Franklin co. IAGenWeb Franklin county & community Histories

Franklin County Courts and Legal Profession
Historical and Biographical

~transcription by S. Ferrall for Franklin co. IAGenWeb


~Source: The Courts and Legal Profession of Iowa, Volume II, Hon. Chester C. Cole, historian and Hon. E.C. Ebersole, editor; Chicago, Ill., H.C. Cooper, Jr., & Co., 1907; pgs 652-658.

Franklin county was organized in 1855, the election of officers being in August. Prior to this the county had been attached first to Chickasaw, and afterwards to Hardin county, for judicial purposes.

James Reeve was elected first county judge, S.R. Miller first clerk, and Q.A. Jorden prosecuting attorney.

After the organization of the county had been effected, the attention of the people was directed to the question as to where the county-seat should be located. C.J. McFarland was then district judge, and to him Dr. Mitchell went with a petition to have commissioners appointed. The settlers had decided upon whom they wanted appointed as commissioners, but this counted for nothing with Judge McFarland. Imperiously waving Dr. Mitchell aside with an oath, he said:

"I appoint Dr. Ault one of the commissioners and I don't care whether the people of Franklin county like it or not, and I also appoint M.M. Trumbull of Butler county and J.D. Thompson of Hardin county, who voted for me, as the other two commissioners,"

and Hampton was chosen as the county-seat.

The first county court was held March 3, 1856, Judge J.B. Reeve presiding. In November, 1856, S.R. Mitchell resigned the office of clerk of court and Judge Reeve appointed James Thompson to fill the vacancy. In 1859 the supervisors took charge of county court matters, except the issuance of marriage licenses, probate matters and civil cases. The county court still held its sessions and continued to do so until 1869, when it was abolished by law; but nothing of interest transpired, as the time was all spent in routine matters.

C.J. McFarland, of Polk county, was judge of the district, but he never held a term of court, but he issued many official orders affecting Franklin county. He was an odd character although one of the brightest men that ever presided over the courts of the Fifth or Eleventh judicial districts. He was born in Ohio, and removed to Lee county, Iowa, in 1844. He was prosecuting attorney of that county several years, and also represented that county in the legislature. He afterward moved to Boone county, where he was appointed judge of the Fifth judicial district and was afterward elected. He died at Boonsborough, April, 1869. Many anecdotes are related of the Judge, some of which are too good to be lost. He had nicknames for many of the attorneys who practiced before his court. James W. Wood he called "Old Timber," and Governor Eastman "Old Spot," from the fact of his being marked with small-pox. On one occasion, while Old Timber was addressing the court, an ass walked up near one of the windows and set up a terrible bray. The judge quickly turned to Mr. Wood and cried out: "Sit down, Old Timber, sit down; one at a time, if you please."

In March, 1857, the Thirteenth judicial district was created, composed of Franklin, Butler, Grundy, Hamilton, Hardin, Marshall, Story and Wright; to which Webster was added in February, 1858.

The first district court in Franklin county, as the records show, was held in March, 1857, at Hampton, with Hon. J.D. Thompson, judge of the Thirteenth judicial district, presiding. It was a very busy term, as all of the cases that had been accumulating for years came up for trial. In those days there was no district attorney, the work of that office being done by a prosecuting attorney, and R.F. Piatt acted in that capacity. The first entry upon the judgment docket of Franklin county was dated 1856.

By the constitution of 1857, Franklin county became a part of the Eleventh judicial district.

James D. Thompson, the first judge of the Thirteenth judicial district, was born in 1832, in New York State. He lived with his parents on a farm until seventeen years of age, when he went to Niagara county and taught school. At the close of his school in the spring of 1850 he resumed his studies at the academy at Fredonia, and in his leisure hours read law. In 1854 he removed to Iowa, and on the evening of June 15th he walked into Eldora with his satchel on his back, and soon opened a law office. At the next regular election he was elected prosecuting attorney, and in the summer of 1855 he became judge of Hardin county by the resignation of Judge Alexander Smith. In 1857 he was elected district judge. In 1861 he raised and commanded company G, First Iowa cavalry, and returned home in 1864. In 1874 he closed his office at Eldora, and in 1875 removed to California.

John Porter, the successor of Judge Thompson, was born in Pennsylvania, April 14, 1828. He worked on the farm in the summer and taught school winters, and read law, and was admitted to the bar in 1854. In 1856 he removed to Mason City. In 1858 he was elected judge for the newly organized district, which postion he occupied until 1866, when he resigned.

Daniel D. Chase was appointed by the governor February 5, 1866, to succeed Judge Porter, and he was elected four years later. He was born in New York State July 4, 1830. He attended the district schools in the winters and labored on the farm the balance of the year. The four ensuing years he passed at the Ames academy and Cazenovia seminary, where he acquired a good academic education. He read law, and was admitted to the New York bar January 1, 1856, and entered at once upon the practice of his profession. In 1858 he removed to Webster City. In 1865, while filling the position of district attorney, he was appointed by the governor to the office of district judge to fill a vacancy. He was twice elected to that office.

Isaac J. Mitchell was born in Ohio, May 31, 1827. He worked on his father's farm until he was nineteen years of age. He attended a high school in Ohio a few months to prepare for teaching. He read law in Indiana. He removed to Boonesborough. In 1868 he was elected state senator. In 1874 he was elected judge of the eleventh judicial district. He was a good lawyer, and he made an excellent judge.

