Goodspeed's History of Stewart County

Published in 1896

Part 6: Courts and Court Records

   In 1805 of the March term of court was held at the house of George Petty, the June term at William Haggard's and the December term at George Martin's. During that year permissions were granted to Jesse Denson to erect a public saw and grist mill on Long Creek, four miles from Cumberland River, and John Elliott to keep ferry on Cumberland River. Samuel A. Smith, the county clerk, was indicted and tried on charge of misdemeanor in office, but was acquitted and forthwith resigned. During pendency of said clerk's office was filled by William Nelson. Thomas Clinton was elected clerk by the court. The March term of the court, in 1806, met at the house of William Haggard, when Thomas Clinton resigned the clerkship and Robert Cooper was elected to the vacancy. The commission appointed to locate the county seat and erect the public buildings, selected thirty acres belonging to Robert Nelson, which they purchased in the latter part of the year 1805, and at once laid out the county seat and began the erection of the court house, prison, stray and stocks. The county seat was named Dover, instead of Monroe, as directed by the act creating the county, but why this departure from the instructions is not accounted for. The court house was completed and ready for occupancy by June 1806, and was a long double log building one story in height and cost about $600. The jail was also a log building, and cost about half the sum expended on the court house. The June term of the court was held in the new courthouse, at which term permissions were granted as follows" William Outlaw to build a public mill on Lick Creek, near the house of David Childers; John Stimbol to keep tavern at his house near Well's Creek; George Petty to keep tavern at his house in Dover; James Haggard to keep ferry across the Cumberland River, and Richard Manly and Philip Hornbarger to be inspectors of cotton-gins at their respective houses. The charges for taverns were also regulated at that term as follows: Each meal 12.5 cents; each one-half pint of whisky, 12.5 cents; horse feed, 12.5 cents; lodging, 6.5 cents; each half pint of rum 3.5 cents; each half pint of brandy, 12.5 cents.

During the sessions of the court in 1807 permissions were granted to John M. Barch to build a mill on Panther Creek, Phillip Hornbarger to keep tavern and Jonathan May to keep a ferry across the Cumberland River. In 1808 William Bogard was indicted and tried on a charge of larceny and acquitted, and license and permission were granted Philip Lewis to keep an ordinary at his house on Well's Creek and John Allen to erect a mill on the same creek. In 1815 William Jones was indicted for petit larceny, and being tried was found guilty and sentenced to receive ten lashes upon the naked back, which punishment was inflicted instanter before a crowd of curious spectators. Alexander Turner for sending a challenge to fight a duel was fined $50 and sent to jail for sixty days and deprived of his citizenship for twelve months. In 1820 the county jail was destroyed by fire, and a negro man, the only occupant, was fatally burned before rescued. During the following year a new jail was erected, the dimensions of which were twenty-two feet square, with four-foot walls, the foundation being of rock and the balance of the building of logs, the cost of which was about $500. In 1823 the court appointed James Russell, William Randall, George Petty, David Moore and Emanuel James a commission to prepare plans, lay off and let out the contract for a new brick court house at Dover, and superintend the erection of the same. The building was forty feet square, two stories in height and cost about $8000. It was similar in architecture to the present one, and was completed and received in November, 1826. In 1823 William McKinney was found guilty of petit larceny, by the county court and received as punishment for the offense ten lashes on the naked back. For the same offense in 1824 Lemuel Williams, a negro, received similar punishment, and in addition was branded infamous. In 1825 John Smith was given ten lashes for larceny, and Henry Cato, a negro, for stabbing a white man was whipped, branded and cropped. The branding consisted of pouring hot wine of some particular brand and color on the hand or arm of the criminal which would leave a red blotch or scar for life, while the cropping consisted in cutting a piece out of the ears. In 1828, after an exciting trial, Priscilla Jugg, a colored woman was emancipated by the court, and Richard Rose for larceny, was whipped and branded. In 1830, the jail building was again destroyed by fire, and a new one similar to the one burned was erected during the same year; and again in 1846 was the jail reduced to ashes and was immediately rebuilt, only to be destroyed in a similar manner in 1856. From 1856 until 1860 the county was without a county jail, during the first two or three years of which period the prisoners were kept in the Clarksville jail and the balance of the time in a steel cage which was purchased and placed in one of the rooms of the court house, and the same utilized as a county jail. In 1860 the new jail was built and two years later was destroyed for the fifth time, the Federal troops being the last cause of destruction. In 1870, the present jail building, a one story brick was erected. The court house was also destroyed by the Federals during the year 1862, and was rebuilt into the present substantial brick building in 1870. The court house is a two story building, the lower floor being arranged into offices for the various county officials, while the upper is devoted to court room exclusively. The building has a tin roof and is surmounted by a square-shaped cupola. The cost of the building was $14000.

