The Vidette-Messenger Centennial EditionThe 1936 special edition celebrating Porter County's centennial year . . . .

The following article has been transcribed from the August 18, 1936, issue of The Vidette-Messenger, published in Valparaiso, Indiana. This particular special edition focuses on Porter County's centennial celebration and contains a 94-page compendium of Porter County history up to that time.

Return to the index of articles from The Vidette-Messenger's Porter County Centennial special edition.

Source: The Vidette-Messenger, Valparaiso, Porter County, Indiana; August 18, 1936; Volume 10, Section 2, Page 12.


Porter County Court History Started With Its Organization; First Lawyer To Make Home Here Was Josiah Masters

There were no lawyers in Porter county when the first term of the circuit court was held in October, 1836, in the home of James Spurlock with Judge Samuel C. Sample, of South Bend, on the bench.

The following men were summoned to appear as jurors at the first term of the circuit court: Grand jurors -- William Thomas, Samuel Olinger, William Gossett, Joseph Wright, Samuel Haviland, James Walton, Asahel Neal, James Spurlock, John Batholomew, Thomas Adams, Reason Bell, Peter Cline, Royal Benton, William Clark, William Trinkle, Robert Wilkinson, J. Todhunter, and W. Snavely. Petit jurors -- William Downing, Elijah Casteel, Asabel K. Paine, Jesse Morgan, Henry S. Adams, Lewis Comer, John Jones, Charles Allen, David Bryant, Solon Robinson, R. Frazier, Joseph Willey, Richard Henthorne, William Brim, Theophilus Blake, Wilson Malone, Isaac Morgan, Warner Winslow, Adam S. Campbell, Jesse Johnston, William Frame, Abraham Stoner, James Ross and John McConnell.

The first case before Judge Sample went by default when the plaintiff did not put in an appearance. The grand jury used the great out-doors for a deliberation room. They took their place under an old oak tree. The rain began to fall but the tree protected them. A fire was built which imparted warmth.

When Porter county was organized it was attached to the eighth district for judicial purposes, but on Feb. 19, 1838, the governor approved an act dividing the state into a larger number of judicial districts, such legislation having become necessary on account of the rapidly growing population. By this act the Ninth district was composed of the counties of Fulton, Marshall, Kosciusko, Elkhart, St. Joseph, LaPorte, Porter and Lake.

In Porter county, the terms of court were to begin on "the second Monday after commencement of the regular terms in LaPorte county," the act fixing the time of such commencement in LaPorte county as "the fourth Monday in April and the third Monday in October of each year."

The legislature of 1838 also provided for the establishment of a probate court in each county of the state, but the office of probate judge was abolished by the constitution of 1851, which also did away with three judges in each circuit court and placed in the hands of one judge, though the state was divided into a larger number of judicial districts.

When Porter county was first organized, the leading attorneys of the eight counties comprising the judicial circuit frequently rode on horseback from one county seat to another, carrying their law library in their old-fashioned saddle-bags. Among those traveling lawyers of that day were Joseph L. Jernegan, John B. Niles, Robert Merrifield, W. C. Hanna, Joseph W. Chapman, John H. Bradley and James Bradley.

It is generally conceded that Josiah S. Maters, who came from New York state shortly after the county was organized was the first resident lawyer of Porter county. Not finding sufficient practice in teaching school, having taught the first school in Portersville (now Valparaiso), and in fact never did much business at law.

Harlowe S. Orton came to Valparaiso early in 1839 and one of the most prominent and best known of the early attorneys. Later he went to Madison, Wis., where he became the president of the law department of the University of Wisconsin. Not far behind Mr. Orton came Samuel J. Anthony, who was admitted to practice in Porter county in October 1839. He was for many years one of the leading lawyers of the county and served in both branches of the state legislature.

Jesse Johnston, who came to Porter county among the first settlers, was elected justice of the peace in 1836, but declined the office. He was probate judge from 1838 to 1840 and his son, William Johnston was circuit court judge. George W. Turner, the first clerk of the court, entered upon the practice of law about 1845, and continued in the profession until he left the county in 1856. Mark L. DeMotte and Thomas J. Merrifield located in Valparaiso in 1855.

