Pages 258 - 262

The Court, continued

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The leading politician of the county, on the Democratic side, was John B. WELLER. Nature had gifted him with an easy declamatory eloquence, and his standing at the bar was largely owing to this. He took more interest in politics than in law, but maintained a respectable rank in the latter. He was attractive in appearance. Francis D. RIGDON was the son of Dr. Loammi RIGDON. He was afterwards in the paper business with William BECKETT, making some money in this occupation, and afterwards buying a farm. He died in Atlanta, Georgia. Alfred G THOMAS was a commissioner of bankruptcy about 1840 He was the brother of the Rev. Thomas E. THOMAS, but had not the same skill as a speaker. With the pen, however, he was strong. He was a fine Greek and Latin scholar, being professor of those languages at College Hill, and is now assistant solicitor of the treasury. John P. REYNOLDS, now in Illinois, was the commissioner of Illinois to the Paris Exhibition. He is a well known writer for the press, and has been secretary of the Illinois Board of Agriculture, and the editor of an important agricultural newspaper in that State. He is now the Secretary of the Chicago Exposition. Ezekiel WALKER, now of Cincinnati, was very odd in appearance. He was employed in a very celebrated case, that of JONES against MIZENER, in which he was attorney for the plaintiff. The suit was about a division fence, and was carried on for years, until it became as well known as any cause ever in progress in this county. The verdict was twelve and a half cents. WALKER subsequently sued JONES for his fees, but the latter swore WALKER took the case for half what might be collected, and that he had tendered him the full amount agreed upon. He would even give him the whole. This suit occasioned a great deal of mirth for many years. Mr.WALKER may be distinguished in Cincinnati now by always carrying an umbrella. Jesse CORWIN was another of the old members of the bar. He was a brother of Governor Thomas CORWIN, the most eloquent advocate who ever pleaded at the bar in the Hamilton courts. They were the sons of Matthias CORWIN, a pioneer of Warren County, who represented his county in the Legislature for ten consecutive terms from 1804. Jesse CORWIN was born in Bourbon County, Kentucky, January 30, 1797; removed with his father to Lebanon, Ohio, and in 1822 took up his abode in Hamilton. He was an assiduous student of the law and early made himself familiar with its principles and the rules which underlie its practice. Soon after coming to this place he was married to Miss Jane MCMECHAN, by whom he had eight children, James, Matthias, Clarence, Eleanor, Thomas, Warren, Henry Clay, Erin Augusta, and Jennie. Three only are now living, Henry C. CORWIN, at Salina, Kansas; Mrs. Erin CORWIN MILLER, wife of Dr. W. C. MILLER, and Miss Jennie, at the old homestead in Hamilton. The three sons living at the breaking out of the rebellion, Thomas, Warren, and Henrv C., all enlisted under the national banner at the first calling for troops by President Lincoln. He has two grand children, Thomas CORWIN, son of Henry C. Lillie M. CORWIN, and William CORWIN MILLER, son of Dr.and Mrs. Erin C. MILLER. It was but a short time before Mr. CORWIN attained a large share of practice, and in addition received the favor of the people. He was elected to the Legislature of Ohio for the years 1831 and 1832, and was prosecuting attorney for the county from 1825 to 1835, serving in this office with zeal and acceptability. In 1837 he was the Whig candidate for Congress in this, then the Second, District. Though unsuccessful (his party being in the minority), his popularity was so well shown by the great gains he made that he was strongly induced to accept the subsequent nomination, but declined. He was a man of good solid judgment and with generous impulses and frank disposition, of a character upright and honest, an affectionate husband, an indulgent father, and an estimable