Illinois Genealogy Trails History Group

Clark County Illinois
Genealogy and History

Chapter 7
Bench and Bar


The History of Crawford and Clark County
W. H. Perrin, O. L. Baskin & Co., 1883

Transcribed by Kevin Ortman and Barbara Z.


"Time when the memory of man nameth not to the contrary." —Blackstone.

In the very first steps of organization in the county there were no local lawyers here. In fact, the legal machinery of the county had been all fully put in working order before even the legal circuit riders came to gladden the hearts of the people with their imposing presence, seedy plug hats, and the singular combination of store clothes and home-made shoes and socks. But courts were a necessary part of the legal start of a county —justice had to be administered, quarrels adjudicated, rows settled, naturalization granted, and many other little things that could only be performed by this august body, were a pressing necessity, and the court, therefore, was among the early comers. Lawyers, then, especially to the county municipality, were much more essential than now, for in the very first essentials toward making a new county the assistance of trained legal minds were indispensable. The people could themselves move in the matter of forming a new county only so far as to talk up the project among themselves,and agree upon the boundaries, etc., but after this, at every step they must have the aid and guidance of lawyers. They had to reach the Legislature and a formal petition duly- signed had to be drawn; not only this, but a draft of a bill creating the county, defining in proper technical and accurate words the new county's territory, naming three commissioners and defining their duties, etc., and to whom but a lawyer could they go for all this? The work of these men, then, was of the greatest importance, as they were the foundations upon which rests the future of the little municipality. Their advice to the people, their work in the matter of legal documents, were to remain with us in the long time and for the weal or woe of the unborn generations. But soon after the county organization came the first term of the Circuit Court, and with it the lawyers to see after the little business that might perchance be there needing their learned attention. This array of traveling lawyers was but a meager crowd, but the work awaiting them was light, and the fees were ranged down to coon-skin currency prices. This meager caravan, however, as they traveled on horse-back, from county to county, constituted the early Bench and Bar. It was the court, and the " circuit riders," of the early fraternity, and without drawing invidious distinctions, the moving procession was constituted of some of the most valuable of our pioneer people. Their life was a hard one, their work often difficult and perplexing; they braved the heat and cold, the storms and floods, and all over the vast circuits (then embracing more than half the State), with their wardrobes and their law libraries in their saddle-bags—which, often, with all their clothes, they cairied on their heads while their horses were swimming the swollen streams. They traveled from one county seat to another, where often they would not find more oases on the docket tiian there were numbers of them, and these frequently unimportant and frivolous, the hotel accommodations meager and rude, and packed with perhaps a rough-and-tumble lot of hunters and trappers, who had come to town to have a jolly good time and make night and day hideous with their orgies. If the judge got a private room he was in luck, because generally the rooms were all in one, and all over this were beds on the floor, and on cots, as thick as they could be placed, and all the iiio-ht lono- the chances for sleep were few and far between. Then below this vast sleeping room was the hotel bar-room, where drinking and "stag-dances" often rioted in noisy fun the most of the night, to the screeching of a cracked fiddle handled by some yahoo who could worry the very soul in acrony of all within ear-shot of his hideous caterwauling. The writer hereof will never foro-et hearing Judge Koerner, upon one occasion, somewhat like that above mentioned, express his exasperated feelings. The judge would be perfectly quiet in his cot for some time and then flounce over, pouch out his lips and blow, and, talking to himself apparently, say, "d—n dot feedling." And thus the long night was interminably drawn out.

The Circuit Court held generally biennial sessions in each county. The judge was the great man, of course, upon the recurring great day of the assembling of the court. The Bar was much like the nightly courtiers attending upon royalty, and it is not wonderful that they inspired the greatest respect and awe from all the people as they went in triumphal procession over the country. Even the clerks and sheriffs and other local officials of the court, by virtue of their right to approach the bench and bar upon something like terms of familiarity, and exchange words with them, were temporarily greatly enlarged and magnified and sometimes doubtless greatly envied by the common crowds. But soon after the organization of each county came the local lawyer—the dweller among the people—and thus some of the glamour that invested the profession of law passed away. Soon, too, these increased in numbers, and as law and politics were synonymous terms, and, in their electioneering, they more and more mixed among: the people, generally coaxing and wheedling them out of their votes, kissing babies, patting frowzled-headed, dirty faced boys; flattering the rural sunflowers, kissing the blarney stone and dealing out thickened taifa to the old beldames, and hugoing like a very brother the voters, and dividing with them their supply of plug tobacco, and tipping the wink to the bleareyed doggery keeper—making spread eagle speeches everywhere and upon all possible occasions, and thus the work of breaking down the one great barrier between the profession and the people, and their mingling in discriminate herds, went on, until a lawyer got to be simply a human being, "nothing but a man," as the boy said when the preacher for the first time dined at his mother's house.

