July 18, 1872, Henry Ford convened the first term of the District Court ever held in Lyon County.  Lyon County was attached to Woodbury County for judicial purposes, and upon its organization as a county, it remained in the same district and circuit, having the same judges in the District and Circuit Courts, respectively, as Woodbury County.

October 10, 1872, Addison Oliver convened the first term of the Circuit Court ever held in the county.  Court at that time was held in the old schoolhouse that stood for so many years near the Rock Rapids library building.  In 1872 this building was located north of town in Riverside Township, but was afterwards moved to the place named.  F. A. Keep was the first clerk of the District Court.  The Judge Oliver mentioned above resided and still resides in Monona County, and is the father of the Judge Oliver now on the bench in this district.

J. K. P. Thompson and John F. Eccleston were the two earlier practitioners at the bar residing in Rock Rapids.  For many years Sioux City lawyers were employed and tried a large proportion of the cases in this county.  The dockets show the names repeatedly of such attorneys from Sioux City as Joy & Wright, J. H. Swain, R. J. Chase, O. J. Taylor, S. M. Marsh, Pendleton & Wakefield, and perhaps others, showing that the litigation in our county was, even in that early date, conducted by men of prominence in the profession.  A somewhat peculiar coincidence appears in the name of the firm last mentioned, for today there is, practicing in Sioux City, a firm by the same name, comprised of the sons of the old firm.  Each member of the old firm was a judge in this district and Judge Wakefield, a member of the old firm, has been continuously on the bench since 1886.

Aside from the Sioux City lawyers, Jordan & Barclay, George W. Argo, D. A. W. Perkins, J. F. Glover, O. S. Gifford, C. H. Winsor and Barrett & Morton appear to have been engaged in much of the early litigation.

In April 1874, Samuel C. Hyde commenced his first case in our District Court.  He practiced here for a number of years, then removed to Sioux City, but kept up his practice here and later moved to the State of Washington, where he achieved prominence, both at the bar and in politics, being at one time Congressman from that state.  At last reports he was still residing at Spokane, Washington.

In October 1876, T. C. Thompson moved to Lyon County and formed a partnership for the purpose of law with his brother, J. K. P. Thompson, which was continued for a number of years.  At the present time T. C. Thompson is one of the justices of the peace of Rock Township.

After serving for a number of years as clerk of the District Court, F. A. Keep practiced law in this county until he moved to South Dakota.

In 1879 C. W. Williams formed a co-partnership for the practice of law with John F. Eccleston.  Captain Williams removed here until the early eighties.

D. C. Whitehead practiced here a number of years prior to his death.  Peter C. Young arrived in Lyon County early in the eighties and was only here a short time before his death.

John F. Eccleston was not only prominent in the bar of the county prior to 1880, but was also prominently connected with the county’s official acts. Many of those still residing among us are able to recall him with vividness and repeat stories and anecdotes of his pioneer life.

During the same period J. K. F. Thompson not only practiced law, but was engaged in real estate business; but is better known from his connection with the banking interests from the period of 1880 to his death in 1903.  In 1881, with Mr. Murphy, he formed a co-partnership for the practice of law, which continued about one year.

B. L. Richards commenced his first case in the District Court in February 1880.  Although Mr. Richards was engaged in the practice of law for many years, his principal occupation since coming to this county has been that of a banker.  At the present time Mr. Richards still resides in this county.

In 1874 the first election of Judges for this district, after the formation of Lyon County, was held.  C. H. Lewis was elected District Judge and J. R. Zuver Circuit Judge.  Judge Zuver was re-elected in 1876, and Judge Lewis in 1878, and each was re-elected in 1880 and 1882, respectively.  During all of that time S. M. March, of Sioux City, was District Attorney.  In 1884 Daniel D. McCallum was elected Circuit Judge and in 1886 C. H. Lewis, George W. Wakefield and Scott M. Ladd were elected District Judges, and in the same year, Judge McCallum was re-elected Circuit Judge.  While Judge Ladd was on the district bench here, he was elected Judge of the Supreme Court of the State of Iowa, and at this time is still on the Supreme bench.  At the time of his election to the District bench he resided at Sheldon.

In the early eighties a number of young men located in this county for the purpose of practicing law, who ultimately succeeded in winning high places in their profession and establishing splendid practices.  These men were J. M. Parsons, E. C. Roach, H. G. McMillan, A. Van Wagenen and E. Y. Greenleaf. The first to arrive here was J. M. Parsons.  In April 1881, Mr. Parsons formed a partnership with John F. Eccleston and from that time he has been actively engaged in practice in this county.  In 1892 he was elected County Attorney and served one term, and since that time he has held a prominent place in the councils of the Democratic Party of the state.  He has won more than local fame in connection with the bond litigation in the Federal and State Appellate Courts, where he has looked after the interests of the bondholders. 

