FIRST COURTS AND JURORS.

Transcribed from the Book
"Counties of Cumberland, Jasper and Richland Illinois"
Originally published in 1884 by F.A. Battey & Co., Chicago, Ill.

    The first Circuit Court was held in the village of Greenup, and presided over by Hon. William Wilson, a man of eminent judicial ability, with Alfred Kitchell as State’s Attorney, and James Ewart as Clerk. The Grand Jurors that served on this court were as follows: M. Ruffner, foreman, Matthias Roberts, William Hutton, James Carpenter, Elcana Bright, James Phipps, Samuel Owings, Samuel B. Fairbanks, Jorden Brown, Benj. Drummond, Stephen Wait, Chipman Webster, John D. Gardner, R. K. Boyd, Jas. Cissna1 William E. Smith, John Feltner, David F. Smith, and David B. Frizzell. It is reported that this jury when convened in council presented a very grotesque and novel appearance. During the time they were transacting business they were as sanctimonious as a Presbyterian deacon, but as soon as an interval of leisure interposed they would straddle their oaken benches in pairs, vis-a-vis, and engage in the harmless but scientific game of “mumble peg,” or make a practical demonstration of each others capacity as a “high low jack in the game.” To be skilled in this latter accomplishment was as fashionable and indispensable in those days as it was requisite for a swallow-tail coat of home-made jeans to be “covered all over with shining buttons.” “Old Davy Wisner” seems to have been among the first unfortunates that was introduced to this August body of juryman as a malefactor and flagrant violator of Law and order, and although indicted was discharged and acquitted on final trial, with the exception of one charge of nonfeasance of his office as Justice of the Peace, for which offense he was mulcted to the tune of five dollars.
    At this time Cumberland was struck off from Coles County. The last assessment of taxes had not been collected, but, under a provision of the act forming the new county, Coles was authorized to collect it. The new county people looked upon this transaction as legal robbery, and felt that it should properly have been turned over to help the new organization bear some of the new burdens of independent government. However, the courts could not wait for the people to pay taxes again, nor indeed for a courthouse to be built, so an old log schoolhouse was converted into a temple of justice, and, in justice and respect to the officials and attorneys of that day, it must be said that suits were as hotly contested, law and equity as impartially dealt out, and the cause of the client as ably and earnestly advocated in the old schoolhouse, as though it had been a costly stone structure, erected at a cost of a million and a half of dollars. Some of the attorneys who attended court in this building have since attained great. celebrity. Among others was Abraham Lincoln. One case in particular in which Mr. Lincoln participated was the notorious “Lustre Case,” which was brought here on change of venue from Coles County. The charge against Lustre was an assault with a deadly weapon, with intent to murder. Lustre was ably and earnestly defended by Lincoln and 0. B. Ficklin, and prosecuted by State’s Attorney Kitchell. Lustre was convicted, but through the efforts of his counsel was afterward pardoned by the Governor on petition.
Judge Wilson held the first circuit court in this county. He was an able jurist, firm and unwavering in the discharge of the duties of his position, and yet full of sport, and enjoyed an hour of pastime or a good joke as well as anyone. He was a lover of good horses, and was frequently a witness of the horse races which were so common here in the early day, but while enjoying the excitement with the keenest zest he was never betrayed into backing his opinions with a bet.
The old log structure which served so excellent a purpose as schoolhouse and courtroom, stood for several years, serving in this double capacity. It subsequently served as a warehouse, but has long since passed away, and its site is almost forgotten.

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