The History of Keokuk County, Iowa



As has already been remarked, Judge Williams arrived in the county and proceeded to hold the first court, which did not arise to the dignity of a court, there being no jury impaneled and no cases tried, the business being confined to the naturalization of some aliens and the admission of two candidates to the bar. The first term of court was not, then, this in reality, but the one which was held the following year.

This court was held in the court-house in Sigourney, beginning on the 28th day of July and continuing for six days. Both grand jury and petit jury were impaneled and the court docket shows the following business-transacted:

"State cases: United States vs. John Henderson and William John Sturgon; indicted for malicious mischief; jury trial as to Henderson and verdict of guilty; fined fifty cents. Court trial as to Sturgon and same result.

"United States v. Moses Beard; indicted for resisting officer; jury trial and verdict of  not guilty; defendant discharged.

"United States v. Cynthia Ann Beard; indicted for resisting officer; indictment quashed.

"United States v. William B. Thompson and Elijah A. Lathrop; indicted for larceny; indictment qnashed.

"United States v. John Henderson; indicted for firing the prairie; indictment quashed.

"United States v. John Henderson, Nicholas Henderson, Thomas Henderson eon, Pleasant Sanford, Joseph Middleton and William John Sturgon; indicted for riot; indictment quashed."

Beside these State cases there were forty civil cases disposed of.

The first indictment found by the grand jury of Keokuk county was against John Henderson and William Sturgon. The court records in the case run as follows:

"UNITED STATES                     }
                vs.                                    }   Recognized for malicious mischief.
WM. JOHN STURGON.             }

"The grand jury now here returns a true bill of indictment against the said defendants for malicious mischief.


"This day came the district prosecutor, as well as one of the defendants, Wm. John Sturgon, in proper person, and consent that this cause shall be submitted to the court on said defendants' plea of guilty to the first count in said indictment without a jury; whereupon the court, being fully advised in the premises, on said defendants plea of guilty, assesses the fine of the said defendant at fifty cents, and thereupon it is ordered that plaintiff have and recover of said defendant, Wm. John Sturgon, to and for the use of Keokuk county, a fine of fifty cents and the costs of this suit, and that said defendant stand committed till this order be complied with.

"UNITED STATES          }
               vs.                          }  Indictment for malicious mischief.

"And now comes E. H. Thomas, Esq., district prosecutor, and the said defendant in his own proper person, comes, and being arraigned, pleads 'not guilty,' whereupon comes a jury, to-wit: James Whitson, Riley Bales, Amaziah Covey, Lewis Crill, Wm. Scearcy, Horace Bagley, James M. Brown, Joshua Hadley, David McEwin, Robert Linder, Joseph Hillery and Wm. Dixon, who, being impaneled and sworn well and truly to try and true deliverance make between the United States and said defendant, on their oaths do say that the said defendant is guilty, and assess the fine to be paid by him at fifty cents; whereupon it is considered by the court that the said United States recover of said defendant for the use of the county of Keokuk, the said sum of fifty cents, as aforesaid, together with costs of this prosecution, and that said John Henderson stand committed till the fine and costs are paid."

The Sheriff's return runs thus:

"Fine, fifty cents; costs, $31.30; levied the within on one three-year-old bay colt, August 12, 1845; no sale; satisfied.

G. W. HAYES, Sheriff."

The court record for this term closes with the following:

"On motion of W. W. Chapman, Esq., it is ordered that the following proceedings be spread upon the record of this court, to-wit:

"At a meeting of the Keokuk County Temperance Society, held at the court-house, in Sigourney, on Friday evening, July 31, 1845, President, A. W. Blair, Secretary, S. A. James, the following pledge was presented, and signed by the following named persons, to-wit:

"We, the undersigned, by hereto setting our names, pledge our sacred honor, each to the other, that we will abstain from all intoxicating drink as a beverage:

