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  Morgan County MO-AHGP
Genealogy & History


History of Morgan County


County Affairs

CIRCUIT COURT -- The first term of the circuit court, Hon. David Tood, presiding, convened at the house of Josiah S. Walton, June 13, 1833. Alfred McCutchen was sheriff and Robert W. Wells attended as attorney-general. Thomas G. Davis was appointed clerk of the court. No cases were on docket, and no presentments by the grand jury. At the next regular court, the judge not appearing, court was adjourned.

SINE DIE. No trial case was called until February term 1834. The only attorney of record at this term was Robert W. Wells. No presentment was made by grand jury until March term, 1835, and then only a small misdemeanor. At the September court, 1825, Charles H. Allen was judge. At May term, 1836, the attorneys regularly enrolled to practice law in Morgan county were: John Wilson, David Steriger, Charles P. Bullock, Charles S. Yaney, Littleberry Hendricks, Benjamin L. Lisle and Washington Adams. At the June term, 1837, William Scott was judge, succeeded by Judge James W. Morrow, who presided until 1851.

When Judge George W. Miller was elected. He was successfully re-elected until 1868. When Judge Theron M. Rice succeeded, holding the office six years, when Judge G.W. Miller was again elected, and continued in office until he died, in 1879. Hon. E. L. Edwards was elected to fill the vacancy, and served until 1892 when he was succeeded by Dorsey W. Shackleford, of Cooper county. Judge Edwards was an old man and was not a candidate for re-election. Judge Shackleford served as circuit judge six years and was re-elected in 1898. In 1899 Hon. Richard Bland, congressman from this district, died and Judge Shackleford became a candidate to succeed Bland in congress. The special election to elect a congressman was held August 29,___. Shackleford was successful and shortly afterwards he resigned as circuit judge and Governor Lon. V. Stephens appointed Hon. T. B. Robbins of Miller county, to be circuit judge of this circuit to serve till the next general election. Judge Robinson lived but little over a year and Governor Stephens appointed James E. Hazell, of Moniteau county to serve till the next general election. Mr. Hazell was nominated to fill the vacancy by the democratic convention and he was elected at the general election in the fall of 1900 and served till 1905 when he was succeeded by W. H. Martin, a republican lawyer of Boonville, Cooper county. Mr. Martin is the president circuit judge and he is the first republican judge the district has had since Judge Rice.

COUNTY COURT --The first court met at the house of John B. Fisher, in February, 1833. It was composed of Zaceus German, Seth Howard and John B. Fisher. In law they were "called county justices." Thomas B. Davis was appointed clerk' Joseph M. Bernard, collector of the county; Howard Chism, surveyor. Lot Howard was appointed assessor. At the May term court adjourned "to the store house of Hugh Galbraith." This court transacted probate business until 1847. In 1835 the court was composed of Philip Barger, Joseph Bernard and William S. Barnett. In 1836 William S. Barnett resigned, and J.B. Fisher was appointed to fill the vacancy.

Court then consisted of Barnett, Fisher and Gernan; in 1838, Philip Barger, presiding judge, with John Chism, Zacheus German and Philip Barger, were the court; in 1841, Francis Ross, associate; in 1843 the court was composed of John Porter, Charles M. Brooking, Buford Allee; in 1844, John M. Reed was appointed; in 1845, E. J. Salmon; in 1846, William K. Brown; 1848 B. F. Wilson, Coleman Bridges, associates; 1852, Martin H. Parks succeeded Brown; in 1854 the court was W. K. Brown, John Sims; John Porter; 1857, James W. McCoy, Hugh Kelsay, associates; 1858, John Porter, elected; 1860, Hiram Madole and C.O. Rice; 1862, B.F. Wilson; Jacob Cline, John Sims; 1863, Hugh Kelsay; 1866, Hugh Kelsay, I. Luckenbill, S. M. Willson, 1867, W. V. Parks and Peter Haase; 1869, John H. Papen; 1870, Samuel M. Wilson, judge. John H. Stover, William V. Parks, associates; 1871, W.V. Parks, judge, John Bohling, E.D. Bailey, associates; 1872, Eben D. Bailey, John Bohling, S.H. Legg; 1873, Joseph N. Martin, elected; 1875, T.B. Clark and J.M. Salmon; 1877, H.P. Bond, associate; 1878, J.N. Martin; 1879, D.M. Inglish, elected judge for four years; H.B. Boling, J.H. Webster, associates; 1883, J.H. Alfter, judge, E.F. Gunn,1st District, and J.W. Comp, 2nd District; 1895, I.H. Earnest, associate; 1888, Henry Wagenknecht, judge, T.L. Callison presiding judge in the year 1886 and served eight years. From 1888 the court was composed of Wagenknecht, G.W. Sanford, 2nd District and T.L. Callison, 1st District till 1890.

P. Daugherty was elected presiding judge in 1894 and served one term of four years, or till 1898, Christ. Witte, republican was elected in the 2nd District and served until 1898, and P.H. Kidwell, democrat, was the first district judge from 1894 to 1898, R.E. Dorman, democrat, was elected presiding judge in 1898 and served one term of four years, or till 1902, W.T. Bowen of the 2nd District and J.W. Beard of the 1st District were associate judges from 1898 to 1902, Judge W.T. Bowen was then elected presiding judge for four years and J.N. Shenkle, of the 1st and John A. Willson, of the 2nd Districts were the associate judges till 1904. The court is now (1905) composed of W.T. Bowen presiding judge, S.W. Spears, 2nd District and T.F. O’neal 1st District.