The county court clerks of Stewart County from 1804-1886 have been as follows:
Samuel A. Smith, 1804-1805
Thomas Clinton, 1805-1806
Robert Cooper, 1806-1824
William Williams, 1824-1836
Elbert Bayliss, 1836-1838
Henry H. Gorin, 1838-1841
William Cook, 1841-1870
A.B. Ross, 1870-1882
Elbert G. Sexton, 1882-1886

William Curl 1804- 1807
Jesse Denson, 1807-1808
Henry Small, 1808-1810
John Allen, 1810-1813
Thomas Buckingham, 1813-1817
James Mallory, 1817-1822
Joseph Smith, 1822-1823
James Hogan, 1823-1824
Thomas Ward, 1824-1829
Henry L. Atkins, 1829-1837
William B. Cherry, 1837- 1840
Abithel Wallace, 1840-1844
Samuel Boughter, 1844-1846
Elisha Dawson, 1846-1854
Jesse Parchman, 1854-1856
E. T. Bogard, 1856-1865
W. T. Keel, 1865-1879
P. T. Wofford, 1870-1872
George Brandon, 1872-1874
C. C. Ralls, 1874-1876
W. C. Biggs, 1876-1878
J. A. Townsend, 1878-1879
W. N. Parker, 1879-1881
C. B. Cobb, 1881-1882
Charles A. Wolf, 1882-1883
G. W. Bufford, 1883-1884
C. C. Ralls, 1884-1886

Yancy Thornton, 1804-1809
Thomas Clinton, 1809-1811
Joel Williams, 1811-1813
Yancy Thornton, 1813- 1814
John Bailey, 1814-1820
David Hogan, 1820-1824
Christopher C. Clements, 1824-1836
John Richards, 1836-1839
Hiram Valentine, 1839-1845
Thomas M. Atkins, 1845-1850
R. T. Daniel, 1850-1854
S. W. Puckett, 1854-1863
Hamilton Settle, 1863-1866
Thomas Martin, 1866-1869
James P. Flood, 1869-1870
William Cook, 1870-1874
William C. Weaks, 1874-1886

While there remains nothing but odd papers of a miscellaneous nature on file to testify to the past, a circuit court in some form or other existed in Stewart County as early as 1814 or 1815; yet nothing as to the names of the officers of proceedings of such court can be learned at this late date. The first session of the circuit court held of which there remains a record, was begun and held at the court house in Dover, on Monday, March 23, 1835, which was presided over by the Hon. Lumsford M. Bramblett, he holding the court in interchange with the regular judge, Hon. Parry W. Humphreys. W. Williams was the clerk, and Henry L. Atkins sheriff of the court at that time. Among the transactions of the court during 1835 was the sending of Reugen and Larkein Times to the penitentiary for three years each upon being convicted of horse stealing, and imposing a fine of $25 upon Willie Sills for an assault with murderous intent. Judge Humphrey's term as such expiring with the year, the grand jury prepared and presented to the able jurist a valedictory address, setting forth the esteem in which he was held by the citizens in general, and the regret of all at his departure.

The circuit court convened for the first time after its reorganization provided for by the "new" constitution of 1834 on Monday, March 14, 1836, with Hon. Mortimer H. Martin on the bench, William K. Turner, solicitor, Philander Priestly, clerk, and Henry L. Atkins, sheriff. During 1836, James Dunn was sent to jail for 30 days on a charge of petit larceny, and on charges of grand larceny Nasslett Dougherty and Martin Armington were sent to the penitentiary for one and three years respectively. In 1837 Willie Sills was tried on the charge of kidnapping a woman of color, but was acquitted. James Sampson was convicted of malicious stabbing and sent to the penitentiary for three years. William W. Perry got twelve years for committing a rape, and for stealing a horse William H. Randolph was given four years.

