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Delaware County, Iowa  



History of Delaware County, Iowa and its People

History of Delaware County, Iowa and its People, Illustrated, Volume I.

Captain John F. Merry Supervising Editor. The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1914 page 153-161



Chapter XI

The Bench and Bar

Page 153


Perhaps no body of men, not excepting the clergy, may exercise a greater influence for good in a community than those who follow the profession of the law, and it must be admitted that to no other body, not even to the so-called criminal classes, are committed greater possibilities for an influence for evil. What that influence shall be depends upon the character of the men who constitute the bar of the community not merely on their ability or learning but on their character. If the standard of morality among the members of the bar is high, the whole community learns to look at questions of right and wrong from a higher plane. If the bar, consciously or unconsciously, adopts a low standard of morality, it almost inevitably contaminates the conscience of the community. And this is true not only in the practice of the profession itself, not only because of the influence of members of the bar as men rather than lawyers, but in the effect upon other professions and occupations to which the bar acts as a feeder. The members of the legislature are recruited largely from the legal profession. How can legislation, designed solely for the welfare of the public, be expected from one whose honor as a lawyer has not been above suspicion? And since lawyers, outside of the legislature, have a great influence in shaping the law, how can the people expect that influence to be exerted in their behalf when the bar itself is unworthy "! Still more does the character of the bar affect the judiciary, which is supplied from its ranks. It is not always, perhaps not generally, the case that members of the bench are chosen from those lawyers who have attained the highest rank in their profession. If a judge be industrious and honest but not of great ability, or if he be able and honest, though lacking industry, the rights of the litigants are not likely to suffer seriously at his hands. But there have been instances  where judicial office was bestowed solely as a reward for political service; and while it is sometimes realized that one who has been a strenuous and not too scrupulous politician up to the moment of his elevation to the bench, has thereafter forgotten that there was such a trade as politics and has administered justice without fear or favor, the experiment is a dangerous one. No one need be surprised if in such a case the old maxim holds true: "He who buys the office of judge must of necessity sell justice." Let our judges be men who are subject to other influences than those of the facts submitted to them and the law applicable to those facts, let them lack that independence which is an imperative requisite to one who holds the scales of justice, let a well founded suspicion arise that their decisions are dictated by something outside of their own minds and consciences, and the confidence of the people in the maintenance of their rights through the agency of the courts is destroyed. It has been the good fortune of the City of Manchester and the County of Delaware that the members of the bar here have been, for the most part, men of high character as well as of ability and learning, so that its bar has won a high and honorable reputation through out the rest of the state and because of the high character of the bar it has followed that those of its members who have been elevated to the bench have enjoyed the confidence and respect of the public and have been honored not only in their own locality but in many cases throughout the state and in other states.


Yet the preparation of a history of the bar, so far at least as that part of it which lies back of one's own generation is concerned, is attended with considerable difficulty. Probably few men who in their time play important parts in the community or even in the state or nation, leave so transient a reputation as lawyers do. A writer on this subject who took for his text. "The Lawyers of Fifty Years Ago, "said: "In thinking over the names of these distinguished men of whom I have been speaking, the thought has come to me how evanescent and limited is the lawyer's reputation, both in time and space. I doubt very much if a lawyer, whatever his standing, is much known to the profession out-side of his own state." Those who attain high rank in the profession must realize that with rare exceptions, their names are "writ in water." One may turn over the leaves of old reports and find repeated again and again as counsel in different cases the name of some lawyer who must have been in his time a power in the courts, only to wonder if he has ever seen that name outside of the covers of the dusty reports in which it appears. Hamilton, in the conventions, in the Federalist and in the treasury, and Webster in the Senate and in public orations, have perpetuated and increased the fame of lawyers Hamilton and Webster; but were it not for their services outside the strict limits of their profession, one might come upon their names at this date with much the same lack of recognition as that with which one finds in a reported case the names of some counsel, great perhaps in his own time, but long since forgotten.

