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Jefferson County, Missouri Genealogy Trails

Jefferson County Courts


Circuit Court—The circuit court was the first court organized and held in Jefferson County; audits first term, as has been noted, was held in March, 1819, on which occasion the organization of the county was effected, after which Elisha Ellis was appointed guardian of Amon Biron. These persons constituted the first guardian and ward in Jefferson County. The last will and testament of Peter Coleman, deceased, was then proven in open court by David Stanley and John Fleming, and ordered to be recorded. This was the first will probated in the county. The first grand jury was then selected, as follows: Jacob Horine, Timothy N. Withers, George Horine, Lewis Bigelow, John Huskey, William Moss, Isham Williams, Abner Vanzant, Isaac Ogle, James Foster, William Null, Francis Minea, William Brady, Santimo Michau, Thomas Evans and Samuel McMullin—sixteen in all. After being duly empaneled and sworn the grand jurors retired to deliberate, and finding no business, they returned into court, reported that fact and were discharged. At this term Ebenezer Martin produced to the court a license to practice law, and was accordingly admitted to the Jefferson County bar as a counselor and attorney at law.

The second term of this court was held in July following, when the second grand jury was empaneled. After retiring for deliberation this jury returned into court and presented a number of indictments—one each against James Thomas and John T. Guyard for assault and battery, one each against Baptiste Cote Pichel and Ersus Shaw for larceny, and one each against Jim and John, two slaves, for larceny.

This grand jury also presented to the court the following political document, which, on account of its antiquity, and the curiosity of its having been prepared by a jury whose jurisdiction consisted only of an inquiry into the crimes and misdemeanors of Jefferson County, is here inserted:

The grand jury empaneled and sworn to inquire for the body of the county of Jefferson, believing it to be their duty to present all matters of public grievance to their fellow citizens, do respectfully represent that, although they have ever felt the greatest respect for and placed the utmost confidence in the Government of the United States, yet they cannot remain silent when they see, or believe they see, an attempt to infringe the rights of the States or the people. We have beheld with equal surprise and regret the attempt made in the last Congress to dictate to the people of Missouri an article in their constitution prohibiting the further introduction of slavery in their State, or debar them from the rights of State sovereignt}^ if they would not submit to such a restriction. That slavery is an evil we do not pretend to deny, but, on the contrary, would most cheerfully join in any measure to abolish it, provided those means were not likely to produce greater evils to the people than the one complained of; but we hold the power of regulating this, of applying a remedy to this evil, to belong to the States and not to Congress. The Constitution of the United States which creates Congress gives to it all its powers, and limits those of the States; and although that constitution empowers Congress to admit new States into the Union, yet it neither does, by express grant nor necessary implication, authorize that ])ody to make the whole or any part of the constitution of such State. Whenever a new State is admitted into the Union it comes in under the Federal Constitution, becomes one of the United States, and consequently must possess the sovereign power of regulating all matters not delegated to Congress by the Federal Constitution; and as the toleration of slavery is a subject left to be entirely regulated by the old States, if Congress takes from a new State the right of sovereignty over this subject, it is clearly a violation of the constitution, and an attack upon State sovereignty and the rights of the people. The right of holding slaves, although it may not be a natural right, is one which is allowed by the Federal Constitution, is one which those States that would take from us the power of exercising our own discretion on the subject can resume at pleasure, and being derived to us under the laws of the country, when in possession of Spain and France, is also secured by the treaty of cession. We do therefore consider that if Congress should impose the contemplated restriction it would be transcending theirconstitutioual powers, depriving the people of Missouri of their interest and constitutional rights, and breaking the pledge of faith of the nation.

William Bates, Foreman.

Evidently this grand jury had one or more well educated members Avho had been brought up "under the strict sect" of the Calhoun political school. Among other business transacted at this term of court, Jim, one of the slaves indicted for larceny, was tried and sentenced to receive upon his bare back twenty-five lashes, and the costs of the prosecution were entered up against his owner. At the July term, 1820, of this court, Henry M. Morfet produced a license as a " counselor and attorney at law," and was admitted to the bar. At the same term the first indictment for horse stealing in Jefferson County was found against Lindsay Copland, but it does not appear that he was arrested and tried. The first term of the Jefferson County Circuit Court, after Missouri became a State, was held in March, 1821. This county, under the State organization, was made to compose a part of the Third Judicial District.