But the fact remains that in the early settlement of the State, and in the first formation of the laws and customs of the different counties, these gentlemen had much to do, and to their glory be it said, they did their work wisely and well, and the proud State of Illinois, and her royal train of daughters— the 102 counties—are imperishable monuments to their industry, patriotism, ripe judgment and incorruptible integrity'. We have here the fourth State in the Union, and it was eager and swilt in the race for the third place. The next decade will place her second, and a few brief years may, nay, doubtless will, put her at the head of the groat column of States, and toward this grand consummation a meed of praise will always be due these good men—the early Bench and Bar. The first session of the Circuit Court in Clark County was held in Aurora, as stated in a preceding chapter, the first county seat, on the 20th day of September, 1819. Judge Thomas C. Browne presiding, and W. B. Archer, clerk, and the first case ever entered upon the Circuit Court docket was a little appeal case, from the docket of C. Patrick. Wickliffe Kitchell appeared as the plaintiff's attorney, and John M. Robinson for the defendant. This first case of the court's docket, bear in mind, was not at the first term of the court, for, according to the record, there was no case put down for trial at this court. The records are models of their kind, and we much doubt if any county in the State can show records in their organization, that would compare with these ill their completeness or mechanical execution. Every paper, every certificate and each proper entry are all in their place and are models that have never yet been improved upon. These splendid records shoulil be preserved by the county, as one would the ap])le of his eye, and the time will soon come when these books will be a just and fitting moiuiinont to the first county officials, especially the clerk of the court.

In April, 1820, the second term of the Circuit Court for the county convened, Judge William Wilson presiding. There were only four cases on the docket, and two of these were for slander. At this term of the court appeared as attorneys, John McLean, John M. Robinson, Wickliffe Kitchell, Mr. Nash, and Henry W. Dunford. At the September term, 1820, William P. Bennet was enrolled as a practicing attorney. At the May term, 1821, the clerk, W. B. Archer, makes this explanatory entry: " Be it known that the sheriff, clerk of the court, suitors, etc., attended at Aurora, the seat of justice of Clark County, on Wednesday the 23d day of May, 1821, and until 4 o'clock of Thursday, the 24th day of said month, and no judge appearing to form a court, the people dispersed." At the October term, 1821, Nathaniel Huntington and Jacob Call were enrolled as attorneys. At the May term, 1822, Jacob Harlan acted as clerk pr> tein., and John M. Robinson appears upon the records as the first State's attorney for the county of Clark, John Jackson enrolled as a regular attorney. In 1823 the county seat was moved from Aurora to Darwin. In 1825 Hon. James O. Wattles succeeded Wilson as Circuit Judge. At the November term, 1825, Judge James Hall held a term of the court, and at this term T. C. Cone was enrolled as an attorney. Then in 1826 Judge Wattles again presides, and at the April term, 1827, Wilson is again on the bench. In 1831 Edwin B. Webb appears as the State's attorney.

