At the very opening of this topic I want to say that I do not expect to be able to mention the name of everyone who has been a member of our bar; many of them were here but a short time and left nothing to particularly call to mind their sojourn among us. I know of nothing that will furnish even the names of these parties except the numberless detailed records of court proceedings, and were one to go through all these he could hardly be sure he had the names of all members of the bar who have resided in the county. All I can say is that I shall say something of all whom I can recall and no name will be intentionally omitted.
The first term of the district court in this county was held in the second story of the only two-story frame building then standing on the Oswego town-site; it was located on the southwest corner of block 25 and had just been erected by Thomas J. Buntain. During 1868 and the spring term of 1869, court was held in different rented rooms. At the convening of the October (1869) term, court opened in the new frame building which Oswego had given to the county for a courthouse.
The first term of court was formally opened in the afternoon of Monday, October 7, 1867, and adjourned sine die on Friday, the 11th, although no business was transacted after Thursday. There was no trial and determination of any cause at this term of court. The business principally consisted in the admission of attorneys and the hearing and passing on some preliminary motions.
At the time of its organization this county was comprised in the Seventh judicial district, and so remained until March 24, 1870, at which time the law creating the Eleventh judicial district went into effect. This county continued in the Eleventh judicial district until February 22, 1901, on which day the law went into effect constituting Labette and Montgomery counties the Fourteenth, judicial district.
While we were a part of the Seventh judicial district, two different judges presided over our court, and during the time we were within the bounds of the Eleventh judicial district seven different persons held the office of judge.
W. A. Spriggs, residing at Garnett, presided over our court at its first session. He is the only one of our judges whom I have never known personally. He is said to have been a man of honor and fair ability. Having held court here for less than a week, he made no deep impression on our judicial matters.
In the fall of 1867, John R. Goodwin was elected judge of the Seventh judicial district, and presided in our court during the next two years. He was fairly well versed in the law but owed his popularity more to his jovial nature and ability to mix with the boys than to his legal erudition. It required business of more than usual importance or to be more than usually pressing in its character to prevent his adjourning court for the purpose of accepting an invitation to assist sampling what were supposed to be good "warming" or "cooling" drinks, or to engage in a game of cards. However, Judge Goodwin kept the business of the court well in hand and gave quite general satisfaction.
The first two judges of the Eleventh judicial district were the Webb brothers, both of whom were well versed in the principles of the common law, and also possessed of natural abilities as lawyers.
When the bill was passed creating the new district, the Governor appointed William C. Webb, then residing at Fort Scott, its first judge. He was perhaps too technical to be a great lawyer or judge, but he was certainly very much above the ordinary lawyers who then were practicing in this part of the State. He was a hard worker, a stickler for form and order, and did much to bring the business of the court into a more orderly and consistent condition than it had ever before been in.
Henry G. Webb was elected judge of the district in November, 1870, and succeeded his brother on the bench. Two strangers could scarcely be more unlike than were these brothers. What William got in the way of legal knowledge by study and hard work, Henry absorbed or took intuitively. Had the latter been disposed to have worked as hard as did the former there is no telling what position he might have attained as a lawyer. Henry was much less technical and much broader in his legal views than was his brother but was not so orderly in his methods. For ability to clearly and forcibly state a legal proposition, Henry G. Webb has never had an equal on the bench of this district. He resigned his position as judge in the early part of 1873 and has since been a practitioner at the bar.
Bishop W. Perkins of Oswego was appointed to the bench on the retirement of Judge Webb in the fore part of 1873. This appointment was considered to have been the reward of efficient work done for Gov. Osborne in the preceding campaign no less than because of professional merit. Judge Perkins was a fair lawyer and made an efficient judge, but it was in the field of politics, rather than in that of jurisprudence, that he excelled. He was a born politician and had an instinctive scent for the trail of public sentiment. He was appointed county attorney a few weeks after he came to Oswego in 1869, and from that time, until within a few months before his death in 1894, he was a continuous office holder. He remained on the bench until January, 1883, when his official station was transferred from the bench to Congress.
George Chandler, of Independence, was elected judge of the district in November, 1882, assumed the duties of his office in January, 1883, and held the position until the spring of 1889, when he resigned to accept the position of Assistant Secretary of the Interior in the cabinet of President Harrison. Judge Chandler was a man of good deal of natural ability and acquired power. His physical organization was capable of sustaining an unlimited amount of work and it was largely to this and his natural industry that he owed his success. As a judge he had some elements of strength and quite as many of weakness. He prided himself on instructing a jury; yet it was the general opinion of the profession, that a jury would know less of the real merits of a case when he was through giving his instructions than when he commenced. He lacked the ability to grasp and clearly and concisely state the points at issue and then announce the law applicable thereto. His system of conducting court business frequently required parties with large numbers of witnesses to remain about the court for days before their cases could be reached. His requirement of punctuality on the part of litigants, attorneys, jurors and witnesses became actually burdensome and tended to retard rather than facilitate the dispatch of business. Notwithstanding his defects, he was an able and popular judge.
