Clark County, Ohio

History and Genealogy



Sketch of the Bench and Bar of Clark County


From The History of Clark County, Ohio
Chicago: W.H. Beers & Co., 1881 - Page 270


THE BENCH

The history of the Bench and Bar of Clark County would properly begin with the organization of the county, but there is record evidence of the sittings of the court and the administration of justice which antedates that period. Springfield was temporarily the seat of justice for Champaign County, which then included what is now Clark County within its limits.

The first Judges who sat upon the wool-sack here were Francis Dunlevy, Presiding Judge; John Reynolds, Samuel McCullough and John Runyan, Associate Judges. Arthur St. Clair was Prosecuting Attorney, and John Daugherty Sheriff, with Joseph Vance Clerk.

The above court was held at the house of George Fithian, in Springfield.

There was a session of the Supreme County held in 1805, the Judges being Samuel Huntington, Chief Justice; and William Sprigg and Daniel Symmes, Associates. At this session, three men were tried for shooting an Indian, whose name was Kanawa-Tuckow. The accused were Isaac Broken, Archibald Dowden and Robert Rennick, who were acquitted.

The first Court of Common Pleas held in Clark County after the county was organized was on April 7, 1818, with Orrin Parish as Presiding Judge; Daniel McKinnon, Joseph Tatman and Joseph Layton, Associates. The State, under the constitution of 1802, had been divided into three circuits, in each of which a President of the Court of Common Pleas was appointed, while in each of the counties of the State there were appointed not more than three and not less than two Associates, who, during their continuance in office, were to be residents therein. The President and the Associate Judges in their respective counties, composed the Court of Common Pleas. All the legal business of the county was transacted in the Court of Common Pleas, including all probate and testementary matters. The Judges were appointed by joint ballot of both houses of the General Assembly, and held their offices for the term of seven years, "if so long they behaved well." At the August term, 1819, Frederick Grimke was the Presiding Judge.

The first term of the Supreme Court held in this county began on July 10, 1819. Hon. Calvin Pease was the Chief Judge, and Hon. John McLean was associated with him. The Supreme Court was held once a year in each county. The first recorded act of the Supreme Court in Clark County was the appointment of Saul Henkle as Clerk pro tempore. His bond was in the sum of $2,000, and William Ross and William McCartney were his sureites, attested by Hiram Goble and Griffith Foos.

The record of proceedings in the courts of those days was wonderfully brief and concise. The first jury case before this Supreme Court has a complete record, which does not, including the names of the jurors impaneled, take half a page of an ordinary blank book. It was an "appeal in case, damages $400," in which Robert Barr was plaintiff and David Day was defendant. The following citizens of the county composed the jury: William Willis, William Hall, Arthur Layton, Justus Luse, Alexander Sympson, Samuel Hogg, Ralph Peterson, Thomas Turner, George Jennings, James Shipman, John Ambler, Samuel McMillan. G. Swan and S. Mason are the first attorneys who appear of record in this court.

At the March term of the Common Pleas Court, 1820, Joseph H. Crane was the Presiding Judge, with the same Associate Judges as the first term. At the March term of this court, 1822, Samson Mason was, by order of the court, appointed Prosecuting Attorney of the county. Judge Crane continued in office as Presiding Judge until the close of the year 1828, having been elected to Congress in the fall of that year. He was an able lawyer and an excellent Judge. His administration was marked by even-handed justice, tempered by a suavity of manner wihch won him the esteem of those who were brought in contact with him. He was succeeded by Hon. George W. Holt, who continued to hod the office until 1834, at which time a new circuit was formed, in which the counties of Clark, Champaign and Logan were included, in addition to several counties from the Twelfth Circuit. The original Tewlfth Circuit embraced the counties of Preble, Darke, Montgomery, Miami, Shelby, Logan, Champaign and Clark. Hon. Joseph Swan was chosen to preside over the new circuit, which embraced the counties of Franklin, Madison, Clark, Champaign and Logan, and, for a time, Hardin County. Judge Swan held the office of Presiding Judge from 1834 to 1845, at which later date he resigned in order to return to the practice at the bar. He was held in high esteem by the bar, and his resignation was received with regret.