citizen. He remained in practice all his life, and at the time of his death was the oldest member of the Butler County bar. He died on the 23d of October, 1867. Thomas H. WILKINS was a good talker and full of jest and humor. He was a brother-in-law of John WOODS. Among those who frequented the courts here from other places were Thomas CORWIN, Charles ANDERSON, Judge CALDWELL, and Charles FOX. CORWIN was, for many years, the leading advocate of this section, and his sallies of wit and passages of pathos are yet related by the older residents of the city. He was as well known here as he was at home. He always complained that his abilities as a wit blinded the people as to the real merits of his character. The most distinguished judges of the Supreme Court visited this place-such men as Ebenezer LANE and Reuben HITCHCOCK. Justice was administered more summarily then than now. The judge felt that it was necessary for him to make dispatch with his cases, and he checked any disposition of the lawyers to verbosity. The business must be concluded. Lawyers, too, at that day would not take hopeless cases, and there was no disposition to encourage litigation simply for the sake of promoting it. Upon arrival in town, requisitions would be made for depositions and papers from the clerk's office, and they were thoroughly read and digested. The president judges of the Court of Common Pleas were as follows: Francis DUNLEVY, 1803 to 1817; Joseph H. CRANE, of Dayton, 1817 t() l~18; Joshua COLLETT, of Warren County, 1818 to 1829; George J. SMITH, of Lebanon, 1829 to ~836; Benjamin HINKSON, of Clinton County,1836 to 1843; Elijah VANCE, 1843 to 1850, and John PROBASCO, of Lebanon, 1850 to 1853. Since that date James SMITH, of Lebanon; Abner HAINES, of Eaton; William J. GILMORE, of Eaton; William WILSON, of Greenville; James CLARK, of Hamilton; A. F. HUME, of Hamilton; D. L. MEEKER, of Greenville; J. C. MCKEMY, of Dayton; Henderson ELLIOTT, of Dayton; James A. GILMORE, of Eaton; James L. SMITH, of Lebanon; Calvin D. WIGHT, of Troy; James S. GOOD, of Springfield; James E.DAWES, of Xenia; A. W. DOANE, Page 260 of Wilmington; H. H. WILLIAMS, of Troy, and William ALLEN, of Greenville have held courts here. Judge CRANE was a brother of Commodore CRANE. He was a man of fine address, well skilled in the law, and a model judge. Joshua COLLETT was an exceedingly conscientious man on the bench. He was not a brilliant or attractive man, but was actuated by high moral principles. Judge SMITH was straightforward and painstaking, and was of respectable abilities. HINKSON is remembered as a slow and easy, honest and good-natured man. Oliver S. WITHERBY, president of the Consolidated Bank of San Diego, California, is from this county. He was born in the city of Cincinnati on the 19th of February 1815. In 1830 his father removed to Oxford, where the young man entered Miami University, graduating in 1836, and receiving the degree of Master of Arts in due course. He then began the study of law with John WOODS, the leader of the bar in this county, and was admitted to practice in 1840. In 1843 he was elected prosecuting attorney, succeeding Elijah VANCE, and was re-elected in 1845. In 1846 he went out to Mexico as a lieutenant in the volunteer service, and on his return acted as editor of the Hamilton Telegraph, being in part-nership with Michael C. RYAN, Esq. When John B. WELLER was selected to go out to Mexico as one of the commissioners to fix the boundary line between that country and this, Mr. WITHERBY also went on acting as quartermaster and commissary. Both he and Mr. WELLER remained in California, where Mr. WITHERBY was elected a member of the first Legislature of that State. The duties which devolved upon this body were onerous. The country had been acquired by conquest, and the discovery of gold soon after resulted in an influx of foreigner and adventurers from all portions of the globe. There had been no preceding territorial condition in which the most necessary laws could have been passed, and the enactments