Genealogy Trails


Bench and Bar

Pursuant to the provisions of the enabling act for the organization of the county, the Gibson Court of Common Pleas was begun and held at the house of William Harrington on Monday, May 10, 1813. Hon. William Harrington was president judge, and Isaac Montgomery and Daniel Putnam were his associate judges. The reader must remember that this occurred three years before Indiana became a State. The first courts of the county were known as that of common pleas courts. which were continued until the organization of the State in 1816. The constitution of 1816 provided that the judicial powers of the State should be vested in one Supreme Court and Circuit Courts. The latter courts were formed by a president judge and two associate judges, wbo were elected by the qualified electors in the counties forming the circuits. Hon. Isaac Blackford succeeded Hon. William Harrington as president judge of the Court of Common Pleas, and he in turn was succeeded by Hon. David Raymond. who was succeeded by Hon. William.Prince, and those who succeeded to this office were the following, and they came into the office in the order in which their names are given:
Hon. David Hart,
Hon. Richard Daniel,
Hon. James R. E. Goodlett,
Hon. Samuel Hall,
Hon. Chas. I. Battell,
Hon. Elisha Embree,
Hon. James Lockhart.
As the Court of Common Pleas was discontinued in 1816, the Circuit Court took its place, but as the Circuit Courts were formed by a president and two associate judges as were formed the Courts of Common Pleas, the above named president judges are named without reference to whether they presided over the Courts of Common Pleas or the Circuit Courts. However, Judge Isaac Blackford organized and held the first Circuit Court in Gibson County. The Circuit Courts continued to be presided over by a president and two associate judges until 1851, when the new State constitution of Indiana abolished the office of associate judge. Hon. Alvin P. Hovey became judge of the Circuit Courts in September, 1851, and served till April, 1854. He was succeeded by Hon. William E. Niblack, who served till March, 1858, when he resigned to enter Congress. His unexpired term was filled by Hon. Ballard Smith. He was succeeded by Hon. Michael F. Burke. whose successor was Hon. James C. Denny, who in turn was succeeded by Hon. John Baker, whose successor was Hon. Newton F. Malott. The latter served from 1870 to 1873. In March of that year Hon. Oscar M. Welborn was appointed to succeed him, and Judge Welborn has since remained on the bench. Elsewhere in this volume is given a biographical sketch of him.
The Probate Courts for the settlement of decedent estates, first met in Gibson County in 1830.
The Judges of Probate Courts in this County were:
Isaac Montgomery, from 1830 to 1832;
James Devitt. from 1832 to 1837;
John Hargrove, from 1837 to 1838;
William French. from August, 1838 to December, same year;
Samuel A. Stewart. from December, 1838, to 1845;
Frederick Bruner, from 1845 to 1849;
Amasa D. Foster, from 1849 to 1851.
In 1851 the Probate Court was abolished, and its business transferred to the Common Pleas Courts.
Those who served as Judges of the Common Pleas Courts were:
John Pitcher,
Andrew L. Robinson,
Morris S. Johnson,
William P. Edson,
William M. Land,
J. B. Handy.
In 1873 the Common Pleas Court was abolished by act of the Legislature and the business of the Court transferred to the Circuit Court. Judge William Prince was the first resident attorney in Gibson County. He was a resident of the County at the time of its organzation and was appointed the first Prosecuting Attorney. Shortly after the organization of the County, David Hart and Richard Daniel located in Princeton. They afterward became Judges of the Circuit Court. In the early history of the County the most noted resident lawyers, perhaps, were Judge Samuel Hall and Judge Elisha Embree. Judge John Pitcher was an able lawyer but he resided at Princeton for only a brief period.
Among other early resident lawyers of the County the following names appear:
Judge Bowman,
Judge Elias Terry,
William P. Hall,
Alex. C. Donald,
Jacob F. Bird,
James T. Embree,
Judge William M. Land,
H. T. Kaiger,
Burr H. Polk,
William H. Brownlee,
William Reavis,
John E. Phillips,
Charles G. Bennett,
William Aydelotte,
David F. Embree.
Among the present members of the Gibson County bar (1896) the following are among the most prominent:
William M. Land (the Nestor of the bar),
Clarence A. Buskirk,
Thomas R. Paxton.
John H. Miller,
Arthur P. Twineham,
John W. Ewing.
Henry A. Yeager.
M. W. Fields,
Lucius C. Embree,
James B. Gamble,
John R. McCoy,
W. D. Robinson,
L. W. Gudgel,
Thomas Duncan,
John W. Brady, and others.
Hon. J. E. McCollough, now of Indianapolis, resided and practiced law in Princeton several years and rose to prominence.
The present bar of Gibson County is particularly strong and its members are among the ablest attorneys of the state. This has always been true of this bar.

Source: History of Gibson County (1896) by Elia Wilkerson Peattie
Transcribed by JMK