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Early Hancock County Courts

The first county courthouse was at Montebello, on the banks of the Mississippi River between Warsaw and Nauvoo. The town site is no longer occupied, but is marked by a plaque placed by the Hancock County Historical Society at the Hoot Owl Rest Area along the River.

In 1833, the General Assembly of the state of Illinois, commisioned the founding of the first permanent county seat at Carthage, in the center of the county. The first log courthouse was built in 1833 on the south side of the square. It was used from 1839-45 for other purposes.

The second courthouse in Carthage, was built in the center of the square 1839 by Moses Stephens, at a cost of $3,700. It was razed in 1906 to make way for the new courthouse.

The present county courthouse was dedicated on October 21, 1908.

On October 2, 1925, during the Hancock County's centennial year, a plaque was placed on the north side of the Hancock County Courthouse:

The Founding of Hancock County, commemorated by the Six Thousand Children of the Elementary Schools. October 2, 1925 Erected and dedicated in honor of John Hancock.
The plaque was unveiled by 10-year-old John Siepel, a native of Hancock Township, Hancock County, Illinois.


The first sessions of the circut court in Hancock County were held at the home of James White by the Mississippi River where the first postoffice in the county was located in a place called Venus.

The first judges of Hancock County were:

Richard M. Young, James H. Ralston, Peter Lott, Stephen A. Douglas, Jessie R. Thomas, and Norman H. Purple.

The first Licensed attorney was Robert R. Williams

Grand Jury

The First Grand Jury was ordered on August 4, 1829 it was comprised of twenty three men. They were summoned to attend the October term of the circut court of Hancock County as grand jurors. These men were:

Daniel Crenshaw, Luther Whitney, Morrill Marston, John Clark, Leonard L. Abney, Philip Malette, William Clark, Reuben Brattan, Thomas Payne, John Sikes, John Johnson, John Harding, william Vance, Hazen Bedell, John Waggonner, Robert Wallace, James Miller, Davidson Hibbard, Mr. Dewey, Samuel Gooch, John Reed, Isaac R. Campbell, Edward White, Hugh Wilson

Petit Jury

Thirty-six men were petit jurors for the same term. They were:

Horace B. Whitney, John R. Wilcox, Edward Robertson, Samuel Brierly, James Brierly, Robert Harding, Aaron Harding, Abijah Wilson, Abdiel Parsons, Rchard Chaney, Benjamin T. Tungate, George W. Harper, Charles Robison, Charles Smith, Patrick Moffit, William Wallace, Nathaniel Kennedy, John Campbell, Ralph Raborn, Thomas Sofly, Enoch Hankins, Arthur Parvin, Abraham Moore, Alexander White, Asa Reed, William Flint, Peter Williams, Daniel Van Burkloe, Amzi Doolittle, Hezekiah Spillman, Richard Dunn, Mr Yaples, Samuel Bell, Noah, W. Payne, Joseph P. Puryear, and Mr. Lewis

Had no lights
Source: The Daily Gate City and Constitution-Democrat, Jul 12, 1916 - transcribed by J.S.
W.E. Jones, of Hancock county, Illinois, was arrested on a charge of driving without properly lighting his car. He was released on his own recognizance last night. This morning he was arraigned in superior court before Judge McNamara. He pleaded guilty. As this was his first offense, the court was lenient, and released him on payment of the costs of the proceeding, $2.85. The defendant was unfamiliar with the city ordinances regulating the driving of automobile, and promised never to repeat the offense.

Judge Cook Orders Him to Be Confined for Contempt.

Source: San Francisco Call, Vol 93, No. 58, Jan 27, 1903 -transcribed by J.S.
"Did you ever at any time, in any court, procure a divorce from your present wife, Eliza D. Garwood?"

On refusal to answer that questions yesterday morning in Judge Carroll Cook's Court, Lorenzo D. Garwood was ordered into the custody of the Sheriff to be conveyed to the County Jail and to be held there without bail until he should make answer.