which were to govern society were to he laid from the very foundation. The Legislature discharged its duties with ability and discretion, and its members, including Mr. WITHERBY, went out of office with the consciousness that their obligations had been fully discharged. This view was also entertained by the people, and Mr. WITHRBY was in 1850 elected judge of the First Judicial District of the State. After his term had expired he was appointed collector of customs for the port of San Diego, holding the position for four years. Since that time he has been in private business, having been for the last few years president of the Consolidated Bank of San Diego. In the earlier years of the century lawyers and physicians were compelled to pay a license fee. Among those whose names appear in the advertisements of the newspapers before the war are Charles RICHARDSON who had an office in Campbell's Building in 1847;William SHOTWELL, southwest corner of Basin and Second Streets, in 1847; Robert HAZELTON, corner east of the SCHMIDTMAN House, in 1847; Valentine CHASE. Iver the sheriff’s office in 1847;' Moore C. GILMORE, Rossville, over Traber’s store in 1848; William E. BROWN, Basin Street, three doors west of the Buckeye House, in 1849; James B. MILLIKIN, over MILLIKIN’S's drug store, in Rossville, in 1849; John B. WELLER and M. C. RYAN, in 1846; O. S. Witherby, over the county treasurer's office, in 1843; Elias V. WILSON, opposite the public square, in Sutherland's corner, in 1846. James CLARK, one of the ablest men at the bar ever here, and well remembered as a judge, died at the Magnetic Springs House, in Statesville, New York, December 28, 1881, aged about fifty-seven. He was a native of this State, and served two terms as a judge of the Supreme Court. He was here for twelve or fifteen years. He was a man of marked ability as a lawyer, judge, and scholar. His range of reading was very wide, and he collected a fine library. For a few years he contributed to the New York Ledger and other journals. His wife, Miss Lottie MOON, of Oxford, was a woman of great power and originality of character. He left this city about 1864 to go to New York, and ever afterwards resided there. He had gone to Statesville with his son to spend the Winter. George Penny WEBSTER, who lost his life in the civil war, was a son of John WEBSTER, and a nephew of William WEBSTER, of Middletown, and Joseph WEBSTER, of Hamilton; He was born near Middletown, December 24, 1824. When sixteen years of age he went to Hamilton, and for two years was deputy clerk of the county, then beginning the study of law with Thomas MILLIKIN. In the latter part of 1846 he was admitted to the bar, and at once began practice. At the breaking out of the war with Mexico he enlisted as a private in the company of which General VAN DERVEER subsequently became captain, and was afterwards promoted to sergeant-major of the regiment. He was wounded in the shoulder at the storming of Monterey. When peace was declared he removed ~ Steubenville, having previously married a daughter of John MCADAMS, of Warrenton. Two years after he was elected clerk of the court. He held the office for six years, then resuming the practice of his profession, and soon being regarded as one of the foremost lawyers. of that city. When the war broke out he was instrumental in raising and forwarding two companies. He was appointed major of the Twenty-fifth infantry, and shortly after went to West Virginia. In May, 1862, he was promoted to lieutenant-colonel, and in July the colonel of the Ninety-eighth. While in Virginia he commanded four expeditions, all of which were successful, and fought in five battles, gaining the name of the "fighting major.,' He was a man of very imposing personal appearance, being six feet two inches high, and otherwise made in proportion. At Louisville Colonel WEBSTER was placed in command of the Thirty-fourth brigade, Jackson's division. In the battle of Perryville he was mortally wounded, falling from his horse, and died in the field of battle.