A. W. Blair, S. A. James, D. C. Stover, G. B. Cook, Nancy Cook, C. A. Jewett, Lydia Hulbert, Britton Edwards, W. W. Chapman, G. Acheson, Joseph Adams, Wm. Hall, Joseph Hillery, Ebenezer John, Lewis B. Crill, John Shaver, Thos. Alexander, E. Hollingsworth, Lemuel Hall, W. C. Brown, Wm. R. Bailes, John Scott, Alex. Cochran, J. Williams, Wm. Hulbert, S. Harned, J. B. Way, Jacob Shoemaker, A. M. Lyon, Jas. Wiliams, Wm. Scearcy, Wm. Dixon, G. W. Waters, Joel Skinner, W. R. Harrison, Wm. Williams, Thos. Frazier, I. D. Stark, Wm. Vincent, Wm. Shaver, Wm. Shockley, Curtis Crawford, Elisha Byers, Stephen Fowler, Thomas Stanfield, Wm. D. Shugart, M. B. Friend, J. M. Brown, James Whitson, E. Shugart, W. J. Carruthers, Joshua Hadley, E. G. Stanfield, Joseph Hockett, Horace Bagley, G. M. Holliday. J. R. Hobson, A. Covey, A. P. Moody, J. Crawford, Eli Haworth, J. Hollingsworth, M. Harmon, Andrew Taylor, R. L. Mark, O. Tharp, M. G. Driskell, James Small.

W. W. Chapman, Esq., offered the following resolution, which was passed:

"Resolved, that the foregoing pledge and signatures be placed on the record of the District Court, now in session, as a tribute of respect to the Hon. Joseph Williams, judge of said court, and as a memorial of the unexampled revival of temperance and total abstinence."

The second court met in the court-house, in Sigonrney, on Wednesday the 16th day of March, 1846, and the grand jury was composed of Henry Pringle, Josiah Burge, Alex. Jones, Joel Long, Green Atwood, John Palmer, Amos Barnett, D. P. Helm, Elijah Shockley, John Shockley, John Mealey, John Baker, R. I. Harris, Daniel Conner, Jeremiah Fye, Evan Thomas, Moses E. McConnell, Daniel McEwen, Joseph Stephenson, Caster Troxel, David Stout, Sr., A. H. Haskell, Richard Quinton.

The first trial by jury recorded this term was entitled the United States vs. Thomas Hendrix, indicted for perjury; it runs as follows:

"This day comes the prosecuting attorney in behalf the United States, and the defendant in his own proper person, being arraigned, pleads, ' not guilty,' and for trial puts himself upon the country, whereupon comes a jury of twelve good and lawful men, to-wit:

"John Lacy, John Hooker, Frederick Bucher, James Hutton, John Borough, D. G. Burgess, Charles Connor, Elijah Stout, Lewis Gregory, George Wertz, A. M. Lyon and William Trueblood, who, being impaneled and sworn the truth to speak upon the issue joined between the parties, after hearing the evidence, and being charged by the court, upon their oaths do say, and find the defendant, Thomas Hendrix, not guilty, as he stands charged in the indictment. It is therefore adjudged by the court the defendant be released thereof, and that he go hence thereof without day."

During this term of court was tried the first case for violation of the liquor law. Benjamin F. Edwards was the defendant; he was found guilty and fined fifty dollars.

The first change of venue granted was in the case of the State of Iowa vs. Joseph Knox, indicted for inducing an elector to vote contrary to his own inclination; the case was sent to Iowa county.

During the September term, 1847, which was the first term held at Lancaster, the following record was made:

"Comes now Joseph Knox, Esq., by Curtis Bates, Esq., and moves to adjourn this court to the town of Sigourney. The said motion being argued and heard, the court being advised in the premises, it is ordered by the court that the said motion be overruled."

The first citizens naturalized in the county were Andrew McWilliams, a native of Ireland, and Michael McGinnis, Charles C. Sangster and Edward Redhead, of Great Britain and Ireland, all naturalized at the first term of court, July 1, 1844.

Transcribed by Pat Wahl. Thank you, Pat!

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