And there is another difficulty in preparing such a history as this, brief and therefore necessarily limited to a few names, and that is that some may be omitted who are quite as worthy of mention as those whose names appear. It is not often that any one man stands as a lawyer head and shoulders above the other members of the profession ; and the same may be said of any half dozen men. In many cases the most careful measurement would fail to disclose a difference of more than a fraction of an inch, if any. Lives of eminent men who have at some period been practicing lawyers, have contained the assertion that while they were engaged in the practice of their profession they were the "leaders of the bar," but there is almost always room for doubt as to whether the title is not a brevet bestowed by the biographer alone. Therefore, the mention in this article of certain lawyers must not be taken as any disparagement of those who are not mentioned, and finally, it is to be observed that this article. so far as the bar is concerned, will treat not only of those members who are past and gone, but will make mention of some of those now in the flesh.

Let us first consider the early courts, as provided for by the general government during the existence of the state while then a part of the Territory of Michigan, Wisconsin, and under its own territorial laws: finally, the measures passed under the state constitutions creating judicial districts.


Iowa has an interesting territorial history. By an act of Congress, approved June 28, 1834, the Iowa country was attached to the Territory of Michigan. On April 20, 1836, it was made a part of the original Territory of Wisconsin: and two years later, on June 12, 1838. Congress passed an act establishing the Territory of Iowa. After eight years of territorial existence, Iowa was admitted to the Union as a state on December 28. 1846.


There really was no judicial districting of Iowa country during the two years that it formed a part of the Territory of Michigan. However, on September 6. 1834, by an act of the Legislative Council the territory lying west of the Mississippi and north of a line drawn due west from the lower end of Rock Island to the Missouri River was organized into the County of Dubuque. The territory south of this line was organized as the County of Des Moines.


Moreover, section three of this act of the Legislative Council of the Territory of Michigan provided that "a County Court shall be and hereby is established in each of the said counties;" while section six declared that "Process, civil and criminal, issued from the Circuit Court of the United States for the County of Iowa, shall run into all parts of said counties of Dubuque and Des Moines and shall be served by the sheriff or other proper officer, within either of said counties: writs of error shall be from the Circuit Court for the County of Iowa, to the county courts established  by this act,  in the same manner as they now issue from the Supreme Court to the several county and circuit courts of the territory.


Thus it will be seen that during the Michigan period the Iowa country formed an area which was subject to the jurisdiction of the Circuit Court of the United States for the County of Iowa.


Section nine of the organic act establishing the original Territory of Wisconsin made provision for dividing the territory into three judicial districts. Accordingly, among the first acts passed by the First Legislative Assembly was one entitled "An act to establish the judicial districts of the Territory of Wisconsin, and for other purposes."  By this act the counties of Dubuque and Des Moines were constituted the Second Judicial District and Judge David Irwin, of the Supreme Court of the territory, was appointed district judge. During the Wisconsin period, therefore, the Iowa country formed a distinct and independent judicial district.


The act of Congress dividing the Territory of Wisconsin and establishing the Territory of Iowa, provided that the new territory should be divided into three judicial districts and that each district should have a court presided over by one of the judges of the Supreme Court. Furthermore, and unless until the Legislature should pass some act of the state, the governor shall be given the power to divide the districts and assign the judges. In accordance with this provision William H. Conway, secretary of the territory, who had assumed the duties of acting governor prior to the arrival of (Gov. Robert Lucas, issued on July 25. 1838, a proclamation dividing the territory into three judicial districts. The first district consisted of the counties of Clayton, Dubuque. Jackson and Cedar and was assigned to Judge Thomas S. Wilson. Delaware County was one of those attached to Dubuque and consequently was in this district, and as we only have the status of Delaware County in mind, no attention will be paid to the other districts.

The first act of the Legislative Assembly of the Territory of Iowa, relative to judicial districts, was to divide the territory into three judicial districts, as follows. The First District was composed of the counties of Henry, Van Buren, Lee and Des Moines, and was assigned to Chief Justice Charles Mason. The Second District was composed of the counties of Louisa, Muscatine, Cedar, Johnson and Slaughter, and assigned to Judge Joseph Williams. The Third District was composed of the counties of Jackson, Dubuque, Scott and Clayton, and assigned to Thomas S. Wilson. Delaware County was attached to Dubuque and consequently was a part of the Third Judicial District.