In the latter part of 1882 E. C. Roach commenced to practice law in the county, and soon won a prominent place at the bar.  In much of the bond litigation, above mentioned, Mr. Roach has been connected with the opposite side of the cases from Mr. Parsons.  He has also been prominent in politics, having at one time been a representative of this district in the State Legislature, and for many years has been the county chairman of the Republican Party.  Those acquainted with the recent history of the county have not forgotten how near he came to receiving the nomination for Congress recently.

Early in 1882, Van Wagenen & McMillan, a firm of young lawyers from Washington, Iowa, located here, and for many years were prominent attorneys in this place.  Mr. Van Wagenen was appointed Judge of the District Court to fill a vacancy caused by the resignation of Judge Ladd in 1892.  Mr. McMillan was County Attorney for a number of years, was very prominent in county politics, and later, as a member and chairman of the State Central Committee of the Republican Party, and was prominent in the state.  A few years ago he was appointed United States District Attorney, which position he still holds.  Shortly after his appointment he moved to Cedar Rapids, but still retains many of his interests here.  Van Wagenon & McMillan were the first lawyers, apparently, to see the possibilities of the bond litigation that afterward developed, and were retained on behalf of the municipalities, to represent them in the litigation.

The last of the young lawyers to arrive here in the early eighties, who has been so prominently connected with the law business of this county, is E. Y. Greenleaf.  He arrived in 1885.  Mr. Greenleaf succeeded in building up a splendid practice as the result of his energy and ability.  He has been prominently connected with the bond litigation, usually representing the township or county.  In many cases Mr. Greenleaf and Mr. Roach appear together, representing the municipalities.  The attorneys named, commencing with Mr. Parsons, and ending with Mr. Greenleaf, for a period of some twenty years, have held pre-eminent rank in all matters pertaining to the advancement and welfare of the town and county.  With the exception of Van Wagenen and McMillan, the men named are still residing in the county and engaged in their professional work.

In 1881 H. B. Pierce commenced the practice of law here, but is better known on account of his connection with the real estate and loan business.

In 1888 Mellette & Hicks located in Rock Rapids for the practice of law, but only remained a short time.

A. E. Wallace, brother of Dr. Wallace, commenced to practice law here in the same year.  At about the same time O. O. Hall came here for the same purpose.  Mr. Hall remained here for a few years, after which he moved to Webster City, where he still resides.

George H. Stillman, John D. Stewart and Simon Fisher located here a short time later.  After practicing law a short time Mr. Stewart became interested in a bank at Alvord, and later moved to Cedar Rapids, where he is now engaged in the practice of law.  Mr. Stillman practiced in our county until 1897, at which time he returned to Council Bluffs, and is now engaged in the practice in that city.  Mr. Fisher, shortly after coming to the county, was elected County Attorney, and has held that same position continuously until the present time.  He has represented the State in the majority of the criminal cases that have originated in the county.

Later, John W. Dunlap, Millard F. Fairlamb, F. E. Wagoner, J. A. VanWagenen, S. D. Riniker, D. C. Greenleaf, A. H. Davidson, J. A. Crose, W. Hoopes, Lee Swearingen. W. E. McQueen, John W. Kachelhoffer and C. J. Miller commenced to practice in our county.  Mr. Dunlap, a few years ago, moved to Flandreau, South Dakota, and is now located in that place.  Mr. Fairlamb, after practicing here a number of years, located at Delta, Colorado. D. C. Greenleaf is now practicing at Minot; W. E. Hoopes at Carrington,  both in North Dakota.  Mr. Davidson is now Secretary of the Executive Council at Des Moines, Iowa.  It is reported that Mr. Sweringen is teaching in a law school in Arkansas, and Mr. Wagner is practicing at Alexandria, South Dakota.  Mr. McQueen is at Berthold, North Dakota.  Mr. Riniker, Mr. Kachelhoffer and Mr. Miller are still in practice in Rock Rapids, and Mr. Crose in the real estate business.

In the seventies some of the early lawyers of Lyon County were located at Beloit, but of late years the bar of the county, outside of Rock Rapids, has consisted of Louis Vogt, of George; J. P. Tinley, of Doon; Wm. T. Ryan, of Larchwood and Chris Erickson, of Inwood; all of whom are still located a the places named.


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