O. B. FICKLIN.—In 1830, now fifty-three years ago, in a memorable day in September, appeared in the little town of Darwin, the Hon. O. B. Ficklin, " on horseback." Judge Ficklin says he can distinctly remember the day, because it was just as the little town was in the greatest state of excitement over finding a den of snakes. He thinks if the whole village had been suffering an attack of jim-jams they could not have had a worse attack of snakes. When found, the reptiles were intertwined into an immense roll, larger than a bale of hay, where they had apparently gathered to go into winter quarters. When disturbed they started in every direction, and the people en masse had armed themselves and were working away in the slaughter like men threshing wheat with old-styled flails. The old judge says his arrival was wholly eclipsed by the serpents, but ho congratulates himself that he has stayed longer than the snakes, at least longer than that particular batch of them. The people were not so much to blame for overlooking him and seeing only the snakes. They didn't know him then, as well as pretty much everybody in Illinois now does; they did know the snakes, and they literally pulverized the heads of the descendants of the first apple vender with their heels, and with sticks, clubs or anything they could lay their hands upon. Ficklin rode up to the tavern, dismounted, carried his rather emaciated saddle-bags into the house, had his horse put up, and immediately joined the little array that was so bravely battling with reptiles. Ficklin came from Missouri to Illinois, and fixed his home at Mt. Carmel, and thus became a member of the Wabash bar, and entered actively upon the practice of his chosen profession. He diligently continued his studios, struggled hard to pay his light expenses of living, and by untiring energy to win a name and just fame among his fellow members of the bar. He was then but a bright, inexperienced boy, having been born in Scott County, Ky., December 10, 1808. It is not intended here to give a statistical bioii-raphv of Judge Ficklin, but rather a mere outline of dates and facts, as a foundation on which to build, or place a sketch of the man mentally, morally, socially and politically. His political life commenced as early as 1834, when he was elected to the Legislature at Vandalia, the then State capitol. Here he first met Douglas, Lincoln, John T. Stewart, Jesse K. Duljois and many others who afterward gained wide celebrity. He describes Douglas as the little, sprightly boy of the Legislature, very bright, affable, industrious, and universally liked and petted by all the members. Lincoln was long, ganglinn-, uncouth, and his clothes always fit badly, and he looked so awkward that his friends were always afraid he would tramp on his own feet and trip himself. But he could tell a good story; sometimes showed fair ability in argjument, and was conceded to be an opponent who would bear a great deal of watching. Jesse K. Dubois—well, everybody on the Wabash knows him, and respects and loves his memory. He was one of the kindest hearted, most genial men that Illinois ever produced. His power with men lay in his kind, warm heart. John T. Stewart impressed voung Ficklin as the giant among these pigmies, both intellectually and physically. He was all intellect, without thut flow of animal spirits that are generally essential to a politician. Then, too, he was more given to be a great lawyer than a great politician. His whole nature imbued him with the aristocratic ideas of the Whig party, and the Whig party in the early days of Illinois, was not well adapted to the wants and ideas of the people. Hence, Mr. Stewart never entered very seriously into polities, especially after his momorable contest with Douglas for a seat in the United States Congress. These were the men that Ficklin met at the State capitol in the winter of 1834. His recollection is most distinct upon the point that there certainly was not one there who then even dreamed there was not only the materials for presidents, but men who by sheer force of their intellects, and in defiance of defeats in elections, would send their fame all over the globe; whose memories would endure forever. In this remarkable school for young men, Judge Ficklin measured his capabilities in many a sharp contest, and from none of these did he ever have to retire with his plumes either ruffled or plucked. He returned to his constituents, and in the winter of 1834-5 was chosen States attorney for the Wabash District. In 1837 he removed to Coles County, locating in Charleston, where he has resided ever since, and entered here at once upon a large, and for those days a lucrative practice of the law. In 1843 he was elected to Congress. In the congressional delegation from Illinois at that time were Douglas, McClernand and Wentwortli. He was re-elected in 1844: and again in 1846, and again elected in 1850. He was a delegate to the National Democratic Convention of 1856, when James Buchanan was nominated, and also a delegate to the Charleston convention of 1860. In 1876 he was elected to the Illinois Legislature. In 1846 he married Elizabeth H. Colquitt, of Georgia, daughter of United States Senator Walter T. Colquitt, and sister of the present U. S. Senator from Georgia, Gov. Alfred Colquitt.