The first constitution of the State of Iowa provided that "the judicial power shall be vested in a supreme court, district courts and such inferior courts as the General Assembly may from time to time establish." It was further provided that "the first session of the General Assembly shall divide the state into four districts, which may be increased as the exigencies of the case may require." Accordingly, the four districts were created and Delaware was placed in the second, among the following counties: Muscatine, Scott, Cedar, Clinton, Jackson, Jones, Dubuque and Clayton. The counties north and west of Delaware and Clayton were attached to the County of Clayton for judicial purposes.

The act of 1853 was "an act fixing the boundaries of the several judicial districts and the time of holding courts therein and constituted an entirely new district. By its provisions the state was divided into nine judicial districts and Delaware was assigned to the Second District, with Dubuque, Clayton, Cherokee, Winneshiek, Fayette, Buchanan, Black Hawk, Bremer, Chickasaw and Howard.

Under the Constitution of 1857 the General Assembly passed "An act creating eleven judicial districts and defining their boundaries." Delaware by this measure was placed in the Ninth District, with Dubuque, Buchanan. Black Hawk and Grundy.

An act was passed by the General Assembly 1886, by which the judicial districts of the state were reorganized and eighteen districts created. By this rearrangement Delaware came into the Tenth District, with Dubuque. Buchanan, Black Hawk and Grundy, where it remains at the present day. By the Act of 1894 the Nineteenth Judicial District was created and section one provided "that the County of Dubuque shall hereafter constitute the Nineteenth Judicial District." Section two defined the Tenth Judicial District as being composed of Delaware, Black Hawk and Grundy counties. This section was amended, so as to include Buchanan County. In 1896 the Twentieth Judicial District was created and now there are twenty judicial districts in the state.

A number of able, painstaking men of high legal attainments and judicial capacity have presided over this court in Delaware County. The first one was Thomas S. Wilson, of Dubuque, who was not only judge when the county was in the Third District, but also when it was a part of the Second and Ninth districts. James Burt, of Dubuque, Sylvester Bagg, of Waterloo, Winslow T. Barker, of Dubuque, and John M. Brayton, of Delhi, presided over this court, among others, when Delaware County was in the Ninth Judicial District. Since assigned to the Tenth Judicial District a long list of judges have come here to hold court, as the following names show : Judges, A. S. Blair, Manchester ; E. E. Cooley, Decorah ; C. F. Couch, Waterloo; L. 0. Hatch, McGregor ; J. L. Husted, Waterloo; D. J. Lenahan, Dubuque; Milo McGlathery, West Union; Charles W. Mullan, Waterloo; Samuel Murdoch, Elkader; John J. Nye, Independence; Reuben Nobles, McGregor; Fred O'Donnell, Dubuque; Franklin C. Piatt, Waterloo; Charles E. Ransier, Independence; James J. Tollerton, Cedar Falls. The present judges of the district are Franklin C. Piatt, Waterloo; George W. Dunham, Manchester ; and Charles W. Mullan, Waterloo.

Under the Territorial Act of 1844, whereby the Third Judicial District was created and the placing of Delaware therein, it was provided that the District Court should be held at Delhi, the county seat, on the first Monday after the fourth Monday in September of each year. Soon after the passage of the act Charles W. Hobbs was appointed clerk pro tem, of the United States District Court for the County of Delaware, by Judge T. S. Wilson. On the day set apart for convening of the first District Court in Delaware County, judge, officials, jurors, litigants and lawyers ( ?)  were on hand, as the following excerpt from the clerk's record attests:

Territory of Iowa, County of Delaware, ss.
'This being the day fixed by law, to wit, 30th of September, 1844, for the session of the District Court of the United States for said county, the court met. Present, Hon. Thomas S. Wilson, one of the judges of the Supreme Court and presiding judge of the Third Judicial District; William E. Leffingwell, United States marshal ; John W. Penn, sheriff ; and Charles W. Hobbs, clerk pro tem.