John N. Ritter of Columbus was appointed to succeed Judge Chandler on the bench, and served till after the November election in 1889; he was defeated for the position at that election. Judge Ritter was an honest, painstaking, careful, industrious and capable attorney, and he carried these qualities with him on the bench. As a lawyer probably no one would place him in the first rank in the bar of the State, but in the second ranks he would take an honorable place. He made a much more able and competent judge than the profession generally thought he would at the time of his appointment. His retirement from the bench was the source of regret to very many who had not been especially anxious to see him appointed.
Jerry D. McCue of Independence was elected judge in November, 1889, and served during the next five years. Mr. McCue was the first attorney who settled in this county and had always stood high at the bar. His personal indulgences in the early days of his residence among us had deprived him of much of the business which he would otherwise have obtained. Perhaps on this account, more than for any other reason, he left Oswego and settled in Independence. Taking into consideration all of his qualities, I think it may be safely said we have never had an abler judge on the bench of this district than was Judge McCue. Naturally, he had a judicial mind. His professional preparation had been pursued in Illinois where he became well grounded in the principles of common law. His confidence in his own ability almost amounted to egotism and prevented any feeling of diffidence either at the bar or on the bench. This confidence enabled him to successfully use all his powers. His record, on the bench is one of which he may well be proud.
Andy H. Skidmore of Columbus was elected district judge in November, 1894, and has served from the January following, during which time he has gained in his hold on the people. Judge Skidmore has had a popularity on the bench which some have found it difficult to account for. It can not be said to be altogether owing to his judicial ability. Perhaps it is in a measure owing to his uniform good nature, his close attention to the public business, his painstaking effort to hear all parties and consider all interests, and then to render such decision as he thinks the facts warrant. The division of the Eleventh judicial district and the placing of this county in a newly constituted district takes us from Judge Skidmore's jurisdiction. As this history is not supposed to enter the twentieth century, I shall not speak of the newly appointed occupant of the bench.
Jerry D. McCue was the first lawyer to settle in Labette county. He had been admitted to the bar in Illinois, but had little, if any, practice there. He reached Oswego in July, 1867. In September he attended the first term of court in Neosho county and was admitted to the Kansas bar there, so that, when our court convened in October, he was an authorized practitioner under the Kansas laws. During his residence here he certainly had as much business as any member of the bar. In 1871 he moved to Independence where he resided and practiced till his election as district judge.
Next in order of time came N. L. Hibbard who arrived in Oswego in August, 1867. He had been the prosecuting attorney of his county and naturally felt competent to compete with those whom he had to meet in court here, all of whom were young men. Mr. Hibbard's laugh was the one quality by which he will be longest remembered by those who knew him here; it had almost the volume of a locomotive whistle. In 1870, without informing the public of his intentions, he took his departure from our midst.
W. J. Parkinson came to Oswego about the same time as Mr. Hibbard, and the two joined forces for the practice of their profession. The firm of Hibbard & Parkinson was the first law partnership in the county. Mr. Parkinson had recently come from one of the eastern states and had temporarily stopped in Leavenworth where he had been admitted to the bar of Kansas, so that he was the first lawyer who had been admitted to the bar in this state to settle in this county. He is said to have been a young man of fine address and good ability. On the first day of our first term of court on October 7, 1867, Judge Spriggs appointed Mr. Parkinson county attorney; before that time there had been no county attorney. In November of that same year Mr. Parkinson left the county and, as I am informed, went east and entered the ministry.
The next lawyer to cast his lot among us was Walter P. Bishop, who arrived in Oswego in September, 1867, having already been admitted to the bar in Douglas county before coming here. Of all the attorneys who have practiced at this bar there has probably been no one who prided himself more on his good looks and elegant appearance than did Mr. Bishop. He had quite a good deal of ability and still more conceit. His good looks, ability and self assurance made him a popular attorney, and he was able to divide with Mr. McCue most of the best business of the county during the first two or three years after they came. Mr. Bishop was for a time county attorney, and afterwards probate judge. In 1870 he represented the county in the Legislature. His career at the bar was then virtually closed. He went to Topeka and failed to secure business; temporarily he came back to Oswego and failed here. He then went to Colorado where he died. The outcome of his career fell far short of what its opening promised it might be.