This is the briefest outline of his political life, but it is of his legal and social career that we prefer to speak more full}'. He is the father, now, of the Illinois bar. A ripe scholar, a profound jurist. But his supreme gifts were an integrity and probity that were never suspected, and an intuitive knowledge of men that has never been surpassed. He had a boundless contempt for human frauds and shams, and he hated a scoundrel with an intensity that never relaxed. So strongly was this in his nature that when once started in the pursuit of a nest of rascals, he at once lost sight of fees or emoluments, and for the pure love of right and justice he pursued the villain as relentlessly and persistently as the blood-hound is said to follow the fleeing fugitive. A history of these dens and villains that he has uncovered, and laid the heavy hand of the outraged law upon, would make an instructive book of thrilling interest. When profoundly interested and aroused, his eloquence was of the highest type—his language strong and rich, and his sentences clearcut and as furnshed as the highest classics. We know of nothing of a similar kind that surpasses for pathetic eloquence, his tribute to the memory of his friend, Judge Steel, before the court and bar when he presented the resolutions of respect to the departed jvnist and beloved friend. The words welled up spontaneously to the lips from a heart full of grief and sadness; they came unstudied, and for this very reason they came with a naturalness, power and fascination that has seldom been equaled never surpassed. But by his intimate acquaintances he will probably be the best remembered for his rare social gifts and conversational powers. He loved to talk and to hear others talk, and it mattered not with whom or in what circle he found himself, his talent of adaptation was never at fault. From the most ignorant and simple he could, by his natural gifts for crossnexamining, extract both information and quiet amusement. If he found them too ignorant for anything else, they could tell him about their " sisters, their cousins, and their aunts," and the absorbing interest of the old judge in these at once became a comical study. And even thus he was storing away information about the people that he at some time, either in the practice of the law or in his political campaigns, could use to a great advantage. The younger lawyers of the district will tell you that he can go into almost any county in the Wabash district, or in central or southern Illinois, and on opening court day, take his seat in the court room and as each one of the younger generation of men enters, if he does not recognize him, he will ask his young lawyer friend the name of the man, and when told it, he will most generally reply by saying, " Oh, yes; I know; the son of such and such a man, who settled on such a creek," and then proceed to tell his friend all about the man's family and relatives. It is said that in this way he knows more people, and more about them, than any other man in the State. He would gather from his uncouth friends often as much or more quiet amusement than information. For instance, riding along the road one day he overtook a woman driving a team of oxen, hauling rails. He slowed up his horse and opened a conversation. Eventually, among other things, he asked her how she liked Illinois. "Oh," replied the woman, " it 'pears all well enough for men and dogs, but its powerful tryin' on women and oxen." Thus his store of amusing incidents and anecdotes are unsurpassed probably by any man living. But his most valuable associate in life was doubtless U. F. Linder, one of the most wonderful men that Illinois has ever produced. Ficklin and Linder were near the same age; had commenced the practice of the law at the same time, and from 1837, the date of Ficklin's locating in Charleston, they were neighbors, associates, and friends; most generally arrayed on opposite sides in the courtroom, their legal battles were the marvel of the age. In their mental and general make-up they were in pretty much everything perfect opposites. Linder's genius was transcendent, brilliant, flashing, unstable, feverish, and diseased. He blazed up into the highest heavens like a flashing rocket, from where his unbalanced nature plunged into the dark mud like a blackened stick. Before a jury or upon the hustings his eloquence and genius played like the ragged lightnings in sportive twists. When his eloquent tongue wagged unmolested he swayed and moved an audience as with the combined force of mesmerism and electricity, and seemed to revel and riot in almost supernatural powers, and when the feverish thrill had passed he was left weak, puerile and childish, full of superstitious fears, dreading and dodging unseen dangers, vain as a simpleton, and particularly vain of those very things he did not possess, and of which almost any other man with a modicum of sense would have been heartily ashamed. He failed in every great purpose of his life, if he ever formed any great purpose, which is doubtful, because when success came to his hands, for which he had struggled apparently like the fabled gods, he threw it away and trampled it in the mud and the mire. Judge Ficklin was essential, nay, absolutely necessary, to this wild child of genius as a prop and stay, and balance, to his very existence. The conservative, strong nature of Ficklin was the only one thing in this world to stay and control the gifted madness of Linder, and the truth of this is attested in the hard and grievous life that was his continuous existence after he moved away from Charleston and fixed his habitation in Chicago, where he died a few years ago. Linder was as fickle as he was brilliant, one moment loving his friends and pouring out upon them terms of endearment as intense and soft as a hysterical school-girl; the next moment raging at and abusing them like a fury, painting the moon with blood, or lashing them with that wonderful tongue that at times was as a whip of scorpions, then as causelessly as had been perhaps his firet wrath, he would humble and humiliate himself in abject apologies. The companionship, the legal contests before courts and juries, the warm friendships, the tiff's (always only on Linder's part), the social communings, the political battles and discussions upon the stump, their traveling all over the wide circuit on horse-back together, discussing everything from the size of their respective clients' ears to the simple and sublime sermon on the Mount. Could they be put down upon paper, with all their strange, wierd and amusing phrases, would make a page in the world's history that would stand alone in interest. It was, it is true, something like hitching up for a draft team the noble Fercheron horse and the wild eagle of the crags. The marvelous brilliancy of Linder's genius attracted Ficklin, while Linder went to Ficklin in all his real and his numerous imaginary troubles as the helpless, heart-broken child does to its strong loving father to pour out its griefs and have its wouiKis made whole. A story finely illustrative, both of the times and of these two men, is told somewhat as follows: In 1844, they each aspired to be candidates for congress— one a Wiiig, the other a Democrat. Earlv in the year they started out traveling from county to county, holding nearly every night joint discussions. They joined issue upon the then great question of the annexation of Te.xas. They took sides, it seems, by lot, and Linder as a Whig, was warmly for getting Texas, and Mexico too, for tliat matter, while Ficklin, as a Democrat, hotly opposed the whole scheme of blood and robbery. As these nightly battles grew and magnified, the people became deeply interested and many traveled from county to county to hear their favorites discuss these great questions. They had about got over half the districts, and their appointments were out for the remaining counties, when the slow word found its way to this wild country at last, that the National Democratic Convention had nominated Polk and Dallas, and upon the strongest kind of a Texas annexation platform. The word came like a thunder-clap to these young statesmen. What were they to do? They were to debate the next day in the adjoining county, and they cut the Gordian knot as thej' rode to the place, by changing sides, and then at it they went, hip and thigh, over the remainder of the district. This swapping sides was the life and joy of Linder, for it was his nature to stick at nothing very long. He joined pretty much every craze that came along, and always for the nonce out-Heroded Herod. If a church revival happened along when he was in one of his frequent moods of depression, he would join, and his enthusiasm was boundless and uncontrollable, and, of course, would soon blaze and burn itself out, when back he would go to his revelries and first loves. But always when he safely passed the prayer and shouting gauge, he would hie himself and hunt up Ficklin and beg and plrad with him to come and go along and be saved. He would attack every one he met, in the highwavs and by-ways, and invite them to the marriage feasts, and, if they hesitated at all, he would open upon them his powerful polemical batteries, which discussions soon grew so heated that Linder would be more eager to fight it out, rough and tumble, give and take, than he had a few minutes before been anxious to save their imperiled souls. Thus every ism, society and church, that chance forced upon him, he tried in turns, not even slighting the Adventists with their ascension robes and a burning world. Ficklin reports him unusually serious upon this last-named reliofious experiment. Although it was in the dead of winter when the craze struck the village of Charleston and captured nearly all the people, as well as Linder, yet the colder the weather got the hotter Linder felt, and it so happened that on the day for the vast conflagration there were two '' sun-dogs " rose up with the red sun. The people rushed into the streets and believed the red suns were the world's fire and that in the language of Ficklin, the tire had about reached the Embarras River and as soon as it could get across the river it would devour Charleston. At the head of these was Linder, praying and shouting like mad, and exhorting the people that the day of judgment and the wrath of God was at hand, but the day passed and the world rolled on as cold and icy the next morning as ever. Linder hunted up Ficklin and told him he had again got religion, that he was certain the world was coming to an end, that he firmly believed it had already passed its allotted time by twenty-four hours; that he was sincere in his religion and much wished his brother Ficklin would go along with him, etc. "But, brother Ficklin," said Linder, " I never intend my religion again to make a damn fool of me."