J.W. McKenzie of Hampton was elected judge July 10, 1878. He was compelled to resign on account of ill health and died shortly afterwards. He was born in Ohio July 2, 1843.

H.C. Henderson was appointed judge of the district upon the death of Judge McKenzie. He filled the position to the satisfaction of everybody and was elected for the full term beginning January 1, 1883.

Samuel L. Rose was the first circuit judge, and was elected in the fall of 1868. He came to Iowa in 1862 and located at Rose Grove. He served as judge four years.

J.H. Bradley was the successor of Judge Rose, and was elected in the fall of 1872. He began his work January, 1873, and was re-elected in 1876, and served his second term ending January, 1881.

D.D. Miracle was elected successor to Judge Bradley in the fall of 1880. He resided at Webster city.

Among those who located and practiced law in Franklin county, who have either moved away, quit practice, or are deceased are the following:

R.F. Piatt, Samuel B. Jackson, B.A. Jordan, T.H. Baker, A.H. Bridgemen, W.N. Davidson, J.J. Layman, N.B. Chapman, M.A. Leahy, John T. Stearns, Col. A.T. Reeve, A.G. Kellam, John H. King, J.D. Giffen, J.H. Bland, J.F. Haight and J.W. Gilger.

In early day M.M. Trumbull, of Clarksville, Butler county, was connected frequently with law cases in this county. He was a young man and full of fun. When he came to Franklin county he would often stop with C.M. Leggett, and he happened along once just in time to help Leggett out of trouble. Leggett had a neighbor named Webster, who lived across the creek, and who had a large herd of cattle. The cattle were troubling Leggett in the fall by getting into his corn field, but as there was no herd law in those days it was impossible to get any redress. Finally some of Webster's cattle threw down the fence, and Leggett's own cow got in and ate so much corn that she died from the effects thereof. Leggett was the only justice of the peace in the county, and before whom to sue Webster he could not imagine; but Trumbull came along, stopped over night, and to him Leggett confided his troubles. Trumbull went to work and drew up a notice to Webster, citing him to appear before Judge Reeve, the county judge, at the next term of court, and told Leggett to go over and serve it. "But the county judge has no jurisdiction in such cases," said Leggett. "That makes no difference," said Trumbull, "the chances are ten to one that he don't know it." Accordingly, Leggett went over, and with great pomp and ceremony read his notice to Webster. This scared Webster, and he began negotiations for a compromise forthwith, which ended by his giving Leggett another cow, and paying for extra trouble and an attorney's fee besides, which Trumbull donated to Leggett, as perhaps his (Trumbull's) conscience would not allow him to take money for such advice.

W.F. Harriman was born in New Hampshire August 16, 1841. He was educated in the public schools of his native town and in the New London Literary and Scientific Institution. Before his parents removed to Iowa in 1860, he worked on a farm and taught school. He read law, and was admitted to practice in 1869. He began to practice at Cherokee. In 1876 he removed to Hampton, Iowa, retiring from active life in 1888. In 1891 he was elected to the house, serving in the Twenty-fourth general assembly. In 1895 he was elected to the state senate, serving in the Twenty-sixth and Twenty-seventh general assemblies. He was the author of the act creating the department of agriculture.

David W. Evans was born in Wisconsin, April 10, 1858. His parents, Evan J. and Anne (Davis) Evans, settled in Iowa county the year David W. was born. He was educated at the public schools of Williamsburg, Iowa, Iowa City academy, graduating from the State University of Iowa, collegiate course, in 1886. He then read law at the State University, graduating in 1891. He was admitted to practice that year. In 1893 he removed to Minnesota, where he practiced his profession ten years as a member of the firm of Evans & Evans. In 1903 he returned to Hampton, Iowa, where he has since been in practice. In politics he is a republican and served six years as prosecuting attorney while in Pipestone, Minnesota. In November, 1906, he was elected district judge of the Eleventh judicial district.

William D. Evans was born in Wisconsin, May 10, 1852. In 1858 his parents removed to Iowa, locating at Williamsburg. In 1879 Judge Evans moved to Franklin county. He taught school four winters in Iowa county and summers he worked in the normal institute, and he graduated from Iowa College in 1878. In 1879 he graduated from the law department of the State University, and was admitted to practice that year. He began to practice at Hampton, Iowa, and in 1903, he was elected district judge. He was a member of the firm of Taylor & Evans from September, 1879, to January, 1903. He has served two terms as county attorney.

John M. Hemingway, of Hampton, Iowa, was born December 4, 1848, in Michigan, where he resided until he was twenty-five years of age, when he removed to Franklin county, Iowa. He was graduated from the law department of the State University in 1875, and began to practice law, as a partner of Judge McKenzie, under the firm name of McKenzie & Hemingway, at Hampton, Iowa, which relation continued until McKenzie went on the bench. He then formed a partnership with T.C. McKenzie, which continued until the death of Mr. McKenzie in the fall of 1884. In 1886 he was in partnership with D.W. Henley one year. In 1887 he moved to Kansas City where he remained two years, and at the end of this time he returned to Hampton, and has since been continuously in practice there. He was elected mayor in 1890, and has served three consecutive terms.


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