The four attorneys whom I have named are the only ones who had settled in the county, and who had been admitted to the bar prior to the opening of the first term of our district court. But at that term of court there appeared as one of the practitioners of the bar John Secrest, of Humboldt, who sometime thereafter settled at Chetopa, where he lived several years. Some of his enemies claimed that in his business he had more practices than practice. He was finally killed by a band of outlaws in the Indian Territory.
Of these five attorneys all had been admitted to practice in Kansas before the opening of our first term of court except Mr. Hibbard, and he was made a member of the Kansas bar on the first day of the term. The only other attorneys who appear from the records to have been in attendance at that term of court were W. A. Johnson, of Garnett, and John R. Goodwin, of Humboldt.
Five persons who were then "old settlers" in the county, not one of whom had ever pretended to read law, and perhaps neither of whom had ever looked in a law book, unless it were the statutes, were regularly admitted to the bar, after having "passed a satisfactory examination," at the first term of our court. The examination was probably on the quality of the liquor furnished by the candidates to the committee. At first sight the record might indicate that some of these parties were admitted the first day, but from the whole record I am satisfied that all that was done the first day was the appointment of two committees on examination. Three of these parties were admitted on the second day of the term, one on the third day, and the other on the fourth day. The following are the names of the parties thus admitted to the bar, in the order of their admission: J. S. Waters, C. H. Bent, Dr. J. F. Newlon, W. C. Watkins, and C. C. Clover. Mr. Waters is the only one of these who ever became a practicing lawyer. It is true that Mr. Bent succeeded Mr. Parkinson as county attorney, but Mr. Bishop, who acted as his deputy or assistant, did all the work. Mr. Bent was the first and Mr. Watkins the second representative in the Legislature from this county. The latter was commonly known as "the gentleman from "U. bet," because his favorite expression of assent was "you bet." Mr. Waters was never much of a lawyer, but he was a shrewd manager and very successful in local politics. He served several terms as county attorney, represented the county in the Legislature, and subsequently was appointed to a position in one of the U. S. land offices in Idaho.
With the exception of Mr. Waters, who resided at Montana, all of the attorneys I have named belonging to this county were located at Oswego. The next who came to the county chose Chetopa as his place of residence.
James H. Crichton came from Indiana to Chetopa in the spring of 1868. For a number of years he has been, in respect to residence, the oldest attorney in the county. At an early age Mr. Crichton figured quite prominently in politics; he was twice a candidate for the State Senate, and was once or twice elected representative. For several years after coming here, he held quite a prominent place at the bar and had a very fair business; but he allowed politics and some other matters to interfere with his professional business, and for a number of years past he has seldom appeared in court and has practically abandoned practice.
W. C. Pew settled in Oswego in the summer of 1868 and remained until the early spring of the following year. While he was a well read lawyer he was not adapted to western ways of those days and got little business.
W. P. Lamb was the worst hater of all humanity, the most untiring prosecutor of any one whom he got in his power, the most bitter in his speech, against court and opposing counsel, and one of the most uniformly unsuccessful lawyers who ever practiced at this bar. Not without a certain degree of native ability and acquired culture, he had been so long accustomed to have his hand against every other man's hand that to instinctively dislike every other man became a quality of his mind. Those who slept within hearing distance of him during court said he was accustomed to spend a good portion of the night in cursing some one with whom he had been brought in contact during the day. An intensely pro-slavery man, he had come to Kansas in an early day to assist in making her a slave state. He had been quite prominent as an attorney while that element was in the ascendant, but the habits of life and business which he had thus acquired had not fitted him to be a successful practitioner among the people who settled this county. He came here in the fall of 1868, settled at Chetopa where he made his home till late in the "seventies" when he went farther west.
W. M. Rogers came to this county about the close of 1868 and settled in Mound Valley township. In his former home he had been around the court room enough to learn several legal terms and when he came to this county he commenced to assist his neighbors to get into difficulty by attending to their cases in justice court. In 1871 he secured a favorable report from an examining committee and the court permitted him to be sworn as a member of the bar.
J. C. Strang lived at Oswego and was glad to meet Mr. Rogers in legal argument. He probably knew more legal terms than did his rival but he had drank so much more whisky that he could not always make as good use of them. He was never entrusted with any busi ness and therefore seldom, if ever, did any one any damage.
