction of above band, and Hainer & Kellogg employed to prosecute them; July 7, $350 additional to the $250 heretofore appropriated for payment of detectives, having secured conviction of six of the outlaws; October 7, proposition to appropriate $7,000 for building jail, ordered to be submitted at the general election November 3, 1885, and to appropriate $3,500 to build addition to court house; the proposition was defeated by the following vote: On jail proposition, for 404, against, 1,603; February 2, 1886, death of Commissioner S. N. Case announced and suitable resolution adopted; February 12, J. A. Kirk appointed to fill vacancy; salary of superintendent fixed at $1,000; E. J. Hainer appointed county attorney for 1886, salary $400.
February 9, boundaries of commissioner's districts confirmed as heretofore made; April 19, board convened by call of L. W. Shuman, acting clerk, announcing the death of J. M. Laurie, county clerk, April 17, 1886; suitable resolutions adopted; R. H. Peard appointed to fill vacancy;
July 7, on petition of Joe Skelton, St. Joe vacated; August 21, let contract for building addition to court-house, for $1,025; October 6, require steam threshers, traction engines, etc., to protect bridges over which they cross; January 24, 1888, ordered the purchase of county funding bond of $500 due January 1, 1893, drawing 10 per cent interest, for $600; April 5, county attorney authorized and instructed to advertise for purchase of $20,000 county bonds; May 31, purchased site for jail, price $650; July 25, contracted for two steel cells for jail, price $2,000; July 26, contracted for building jail as follows: Robert Miller, wood-work, $1,746; D. Burt, mason work, $2,526.66; September 18, Stockham incorporated - trustees, F. J. Sharp, Joseph Stockham, W. C. Flickinger, Walter Scott, Henry Reiselt; December 11, Bromfield incorporated - trustees, C. E. Brown, L. P. Wheeler, W. H. Leinberger, John McCarthy, Charles Allen; February 28, 1889, Marquette incorporated - trustees, T. H. Line, S. P. Boyd, M. E. Farr, Reuben Cox, H. D. Hall; April 5, arranged to build bridge across the Platte, in conjuction with Merrick County; Hamilton County to build one-half of 425 feet; May 15, contracted for drinking fountain in square, price $135; December 12, J. H. Smith having been appointed judge of the Sixth Judicial District, resigns as county attorney, and J. A. Whittemore appointed; January 17, 1890, the following Soldiers' Relief Committee appointed: F. C. Putnam, three years; L. W. Hastings, two years; Delevan Bates, one year.
The following is estimate of expenses for 1890:
County general fund...............................$19,000 Bridge fund.........................................5,000 Road fund...........................................6,000 Insane fund.........................................1,800 Interest on county fund.............................9,000 Principal on county fund...........................12,000 Interest on railroad fund...........................4,000 Principal on railroad fund..........................4,000 Interest on Aurora Precinct railroad bonds............700 Principal on Aurora Precinct railroad bonds...........800 Interest on Valley Precinct railroad bonds............200 Pricipal on Valley Precinct railroad bonds............200 Soldiers' relief fund.................................500 Total.............................................$63,200 Fees for clerk's office, 1888 and 1889..........$7,949.60 Expense, clerk and two deputies, 1888 and 1889......5,800 Excess..........................................$2,149.60
By an act of the Legislature of Nebraska, approved June 12, 1867, the State was divided into three judicial districts, the counties of Cass, Sarpy, Douglas, Saunders, Lancaster, Seward, Butler, and the territory lying west of the same, constituting the Second District. A subsequent act, which went into effect June 21, 1873, fixed terms of court for Hamilton County, on the first Thursday after the first Monday of May in each year.
Under these acts the first term of the district court was held in the county, commencing May 7, 1874, at Orville City, Hon. George B. Lake, of Omaha, presiding, with J. M. Smith, as sheriff, and William R. Mitchell, clerk.
There were nine cases on the docket, the first being that of Levi Lentz vs S. G. Glover and Thomas Glover; Dilwoth & Robinson, attorneys for the plaintiff. There were no contested cases tried, one decree only being entered, on default of defendant, in the divorce case of George W. Howard vs Fidelia J. Howard. The attorneys appearing of record at this term were Dilsworth & Robinson, M. H. Sessions, of Lincoln; John D. Hayes, of Harvard; O. A. Abbott, of Grand Island, and Thomas Darnall, F. M. Ellsworth and E. W. Denio, of Aurora. the last three, together with Alex Posten, constituted the bar of Hamilton County at that time, S. S. Hayden being admitted at this term. May 6, 1875, the time fixed for holding the next term of court, Judge Lake failing to appear, court was adjourned sine die by the clerk.