Mark L. Demotte, who later became dean of the Northern Indiana Law School, now Valparaiso university, who graduated from DePauw in 1853, and that year entered the practice of law in Valparaiso. He served in the Civil war, and attained the rank of Captain. After the war he went to Lexington, where he purchased the Lexington Register, and was a delegate to the republican national convention in 1868 and 1876. He returned to Valparaiso in 1877 and in 1880 founded the law department of Valparaiso university. He was elected to congress in 1880, and served as post master of Valparaiso.

Judge Hiram A. Gillett came to Valparaiso in 1861. He was elected judge of the common pleas court until it was abolished, when he was appointed judge of the circuit court for the circuit composed of Lake, Porter and Starke counties. He practiced law in Valparaiso until his death on Dec, 16, 1903. His son, John H. Gillett, served as judge of the circuit court and also on the supreme court bench.

Other attorneys who located in Porter county prior to the Civil war were M. M. Fassett, John W. Murphy and C. I. Thompson. After the war the profession was well represented by Thomas J. Merrifield, J. M. Howard, Thomas McLaughlin, John E. Cass, W. H. Calkins, J. H. Skinner, Nathan L. Agnew, A. L. Jones and others. A Lytle Jones was one of the first members of the Porter county bar to study law in the county. He was graduated from Indiana State university in 1855, and then studied law with Samuel L. Anthony, and in 1856 was admitted to practice. For several years he was a member of the firm of Jones, DeMotte and Jones.

A city court was established in Valparaiso in 1896, with Frank B. Parks as city judge. The jurisdiction of the court was about the same as that of a justice of the peace, and the cases tried before the city judge were confined chiefly to violations of the city ordinances. In 1905 the office of city judge was abolished, mayors in cities of the fifth class being at that time made judicial officers. Since then the duties of city judge in Valparaiso have devolved upon the mayor Tilgham A. Hogan and Franklin T. Fetterer was among those holding the office following Mr. Parks.

The judges of the probate court while it was in existence from 1838 to 1852 were Jesse Johnston, who was elected Feb. 23, 1836; Seneca Ball, George W. Turner, Nathaniel Campbell, William Tallcott and John Jones, the last named appointed to fill out the unexpired term of William Talcott.

The common pleas court, established in 1852, served the people only twenty years, when it shared the same fate as the probate court and was abolished in 1873, the jurisdiction being transferred to the circuit court then authorized by the constitution. During the twenty years the common pleas court was in existence, it was presided over by only three judges -- H. Lawson, William C. Talcott and Hiram A. Gillett -- the latter judge serving in 1873 when the court was abolished and Mr. Gillett was appointed by Governor Hendricks judge of the circuit court composed then of Lake, Porter and Starke counties.

The legislature in 1893, exercising power given by the constitution, created a superior court in Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties and John E. Cass, of Valparaiso, was appointed by Governor Claude Matthews the first judge. He served until 1896 when he was succeeded by Harry B. Tuthill, of Michigan City, who held the position until Jan. 1, 1915, at which time Lake county was detached from the district.

He was succeeded by Harry L. Crumpacker, who served as judge of the Porter-LaPorte superior court until Feb. 20, 1931, when the Indiana legislature separated the Porter-LaPorte court, Judge Crumpacker being appointed judge of the LaPorte superior court, with headquarters at Michigan City, and Mark B. Rockwell, Valparaiso attorney, was named judge of the Porter superior court. The superior court has concurrent jurisdiction with the circuit court in all cases, criminal and civil.

The circuit court judges of the district in which Porter county formed a part, in order of their service were: Samuel Sample, of South Bend; E. M. Chamberlain, Goshen; Robert Lowry, of Goshen; Thomas Stanfield, South Bend; Andrew Osborn, LaPorte; Hiram A. Gillett, Valparaiso, who served until 1878. He was succeeded by Elisha C. Field, of Crown Point, who served until 1890 when he resigned, his successor being William Johnston, of Valparaiso, who served until 1892. John H. Gillett, a son of Hiram A. Gillett, was judge from 1892 to 1989, when he was promoted to the Supreme court bench of Indiana. Willis C. McMahon, of Crown Point, was Judge Gillett's successor and served from 1898 to March, 1913.

