~Source: The Courts and Legal Profession of Iowa,
Volume II, Hon. Chester C. Cole, historian and Hon.
E.C. Ebersole, editor; Chicago, Ill., H.C. Cooper,
Jr., & Co., 1907; pgs 652-658.
Franklin county was organized in 1855, the
election of officers being in August. Prior to this
the county had been attached first to Chickasaw, and
afterwards to Hardin county, for judicial purposes.
James Reeve was elected first county judge, S.R.
Miller first clerk, and Q.A. Jorden prosecuting
After the organization of the county had been
effected, the attention of the people was directed to
the question as to where the county-seat should be
located. C.J. McFarland was then district judge, and
to him Dr. Mitchell went with a petition to have
commissioners appointed. The settlers had decided
upon whom they wanted appointed as commissioners, but
this counted for nothing with Judge McFarland.
Imperiously waving Dr. Mitchell aside with an oath,
"I appoint Dr. Ault one of the
commissioners and I don't care whether the people
of Franklin county like it or not, and I also
appoint M.M. Trumbull of Butler county and J.D.
Thompson of Hardin county, who voted for me, as
the other two commissioners,"
and Hampton was chosen as the county-seat.
The first county court was held March 3, 1856, Judge
J.B. Reeve presiding. In November, 1856, S.R.
Mitchell resigned the office of clerk of court and
Judge Reeve appointed James Thompson to fill the
vacancy. In 1859 the supervisors took charge of
county court matters, except the issuance of marriage
licenses, probate matters and civil cases. The county
court still held its sessions and continued to do so
until 1869, when it was abolished by law; but nothing
of interest transpired, as the time was all spent in
C.J. McFarland, of Polk county, was judge of the
district, but he never held a term of court, but he
issued many official orders affecting Franklin
county. He was an odd character although one of the
brightest men that ever presided over the courts of
the Fifth or Eleventh judicial districts. He was born
in Ohio, and removed to Lee county, Iowa, in 1844. He
was prosecuting attorney of that county several
years, and also represented that county in the
legislature. He afterward moved to Boone county,
where he was appointed judge of the Fifth judicial
district and was afterward elected. He died at
Boonsborough, April, 1869. Many anecdotes are related
of the Judge, some of which are too good to be lost.
He had nicknames for many of the attorneys who
practiced before his court. James W. Wood he called
"Old Timber," and Governor Eastman
"Old Spot," from the fact of his being
marked with small-pox. On one occasion, while Old
Timber was addressing the court, an ass walked up
near one of the windows and set up a terrible bray.
The judge quickly turned to Mr. Wood and cried out:
"Sit down, Old Timber, sit down; one at a time,
if you please."
In March, 1857, the Thirteenth judicial district was
created, composed of Franklin, Butler, Grundy,
Hamilton, Hardin, Marshall, Story and Wright; to
which Webster was added in February, 1858.
The first district court in Franklin county, as the
records show, was held in March, 1857, at Hampton,
with Hon. J.D. Thompson, judge of the Thirteenth
judicial district, presiding. It was a very busy
term, as all of the cases that had been accumulating
for years came up for trial. In those days there was
no district attorney, the work of that office being
done by a prosecuting attorney, and R.F. Piatt acted
in that capacity. The first entry upon the judgment
docket of Franklin county was dated 1856.
By the constitution of 1857, Franklin county became a
part of the Eleventh judicial district.
James D. Thompson, the first judge of the Thirteenth
judicial district, was born in 1832, in New York
State. He lived with his parents on a farm until
seventeen years of age, when he went to Niagara
county and taught school. At the close of his school
in the spring of 1850 he resumed his studies at the
academy at Fredonia, and in his leisure hours read
law. In 1854 he removed to Iowa, and on the evening
of June 15th he walked into Eldora with his satchel
on his back, and soon opened a law office. At the
next regular election he was elected prosecuting
attorney, and in the summer of 1855 he became judge
of Hardin county by the resignation of Judge
Alexander Smith. In 1857 he was elected district
judge. In 1861 he raised and commanded company G,
First Iowa cavalry, and returned home in 1864. In
1874 he closed his office at Eldora, and in 1875
removed to California.
John Porter, the successor of Judge Thompson, was
born in Pennsylvania, April 14, 1828. He worked on
the farm in the summer and taught school winters, and
read law, and was admitted to the bar in 1854. In
1856 he removed to Mason City. In 1858 he was elected
judge for the newly organized district, which postion
he occupied until 1866, when he resigned.
Daniel D. Chase was appointed by the governor
February 5, 1866, to succeed Judge Porter, and he was
elected four years later. He was born in New York
State July 4, 1830. He attended the district schools
in the winters and labored on the farm the balance of
the year. The four ensuing years he passed at the
Ames academy and Cazenovia seminary, where he
acquired a good academic education. He read law, and
was admitted to the New York bar January 1, 1856, and
entered at once upon the practice of his profession.
In 1858 he removed to Webster City. In 1865, while
filling the position of district attorney, he was
appointed by the governor to the office of district
judge to fill a vacancy. He was twice elected to that
Isaac J. Mitchell was born in Ohio, May 31, 1827. He
worked on his father's farm until he was nineteen
years of age. He attended a high school in Ohio a few
months to prepare for teaching. He read law in
Indiana. He removed to Boonesborough. In 1868 he was
elected state senator. In 1874 he was elected judge
of the eleventh judicial district. He was a good
lawyer, and he made an excellent judge.