S. S. Whitehead, of Marshall, tells of the first political speech he ever listened to. It was made by Judge Ficklin to an audience of the great " unwashed," the barefoot democracy in their hunting shirts. An issue of that day was, much as we have it now, the abstruse problem in political economy, of a high protective tariff. The speaker finally came to this question, when he explained it with the simple proposition that " protective tariff is a Sunday-go-to-meeting word, and means high taxes upon you farmers and everybody else." We have no hesitation in saying, that for the crowd, the occasion and all the surrounding circumstances, this was the best speech ever made on that vexed question.

JUSTIN HARLAN.—Judge Harlan was a native of Ohio, born in Warren County, December, 1800, and died while on a visit to a daughter in Kentucky, March 13, 1879. He had received an academic education and studied law in the office of Judge McLean, and afterward with Judge Callett, and came to Darwin in May, 1825. In the year 1833 he was married to Lucinda Hoge, and resided in Darwin until the year 1840, when he took up his abode in Marshall. He had nine children, eight of whom are still living; one died in infancy; three of these, namely, Howard, Cyrus and Edwin, were born in Darwin, and the others in Marshall. Mrs. Harlan, who survives him, was born in Knox County, Indiana, in the year 1813. When Judge Harlan first came to Illinois he located in Palestine, and after a few years residence there removed to Darwin. His first office was justice of the peace in the last named village. He was a soldier in the war of 1833, and served out his term as orderly sergeant of his company with credit and distinction. In the year 1835 he was elected circuit judge by the State Legislature, which honorable position he filled for eighteen consecutive years, the longest continuous period of any man who has yet held the office. So ably and well did ho discharge his high duties of judge that after hts first term he was re-elected without opposition. He was a member of the constitutional convention of 1848, and here his strong character,his familiarity with the fundamental laws, and his polished scholarship made him a conspicuous and leading member of that body. He was appointed by President Lincoln Indian agent ot the Cherokee Nation, in which position he served until Lincoln died, when he resigned and returned to his home in Marshall. He was one of the few Indian agents that brought no disgrace to the government, and when retiring from his post of usefulness was a loss to both the government and the Indians. After his return home, although he was not in accord politically with the majority of his county, he was elected county judge, which position he filled until within a short time of his death.