Among the lawyers who advertised in the papers before the war were George WEBSTER, Crane's Hotel, in 1846; Thomas MILLIKIN, Second Street, adjoining his dwelling, in 1846; William P. YOUNG, office formerly occupied by Bebb & Reynolds, in 1846; William H. MILLER, Basin Street, in 1847; John B. WELLER, brick building opposite the post office, the sheriff's office also there, in 1835; J. M. U. MCNUTT and I. W. CROSBY over Dr. Hittell's drug store, in 1837. In 1852 there were A. P. COX, Westchester; William H. SMITH, Oxford; BEBB & LEWIS, office formerly occupied by MILLIKIN & BEBB; John W. WILSON, Second Street, a few doors north of the Hamilton Hotel; Thomas MOORE, Rossville; J. CLARK, opposite the Court House; J. H. GEST, Rossville; HUME & FURROW; MILLER & BROWN; SCOTT & MCFARLAND; VANCE & WHITE.

In 1859 it is said there were fifty regularly admitted lawyers in Butler County, thirty-eight of whom were in active practice.

William R. KINDER was born near Franklin, Warren County Ohio, on the 17th of. December, 1826. He entered Farmer's College, and graduated there, with high honors m the Summer of 1848. He immediately began the study of law with John B. WELLER; but feeling serious apprehensions for his health-having a strong predisposition to pulmonary bronchial disease, even at his early age-he joined the Boundary Survey Expedition in 1849, and went to Mexico, in hopes of strengthening his constitution and shaking off his disease. Apparently much restored, he began the practice of law in San Francisco as a partner of his old preceptor, Governor WELLER, in 1849, but his health again failing him, he took passage for China on a sailing vessel, in November of 1850, where he remained some four months, returning again to our city. He then took charge of the Telegraph as ostensible editor, and continued to contribute all its valuable articles until shortly before his death.

In October, 1854, he was elected to the office of probate judge, having served some time before on the un-expired term of a former incumbent, laboring in this capacity with universal acceptability, being re-elected as fast as his term expired, until the 21st of December, 1859. On this day a more serious and stubborn attack of his old disease, consumption, brought him to his room where for some weeks he was confined, a patient and calm prisoner, gradually worn away by his malady, until, on the 9th of February, 1860, in the full possession of all his faculties, he died.

Judge KINDER had intellectual powers of a high order. His natural abilities were great,. and his acquirements in sciences and the arts were unceasing and extended. His mental characteristics, however, were those of readiness, adaptability, versatility. He will be remembered by all who have seen him as a thoughtful man; by all who have heard him as a ready, capable man. He conversed with much ease and brilliancy. He comprehended quickly, digested quickly and could bring all his powers to bear on any question in an instant. It was the very practical bent of his mind, the capacity he had. Of putting himself in the stead of any class, and bringing himself in their position, which made him equally a forcible writer and an eloquent speaker. He always understood himself, and hence found no difficulty in always well expressing himself He delivered, in the opinion of some, the best conceived and most symmetrical speeches his party ever produced here. With a broad treatment of his subject, stating his views with perfect clearness, concealing his own and exposing his opponent's weak point with quiet and unsuspicious adroitness, urging his conclusions with much earnestness, not forgetting the judicious introduction of humor-these characteristics, joined to a musical, though not round, voice, a graceful manner, and a striking and pleasing presence, made his stump efforts, though generally 'short and unpremeditated, more than ordinarily acceptable and effective.

As a writer, Judge KINDER wielded a sharp-nibbed pen. Here again his clearness and force gave him the best qualities of good writing. His leaders in the Telegraph, embracing a wider range of topics than are usually treated in a country newspaper, would, for originality of style, richness of illustration, and thoroughness of treatment, bear comparison with the best articles published anywhere. Nor was he destitute of those nameless qualities going to make a good editor; conducting the Telegraph (and with it the party in the county) through many and grave difficulties with great skill and faithfulness. To his counsel, exposition, continuous writing and speaking, and indomitable faith in its principles and triumphs, the Democratic party of this county owed much of its discipline and strength.

There was objected to Mr. KINDER sometimes that he had a touch of rancor. Naturally witty and a strong partisan, it is not wonderful if there fell from him sometimes words too severe to be kind. Perhaps his ill health aggravated this inclination. He was a kind man, in whose breast generous feelings and noble impulse were entirely at home. He, certainly was a high-minded gentleman. There never was about him the least deception or truckling. He was too proud to compromise his independence.