The Associate Judges of Clark County from 1831 to 1847 were Daniel McKinnon, William G. Serviss, Joseph Perrin, Ira Paige, John R. Lemen, John T. Stewart and Isaac Paint. Hon. James L. Torbert succeeded Judge Swan in 1846, and served in that capacity until after the adoptino of the new constitution in 1852, when William A. Rogers, a prominent member of the bar, was elected to succeed him. Judge Rogers was then a member of the law firm of Rogers & White (Hon. William White, one of the present Supreme Judges of the State). Judge Rogers had been recognized by the members of the bar as a brilliant and successful advocate, who attained his ends by a strict devotion to principle, and appeal to the reason and sound judgment of his auditors. He was one of the ablest lawyers of the State, and his demise, in the midst of a career of promise and usefulness, was the source of great regret. He was elected Judge of the Court of Common Pleas shortly after the adoption of the new constitution, as an independent candidate, over the regular party nominee. Hon. Robert Barclay Harlan, of Clinton County, Ohio, then in this judicial district, had been nominated by the regular Whig convention as the candidate of that party. The people had been accustomed to the immemorial usage of an appointive judiciary, and they regarded with disfavor any tendency to the pollution of the bench with the degrading touch of partisan politics. There was a determination to discountenance the nominations of partisan Judges, and therefore a candidate such as Judge Rogers, who was the creation of no party, was heartily supported. In addition to this prejudice among the people, the character of Judge Rogers was in itself a sufficient commendation. He had allied himself with the political party known as th e"Liberty," or Abolition party, whose cause he espoused with zeal. The political speeches he made were eloquent with the plea for the extermination of slavery. This feature of his public life, added to his exalted private character and his eminent fitness for the position, gave him a standing with the people which was irresistible. The lawyers in the district were his stanch adherents. They labored assiduously in the contest, visiting the adjoining counties in the judicial district with such success that, notwithstanding the overwhelming Whig sentiment, Judge Rogers was elected. He carried to the bench the same ability and fairness which had made him prominent at the bar. Before the close of his term, he was seized with a fatal disease, which soon terminated his life, and William H. Baldwin, of Clinton County, Ohio, succeeded him by appointment of the Governor. Hon. Robert Barclay Harlan was again placed in nomination by his party. But the same opposing element which had encompassed his defeat before again rose up against him. The law partner of Judge Rogers, William White, was in 1856 presented by the Independents as a candidate for judge, and such was the overwhelming popularity of hte candidate that his election was almost unanimous, his majority in this county alone being over 3,700. Judge William White was born in England January 28, 1822. He waws left an orphan in his infancy, and was placed under the care of his uncle, James Dory, who brought him to the United States in 1831, taking up his residence in Springfield. At the age of twelve, he was apprenticed to a cabinet-maker for the term of nine years. He purchased his time by giving his notes for a considerable amount. These were afterward promptly paid. He early evinced a desire for education, and devoted all his energies toward the accomplishment of that end. All his spare hours from study and his leisure in vacations were devoted to his trade, to obtain means to purchase books, etc. Under the tutorship of Chandler Robbins, at the Springfield High School, he obtained the better part of his early education. Judge Rogers, then in large practice at the bar, encouraged him in kindly words to prosecute his legal studies in his office. The student was enabled, by teaching school at intervals and serving as night clerk in the post office, to earn sufficient means to allow him to complete his studies. Upon his admission to the bar in 1846, he was taken into partnership by his preceptor, which continued until the accession of the latter to the bench. In 1847, Mr. White was elected Prosecuting Attonrey, and continued to hold the office successively for eight years. The diligent, earnest and faithful discharge of his official duties was recognized by the people in the largely increased majorities which were given him. In 1856, without solicitation upon his part, he was, by the members of the bar of his sub-judicial district, as before stated, placed in nomination as an independent candidate for Judge of the Court of Common Pleas. In October, 1861, he was re-elected. A vacancy was caused in the Supreme bench by the resignation of Judge Hocking H. Hunter, and, upon the request of the bar of this district, in February, 1864, Judge White was appointed by Gov. Brough as one of the Supreme Judges of the State, and in October of the same year, was elected to the unexpired term. In October, 1868, he was re-elected, and agin in 1873, and in 1878. At the last election, he received a county majority of 2,392, being about double the usual party majority, while his vote in the State was also the highest of any candidate on the State ticket. The career of Judge White, from comparative obscurity to the proud eminence he now occupies, is not due to any of the hap-hazard chances to which many are indebted for their success in life. His position ahs been the result of his own inherent energies — of the possession of those elements of character which always demand recognition, and will force success although the obstacles in the way be mountain high. A diligent student, a conscientious lawyer and a courteous gentleman, added to quick perception a comprehensive mind, which enables him to grasp the hidden points and dispel the cobwebs of sophistry, and an instinctive impartiality, have been the elements of his success. The reported decisions of Judge White, running through the volumes of the Ohio State Reports from the Fourteenth to the Twenty-sixth inclusive, and volumes 29, 31, 34 and 35, are recognized by the profession of this and other States as models of clearness and perspicuity, for the extensive research, profunidty of thought and thorough appreciation of legal principles embodied therein. The decisions, when cited, are given additional cogency by the assertion that they were rendered by Judge White.