PROBATE COURT-- By act of Legislature, in 1847, the probate court was formed, thus taking away from the county court probate business. In 1847 James P. Ross was elected the first probate judge for the term of six years. Ross went to California in 1849 and E.J. Salmon succeeded. He died in 1851 and was succeeded by John A. S. Tutt; in October, 1858, Judge William C. Sevier; 1862, Andrew Masters, judge; 1865, William C. Reed, judge; Mayter, 1867, John C. McCoy, Judge; November, 1872, James B. Allee, who died in March 1875 and Jonathan C. Todd was appointed to fill the vacancy. He was then elected to the regular term. James S. Thruston came in 1881; the term is now four years. He was first elected for two years, then for four, then re-elected until 1891. Rev. I. Barber was elected probate judge at the election of 1890 and took the oath of office the first of the year 1891, Barber served four years then Rev. W H. Lutman was elected and served four years, or to the first of the year 1899. Samuel Daniels, a lawyer and one of the editors of the Versailles Leader was sworn in, he having been elected at the previous election. Judge Daniels served four years and was defeated for re-election by H.E. Neville, a lawyer, Judge Neville took the oath of office the first of the year 1908 for a term of four years and is in the middle of his term when this book is printed.

THE BAR -- In the earliest courts in the county there was no occasion for either judges or lawyers, except to open and adjourn courts. At the first court only the judge and Attorney-General Wells were present, this officer then being ex-officio prosecuting attorney for the county. At the next term Attorney-General Robards was present. At the May term, 1836, was enrolled the first list of attorneys to practice in Morgan county. The list is given elsewhere. Among the early visiting members of the bar were Judge William Napton, J.A.S. Tutt, G.W. Miller, afterward circuit judge; Mr. Richardson, P.R. Hayden, E.L. Edwards, Mr. Stewart, of Boonville; Littleberry Hendricks, George White, B.F. Robbins, Mark Means, Benjamin Stringfellow, James B. Gardenhire, Foster P. White, William Muir, Mr. Harbison. These are given somewhat in the order as they appeared to practice law at the terms of the court. For many years the coming of the members of the bar at each term was a great day for the little county capital.

The first resident lawyer in Versailles was James McCord. But as one lawyer in a county is as much as but one blade of a pair of shear, he was soon followed by Mr. Slaughter. Then came, nearly in the order given: F.A. Jaunslar, Garrett Mlner, James P. Ross, J.A. Tutt, William Sevier, Col. John Stover, A.W. Anthony, James Spurlock, Daniel and James Wray.

The members at present of the Morgan County Bar are as follows: D.E. Wray, Amos A. Knoop, A.L. Ross, H.E. Neville, A.B. Knipmeyer, William Forman, Geo. F. Boothe, I.M. Schannep, Samuel Daniels, Jno. F. Gibbs, R.M. Livesay, James McNair, W.E. McVey, F.P. Jones, W.T.S. Agee and John J. Jones.

CRIMINAL RECORD -- In the fall of 1853, William T. Cole was slain by his son-in-law, John B. Rughven, in Versailles. It was Morgan County's first and only homicide until the war. The prominence of the people as well as the many remarkable circumstances surrounding the case made it a notable one. Cole and wife had a disagreement, not the first, it is said, and Mrs. Cole went to her daughter's, Mrs. Rughven's, with the declared intention of a permanent separation from her husband. The daughter took the side of her mother, and in time Rughven joined with his wife, and there was bad blood, it seems, in the family toward the husband and father. Cole had visited his daughter's several times to induce his wife to return to her home. On the fatal day he had gone again on this mission, is supposed and was killed in Rughven's house. No one, it appears, saw all that occurred just at the time of the killing. Ruthven shot Cole twice, both fatal shots, and the physician, who was called in a few minutes, found Cole dying, with a pistol in his hand. He never spoke, so far as could be learned, after the shooting. The case was tried and resulted in a mistrial and was moved to another county, and in the course of time Ruthven was acquitted, and the case, so far as the courts were concerned, was dropped. The unfortunate affair above recorded took place on the grounds now occupied by the dwelling of J.W. Knoop. But the house that stood there has been moved to the north part of town and at present is owned by Charles Cugler.

A terrible murder and attempted robbery occurred in the early part of 1865. This victim was a man named Murry, who lived six miles southeast of Versailles. Zeke and Tom Hart, brothers, went to the house and demanded money, and made an attack. The man and family defended themselves, and finally drove off the murderers, but Mr. Murry was shot, and died the next week. The men were arrested and identified by the family, and the younger, Tom, confessed. They were tried separately, and at the September term, 1866, of the court, Zeke was sentenced to be hanged on the 19th day of October of that year. He was accordingly executed, the first and only execution that has ever taken place in Morgan county. Tom being the youngest, and having sworn that he was compelled to the awful deed by his brother, was let off with a term in the penitentiary.

Section 5

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