County Court.—The organization of this court has been given in connection with the organization of the county. It was composed of county court justices, either appointed by the governor or elected by the people, and continued to be so composed until the new law, approved April 12, 1877, provided that each county in the State should be divided into two districts, and that each district should elect a county court judge, and that the county should elect one at large, the district judges to serve two years, and the one elected at large to serve four years, and to be ex officio the presiding officer, and all to be styled " county court judges." In accordance with this act the county of Jefferson was divided, in March, 1878, into two districts. Rock, Meramec and Big River Townships were made to constitute the first district, and Central, Joachim, Plattin and Valley Townships, the second.

Probate Court.—Prior to 1872, when the present probate court was established by law, the probate business of Jefferson County, with the exception of the time the county existed before a county court was organized, and of about one year, in 1826-27, when a probate court existed, was all transacted in the county court. The probate court of this county as now organized has been in existence since 1872. It has jurisdiction over all probate business.

Homicides, Murder Trials, etc.—As heretofore stated, a number of persons were killed by the Indians in the territory of Jefferson County during its early settlement; but the first trial that took place in the county for the crime of murder, as shown by the records, was that of Pierre Auguste Labaume, who was indicted and tried some time in March in the year 1825. The jurors before whom he was tried were David Bryant, Peter Stroup, William G. Walker, Claiborne Thomas, Richard Hendrickson, Philip Felton, Joseph Fitch, William Herrington, Francis Minea, Roland B. Holmes and Hugh P. Lucas. Their verdict was "not guilty as charged in the indictment." The costs in this case, amounting to $227.75, were afterward charged up against the State. Following this for several years the county was infested with horse thieves, as shown by the fact that a number of men were then indicted, and some arrested and tried for the crime of horse stealing. About the year 1842 a Mr. Jeude, living near the present village of Peverly, was murdered by a negro, who killed him for the purpose of getting his money. The negro was not annoyed with a trial as the citizens caught him and hung him until he was dead.

State vs. Sam, a Slave.—On the morning of December 21, 1844, the house of John G. Koenig, otherwise called George Kimmick, was found to have been burned to ashes during the previous night, and upon examination, human bones, supposed to be the remains of Koenig, were found in the ruins. In March, 1845, the grand jury indicted " Sam," a slave belonging to John^ P. Appleberry, for the murder of Koenig, charging that the murder was committed with a club. " Sam " was arrested, and tried on the 31st of May following, and acquitted. On the trial it was proven that the accused had in his possession, soon after the murder was committed, a pistol, some calico, and other articles which witnesses recognized as having been the property of Koenig. This, however, was only circumstantial evidence, which seems not to have been sufficient to establish, beyond a reasonable doubt, the guilt of the prisoner.

State vs. John, a Slave.—On the 7th of February, 1852, John, a slave belonging to Paschal H. Buren, clubbed and killed " Free Jack," a free colored man, and at the following May term of the circuit court he was indicted for the crime of murder. On being arraigned for trial he plead "guilty," whereupon the Court pronounced the following sentence: "That said defendant receive on his bare back thirty-nine stripes, and that the sheriff execute this sentence." The costs of prosecution were charged to Mr. Buren, the owner of the slave. In this case a peculiar characteristic of slavery is observable. Jack, the free negro, represented no value, while John, the slave, did represent value, and his execution for the crime would have been the destruction of so much property—hence the apparent reason for his being allowed to plead guilty and to escape with a whipping, which, it is presumed, did not materially injure the property.