This is the record dated of a long, a useful and a great life. No shadow ever fell upon his name or fame. Strength of mind and purity of purpose were his leading traits. In his profession of the law these made him a great chancery lawyer, no doubt the ablest that ever presided in a chancery court in the Wabash district, or practiced before the courts in Clark County. In that branch of the law practice that sometimes requires scheming and cunning diplomacy, he was neither great nor very successful. A proof that his nature was faithful and just, and that his pre-eminent integrity of mind was better adapted to the equity courts. When he had laid aside his cares of office and active life he gave up his time mingling among his troops of friends, where he moved like a great central figure marked by the love, respect and admiration of all. But his delight and keenest joys of old age was in the association of little, innocent children. He loved them all most devotedly, and to make them happy to listen to the rippling laughter that bubbled up from their guileless hearts, watch their gambels and share in their boisterous and hearty fun and frolic, was his almost constant pastime. His house, in bad weather, and the shady sward, in good weather, was the resort for troops of these prattling innocents where they came to the joyous old man like genial sunbeams — a sweet picture in the gloaming of a great, pure and noble life—a fitting crown. Let it be Judge Harlan's imperishable monument beneath which may he sweetly sleep forever.

In 1835, at the October term of the Circuit Court, Judge Alexander F. Grant presided during the term as the judge pro tem..

Among the early lawyers in Darwin was Eldridge S. Jenny, and a little later came a man of considerable ability in his profession, Mr. Shelledey. And then began to come Hon. Aaron Shaw of Lawrenceville, the present member of Congress, from this district. Josiah McRoberts, Kirby Benedict, of Paris, A. C. French, of Palestine, Charles Emmerson, of Macon County, "Wickliffe Kitchell, and afterward his two sons, Alfred and Edward, from Palestine. Wicklifle Kitchell is remembered by the bar as a close student of the law, a faithful and conscientious attorney, but inclined to be a little prolix and sometimes prosy. In a race for Congress Kitchell, Linder and Ficklin were the three " starters." Linder, of course, was in his glory, which could only have been increased by an increase in the number of his competitors. He would open his campaign speeches by saying that he was a candidate for Congress; that he was running against Ficklin, and that his wife was running against Kitchell, and with this flippant allusion he would dismiss the further consideration of Kitchell and then turn his batteries upon the Democrats. To these merciless flagellations Ficklin would bravely respond, and then trut out Folk as " the little bob-tailed roachedmaned Tennessee pony that was going to beat the great spavined Kaintuck boss, and that the Whigs were a case of blacklegs and preachers all put in the same bed, etc., etc. These are given as mere specimens of the tart and relish that were so well calculated to hold the interested attention of the crowds that listened to the discussions.

JUDGE URI MANLY—He was one of the ; presiding judges of the Circuit Court of Clark County. He had read law with Judge Harlan's father in Kentucky. Judge Manly was a well-read lawyer, with a quick, bright mind. His mental cultivation had been extensive, and his reading of a wider range than the average lawyer and politician" of his day. He was much more remarkable for ready shrewdness than for great profundity of thought. He was succeeded in oiBce by Judge Stephen Archer, who belonged to one of the oldest and best families that came iu the early times to Clark County. He discharged the duties of circuit judge with great fairness and more than average ability.