In 1839 William Merrill was sent to the penitentiary for three years on a charge of grand larceny. Abram Phillips was assessed $15 for committing an assault and battery, and Elizabeth and Joel McLemon were granted a divorce. Martin Armington was given eight years imprisonment in 1840 for horse stealing, while in 1841 Seth Sears was sent to keep him company for two years on a charge of grand larceny. Clements Manning was convicted of murder in 1842 and sentenced to two years' imprisonment, and Nancy Jane Smith obtained a decree of divorce from her husband Hiram. In 1843, W. H. Uland was imprisoned and fined $3 for an assault and battery, and for being guilty of malicious stabbing William Mainor was sent to the penitentiary for seven years. In 1846 occurred the first case of hanging by law in the county, the case being that of Bob Wood, a slave belonging to Stacker, Wood & Co. iron men, who was convicted of willful murder and hanged before a large crowd on the 4th day of December. John Brigham, on the charge of forgery, was sentenced to three years' imprisonment in 1847, and in 1848 Jacob Barber was sent to jail for larceny, and a divorce was granted to William and Elizabeth Davis. In 1850 Alexander Debuse was given three years' imprisonment on being convicted of horse stealing, and in 1851 William C. Jobes, M.J. Andrews, M. T. Duncan and Thomas Stalls, were each fined $5 for fighting chickens. In 1855 Holmes Harris was fined $5 for an assault and battery; Patrick Hufflin $50 for an assault with intent to kill; John McBride sent to the penitentiary for three years for an assault and battery with intent to commit rape, and John Morgan was convicted of murder and sentenced to be hanged, but had his sentence commuted to life imprisonment by the judge. In 1856, a celebrated libel suit was tried, the parties to the suit being Daniel McAuley and wife against Roderick McAuley. The defendant lost the suit and a judgement of $1200 was rendered against him.

A sentence of four years and five months' imprisonment was passed on Drewry Roy for committing grand larceny. In 1857 Andrew and John Hutchison were fined 45 each for playing cards with a negro, and J.G. Carney was convicted of murder and imprisoned for fifteen years; Angus Sandier got ten years for grand larceny. In 1860 and 1865 Green Manning was given five years for robbery. In 1866 William Page and Crit Jackson were acquitted of the murder of Field Downs, and in 1867 Ben Carter (colored) was sent to the penitentiary for three years on charge of perjury, and Robert Blair sent for ten years upon conviction of murder; J. A. Glasgow was acquitted of the murder of Peter Gray in 18968, and in the following year J. M. Watson was given three years' imprisonment on a charge of grand larceny, and for horse stealing Reuben Mathis got ten years. In 1873 Louis Malone was convicted of grand larceny and imprisoned for three years, and the following year Adaline Stone (colored) and Chip Ellison alias Woods (colored) were sent to the penitentiary for two and three years respectively on charges of murder; for killing a child Nathan Bachelor was condemned in 1875, but an appeal to the supreme court being granted, he married the prosecuting witness (the mother of the child) before the cause came up for trial, and thereby secured an acquittal. In 1876 William and Frank Rolls were acquitted of the charge of murder, and Bill Mockbee and Jack Wilson (colored) were indicted for the murder of Wylie McClish. The murder was committed to secure a large amount of money the victim was supposed to have on his person, he having announced in the hearing of the negroes that he was then on his way to Dover to receive considerable money. On his way home the Negroes waylaid him, and cut his head off with and ax, and for the crime secured but 10 cents in money, that being all the murdered man had in his pockets. The negroes were suspected and were arrested while wearing clothing they took from the murdered man. A mob took Wilson from the jail and lynched him, while Mockbee was tried, convicted, and executed at Dover for his part of the crime.

In 1877 William Hull was found guilty of murder and sent to the penitentiary for ten years, and afterward pardoned, while Ellison Wood, for a similar offense, got off with two years' imprisonment. In 1878 Robert Mockbee was convicted of infanticide and sentenced to be hung, but secured a new hearing and was imprisoned in the penitentiary for seventeen years. In 1880 H. Mohr and George Cherry were sent to the penitentiary for five and one years respectively, for larceny, and in 1881 Alfred Hash, Mary Woods, George Baker, Nelson Bookman, John Haley, James Barker, and Wesley were given terms of imprisonment in the penitentiary for five and one years respectively, for larceny, and in 1881, Alfred Hash, Mary Woods, George Baker, Nelson Bookman, John Haley, James Barker, and Wesley were given terms of imprisonment in the penitentiary for committing larceny. George Washington Tolly and Moses Earhest (colored) were given one year each in the penitentiary for larceny in 1883, and in 1884, Catherine Reed, Harrison Cordle, Mack and Tom Shemwell and W. H. Collins for larcenies, were given terms of imprisonment, and in 1885 F. A. Roder for an assault and battery with intent to kill was fined $100, and Simon Evans for forgery was sent to the penitentiary for three years. In 1886 John Smith was acquitted of the murder of F.A. Roder, the jury justifying the act.