State vs. James Edmonds.—According to the evidence in this case, the facts were, in substance, as follows: On the night of the 22d of August, 1862, James Edmonds and James Bridgeman went together to the house of B. D. Massey, where Mrs. Mary Massey, her daughter, Margaret, and other women were at the time. No men were there. On approaching the house Edmonds hurrahed for Jeff. Davis, and on entering he asked Mrs. Massey if there were any Jeff. Davis ladies therein. On being answered in the negative he became boi-sterous, and pointing his gun toward the women, threatened to shoot them. Bridgeman then entreated his comrade to desist, and not to disturb the women, and he, Bridgeman, started away; whereupon, Edmonds shot at him, and ordered him back into the house, and to make a search to see if any militiamen were in the house. This being done, Bridgeman again started away, at the same time entreating his comrade to follow. At this juncture Edmonds shot Bridgeman, who died in the yard where he fell, in about half an hour thereafter. Edmonds then forced the daughter, Margaret Massey, being "twelve years of age and upwards," as stated in the indictment, to accompany him from the house, and kept her out about three hours. On the following day Edmonds was arrested and given a preliminary examination before Squire A. Stewart, by whom he was committed to jail to await the action of the grand jury. At the following January term of the circuit court he was indicted for the murder of Bridgeman, and also for the crime of rape. On the 22d of January, 1863, he was arraigned for trial on the first indictment, and the following jury was empaneled and sworn to try him : Israel D. Waters, George Wiley, Eobert N. Hunt, Samuel Prentiss, William H. Washburn, Thomas Lanham, Thomas A. Williams, Russel Landers, Henry Washburn, James Jackson, Samuel Wright and Leonard Metts. After hearing the evidence, argument of counsel, and the charge of the court, the jury retired, and after deliberation returned the following verdict:

We, the jury, find the defendant guilty of murder in the degree in manner and form as charged in said indictment. [Signed,] Samuel Prentiss, Foreman.

The court then ordered that the prisoner be remanded to jail at St. Louis, there to remain until March 5, following, "and that on that day he be taken thence to Jefferson County, and that on the 6th day of March, 1863, between 10 o'clock, A. M. and 3 o'clock P. M., he be hanged by the neck until he is dead! dead! dead! and that the sheriff of Jefferson County be charged with the execution." The following, which completes the history of this case, is a copy of the sheriff's return:

This execution came to hand March 3, 1863, and I executed the same on the 6th day of March, 1863, by taking the body of the within named James Edmonds, and hanging him with a roi)e by the neck until he was dead! dead!! dead!!! and buried him near the Hillsboro graveyard, on the day above written, and this execution is returned satisfied in full. [Signed] Jerome B. Dover, Sheriff.

State vs. John Miller.—On the 18th of August, 1868, Lucas Bauer, living near De Soto, was shot and killed with a rifle gun. John Miller, being suspected of the commission of the crime, was arrested and taken before Squire B. S. Beppey, and there given a preliminary examination. On the 27tli of the month he was committed to jail to await the action of the grand jury; but before the next term of court he was taken on a writ of habeas corpus before Judge G. J. Johnston, by whom he was released on the ground that the evidence given at the preliminary examination was not suflicient to hold him. Miller than ran away. In November following he was indicted by the grand jury for the murder of Bauer, but has never since been apprehended.

State vs. Charles H. Bickforcl—In 1868 Alexander Walker lived alone in a cabin near Vineland, in Jefferson County. He and Charles H. Bickford had a business difficulty which led to a lawsuit, decided in favor of Walker. Afterward, on the night of the 3d of November, of that year. Walker was called to his door, and then and there shot and killed. In the same month Charles H. Bickford was indicted for the murder of Walker, and was arrested and lodged in jail at Hillsboro. Subsequently he was taken out of the jail and hung, at the same time and by the same parties that took Quick from the Hillsboro jail and hung him. Quick was under indictment for the murder of Mr. Higginbotham, of Washington County, an account of which can be seen by reference to the history of that county elsewhere in this work.

State vs. Hiram Wright, Jr.—On the 21st of July, 1869, one Hiram Wright, Sr., was shot and killed in Jefferson County, and Hiram Wright, Jr., was arrested for the crime, and given a preliminary examination before Squire William Mockbee, by whom he was caused to be held to await the action of the grand jury. In November following he was indicted for the murder, and on being arraigned for trial pleaded " not guilty." He then asked for and received a change of venue to St. Louis County, where he was finally tried and acquitted.