Joshua P. Cooper came to Clark County as early as 1825. He located in Martinsville, where he married Marian, the daughter of Abner Stark. He died in 1866 in Edgar County, to which place he had removed some years before, and where he had been elected County Judge. He was one of the most eloquent men of his day. In early life he had been badly crippled by the " white-swelling." He was a member of the Legislature in 1848, and in the senatorial contest between Breeze and Shields he warmly espoused the cause of Judge Breeze. He stood for a re-nomination to the Legislature and was defeated by James C. Robinson, one of the most remarkable of all the eminemt men given to the State by the Wabash Country. A splendid specimen of frontier developement whose eventful life is full of romance and instruction. Born of humble parents in a new wild country, where all were generally poor and rich alike—the intensity of the pinch and struggle for life usually dependent upon the numbers of young children that had to be provided for, and surrounded by very little of the blessings of society and civilization, the very poorest school facilities, where the sum and substance of life was a constant battle with the elements, hunger, the wild varments, and the beasts of prey, were the general surroundings of the childhood of " Jim Robinson," as his old friends still persist in calling him. The children of poor farmers in that day were put to work at a very tender age. In all these respects his earliest surroundings came at him rough end foremost. It may have been these very circumstances that whetted the child's natural shrewdness and cunning. At all events, it is told of him that at the earliest age he gave evidences that he had not been born with the gift of industry in tending swine very largely developed, and that his talent for shirking work off upon his older brothers was very marked indeed. In fact so masterly was his laziness, so utterly reckless was he of the health and comforts of both the domestic animals and the crops upon the farm, his tender-heartedness toward weeds as he saw them rise up in their might to choke the young corn in its efforts to make the family bread, that his family and friends despaired of his ever being of any account, and were willing to give him over to utter reprobacy. But as for playing marbles, " keeps," " shinny," mumble-peg, swimming, foot-racing, stealing out the old jaded plow horses of moonlight nights, or of Sundays when the older ones were at church, and running races for pin fishhooks, whip crackers, or white alleys, he went forth conquering and to conquer. When more than half grown he was a lazy, lubberly, unkempt, unprepossessing bare-foot boy, reckless, rolicking and indifferent as to where the next feed was to come from as a cubbear; a bundle of growing vitality, and exuberant animal spirits with no restraints or guides in the world except his own volitions and impulses. If his most partial friends ever supposed he possessed hidden possibilities of future usefulness and value, it must have struck them as a case of the jewel in the toad's head. Yet before he was grown, he had picked up in some unaccountable way enough education to be able to read and write, and had good books then fallen in his way he no doubt would have shown his friends for what purpose he was made, but they were not to be had and he therefore bloomed into a most expert jockey in the county. He passionately loved horses and especially horse-racing. The evidence that he admired women is well attested in the living fact that he is only eifjhteen years older than his oldeat son. Thus at the early age of eighteen he was the head of a family, a renter, a wretched farmer, and with no other earthly possessions, or visible means of support, but he was as happy, contented and lazy as the day was long. The family of the young Benedict increased with a constant regularity, and he soon grew to be a leader in the county in all games and sports, and a prominent figure on exciting election days, and all kinds of hurrah gatherings. At the first call for soldiers in the Mexican war he volunteered as a soldier and served his country until the end of the waiand the disbandment of the army. This circumstance was no doubt the turning point in his career of life. Soldiering, and traveling, as well as mixing somewhat with men of some culture, had educated him up to the knowledge of his real vocation in life. Upon his return home he borrowed a law book (some say it was a copy of the Illinois statutes) and commenced the study of the law. That summer he raised a meager crop of corn and read law in the shade, and at the fall term of the court obtained his license as an attorney. He quit the farm at once and opened a law office in Marshall, and his fortune was made. His indolence, and all former roysteririg, indift'erence to the cares of life wore 2*one, and by the sheer force of intellect and extraordinary talents, he took his position at the head of the bar as a jurj' lawj-er in his countj-— a position that he now holds in the bar of the great State of Illinois. In a short time he was elected to congress, and was re-elected a nuinher of times—in fact until he moved out of the district and located in Springfield, with a view of devoting his time exclusively to the practice of the law. When he took up his abode in Springfield that congressional district was and had l)een for a long time strongly republican in politics. A nomination, by the democracy, was forced upon his unwilling acceptance, and he canvassed the district, and wrested victory from the ja ws of defeat, and from that day to the present the district has sent only Democrats to Washington. He was the nominee of the Democracy for Governor during the war times, when there was practicall}' no living Democratic party in the State, and, of course, he was defeated, but he made an able and memorable canvass.