The growth of population in Northern Indiana caused the legislature to create new circuits from time to time and diminish the number of counties in a circuit. In 1872 the Thirty-first circuit consisted of Lake and Porter counties, but by legislative enactment Porter county was made the Sixty-seventh Judicial circuit in 1913. A. D. Bartholomew, of Valparaiso, was appointed by the governor the first judge of the Sixty-seventh Judicial circuit and served until November 1914, when he was succeeded by Hannibal H. Loring, who served until Jan. 1, 1927. When Judge Loring declined renomination Grant Crumpacker was nominated and elected his successor in 1926 and served from Jan. 1, 1927 to Jan. 1, 1933, when he was succeeded by Charles W. Jensen, of Chesterton.

At the time the common pleas court was abolished in 1873 Michael L. Essick was prosecuting attorney. Since that time the prosecuting attorneys and the year in which they were elected have been as follows: Thomas J. Wood, Crown Point, 1872; J. W. Youche, Crown Point, 1876; J. G. Smith, Valparaiso, 1880; Charles F. Griffin, Crown Point, 1882; Edgar D. Crumpacker, Valparaiso, 1884; Charles N. Norton, Crown Point, 1888; Willis G. McMahon, 1890; Thomas H. Heard, Valparaiso, 1894; Stanley T. Sutton, Crown Point, 1898; William J. McAteer, Hammond, 1900; David E. Boone, Hammond, 1904; Charles E. Greenwald, Whiting, 1908.

Making Porter county a separate judicial district in 1913 brought about the appointment of Walter J. Fabing as prosecuting attorney in that year and he served until 1915, being succeeded by Charles W. Jensen, of Chesterton. Since that time the prosecutors in Porter county have been Joseph S. Bartholomew, 1918-20; Field Ray Marine, 1920-24; William W. Bozarth, 1924-26; Clarence D. Wood, 1927-1929; William W. Bozarth, 1929-1931; Howard O. Clark, 1931-35; Walter Crisman, 1935, the present prosecutor.

The Common Pleas court and the circuit court were courts of record and their proceedings are recorded by the clerk elected by the people. The clerks serving these courts from the time of the organization of the county in 1836 and the time of the election of each is as follows: George W. Turner, 1836; John C. Ball, 1842; William W. Jones, 1850; Obadiah Dunham, 1854; E. J. Jones, 1858; S. W. Smith, 1858; R. Wells, 1870; John Felton, 1878; James R. Drapier, 1882; Edward O'Neill, 1890; Edmund L. Wilson, 1890; Charles F. Pierce, 1902; Gust E. Bornholt, 1910; Roscoe O. Jones, 1918; Mae R. London, 1926; Joseph L. Doyle, 1930; Lewis W. Keller, 1934.

Process issued out of each court was served and attended by a sheriff elected by the people. The sheriffs serving and attending upon the Probate, Common Pleas and Circuit Courts of Porter county, and the year of election are as follows: Benjamin Saylor, appointed by Governor Noble, 1836; George Cline, 1836; Charles G. Merrick, 1838; John Wright, 1843; Moses Trim, 1844; Richard W. Jones, 1846; Vincent Thomas, 1850; Thomas G. Lytle, 1852; Thomas B. Cole, 1856; Stephen L. Bartholomew, 1860; Henry Binnamon, 1864; Robert Jones, 1872; James Malone, 1876; Charles W. Dickover, 1880; Elias N. Thomas, 1884; Stephen P. Herrick, 1888; Joseph Sego, 1890; Heber Stoddard, 1892; Charles F. Gree, 1898; Charles F. LaCount, 1900; Lewis M. Green, 1904; Clayton A. Wood, 1908; W. S. Lindall, 1912; William B. Forney, 1916; William S. Pennington, 1920; William B. Forney, 1924 and 1926; Barney L. Maxwell, 1928; Neil Fry, 1932 and 1934.