State vs. George Beppey.—On the 27th of September, 1870, Hiram E. Reppey was stabbed with a knife in a saloon at De Soto, from the effects of which he died two days later. On the 4tli of October following George Reppey was arrested and taken before Judge G. J. Johnston and given a preliminary examination on the charge of killing Hiram E. Reppey, and was held for the action of the grand jury. On the 25th of March following he was indicted for the murder, and before that term of court closed was tried and acquitted.

State vs. Rosahelle Rebecca Boliinghouse and Charles Eads.— At the January term, 1876, of the Jefferson Circuit Court, the defendant, Boltinghouse, was indicted as the principal for the murder of Louis Merrill Taylor, a youth whom she had taken to raise, and defendant, Eads, was indicted as accessory after the act. The charges were that Mrs. Boltinghouse, on the 1st of April, 1872, with an ax handle, struck and killed young Taylor, and that Eads afterward assisted her in concealing the body. A change of venue was taken to St. Francois County, where Mrs. Boltinghouse was tried on a defective count in the indictment, found guilty of murder in the second degree, and sentenced to a term of twenty years in the penitentiary. On motion, and the pointing out of the defect in the count on which she was tried, the judgment was arrested and both she and Eads were remanded back to Jefferson County to await the further action of the grand jury. At the January term, 1877, of the Jefferson Circuit Court, another indictment was found against Mrs. Boltinghouse for the same offense, but no further indictment being found against Charles Eads, he was released. Afterward a change of venue was granted Mrs. Boltinghouse to Iron County, where she was tried and found guilty of murder in the second degree, and sentenced to serve ten years in the penitentiary.

State vs. Gustave Dugge.—In September, 1874, the dead body of Richard Bilecke was found in an upper room of the house of Gustave Dugge. A coroner's inquest was held over the body and the verdict of the jury was that the deceased came to his death by a wound inflicted by a shotgun. On the 21st of the same month Gustave Dugge was indicted by the grand jury of Jefferson County for the murder of Bilecke. His trial was continued from term to term until December, 1875, when he was tried, and the jury disagreed and failed to find a verdict. The defendant then plead guilty of manslaughter in the third degree, and was fined $500 for the offense. He at once paid $100 of the fine, and upon learning of his insolvency, the court commuted the other $400 to imprisonment in the county jail for five days.

State vs. William Hilderbrand.—On the 29th of August, 1878, Hugo Veth, of Jefferson County, was shot with a rifle, and died the next day from the effects of the wound received. On the 12th of January following, William Hilderbrand was indicted for the murder of Veth, and on the 13th of May, 1881, he was tried for the offense and acquitted.

State vs. Monroe Guy, Colored.—On the 25th of December, 1878, Monroe Guy and Aaron McPete, both colored, had an altercation at the Christmas festival at the colored church in De Soto, and the former shot and killed the latter on the outside of the church and near the door. Guy was arrested and taken before Squire J. O. French, by whom he was committed to jail to await the action of the grand jury. At the following January term of the circuit court Guy was indicted for the murder of McPete and tried on the 5th of January following. The verdict of the jury was as follows:

We, the jury, find the defendant, Monroe Guy, guilty of murder in the first degree.

[Signed] Alfred Stewart, Foreman.

The next day the prisoner was brought into court, when the following sentence- was pronounced by the judge: "That the defendant, Monroe Guy, be hung by the neck till he be dead, by the sheriff of Jefferson County, in the State of Missouri ; that said execution take place at said county of Jefferson, in or near the town of Hillsboro, on Friday, the 14th day of March, 1879, between the hours of 9 A. M. and 4 P. M." An appeal was then taken to the supreme court of the State, whereupon the court ordered that the execution of the sentence should be stayed until the 6th day of June following. On the 19th day of May, 1879, the State and prisoner were both represented in the supreme court by their respective attorneys. Having heard the argument of the counsel, the supreme court, after due deliberation, confirmed the judgment of the lower court. The prisoner, Monroe Guy, was executed in accordance with the foregoing sentence, on the 6th day of June, 1879. He was defended by Messrs. Joseph J. Williams and James F. Green, attorneys.