'By order of the court, the sheriff returned into court the venire for a grand jury, issued in behalf of said county, the following persons summoned and in attendance, viz: Gilbert D. Dillon, Henry Baker, John Stansberry, Samuel Dickson, Oliver P. Anderson, Edward Flinn, John Bradley, Daniel Noble, John Keeler, Fayette Phillips, Allen Wilson, Hiram Minkler, Adin Paddleford, David Moreland, Daniel G. Beck, Morris M. Reed, Joel Bailey, Drake Nelson, Ezra Hubbard and Liberty W. Cole."

It should be remembered that the first courthouse, built by the settlers, was a very crude affair and for some years stood without a roof, owing to inability of the county to raise funds for its completion. The upper story, designed for a jury room, was reached by an outside ladder, and with no roof and a single floor, was considered too open and public to be used for the purpose designed.  So that, after the jury had been instructed by Judge Wilson as to their duties, that body was taken, under escort of United States Marshal Leffingwell, to a little grove, a short distance southwest of the primitive temple of justice, for deliberation. David Moreland, foreman, sat on a stump, while his fellow jurors accommodated themselves to all that Nature had provided for them in the way of seats. There was little to be done by the grand jury. No complaints were presented and consequently, they found no "true bills." There being no necessity for a petit jury this first term, no summons were issued for a panel. One day finished the business of the court and on the evening of the 30th of September, 1844, the term was ended.

The only name appearing on record as an attorney at this time was that of James Crawford. "At this time," Judge Wilson is said to have related, "the log courthouse was the only building in Delhi.  Mr. Hobbs, the clerk, had a little cabin in which he was living west of the courthouse.  The road had not been opened to Delhi from Rockville, and I was obliged to go by way of the military road and up to Hopkinton, where I stayed over night with Mr. Leroy  Jackson. The next day I went to Delhi and held court, and took my dinner
out of Mr. Moreland's wagon." It is a far cry from the days of Judge Wilson and Delhi's roofless courthouse and Judge Dunham and Manchester's beautiful temple of justice.

The second term of court was a special one, commencing April 1, 1845, Judge Thomas S. Wilson, presiding. The grand jury was made up of Leroy Jackson, foreman; James Eads, Robert B. Hutson, William H. Martin, Lucius Kibbee, Jr., Phipps Wiltse, Malcolm McBane, Lawrence McNamee, Missouri Dickson, Robert Gamble, Daniel Brown, Moses Dean, William Phillips, Silas
Gilmore, James Cavanaugh, Henry W. Hoskins and John Hinkle.

The case of Missouri Dickson vs. Ezra Hubbard, an action to recover pay for the building of a chimney, was continued from the first term and tried by the first petit jury impanelled, which consisted of the following named persons: John Flinn, O. A. Olmstead, John Paddleford, Eli Wood, Orlean Blanchard, S. V. Thompson. Levi Billings, Jacob Dubois, James Collier. Samuel P. Whitaker, John Corbin and John Clark, Timothy Davis, attorney for Hubbard; Gen. James Wilson for Dickson. The plaintiff was given a verdict for $5.33.

The first criminal case was that of the United States vs. Jefferson Lowe, for the murder of Drury R. Dance, details of which crime are given on another page of this volume. Lowe's attorney was Gen. James Wilson. James Crawford was prosecuting attorney for the district, and was assisted by Timothy Davis. Lowe was acquitted but public opinion was strongly against him and the verdict was not a very popular one.

At this term, as far as is known, James Crawford, James Wilson. Timothy Davis and William Hamilton were the only lawyers in attendance, and for some years thereafter but few members of the bar had located in the county. Probably the first lawyer to settle at Delhi was Arial K. Eaton. Of him and other lawyers of the Delaware bar, Col. John H. Peters, one of its oldest and ablest members, has given for this article the following impressions. He says :

       "I was admitted to file bar in Connecticut, then immigrated to Illinois and practiced in the latter state a year or eighteen months. My associate in Illinois was one Tom Turner, who had a friend here in the person of a Methodist preacher. Turner induced me to come here and defend the preacher, so I did, making my way to Delaware County on horseback. This was about the year 1852, and upon my arrival in Delhi I found Arial K. Eaton already enjoying a practice at the bar. He was probably the first lawyer to take up a permanent residence in the old county seat. When 1 met him he was a man of middle age  and I soon discovered he was more of a politician than a lawyer. He induced me, however, to locate in Delhi and we had arranged to enter the practice together but he was appointed receiver of the land district at Washington and pulled out.

