COURTS AND JURORS.
Transcribed from the Book
"Counties of Cumberland, Jasper and Richland Illinois"
Originally published in 1884 by F.A. Battey & Co., Chicago, Ill.
The first Circuit
Court was held in the village of
Greenup, and presided over by Hon.
William Wilson, a man of
eminent judicial ability, with Alfred Kitchell as State’s Attorney,
Ewart as Clerk. The
Grand Jurors that served on this court were as follows: M. Ruffner, foreman, Matthias Roberts, William Hutton, James Carpenter, Elcana Bright, James Phipps, Samuel Owings, Samuel B. Fairbanks, Jorden Brown, Benj. Drummond, Stephen Wait, Chipman Webster, John D.
Gardner, R. K. Boyd, Jas.
Cissna1 William E. Smith, John Feltner, David F. Smith, and David B. Frizzell. It is reported
that this jury when convened in council presented a very grotesque and
novel appearance. During the time they were transacting business they
were as sanctimonious as a Presbyterian deacon, but as soon as an
interval of leisure interposed they would straddle their oaken benches
in pairs, vis-a-vis, and engage in the harmless but scientific game of
“mumble peg,” or make a practical demonstration of each others capacity
as a “high low jack in the game.” To be skilled in this latter
accomplishment was as fashionable and indispensable in those days as it
was requisite for a swallow-tail coat of home-made jeans to be “covered
all over with shining buttons.” “Old
Davy Wisner” seems to have
been among the first unfortunates
that was introduced to this August body of juryman as a malefactor and
flagrant violator of Law and order, and although indicted was
discharged and acquitted on final trial, with the exception of one
charge of nonfeasance of his office as Justice of the Peace, for which
offense he was mulcted to the tune of five dollars.
At this time
Cumberland was struck off from Coles
County. The last assessment of taxes had not been collected, but, under
a provision of the act forming the new county, Coles was authorized to
collect it. The new county people looked upon this transaction as legal
robbery, and felt that it should properly have been turned over to help
the new organization bear some of the new burdens of independent
government. However, the courts could not wait for the people to pay
taxes again, nor indeed for a courthouse to be built, so an old log
schoolhouse was converted into a temple of justice, and, in justice and
respect to the officials and attorneys of that day, it must be said
that suits were as hotly contested, law and equity as impartially dealt
out, and the cause of the client as ably and earnestly advocated in the
old schoolhouse, as though it had been a costly stone structure,
erected at a cost of a million and a half of dollars. Some of the
attorneys who attended court in this building have since attained
great. celebrity. Among others was Abraham
Lincoln. One case in
particular in which Mr. Lincoln participated was the
notorious “Lustre Case,” which was brought here on change of venue from
Coles County. The charge against Lustre
was an assault with a deadly weapon, with intent to murder. Lustre was ably and earnestly
defended by Lincoln and 0. B. Ficklin, and prosecuted by
State’s Attorney Kitchell. Lustre was convicted, but through
the efforts of his counsel was afterward pardoned by the Governor on
Judge Wilson held the first
circuit court in this county. He was an able jurist, firm and
unwavering in the discharge of the duties of his position, and yet full
of sport, and enjoyed an hour of pastime or a good joke as well as
anyone. He was a lover of good horses, and was frequently a witness of
the horse races which were so common here in the early day, but while
enjoying the excitement with the keenest zest he was never betrayed
into backing his opinions with a bet.
The old log structure which served so
excellent a purpose as
schoolhouse and courtroom, stood for several years, serving in this
double capacity. It subsequently served as a warehouse, but has long
since passed away, and its site is almost forgotten.