J. F. Bellamy had been admitted to the bar in Indiana before settling at Jacksonville, in the northeast corner of this county. At this point he taught school and offered his services as a lawyer, but the extent of his practice was very limited. In a few years he went back to Indiana where he met with much better success. He subsequently returned to this state and is now one of the prominent attorneys of Montgomery county.
John H. Gunn also lived at or near Jacksonville. He had no knowledge of law and the only way he attempted to succeed as a lawyer was by a kind of practice so reprehensible that no reputable attorney would indulge in it. The profession was honored by his removal from the county in the latter part of 1869.
About the close of 1869, Joseph S. Gage located at Chetopa and was admitted to the bar of the county in April, 1870. He staid here but a short time and did no legal business to speak of.
B. W. Perkins located in Oswego in April, 1869, and at once formed a partnership with W. P. Bishop which continued until his appointment as district judge. The firm of Bishop & Perkins always had a good business.
Nelson Case arrived in Oswego, May 15, 1869, and, since the retirement of Mr. Crichton from active practice, he has been, in point of residence, the senior member of the bar of this county.
J. J. Brown found his way to Oswego in June, 1869, and practiced his profession here till 1874 when he removed to Oregon. He had received a good education and had a faculty of making the most out of his position. He was something of a society man and made a good many friends. He was fairly successful while he remained in Oswego, but his success here was nothing in comparison to what it was on the Pacific slope. He there became one of the recognized leading financial men. I may say that he made his money in business and not simply in the practice of his profession.
In July, 1869, W. B. Glasse came to Oswego and at once, in connection with J. J. Brown, formed the firm of Brown & Glasse. Mr. Glasse had a military experience which proved serviceable to him, even in the practice of law. In about a year from the formation of their partnership, Brown & Glasse took in a new partner and the firm became Adams, Brown & Glasse. After the dissolution of this firm Col. Glasse formed with H. G. Webb the firm of Webb & Glasse. From January 1, 1885, till Col. Glasse removed to Columbus in May, 1893, he was in partnership with Nelson Case under the firm name of Case & Glasse. Since that time he has been practicing his profession at Columbus. From his very first settlement in the county Col. Glasse took a high rank at the bar. He is the soul of honor, is well read in the law, is a forcible advocate and inspires with confidence all with whom he comes in contact. He served a term in the State Senate and was auditor of the county several years.
M. S. Adams came to Oswego from Leavenworth early in 1870. Sometime that year he became a partner of Brown & Glasse. He had been a prominent attorney and politician at Leavenworth but had only moderate success in this county. He went from here to Wichita.
Early in 1869 Frank M. Graham settled in Chetopa and became the junior member of the firm of Crichton & Graham. He was better adapted to office work than his partner and added much to the success of the firm. He was popular in Chetopa and exercised much influence in local matters.
F. A. Bettis came to Oswego in August, 1869, and soon went into partnership with Mr. McCue. Some months thereafter the firm became McCue, Bettis & Kelso. When Mr. McCue removed to Independence the firm of Bettis & Kelso became, perhaps, the leading firm of lawyers in the county. During his stay here, Mr. Bettis had two or three other partners for a time. As an all around lawyer, adapted to all kinds of business, we have had few, if any, lawyers who excelled Mr. Bettis. Perhaps his greatest strength lay in his ability to at once meet an unexpected thrust from an adversary; it was difficult to surprise him. He was quick to take advantage of a weak point in an opponent's case. If people could have had as much confidence in Mr. Bettis' integrity as they had in his legal ability he would have a higher rank at the bar than he secured.
M. V. B. Bennett came from Iowa to Oswego in the spring of 1870. He was an intense partisan, had been an opponent of the administration in the Civil war, and brought with him to Oswego material for starting a newspaper. For several months he united editorial work on the Oswego Democrat with the practice of the law. In the fall of that year he removed, with his paper, to Independence. He subsequently became a noted temperance lecturer, but at the time he resided in Oswego he had no reputation in that direction. At the bar he was much stronger as an advocate than as a counsellor and he never took high rank as a lawyer, although he commanded a very fair practice.
J. D. Gamble came to Oswego with Mr. Bennett and became his partner. He was the office man of the firm of Bennett & Gamble and had fair ability in that line of work. He went to Independence with Mr. Bennett.
J. D. Conderman has never secured the business that his merits have entitled him to. He located in Chetopa in June, 1870, where he has since resided. He served one term very acceptably as county attorney. He lacks the aggressiveness of disposition to gain what properly belongs to him. Had he asserted himself more he might have attained a much better practice than he has enjoyed. He has the confidence and respect of all who know him.