On November 1, 1875, the new State constitution went into effect, by which the counties of Saunder, Dodge, Butler, Colfax, Platte, Polk, Merrick, Hamilton, York, Seward, Hall and Howard were constituted the Fourth Judicial District of the State, and the same year Hon. George W. Post, of York, was elected judge.
the next term of court was held by Judge Post, commencing June 13, 1876. This term was the first held at Aurora, to which place the county-seat had been removed the preceeding January.
At this term A. W. Agee, W. K. Ream and J. S. Miller made their first appearnace as attorneys in the district court of this county. From this time on regular terms of court were held in the county, Hon. George W. Post presiding as judge until the close of 1882, when he resigned, and Hon. T. L. Norval, of Seward, was appointed by Gov. Dawes to fill the vacancy. Judge Norval was an excellent jurist, and a man of keen perception and fine attainments. He was universally respected by the bar and citizens of the entire district. He presided in this capacity until December, 1889, when, having been elected to the supreme bench of he State, he resigned as judge of the Sixth District, and Hon. J. H. Smith was appointed by Gov. John M. Thayer to fill the vacancy.
By an act of the Legislature, which went into effect March 31, 1887, the State was re-apportioned into twelve judicial districts, the counties of Seward, York, Hamilton and Polk constituting the Sixth District.
The following is a list of the attorneys who have been members of the bar of Hamilton County, together with the terms of court before which they made their debut:
The present officers of the court are Hon. J. H. Smith, judge; J. A. Whitmoe, county attorney; W. H. Fall, sheriff; William P. Hellings, clerk; Frank Tipton, reporter.
The members of the bar are E. J. Hainer, A. W. Agee, Philip Likes, Kellogg & Graybill, J. A. Whitmore, W. L. Stark, W. J. Stevenson, J. A. Sauls, J. H. Lincoln, J. H. Edmundson, F. R. Norman, W. P. Hellings and F. M. Coykendall.
Among the more important civil cases tried before the district court of this county are: The State ex rel. - the Commissioners of Hamilton County vs W. L. Whittemore; Sechler & Brotherton vs W. L. Stark; Joshua Cox vs F. M. Ellsworth; George W. Jordan vs. Hamilton County Bank; Henry Newman vs. George Mueller et al.; State ex rel. Commissioners of Hamilton County vs. W. K. Ream; State ex rel. Reuben Graybill vs. W. L. Whittemore; S. K. Haines vs. Spanogle et al.; J. C. Ratcliff vs. J. H. Faris; School Distict No. 16 et al. vs. School District No. 6; School District No. 16 et al. vs. School District No. 9; William A. Johnson vs. E. D. Preston; William H. Waters vs. Adolph Reuber; Thomas Lynch vs. J. J. Reardon; Catherine Engle vs. W. V. Morse & Co. and many others. Of these a few which are of general interest and importance are here cited at length. Among them are the cases growing out of the division of School District No. 6. (Ratcliff vs. Faris; School District No. 9 vs. School District No. 6; School District No. 6 vs. School District No. 9, etc.) One of these will be sufficient to explain the points involved in the suits.
February 14, 1872, School District No. 6, of Hamilton County, was organized, and included the east half of Township 10 north, Range 6 west, and on March 27 of the same year it was enlarged so as to include all of Townships 10 in Ranges 6, 7 and 8. On the first Monday of April of that
year, an election for officers of said district was held, and a tax of ten mills on the dollar, of taxable property in the district, was voted for the purpose of building a school-house in the district, and also a tax of five mills on the dollar for incidential expenses, and the payment of teachers' wages. On April 9 of the same year School District No. 9 was formed, and included the west half of Township 10, Range 6, and all of Township 10, Ranges 7 and 8. The taxes voted by District No. 6, on the first Monday of April, 1872, were levied on all the territory comprising the district at the time of the election.
In 1885 the Union Pacific Railroad Company, which then had a large amount of land in District No. 9, paid into the treasury of the county more than $1,000 of the school tax thus voted by District No. 6, and levied on its lands in District No. 9. The money was paid by the county treasurer to District No. 6, and an action was brought for its recovery by District No. 9.
The plantiff appealed on error to the supreme court, where the judgment of the lower court was reversed, and the case remanded to the district court, where judgment was rendered for the plaintiff for the full amount of the claim, interest and costs, amounting to about $2,200. District No. 6 afterward prosecuted error to the supreme court, when the judgment of the district court in favor of No. 9 was affirmed.