Some time in 1842 or 1843, Alsy Forsette, Lewis Turner, John Lee, Buck Purdue, and several others went to the house of Louis Lumford to capture a fugitive slave whom Lumsford was aiding to escape. Forsette was killed by Lumsford, and he in turn was killed by some one of the attacking party. The slave made his escape, and Lee was afterward tried for the killing of Lumsford and acquitted. In 1867 James Daugherty killed a negro in Dover, and escaped the officers. In 1880, George Washington (colored) killed a white man named John Fagan, and was taken from jail by a mob and hanged about half a mile from Calson Bluff. In 1881 G. W. Burgett shot his wife and step-daughter, Maggie Yates and then committed suicide at Dover. The girl recovered from her wounds but her mother died in a week's time. J.E. Cook killed Cynthia Glasgow, the wife of his neighbor, in 1884, and was mobbed a few days afterward.

The judges who have presided over the circuit court since 1836 are as follows
Mortimer H. Martin, 1836-1852
W. W. Pepper, 1852-1860
Thomas W. Wisdom, 1860-1865
John A. Campbell, 1865-1870
James E.Rice, 1870-1878
Joseph C.Stark, 1878-1886

Solicitor- generals:
Nathaniel A. McNairy, 1804-1806
J. B. Reynolds, 1806-1808
George Washington Marr, 1808-1813
James R. McMeans, 1813-1819
Cave Johnson, 1819-1829
William K. Turner, 1829-1840
W. D. Johnson, 1840-1852
Valentine S. Allen, 1852-1854
James M. Quarles, 1854-1858
W. E. Lowe, 1858-1865
James E. Rice, 1865-1870
W. J. Broadus, 1870- 1871
T. C. Mulligan, 1871-1878
B. D. Bell, 1878-1886

Circuit Court clerks:
Philander Priestly, 1836-1840
Z. T. Shemwell, 1840-1848
S. W. Kelly, 1848-1852
Thomas M. Atkins, 1852-1856
A. B. Ross, 1856-1870
W. J. Hagler, 1870-1881
A. G. Scarbourgh, 1881-1882
Frank B. Smith, 1882-1886

All the records of the Chancery Court were destroyed during the late war, and the officers and proceeding of the court can be learned only since that time. The first session of the court after the war was held in June 1865, by J. O. Shackleford. The office of clerk and master was declared vacant, the incumbent, Clay Roberts, having been a captain in the Confederate Army, and W. J. Broaddus was appointed to fill the vacancy. Chancellor Shackelford was succeeded by Thomas Barry in 1865, who served until 1868, when he was succeeded by James F. Louck who in 1869 was succeeded by Charles G. Smith. Judge Smith served until 1875, and was succeeded by Horace H. Lurton, who served until 1878 and was in turn succeeded by B. J. Darver. George E. Seay the present incumbent, was elected in August 1878. Clerks and Masters: W. J. Broaddus, 1865 to 1867; Charles P. Moore, 1867 to 1874; J. H. Gatlin, 1874 to 1881; I. J. Brandon, 1881 to 1886.

The lawyers of Dover who practiced at the bar of her courts from the early days to the present were as follows, in the order given as to time of their practice: Nathaniel McNairy, Perry W. Thompson, J. B. Reynolds, George Washington Marr, West H. Humphreys, William Fitzgerald, John Reddick, Hiram Valentine, Aaron Goodridge, Peter Linch, F. H. Williamson, Jones Rivers, J. O. Shackelford, J. W. Wall, E. P. Petty, James E. Rice, J. M. Scarborough, Jesse L. Harris, James C. Roberts. H. C. Roberts, M. Brandon, J. W. Rice, J. W. Stout, and C. M. Brandon.

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