The first term of the United States District Court held in Clinton County, convened at Camanche, the first seat of justice, October 12, 1840. Hon.. Thomas S. Wilson, now in active practice at Dubuque, where he then resided, was the Judge; James D. Bourne, also from Dubuque before he became a resident of this county in 1836, and now hale and hearty at his home in De Witt, Was the Sheriff; Martin Dunning, of Camanche, and who died there in. 1874, was the Clerk, and William J. A. Bradford, Prosecuting Attorney.

The names of the grand jurors are given in the record of county organization.

The District comprised the counties of Jackson, Dubuque, Scott and Clayton, and was the Second Judicial District of the Territory of Iowa.

The first entry after the organization of the Court and the empanelment of the Grand Jury was that of James Claborne against J. S. McCullough, assumpsit. The plaintiff dismissed his suit and the Court taxed the cost to him.

On the 13th of October, the Prosecuting Attorney moves the Court in the case of the United States against Timothy Bigelow, for a scire facias against the defendant, to show cause why his recognizance should not be forfeited.

Bigelow had been indicted for forgery of United States coins. He, however, appeared in court and the default was set aside.

The first jury trial was held October 14, 1840, an. appeal case in which John Thomas was plaintiff and John Eldred, defendant. The jury empaneled were William H. Onley, John Sloan, Philip Deeds, Nathaniel Barber, William Pearsall, Reuben Root, Daniel Hess, Robert Aikman, Stephen Tripp, Charles F. Langford, Francis F. Ketchum and Stephen Briggs, who gave a verdict for the appellee for $5.25.

The suit was originally brought by Thomas against Eldred before Abner Beard, one of the Justices of the Peace of Clinton County (attached to Scott for judicial purposes). He lived at De Witt and still resides there.

The suit was originally commenced before Justice Beard, December 13 1839, and was for "five dollars cash lent and interest." Judgment was tendered for plaintiff for $5 damages and $6.87 costs. The defendant appealed and gave the requisite bond for judgment and costs. The bondsman was Robert Calder.

The amount of the judgment and costs was $32.81. Attached to the papers in the case are receipts from John F. Homer, Abraham Folck, and James W. Kirtley, for their witness fees. Mr. Kirtley dates his "Point Pleasant, October 11, 1842."

Levy was made upon one yoke of Cattle and one silver watch, which were sold for $17.25, "being all the property to be found at this time, November 10, 1842. JAMES D. BOURNE, Sheriff of Clinton County."

Execution was then issued against the bondsman, but is recalled by the Clerk of the Court.

Every paper in the case is wholly in manuscript, except the District Court subpoenas, the typographic appearance of which is indicative of the limited resources of the printers of that day. They are issued in the name of the United States of America, and are signed, " Witness the Honorable Thomas S. Wilson, Judge of the Third Judicial District of the Territory of Iowa, and the temporary seal of said Court, affixed this fifteenth day of September, A. D. 1840.

"M. DUNNING, Clerk."

The "temporary seal" was a wafer and diamond-shaped paper.

The first case, however, the papers in which are found and indorsed No. 1, was the United States against Erastus Fairman, who was indicted by the grand jury for arson, October 14, 1840. The information was sworn out April 25, 1840, by Joseph P. Brown. The indictment recites that "Erastus Fairman, of said county, on the 24th day of April, 1840, in the night-time of said day, with force and arms did feloniously and maliciously, willfully and knowingly, set on fire and burn a dwelling-house, in said county then standing and being, the said dwelling-house then and there being the property of Madison E. Hollister, against the peace of the United States of America," etc. Simeon Gardnier, Elias Day. Joseph P. Brown and, Charles Bovard entered each their recognizance in the sum of $50 to appear as witnesses. At the April term this action was discontinued by the Prosecuting Attorney, and the defendant was directed by the Court to "go hence without day," and the costs are ordered to be paid out of the County Treasury.

SOURCE: Allen, L. P., History of Clinton County, Iowa, Containing A History of the County, it's Cities, Towns, Etc. and Biographical Sketches of Citizens, War Record of it's Volunteers in the late Rebellion, General and Local Statistics, Portraits of Early Settlers and Prominent Men, History of the Northwest, History of Iowa, Map of Clinton County, Constitution of the United States, Miscellaneous Matters, &c, &c., Illustrated. Chicago IL; Western Historical Company, 1879




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