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Judges' journal provides clues to county's past


Posted By: Joey Stark
Date: 11/13/2010 at 14:05:27

"The Fairfield Ledger", Monday, November 8, 2010, Front Page

Judges' journal provides clues to county's past

By Lacey Jacobs
Ledger staff writer

(Story reprinted here with permission of the interviewee, Richard Thompson)

The 149-year-old journal arrived at the Fairfield Public Library in an unassuming manila envelope addressed to the genealogy society.

It was a homecoming of sorts for the detailed book of records started by Jefferson County Judge William K. ALEXANDER, whose entries begin in January 1861 with a list of marriages. Forty-seven pages into the log, Jefferson County Judge Thomas MORGAN's pristine handwriting picks up where ALEXANDER's left off.

For local historians and genealogists, the journal fills a gap. In the fall of 1861, ALEXANDER recorded the governor's original orders to form a county militia, as well as the names, unknown until now, of the men elected to officer ranks in each township.

"In April 1861, basically the Civil War started ... and Jefferson County people signed up to fight," explained Richard Thompson, a member of the Jefferson County Genealogy Society. "By the fall, Missouri was not real happy with Iowa getting involved, and there were threats of people from Missouri coming into southern Iowa."

In October 1861, Governor Samuel KIRKWOOD ordered ALEXANDER to establish a militia. A second order provided for the election of officers. Until the arrival of the journal, Thompson said the names of those officers, except for those in Fairfield's southern district, were lost.

Thompson has deciphered around 90 percent of the names, tracing a couple to living descendants still in the area.

The journal also records various fees and transactions carried out by the judges -- ALEXANDER's spanning a few dozen pages and MORGAN's spanning a few hundred.

ALEXANDER's entries begin and end in 1861. MORGAN's first entry -- the awarding of a guardianship for the fee of $12 -- appears in February 1866. His log continues until 1874.

MORGAN's entries reveal Batavia's July 1, 1867, incorporation cost $7.35; a pair of druggists paid $5.05 for their business permit in 1868; and MORGAN's salary as a judge was $1,000 in 1869.

"This is the first journal by a county judge that we've been provided with," Thompson said. "When Iowa and Jefferson County were first formed they had county judges, but whatever happened to the journals that they kept in the intervening years, we don't know.

"It's just really neat," he said.

The journal found its way back to Fairfield from Pensacola, Fla., where it had been in the possession of Lettie LEE. MORGAN was the great-grandfather of LEE's late husband. LEE sent the book to Fairfield, seeking additional information about her husband's lineage.

The genealogy society intends to have the book restored and displayed in the courthouse lobby. A bound photocopy will be donated to the library and available to the public.

*Transcribed for historical purposes; I am not related to the person(s) mentioned.

In the photo below, a nearly 150-year-old judges' journal recently donated to the Jefferson County Genealogy Society fills in a gap about Jefferson County's Civil War history.


Jefferson Documents maintained by Joey Stark.
WebBBS 4.33 Genealogy Modification Package by WebJourneymen

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