State vs. John Vaughn.—On the 3rd of January, 1881, John Vaughn and Ezekiel Whitner quarreled in the town of Festus about a blanket. The latter was shot on the sidewalk in front of a store, on that occasion, and three days later died from the effects of the wound then received. When he was picked up from the street two revolvers and a bottle of whisky were found on his person. At the Jefferson Circuit Court, held in that month, the grand jury found an indictment against John Vaughn for the murder of Whitner, and on the 17th of May, following Vaughn was tried and acquitted. It seems that the parties were in a drunken row when the killing took place.

On the 7th of March, 1881, a log cabin near Peverly, with Frank Spaulding and Peter Drendel who lived therein, was consumed by fire. Four men had been in the house a short time before it burned, but two had left, and they claimed that the house must have been set on fire after they left. No one was ever arrested for the crime.

State vs. Milliard Huskey and Elias Huskey.—On the 5th of September, 1880, Andrew Wilson and Martha Shultz were both shot and killed while riding in a wagon near Ware post office, in the western part of Jefferson County. On the 17th of the same month Milliard Huskey and Elias Huskey were indicted for the murder of these persons, and on being arraigned for trial they pleaded "not guilty." Separate trials were ordered, and Milliard was tried and acquitted, and Elias was recognized to appear at the next term of court, at which time the prosecution as to him was nolle prosequied.

State vs, Matthew H. Marsden.—At the May term, 1883, of the Jefferson Circuit Court, Matthew H. Marsdeii was indicted for the murder of Anson A. VaiL The charge was in sul)stance that the defendant, on the 12th of November, " did choke, suffocate and strangle " the said Vail, and thereby caused his instant death. Marsden was tried for the offense in July, 1883, and found " not guilty."

State vs. Fidelo Rogers.—On the 10th of March, 1882, after nightfall, the house of Joseph Yerger, a merchant at Antonia, was set on fire. Discovering that the house was on fire, Yerger rushed to the well, which was near by, to get water, and while there he was shot and killed by an unknown party, who evidently had set the house on fire, in order to get him out where he could shoot him from a concealed position. The house, which consisted of a store and dwelling combined, was consumed by the fire. On the 10th of September, 1884, the grand jury for Jefferson County indicted Fidelo Rogers for the murder of Joseph Yerger, and on the 14th of January following the prosecuting attorney, Mr. James F. Green, dismissed the case for want of evidence to sustain the charge in the indictment.

State vs. James Strickland.—On the 18th of September, 1883, Thomas Davis was shot and killed in De Soto. James Strickland was arrested for the crime, and taken before Squire Elias F. Honey for preliminary examination. At the following January term of the circuit court he was indicted for the murder of Davis, and was tried in February following and acquitted.

Murder of the Bonacres.—In January, 1884, Mr. Bonacre and wife, young married people living near High Ridge, in the northern part of Jefferson County, were brutally murdered with an ax, in their house. The perpetrator or perpetrators of this horrible crime have never been discovered so as to be apprehended.

State vs. Barney B. Smith.—On the 20th of December, 1885, certain parties at Crystal City indulged in drinking intoxicants, and while thus engaged, Martin Thorp was shot and killed. On the 20th of January, following, one Barney B. Smith was indicted for the murder of Thorp. On being arraigned for trial he plead " not guilty," and the case was continued until March, following, when he was tried and acquitted.

State vs. Thomas Moss et. al.—On the 29th of August, 1883, Matthew H. Marsden and Allen Hensley, while riding in a wagon on the gravel road, about a mile and a half north of Antonia, in Jefferson County were both shot by parties that lay concealed by the roadside. Marsden was instantly killed, and Hensley lingered until the next day and then died. Thomas H. Moss, James Moss and Allen Marsden were arrested for this double murder, and on the 3d of September following they were given a preliminary hearing before Squires C. T. Rankin and D. D. Goff, by whom they were discharged. Afterward at the September term, 1884, of the circuit court, these same parties were indicted for the murder of Matthew H. Marsden and Allen Hensley, but did not have their trial until June, 1880, when they were tried and acquitted on account of insufficient evidence to convict them.