"The next lawyer to settle in Delhi, if my memory serves me right, was Daniel Baker, a man of but little education and a lawyer of no very threat ability or attainments.

"Zina A. Wellman came from the State of New York and located here for the practice of his profession. He was well read in the principles of law but had no pugnacious attribute in his composition. He was easily discouraged and did not amount to much of a lawyer. I practiced with him about a year but never could get a decision from him on any legal  question of importance. He died a few years ago in Cherokee.

"A. E. House was a natural lawyer. If he had had energy in proportion to his ability, he would have made one of the best attorneys of the state, for he was highly successful. House was a major in the Sixth Iowa Cavalry and fought the Indians in the Northwest for three years. He returned to Delhi but never practiced after he got back and died three or four years ago in the insane asylum at Independence.

"Col. N. L. Ingalls came from Jefferson County, New York, two or three years after Colonel Peters, and located at Delhi. Col. S. G. Van Anda appeared about the same time. Ingalls was a finely educated man and successful lawyer. Van Anda was also a good lawyer. The latter died in an insane asylum at Independence. Ingalls went to Kansas on a visit, which was coupled with a business matter, took sick, died and was buried there.

"William Crozier stood high at this bar and was a very fine lawyer. He only practiced a year or two, however, and then went into the army.


"Wesley A. Heath had a natural legal mind and I think was as fine a craftsman of legal papers as any lawyer in Delaware County, but he was extremely modest. We practiced together for years. He would prepare a case so thoroughly that I could take his brief and try the cause as if it was my own. He spent his last days in Delhi and was buried there.

"George Wattson and his brother John were both fairly good lawyers but intemperate habits got the better of them, so that they failed to prove a success in their chosen profession.

J. M. Brayton practiced under the firm name of House, Hrayton & Wattson. He was elected to the bench in 1871 when this county formed a part of the Ninth Judicial District. He had not the judicial mind of an order that fitted him for the bench, so that his friends prevailed upon him to resign from the position lie had attained.

"Jerome B.. Satterlee was one of Delaware County's able lawyers. For some years past he has been in the land department at Washington.

"Samuel Hussey and Eli C. Perkins early began practice at Delhi and the latter is still enjoying a good legal business.

"Ray B. Griffin was a good lawyer but had only a limited practice, as he devoted most of his time to speculation in real estate, in which he was very successful and became a large landowner. His practice was confined mostly to real-estate matters. Mr. Griffin served the county both as treasurer and recorder. He died some years ago while attending to some  business matters at

"Charles S. Crosby was a very good lawyer and at one time was attorney- general of New Hampshire. He was a large hearted man and was well equipped with a thorough education. He lived in Manchester but has long since passed away. He was a brother of a member of the firm of Washburn-Crosby, the great millers of the Northwest.

"Simeon L. Doggett located in Delhi about 1858. He was a good man, a leader in the Congregational Church and was justice of the peace while he lived here. He had no force, however, and was not a success as a lawyer. He moved away some years ago and is now deceased.

"Charles Husted had a natural legal mind and was well versed in the principles of law but did not succeed in practice. He was a soldier in the Twenty-first Iowa Infantry and died some years since. One of his daughters, Mrs. Robert Denton, resides in Manchester.

"Dennis Ryan was admitted to the bar at Delhi, having read in the office of Griffin & Crosby. He practiced but very little here and finally removed to one of the Dakotas, where he continued in practice with more success. He is still living."

Of the present members of the Delaware County bar but little will be said in this place, as sketches of many of the more prominent ones can be found in the second volume. Col. John H. Peters is the nestor of the bar and is enjoying the shady side of life in retirement. He came to the county about the year 1852 from Freeport, Illinois, to which place he had removed from Hartford, Connecticut. He was one of the leading lawyers of his day and is the only living member of that body of men who gave to the State of Iowa its present constitution, which was adopted in the year 1857. Colonel Peters made a brilliant record in the Civil war.