These, in the fewest words, are the prominent facts of his political life. In the meantime while this rather larsre and active political life was going on, his knowledge and fame in the profession of the law was growing and rapidly extending. Not only is this true, but his education and growth in knowledge kept pace with his wonderful advances in the respects above mentioned, until to-day, at the noon merely of his intellectual manhood, this misjudged, never understood farmer boy, with scarcely a single adventitious circumstance to mold and develop his mind in his youth and young manhood, has trod alone, sword in hand, and cleaved out his road to fame and fortune, and become not only a ripe literary scholar, the ablest of jury lawyers, the greatest popular orator of his day, but a statesman as well as a lawyer of national reputation. His powers as a conversationalist are as wonderful as his triumphs in other intellectual paths, and have unquestionably contributed not a little to his successful life.

This is the instructive story—only by far to briefly told, and too much suppressed—of what a boy can do, not only without the schools, but without wealth, and with a family on his hands at the rather nature age of eighteen years! If rightly read by the ouths of our country, it would prove the most valuable lesson of their lives.

HON CHARLES H. CONSTABLE.—This gentleman was born in Chestertown, Maryland, July 6, 1817, and died in the city of Effingham October 9, 1805. He had been educated in early life with great care and was a thorough and elegant scholar. He attended school at Belle Air Academy, a fine scientific and classical school, and prepared himself to enter college and then became a student of the University of Virginia, where he graduated with the first honor in 1838. Here he pursued, among other branches, the study of the law, when this department of the school was in the care of men of national reputation, and to their invaluable instruction he added his own patient and unremitting studies, and laid the foundation for that judicial knowledge which he in subsequent life displayed as an advocate and judge. Immediately after his graduation he came to Illinois, and located in Mt. Carmel, and here, on the 23d day of April, 1840, was married to Martha, daughter of Reverend Thomas Hines, of that place. Here he soon won the honorable position of ranking among the ablest among the members of a bar, which, at that day, was justly estimated as the ablest of the West. And such were the strength and solidity of his abilities that this reputation soon extended all over the State. In 1846 he was elected a member of the State Senate, from the Wabash, Edwards and Wayne counties district, discharging the duties of the office with signal ability. He was elected a delegate to the State Constitutional Convention of 1848 from Wabash County. His ripe scholarship, and profound knowledge of the law bi ought him conspicuously forward, and many of the most important features of the Constitution were his handiwork. After the convention had completed its labors he was made chairman of a committee to prepare an address to the people of Illinois, to be submitted with the Constitution. This was a most able and admirable paper and was wholly written by him.

Judge Constable was a devoted Old Line Whig, and acted strictly with that party until its dissolution in 1854, when he became a Democrat. He was the Whig candidate for Congress in 1852, in the 7th district, and was defeated by Hon. J. C. Allen. Many of the older citizens will yet contend that the canvass made by Judge Constable in this election was by far the ablest and most brilliant ever made in the district. He was a Democratic elector in 1856, for the State at large. In June, 1861, he was elected judge of the 4th judicial circuit and this position he held until his death.

He was a pure, able and just judge, examining all questions that came before him with conscientious impartiality, great promptness and discrimination.

As a lawyer, judge and legislator, he was alike popular. In every position of life to which the people elevated him, he gained distinguished honors. He was well fitted to adorn the highest places in the public trust, and had his life been spared to his people the public voice would have doubtless called him to yet higher places of trust.

His acquirements as a lawyer were varied and profound. He had drunk deeply of the fountains of English common law, and he kept pace with the march of judicial science, by a familiarity with the reported decisions of our own courts and those of England. He had thoroughly studied and mastered the philosophy and spirit as well as the dry letter of the law. As a speaker he was forcible, eloquent and correct. His language showed the man of thought and cultivated taste. His bearing was dignified, courteous and polite. He was an ornament to the bench and an honor to the bar.

At times .Judge Constable has been the object of the most violent and relentless political persecution, and yet those who knew him well, know that the man scarcely ever lived, who less deserved it. Firm and conscientious in all his views, and bold and fearless in their enunciation, ho had, at the same time, respect for those who honestly differed from him on even the most vital tenets of his faith. His personal experience, his education and his reason taught him the fallibility of human judgment and the liability of honest and wise men to disagree upon almost every question of political philosophy in a government constituted as ours is; and he claimed no charity for himself that he did not cordially extend to others.

In all the relations of life a sense of duty —stern and inexorable—accompanied him and characterized his every act, and disregarding selfish and personal considerations, he obeyed its behests until the icy hand of death was laid upon his brow.

The biographic record of the other members of the bar, now living in the county, will be found in the department of this work, under the head of Biographical Sketches


Find Your Ancestors wherever their trails led!

Copyright © Genealogy Trails