The character of the litigation and the growth of business called for an official shorthand reporter and the Porter circuit court has been served at different times by Stephen P. Corboy, Maurice McKinsey, and Clarence H. Schneider, who is now acting. The Porter superior court has been served by an official reporter since its creation in 1893 by the following: William Daly, E. L. Shortridge, Walter P. Harrold and Robert Lanham, who is now acting.

Most of the legal business in the courts before 1855 was done by lawyers in other cities, notably South Bend and LaPorte. As the town grew in population, the number of resident lawyers in Valparaiso increased and among them those who practiced law from 1855 to the early eighties, were J. M. Howard, A. D. Bartholomew, Edgard D. Crumpacker, William Johnston, Thomas McLaughlin, John E. Cass, W. F. Pinney, Hiram A. Gillette, John H. Gillette, John W. Rose, J. Hanford Skinner. A. L. Jones, Frank P. Jones and Nelson J. Bozarth.

Many attorneys of the past have passed on, leaving a noble heritage. Leading in the list is Edgar D. Cumpacker, judge of the Appellate Court in Indiana, and representative in the United States Congress for sixteen years; Hiram A. Gillette and John H. Gillette, father and son, each a professor in Valparaiso university law school and each a judge of the Porter circuit court, and the latter a state supreme court judge; Wm. Johnston, judge of the Porter circuit court whose legal and business qualifications enabled him to render exceptional service; Alvin D. Bartholomew, for more than sixty years a highly respected resident of Porter county and first judge of the Sixty-seventh Judicial District (Porter county); John E. Cass, first judge of the Lake, Porter and LaPorte superior court; Thomas H. Heard, prosecuting attorney for the Thirty-first judicial circuit; William E. Pinney, who distinguished himself as a lawyer, philanthropist and agriculturalist, and Frank B. Parks, who served as first judge of the Valparaiso city court.

The present attorneys now in active service according to the docket of the Porter county courts are: Edgerton W. Agar, P. J. Bailey, J. S. Bartholomew, W. W. Bozarth, Owen L. Crumpacker, J. P. Crumpacker, Wm. Daly, W. H. Dowdell, M. J. Drapier, Edmond J. Freund, Daniel E. Kelly, Bruce B. Loring, Harold J. Schenck, Ira O. Tilton, George R. Williams, Clarence D. Wood, Edward J. Ryan, Walter Crisman, B. J. Barrington, Eng. Zimmerman, Jr., Royal L. Lease, G. E. Burns, Franklin Petry, James J. McGarvey, Ray Pillard, Elmore S. McCray, Howard D. Clark, Woodburn A. McCallum, Frances Weaver, Hannibal H. Loring, J. A. Fleishbein, George Hitesman, Clifton J. Hobbs, Grant Crumpacker, Glen R. Dye, James Chester and Mae R. London.

The following are the court officials of Porter county: Charles W. Jensen, judge circuit court; B. Joseph Wiseman, bailiff of circuit court; Mark B. Rockwell, judge superior court; W. S. Lindall, bailiff superior court; Walter Crisman, prosecutor; Clarence Schneider, reporter circuit court; Robert Lanham, reporter superior court; Lewis W. Keller, clerk; James Chester, deputy clerk; Neil Fry, sheriff; Carl Herron, deputy sheriff; Carl M. Davis, coroner.

The Porter County Bar Association was organized on Dec. 21, 1906, when a number of members of the legal profession met in the library at the court house. The meeting was called together by H. H. Loring. Nathan L. Agnew was chosen chairman, and Mark B. Rockwell, secretary. H. H. Loring, E. W. Agar and R. J. Kitchen were named as a committee to draft by-laws. At a meet - Rockwell, secretary; A. D. Bartholomew, treasurer. Present officers of the association are: William Daly, president; J. A. Fleishbein, vice-president, and Edward J. Ryan, secretary.

Article transcribed by Steven R. Shook


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