J.W. McKenzie of Hampton was elected judge July 10,
1878. He was compelled to resign on account of ill
health and died shortly afterwards. He was born in
Ohio July 2, 1843.
H.C. Henderson was appointed judge of the district
upon the death of Judge McKenzie. He filled the
position to the satisfaction of everybody and was
elected for the full term beginning January 1, 1883.
Samuel L. Rose was the first circuit judge, and was
elected in the fall of 1868. He came to Iowa in 1862
and located at Rose Grove. He served as judge four
J.H. Bradley was the successor of Judge Rose, and was
elected in the fall of 1872. He began his work
January, 1873, and was re-elected in 1876, and served
his second term ending January, 1881.
D.D. Miracle was elected successor to Judge Bradley
in the fall of 1880. He resided at Webster city.
Among those who located and practiced law in Franklin
county, who have either moved away, quit practice, or
are deceased are the following:
R.F. Piatt, Samuel B. Jackson, B.A. Jordan,
T.H. Baker, A.H. Bridgemen, W.N. Davidson, J.J.
Layman, N.B. Chapman, M.A. Leahy, John T.
Stearns, Col. A.T. Reeve, A.G. Kellam, John H.
King, J.D. Giffen, J.H. Bland, J.F. Haight and
In early day M.M. Trumbull, of Clarksville, Butler
county, was connected frequently with law cases in
this county. He was a young man and full of fun. When
he came to Franklin county he would often stop with
C.M. Leggett, and he happened along once just in time
to help Leggett out of trouble. Leggett had a
neighbor named Webster, who lived across the creek,
and who had a large herd of cattle. The cattle were
troubling Leggett in the fall by getting into his
corn field, but as there was no herd law in those
days it was impossible to get any redress. Finally
some of Webster's cattle threw down the fence, and
Leggett's own cow got in and ate so much corn that
she died from the effects thereof. Leggett was the
only justice of the peace in the county, and before
whom to sue Webster he could not imagine; but
Trumbull came along, stopped over night, and to him
Leggett confided his troubles. Trumbull went to work
and drew up a notice to Webster, citing him to appear
before Judge Reeve, the county judge, at the next
term of court, and told Leggett to go over and serve
it. "But the county judge has no jurisdiction in
such cases," said Leggett. "That makes no
difference," said Trumbull, "the chances
are ten to one that he don't know it."
Accordingly, Leggett went over, and with great pomp
and ceremony read his notice to Webster. This scared
Webster, and he began negotiations for a compromise
forthwith, which ended by his giving Leggett another
cow, and paying for extra trouble and an attorney's
fee besides, which Trumbull donated to Leggett, as
perhaps his (Trumbull's) conscience would not allow
him to take money for such advice.
W.F. Harriman was born in New Hampshire August 16,
1841. He was educated in the public schools of his
native town and in the New London Literary and
Scientific Institution. Before his parents removed to
Iowa in 1860, he worked on a farm and taught school.
He read law, and was admitted to practice in 1869. He
began to practice at Cherokee. In 1876 he removed to
Hampton, Iowa, retiring from active life in 1888. In
1891 he was elected to the house, serving in the
Twenty-fourth general assembly. In 1895 he was
elected to the state senate, serving in the
Twenty-sixth and Twenty-seventh general assemblies.
He was the author of the act creating the department
David W. Evans was born in Wisconsin, April 10, 1858.
His parents, Evan J. and Anne (Davis) Evans, settled
in Iowa county the year David W. was born. He was
educated at the public schools of Williamsburg, Iowa,
Iowa City academy, graduating from the State
University of Iowa, collegiate course, in 1886. He
then read law at the State University, graduating in
1891. He was admitted to practice that year. In 1893
he removed to Minnesota, where he practiced his
profession ten years as a member of the firm of Evans
& Evans. In 1903 he returned to Hampton, Iowa,
where he has since been in practice. In politics he
is a republican and served six years as prosecuting
attorney while in Pipestone, Minnesota. In November,
1906, he was elected district judge of the Eleventh
William D. Evans was born in Wisconsin, May 10, 1852.
In 1858 his parents removed to Iowa, locating at
Williamsburg. In 1879 Judge Evans moved to Franklin
county. He taught school four winters in Iowa county
and summers he worked in the normal institute, and he
graduated from Iowa College in 1878. In 1879 he
graduated from the law department of the State
University, and was admitted to practice that year.
He began to practice at Hampton, Iowa, and in 1903,
he was elected district judge. He was a member of the
firm of Taylor & Evans from September, 1879, to
January, 1903. He has served two terms as county
John M. Hemingway, of Hampton, Iowa, was born
December 4, 1848, in Michigan, where he resided until
he was twenty-five years of age, when he removed to
Franklin county, Iowa. He was graduated from the law
department of the State University in 1875, and began
to practice law, as a partner of Judge McKenzie,
under the firm name of McKenzie & Hemingway, at
Hampton, Iowa, which relation continued until
McKenzie went on the bench. He then formed a
partnership with T.C. McKenzie, which continued until
the death of Mr. McKenzie in the fall of 1884. In
1886 he was in partnership with D.W. Henley one year.
In 1887 he moved to Kansas City where he remained two
years, and at the end of this time he returned to
Hampton, and has since been continuously in practice
there. He was elected mayor in 1890, and has served
three consecutive terms.