The case of the State of Nebraska ex.rel. the Board of County Commissioners of Hamilton County vs. Walter L. Whittemore, was an application to the supreme court for a writ of mandamus to compel the respondent, Whittemore, to report fees.
Whittemore, who was elected county clerk in 1879, the county at the time of his election containing less than 8,000 inhabitants, was ex-officio clerk of the district court. When reporting his fees he failed to report those received by him as clerk of the court, claiming that he was only required to report fees received by him as county clerk, which he had done. The court held that, "in counties having less than 8,000 inhabitants county clerks are also clerks of the district courts of their respective counties. The duties being imposed upon them as county clerks, they must report the fees received by virtue of their office," and awarded the writ.
The action of William A. Johnson vs. Edgar D. Preston was an action in ejectment brought by the plaintiff for the recovery of the possession of a strip of ground, "beginning at a point forty rods north from the quarter section line corner, between Sections 4 and 9," in Town 10, Range 6, "thence north forty rods, thence west twenty-one rods to the place of beginning," and involved the title and ownership to a large number of lots within the corporation limits of Aurora. The plaintiff was the owner of the southwest quarter of Section 4, Town 10, Range 6, and claimed that the strip described was a part of said quarter, and that the mound which had been considered the half section corner as established by the government surveyors, was in fact a badger hole. It was shown in the trial of the case, that the south half of Section 4 contained a large amount of land in excess of 320 acres, but that the quarter section mound was located 160 rods and two links east of the southwest corner of the section, and hence the excess was all included in the southwest quarter.
The case was tried before Judge Post to a jury on June 15, 1878.
The verdict was in favor of the defendant. Plaintiff appealed; the supreme court affirmed the judgment of the district court, holding that "where the jury find that such corner was established by the government surveyors, its location cannot be changed by testimony showing that it is not equidistant between the southwest and southeast corner of the section," and "that mounds thrown up by the government surveyors as corners and quarter section corners, of sections, control course and distance." Reported in 12th Nebraska, page 474.
State of Nebraska ex rel. commissioners of
Hamilton County vs. W. K. Ream. Original application to supreme court for mandamus to compel the defendant to report fees as county judge.
This was a friendly contest in order to test the constitutionality of "an act to regulate the fees of county judges, county clerks, sheriffs and county treasurers," approved February 15, 1877.
The attorneys for the defendant contended that the act was in conflict with Article III, Section 2, of the constitution, which declares that "No bill shall contain more than one subject, and the same shall be clearly expressed in its title.
The court held that "Where the subject matter of an act is within the scope of the title, the act will not be declared unconstitutional because a more appropriate title could have been selected."
* * * "It is the duty of the defendant to report the fees received by him, and a peremptory writ is awarded as prayed for."
From the earliest settlement of Hamilton County, the citizens have been, taken as a whole, a peaceable, law-abiding people, devoted to building up and beautifying their homes and elevating the condition and morals of their fellows, and yet a few dark pages appear on its otherwise fair history.
The first great crime committed within its borders was the murder of a Mr. Johnson, of Illinois, in August, 1870. He and F. Sawyer, of Lincoln, had driven from that point to look at the country, and when they reached the western part of York County stopped over night at a ranch. Leaving there the next morning they continued their way westward. Toward evening Sawyer drove back to the ranch and stated that Johnson had gone on to Grand Island afoot, carrying his gun and valise. A few days later a party of freighters discovered the dead body of Johnson lying on the prairie on or near Section 18, Town 10, Range 5. Sheriff Dixon went to Lincoln, and, placing Sawyer under arrest, brought him back to Hamilton County, where he was kept guarded at the house of James Waddle (the county having no jail) for several weeks. Johnson's revolver was found close to the body, but his rifle and valise were sought for in vain. A party of Indians were known to have crossed the county from south to north on the day Johnson was shot, and the belief was that he had been killed by them, and that they had taken his money, valise and rifle, or that he had been murdered by Sawyer for his money, and that the gun and valise had been concealed. After a long and fruitless search it was determined to attempt to frighten Sawyer to disclose their hiding place. Accordingly one Sunday morning a dozen men placed him in a wagon, together with a rope and shovel, and were about to start for the scene of the crime when J. E. Phillpot, Esq., attorney for the prisoner, put in an appearance and accompanied the party. Nothing new was elicited. A preliminary examination was then held at the house of Mr. Waddle, before John Brown, justice of the peace, and Sawyer was held for trial, being sent to Lincoln for safe keeping. He was afterward discharged from custody on a writ of habeas corpus.