The point at issue was evident and was thoroughly regarded by Judge Cook in the rendering of his decision. He stated that the law of Illinois provided that a husband is a competent witness for or against his wife in cases where the litigation concerns her separate property and that the laws of California do not so hold. Judge Cook therefore considered that the case should be decided by the Supreme Court and held Garwood for that decision.

As soon as Judge Cook made his order yesterday morning Carl W. Westerfield secured a writ of habeas corpus, which was made returnable at 11 o'clock this morning before the Supreme Court sitting in bank.

Lorenzo B. Garwood, who resides at 314 Third street, was first married to his present wife, whose maiden name was Eliza E. McClure, at Augusta, Hancock County, Illinois, on February 15, 1877. Garwood, disappeared, and after mourning him for six years the widow married Andrew W. Byers, by whom she had one son. Andrew W. Byers died and left a large estate. Almost simultaneously the first husband, Lorenzo D. Garwood, turned up. He and his former wife wer reunited and came West. The brothers of the deceased are now fighting the distribution of the estate on the ground that Mrs. Garwood had a husband living at the time of her marriage to Byers, and that therefore she was not his legal wife and that the son was an illegitimate.

King Abraham's Edicts.
Source: Los Angeles Star, Vol XIII, No. 47, Mar 26, 1864 -transcribed by J.S.

As Mr. Abraham Lincoln is very busy issuing his edicts and decrees, setting aside State laws and constitution down South, we feel some slight degree of interest to know when he intends to commence further North. With a sweep of his pen he he[sic] has declared the State laws of Louisiana and Arkansas, so far as regards negroes, are hereby set aside by his majesty. The will of the people is of no sort of consequence whatever. Lincoln makes and executes his own laws, and snaps his fingers at all cavillers. But while he is about it why does he not fix up the laws of his own State, Illinois? Does he intend to confine the sphere of his humanity and benevolence entirely to the people of the South? Is he so partial as to bestow upon them, and them alone the grand and glorious benefits resulting from making Sambo a free and equal citizens? The following notice was going the rounds at the papers only last spring and it is said, was posted in the post-office, and other public places in Carthage, Hancock Co., Illinois:

Whereas, the following negroes, and one mulatto man, were, on the 5th and 6th day of February, 1863, tried before the undersigned, a Justice of the Peace within and for Hancock County, Illinois, on a charge of high misdemeanor, having come into this State and County, and remaining therein for ten days and more, with the evident intention of residing in this State, and were were[sic] found guilt by a jury, and were each severally fined in the sum of $50, and the judgment was rendered against said negros and mulatto man for fifty dollars each, and cost of suit, which fines and costs are annexed opposite to each name, to wit:

John, a negro man, tall and slim, about 3550$33.17
Sambo, a negro man, about215032.17
Austin, a negro man, heavy set, about205030.10
Addrew[sic], a negro man, about--5030.33
Amos, a negro man, aobut405029.67
Nelson, a mulatoo man, about555030.07

And whereas, said fines and costs have not been paid, notice is therefore given that the undersigned will, on Thursday, the 19th day of February, A.D. 1863, between the hour of 1 o'clock and 5 o'clock, P.M. of said day, at the west end of the Court House, in Carthage, Hancock County, Illinois, sell each of said negro men, John, Austin, Sambo, Andrew, Amos and said mulatto man, Nelson, at Public Auction, to the person or persons who will pay the said fine and costs appended against each respectively, for the shortest time of service of said negros and mulatto.

The purchaser, or purchasers, will be entitled to the control and services of the negros and mulatto purchaser for the period named in the sale and no longer, and will be required to furnish said negroes and mulatto with comfortable food, clothing and lodging, during said servitude. The fees for selling wil be added on completion of the sale.

Carthage, Feb 9, 1763
Now, the question arises, is it right and constitutional to sell negroes in Illinois, and not in Louisana? If Arkansas has no right to pass laws as to the itatus of negros within her borders, how is it that Illinois has? These are grave "Constitutional" questions, upon which Solicitor Whiting ought at once to give us his profoundest opinion. Is Olde Abe King of the South and President of the North? or is his power supreme everywhere? These are very important questions!

2006 Hancock County, IL Genealogy Trails