It is not pretended that all the homicides committed in Jefferson County have been mentioned in the foregoing; but in nearly all instances where the supposed guilty parties have been arrested and tried mention has been made. It will be observed that a large majority of the persons indicted and tried for the crime of murder have been acquitted. Of course it is presumed that the parties acquitted were either not guilty, or that the evidence against them was not sufficient to establish their guilt; however, the fact still remains that the murders were committed, and that the majority of them have been committed since the outbreak of the Civil War. It would seem from this fact that feuds were engendered during the war period, which finally culminated in murder, or that the war begat with some persons a disregard for human life. Jefferson County, however, has suffered no more from crimes committed by lawless individuals than her sister counties in Missouri.

Jefferson County Bar.—Prominent among the Jefferson County bar may be mentioned the following: Hon. James A. Beal was admitted to this bar in November, 1840, and became a prominent and able lawyer. During the Civil War he left the county and located in the city of St. Louis, where he practiced until he retired from professional life. Hon. Abner Green, a native of Virginia and brother of Senator James Green, was admitted to the Jefferson County bar November 25, 1844. He became very prominent in his profession, and was the leading member of the bar for many years, and was much esteemed by all who knew him. He died at Victoria, in this county, July 2, 1876, being nearly sixty-seven years of age. Hon. Philip Pipkin was admitted to the bar of this county on the 25th of May, 1847, and became a prominent character in the history of the county. Prior to his admission to the bar he had represented the county in the Legislature. He was an able lawyer and efficient officer. He died in this county in 1886. Gov. Thomas C. Fletcher was born and raised in Jefferson County, and was admitted to the bar thereof in May, 1857. He is a son of the old pioneer, Clement B. Fletcher, who was prominent among the early settlers of the county. Gov. Fletcher is still living, and has become a prominent character in the history of Missouri. Hon. Francis Hagan was admitted to the Jefferson County bar on the 25th of May, 1858, and soon became an able and leading lawyer. In 1800 he represented the county in the Legislature, and being a Southern sympathizer, he left the county when the Federal army took possession, and afterward located in Louisville, Ky. Hon. Henry F. Ahlvers, a prominent attorney of Jefferson County, was admitted to the bar May 8, 1867. He died at Hillsboro in 1877 or 1878.

Hon. Thomas H. McMullin, brother of K. W. McMullin, the present county treasurer, was born and raised in Jefferson County, and was admitted to the bar on the 12th of January, 1875, and soon became prominent in his profession. In 1882 he moved to La Foon, Faulk Co., Dak., and from there to Prescott, Ark., and, after practicing there for a time, he went to Arizona, where he abandoned the legal practice and went into the ministry, and is now preaching in the Christian Church. Judge John L. Thomas is a native of Iron County, Mo. He graduated from the Arcadia High School in 1853, at the age of twenty. In 1855 he was admitted to the bar in Crawford County, where he practiced law until 1858, and then moved to Jefferson County, where he still resides. In 1870 he was elected representative of Jefferson County, and served as such in the twenty-sixth General Assembly. In 1880 he was elected judge of the twenty-sixth Judicial Circuit, and in 1886 he was re-elected to the same office, which he now holds. His election and re-election to this important office bespeak his ability as a lawyer and jurist.

The following is a list of the names of the present members of the Jefferson County bar, with date of admission annexed: Joseph J. Williams, June 15, 1860; W. H. H. Thomas, June 15, 1860; C. Thomas Horine, March 27, 1871; James F. Green, present prosecutor, January 19, 1878 ; C. K. Kleinschmidt, May 8, 1882; Fred. Wislizenus, May 10, 1876; J. T. Tatum, ; F. E. Bearing, May 7, 1887; J. S. Stephens, May 12, 1887; Charles C. Booth, September 13, 1887.

History of Franklin, Jefferson, Washington, Crawford & Gasconade Counties Missouri
Goodspeed Publishing Company 1888

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