Carroll County Biographies

Benjamin L. Patch
Mt. Carroll IL

The title of Edna Ferber's short story "A Gay Old Dog" would not have applied accuately to County Judge Benjamin L.Patch as Carroll county citizens knew him, but it was a masterpiece that pertained more than a little to all bachelors of middle age.

They wondered "what, if any, was the judge's secret from other days - hade he been thwarted in his heart's desire?".

He contributed freely to local recreational enterprises but seldom, if ever, participated even as a spectator in the events he helped to make possible. Perhaps he believed aloofness essential to his office.

One morning before sunup he and Walter Hallet - an alumnus of Beloit College then reading law - drove out of town in a spring wagon carrying spades and pickaxes. One of the few citizens common to every small community who have an intuition for news whispered the report of the mysterious departure and implied that the adventurers had gone forth to open an Indian Mound and exract therefrom "the skelton of primitive man!"

The archelogists returned under cover of night but it was an open secret on the streets next morning that a human skull of great adtiquity. that of a "Mound Builder," was to be seen in Judge Patch's office. Many went to see it with a mixture of curiosity and reverence. It was there and they all saw it but none touched it.

The judge was plainly elated when receiving congragulations. He wore a jaunty air of satisfication. Alas, the flutter and acclaim were buried, for a dogged, irreverent skeptic came into the scene later and took the gruesome cranium in his hands for close inspection. As luck would have it he detected some gold fillin in one of its teeeth and blurted out something after this fashion.

"Say, where's anything ancient about this thing? WHy, this dental work is modeern enough to have been done by Dr. Farmer or Billy Beeler!" It was many a long day before the judge and Walter heard the last of their covert expedition.

Benjamin L. Patch represented Carroll county at Springfield following his election in 1860. Judge Patch was known as the "marrying judge" performing more marriages than any other person during his twenty-seven years tenure in office. This tenure was longer than any other county officer.

The Mirror contains the following statement: "On February 12, 1880, Hon. B.L. patch joined in marriage at the Chapman House in this city, Warren K. Olds of Wysox to Miss Lizzie M. Mertz of Fairhaven. There was nothing particularly unusual about this wedding except that Judge Patch performed the same ceremony for the bride's parents. He says it makes a man feel a little smooth on top of the head, to marry the children of those he had joined years ago." And so it continud again and again.

Judge Patch maintained great interest in the cave west of Mt. Carroll along the Waukarusa, built a shelter house for picnickers and kept a steam boat there for crossing. At one time he erected a bridge for their benefit.

When elected judge in 1865 he found the probate business in a state of chaos according to Samuel Preston. "No records showing a settlement of estates, many of the executors, administrators and guardians had died or left the county, but some of their bondsmen were found, which time had erased from their memory their liabilities in the matter, but through the efficient county clerk, Captain Hawk, the records were put in the best possible shape under the circumstances.

"All admire the beautiful park that now surrounds the courthouse, but we will let the muses speaking through T.T. Jacobs in his contribution to the interest of Old Settlers meeting in 1875, tell how the park came there;

The Courthouse too, which may be seen,
Standing on a lovely green,
A shady grove around its stands,
Planted by Judge Patch's hand

Last Will & Testament of Benjamin L. Patch

Back home