Charles E. Bronson was born at Lee Center, Oneida County, New York, November 21, 1841, came to Iowa City with his parents in 1855, studied law with the firm of Fairall & Beal, was admitted to the bar in 1866, and came directly to Manchester, where he practiced law until his death. In 1868 he married Jennie E. Shelden, who still resides in Manchester. Unto this worthy couple were born five sons, four of whom are still living and one of them, Henry, is practicing law in Manchester. Charley Bronson was elected to the State Senate in 1877 and made a valuable member. One of the prominent business men of Manchester was asked the question why he always consulted Charley Bronson. He replied, "because he is a good lawyer and an honest man." When Charles E. Bronson passed away Manchester lost one of its best citizens. For many years he was the .senior member of the law firm of Bronson & Carr.

Judge Blair came to Delaware County from Huron County, Ohio, in 1858, his parents locating in Delaware County in 1855. Here the father, David J., died in 1861, and the mother followed him some years later. Judge Blair received a collegiate education in the Buckeye state and read law at Norwalk, Ohio, where he was admitted to the bar in 1854. He was a lawyer by nature as well as by adoption and has been very active in the profession. He traveled the circuit in early days and became what is known as an "all around lawyer."  While actively engaged in the profession, he had a large practice, many of his cases being of more than ordinary importance. He was elected to the bench and served as judge of the District Court from 1894 until 1906, opening the first term of court held in the new courthouse at Manchester in 1894.


     Calvin Yoran, senior member of the firm of Yoran & Yoran, came from his native state, New York, to Delaware in 1870. He began the practice of law in 1871, at Manchester, at which time he was admitted to the bar. He is still in practice here and is one of the leading men at Manchester in his profession.


     E. M. Carr is not only one of the leading members of the Delaware County bar, but also is recognized as an editorial writer of force and fluency. He is a native of New York and of Irish parentage. Mr. Carr immigrated to Iowa with his parents in 1856 and located in Buchanan County. His entry at the State University culminated in graduation from its law department in 1872. Locating at Manchester that year, Mr. Carr formed a partnership with Ray B. Griffin, which continued until 1884, when the firm of Bronson & Carr was formed. Since Mr. Bronson's death he has practiced alone and at the same time given attention to his newspaper, the Manchester Democrat.


     William H. Norris has been a very successful lawyer at this bar, coming with his parents to Iowa from Massachusetts in 1861. He received a common- school education, spent a short time in college, taught school, and in 1881 graduated from the law department of the State University. He removed to Manchester in 1882 and began the practice of his profession. The next year he formed a partnership with A. S. Blair, which continued four years. In 1888 the firm of Blair, Dunham & Norris was formed and continued for some years as the leading law firm of the county. Mr. Norris is not only prominently identified with this bar, but is also largely interested in several banks of the county.


     E. B. Stiles is the present county attorney. He is a son of E. R. Stiles, a former pastor of the Congregational Church. E. B. was superintendent of the Manchester schools for several years. He then read law, was admitted to the bar and commenced the practice in Manchester. He is not only an able lawyer but a Christian gentleman and one of Manchester's reliable citizens, having before him a bright future.


     Those practicing at the Delaware County bar at the present time are : E. B. Stiles, W. H. Norris, R. W. Tirrill, Henry Bronson, Arnold & Arnold (H. P. and Floyd H. Arnold), Carr & Carr (E. M. and Hubert Carr), J. H. Peters, Hugh Clemans, Fred B. Blair, A. M. Cloud, Yoran & Yoran (Calvin and Melvin J. Yoran), at Manchester; P. M. Cloud and W. I. Millen, Earlville; E. C. Perkins, Delhi.


~ The History of Delaware County, Iowa, Pages 153-161. Published by Chicago: Western Historical Co., 1914.

~Contributed by Phyllis O'Roark

~ transcribed by Constance Diamond for Delaware County IAGenWeb


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