A second homicide occurred in the county February 12, 1878, that of the murder of Abraham G. Hagey by Henry C. Case. Case was indicted and arraigned on the charge of murder in the first degree at the December term of court, 1878. He pleaded guilty to the charge of manslaughter, which was accepted by the counsel for the State, as there was some question as to the man's sanity. He was sentenced to the penitentiary for eight years, where he died before the expiration of the time.
In the early part of 1885, a great deal of petty thieving was going on in the vicinity of Marquette, from farmers in the surrounding country and from merchants in the town, several burglaries even being committed. It was concluded that an organized band of outlaws existed in that section of the county, and the commissioners took steps for their apprehension and conviction, making a special appropriation of funds for that purpose. Messrs. Hainer & Kellogg were attorneys for the county and at once entered upon an investigation of the matter. A detective was employed and in a short time an overwhelming amount of evidence was accumulated and six members of the gang were arrested. A special term of the court was called in June, 1885, for their trial, but so completely had the work of securing evidence been done, that no defense was
attempted, the parties pleading guilty. Ed Colby, Fred Colby, Richard Shull, Jacob Mundell and Cab Rumrey were each sentenced to two years and six months and J. Garrett to one year in the penitentiary.
On July 13, 1889, Henry Thornhill shot and instantly killed William Alonzo Barrett, in the south part of the county. Thornhill was arrested the next day, and made the following statement to the coroner: That he had gone to Bromfield on July 13, to get some medicine for Mrs. Barrett, who was sick. That upon returning between 9 and 10 o'clock that night, he heard an altercation in the house, and approaching the window he saw Barrett and his wife quarreling, the former holding a chair in his hand. That he at once ran to the house of Thomas Cross, a neighbor, and borrowed a gun, "for the purpose of holding Bill [Barrett] up, and making him behave himself;" that upon his return to the Barrett house, he again looked through the window, and saw Barrett with a butcher knife in his hand, struggling with his wife, who was in a crouching position in front of him, and holding or grasping his hands; that fearing Mrs. Barrett would be killed, he drew up the gun and fired, intending to cripple Barrett's right arm. Mrs. Barrett corroborated this statement, and showed marks on her neck and hand, which she claimed wee made by her husband in the struggle. Thornhill was arraigned and tried at the January (1890) term of the district court, Judge A. M. Post, of Columbus, presiding, in place of Judge Smith (Judge Smith having prepared the information against Thornhill while serving in the capacity of county attorney before his appointment as judge, was disqualified to preside in the case). The evidence showed that Barrett had separated from his wife several days before the homicide, and that he had been staying at the house of a neighbor, David Beat; that on July 13, he and Beat had gone to Aurora, where Barrett had procured a bottle of "Tippecanoe Bitter;" that on the way home, and after reaching there in the evening, Barrett had taken several drinks from the bottle of bitters, and at half past eight had started for his own house; that when Thornhill went to Cross's for the gun, he was apparently in a great hurry, stating that he wanted to shoot a dog, and that after getting the gun he stated to Cross that it was a two-legged dog. The shooting was done through the south window of the house, the main charge taking effect in front of the right shoulder, while scattering shot entered the face and breast.
This was the most celebrated case ever tried in the county, and had attracted such general attention that three days were occupied in securing a jury, during which 168 jurors were examined.
The well-known ability of these gentlemen, together with the importance of the case, attracted an immense crowd, which daily packed the court room. The jury remained out barely two hours, when they returned a verdict of murder in the first degree. Thornhill was sentenced to be hanged on June 13, 1890, between the hours of 12 M. (sic) and 2 P.M. His attorneys having filed a motion for a new trial, which was overruled by the court, filed a bill of exceptions, and appealed on error to the supreme court, where the matter at present remains.
Other imortant criminal cases, in which convictions were secured, were: The State vs. Howard T. Marshall, forgery; The State vs. O. A. Bacon, seduction; The State vs. Yoeman, incest.
The last tragedy which occurred in the county was that of the shooting of W. W. Lewis on March 15, 1890, and the lynching of his murderer, A. E. Staton, the same day by a party of masked men, a full account of which is given in subsequent pages.
The legal ability and high character and standing of the attorneys of this county have given the Aurora bar a reputation and standing throughout the State, especially before the supreme court, of which the citizens are justly proud.