If we except the celebrated case of JARNDYCE vs. JARNDYCE, says a writer in the newspapers, in the English chancery courts, and the hardly less well-known suits of the heirs of Anneke JANS, in our own country, to recover the real estate supposed - to be left them a long while ago, there has probably never appeared on the docket of any court a case of such magnitude as that which was being heard in the Butler Common Pleas in 1872. The bone of contention was the division of a portion of the fairest land in Butler County; sixty-two defendants were directly interested in the result; the petition covered innumerable sheets of legal cap, and in the calculations the nicest and most exact knowledge of the entire range of mathematics was employed. There had been in this case none of the law's proverbial delay; counsel filed no rejoinders and sur-rejoinders, rebutters and sur-rebutters; the court issued no stays and injunctions, and the case was as remarkable for the promptness with which it was decided as for the magnitude of the interests involved.

Briefly stated suit was brought for the partition of 12.34 acres of land in Madison Township. The parties between whom this land was to be divided numbered sixty-two, and most of them resided near the land. Now in court. The court, holding the scales of justice with a balanced hand, apportioned the land as follows, giving to each according to the rules of the laws of consanguinity. Thirteen of the defendants received each one-fifteenth of the estate; nine received one one-hundred and fiftieth; four received one six-hundredth; and thirty-six received one five-hundred and fourth. -

Let us now distribute, says the above-mentioned ingenious writer, this magnificent property under the above apportionment, and ascertain how much each receives. An acre of ground contains 43,560 square feet in round numbers, and 12.84 acres will contain 537,240 square feet. The thirteen would then each be entitled to 35,816 square feet, making a lot 100x190; the nine each to 3,582 square feet, making a lot 60x60; the four to 89 square feet, equal to a lot 30x30; and the thirty-six each 994 square feet, equal to a lot 31x81. Suppose we value the entire estate of 12.34 acres at $900. The thirteen eminently fortunate ones would receive $60 each; the nine would receive $6 each; the four would receive $1.50 each; and the thirty-six would come in for $1.66 each-taking no account, of course, of the wear and tear of the mind of the attorney who drew up the papers, the necessary purchase of slates, arithmetics, differential calculus, theodolites, sextants, trigonometrical tables, etc.

William H. SMITH, of Oxford, one of the oldest members of the Butler County bar, and a resident of Oxford for over sixty years, died of general debility at' his residence, in August, 1876. Mr. SMITH was horn at Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, in 1807, and coming West with his father's family in 18l5, settled in Oxford Township, where he resided ever after. Having received a good common school education, he engaged early in teaching; afterward was a farmer, and then a merchant. During his leisure from business he applied himself to the study of law, under the direction of John WOODS, of Hamilton; was admitted to the bar in 1839, and continued in active practice in this and the adjoining counties until within six months before death, when he was laid aside by sickness. He was the oldest member of the Butler County bar, and was much respected by his associates in the profession for his excellent knowledge of law. Mr. SMITH was, distinguished especially for his kindness of he sat and generosity. While in religious belief he was a Universalist, he was unusually free from sectarian prejudice, and was in sympathy with all Christian effort, by whatever denomination, taking an active interest in every movement for the good of the community. Politically, Mr. SMITH was a steadfast and zealous Republican, having the welfare of the country at heart, and laboring earnestly for his party. He was the last of ten children. Of those of his connection surviving him are his son, Ransford SMITH, of Ogden, Utah; and his nephews, Dr. H. A. SMITH, of Cincinnati, and P. W. SMITH, of the Butler County bar.

A meeting of the bar was held in the court-house the Saturday after his decease, for the purpose of paying a tribute to his memory. Thomas MILLIKIN was made chairman, and P. C. CONKLIN, secretary; and a committee, consisting of C. S. SYMMES, Colonel Thomas MOORE, and James E. NEAL, was appointed to draft resolutions expressive of the sense of the bar. The committee, after a short absence, reported the following: "Whereas, it has pleased an allwise Providence to remove from our midst the oldest member of our bar, W. H. Smith, Esq., of Oxford, Ohio, who, for almost half a century, has been an honored and honorable practitioner before our courts; therefore, be it Resolved, That we deeply deplore and regret the loss of our departed friend and brother, and in his death the bar of this county has lost one of its most faithful, industrious, and consistent members, and the community at large one of its most valuable citizens, and his clients a most vigorous and persistent advocate of their rights."