The only other Judge promoted from the bar of Clark Count to its bench is the present Judge of the Court of Common Pleas, Hon. James S. Goode.

Judge Goode was born in Warren County, Ohio, January 22, 1823. His parents were residents of the Old Dominion, but, early in the history of the State of Ohio, came from Virginia to Warren County, where they passed their remaining years. Judge Goode was educated at Miami University, from which he graduated with high scholarship in 1845. After an earnest application to the study of law, in January, 1848, he was admitted to practice. He opened an office in Springfiel at the same time, but, in April of the same year, he formed a partnership with Gen. Charles Anthony, and continued in active practice until 1875. He was at one time Mayor of the city of Springfield, and also ably filled the office of Prosecuting Attonrey for two terms. During the twenty-seven years of an active practice, Judge Goode was among the recognized leaders of the bar. He had an extensive and lucrative practice, created by his energy and ability, being retained on one side or th eother of all the important cases. Incessant application made such inroads upon his health as to demand relaxation. An untiring worker in his profession, it became necessary for him to leave it entirely. Thereupon, in 1875, he abandoned it for leisure, but he was not permitted to enjoy his Otium cum dignitate, for a request was made to him by the members of the bar to accept the nomination of Common Pleas Judge. He did so, and was elected to the office by the unanimous vote of both political parties. When he took his seat upon the bench, the docket of our court was crowded by the accumulation of years. Justice was tardily administered, and the law's delay ws the cause of much dissatisfaction. Judge Goode began to press business with the same energy and dispatch which he had displayed at the bar. Almost continuous sessions of the court were held in the illy ventilated, contracted and uncomfortable accomodations provided for holding court, to the injury of his health. He soon began to lighten the burdensome dockets, and so continued until the mass of business was cleared away, and a souit could be brought and tried during the same term. The administration of justice by Judge Goode has received the approbation of the bar. His careful examination of a case, the practical business view with which he scrutinizes it, the absolute impartiality of his decisions, his kindness to the younger members of hte bar, and his deference to all, have made him an honored and respected Judge. While not an active partisan, he was a Whig in political faith, and has been connected with the Republican party since its organization. He has also been identified with the business interests of hte city, and general interests of the county.