J. B. Zeigler came to Oswego in the summer of 1870. He was a fine appearing young man and did some clerical work in some of the offices but did not secure any legal practice. The next year he went to Independence where he has built up a fine practice.
J. J. Long was admitted to the bar of this county in November, 1870. He had the misfortune of being associated with W. P. Lamb and had no success while he remained here.
E. D. Graybill had been a school teacher in Osage township. About the close of I870 he commenced to get connected with cases commenced in justice court and sometimes induced the litigants to appeal them, and thus had a little practice in the district court. In three or four years from that time he left the county.
W. H. Carpenter of Osage township was a justice of the peace and sometimes represented his neighbors as their attorney before other justices. He had been admitted to the bar in Ohio, but had never practiced law. He was formally admitted to the bar of this county early in 1871, but never had any practice and soon removed from the county.
David Kelso came to this county in the summer of 1870. He first located at Chetopa, but soon removed to Oswego and became a partner of McCue & Bettis. He was one of the few men of the bar who always ranked much higher than his merits as a lawyer entitled him. He had social qualities which made him quite popular, and he was able to secure good positions. He held a fine position in the legal department of two or three railroad companies for several years. He acquired a love for liquor which very much interfered with his successful conduct of business.
T. L. Darlow was another lawyer who located in Oswego in the summer of 1870. He had not had much practice when he came here, was more earnest and persistent than careful and studious in his habits, and did not make that growth as a lawyer which he, perhaps, might have done. He was a member of two or three firms while here and did a fairly good practice.
J. G. Parkhurst was the first attorney to settle in Parsons. He came there at the close of 1870 before the town was fairly laid out, and at once secured a fairly good business. He was a lawyer with some merits who also lacked some qualifications for becoming a first class practitioner. In a few year's he returned to Michigan.
T. W. Thornton came to Parsons about the same time as Mr. Parkhurst, but did not stay long enough to attain any standing at the bar.
E. E. Hastings first came to Oswego, but after a short stay here located in Parsons near the close of 1870, where he remained but a few months. His practice while here was not sufficient to exhibit any legal ability although he was a young man of good appearance and seemingly fair ability.
George W. Fox settled in Chetopa in December, 1870, where he made his home for more than tell years. He went to the Pacific slope in the "eighties." While here he studied politics and did something at practicing law; but being a member of the minority party his political leadership did not prove very remunerative. In his professional practice he depended more on his ability to know and make use of men's religious, political and social opinions and prejudices as they appeared in court as jurors, witnesses or litigants than he did on knowing what the law was and being able to apply it.
Alexander H. Ayres prided himself on being a successful practitioner in the great state of New York. He came to Chetopa in February, 1871, and became the senior member of the firm of Ayres & Fox. Judge Ayres was a cultured gentleman, of very extended reading and with a memory that enabled him to recall, whenever wanted, anything he had ever read. He was perfectly familiar with the reports of his native state, and there was no question of law ever arose in his practice on which he could not cite a New York decision which, to his mind, was decisive. He was stricken down with a stroke of apoplexy while arguing a case in court.
William Davis came to Parsons in the early spring of 1871 as the general attorney of the M. K. & T. Ry. Co. He was a Kentucky Republican and was possessed of many of the graces for which the Blue Grass gentlemen are noted. As a lawyer his chief defect was a lack of discrimination. After reading a case he had no more conception of what it decided than would have been gathered by any school boy who should give it a like reading. He always came into court fortified with a large number of authorities, but they were as like to be decisions in his adversary's favor as his own. It was his misfortune to be unable to see a point. But the people liked Col. Davis, partly because when a case was decided against him he never knew that he was beaten, and for this reason, it may be presumed, they elected him county attorney, and then attorney general.
G. C. West located in Parsons in 1871 and became associated with Col. Davis in business. He never extensively engaged in the practice of the law in this county. When Col. Davis became attorney general Mr. West went with him to Topeka and did not return to this county.
R. M. Donelly came from Kentucky and was admitted to the bar of this county in June, 1871. His home was in Parsons. He was too much of a southern gentleman to be a very good practitioner in the west. He had but moderate success here and after a time went to Texas.
E. C. Ward came from Chicago to Parsons in April, 1871. For several years he had a good deal of prominence and quite a practice, and secured for himself the nomination and election as county attorney. But he lost all standing when he was convicted of hiring a witness to tell the truth in a suit in which he was employed; for this he was disbarred. While he was thereafter readmitted to the bar, it gave him no standing. His admiration of himself was without limit.
Thomas C. Cory was the first county attorney in Neosho county. He removed from there to Parsons in 1871 and became an active and successful practitioner at our bar. The firms of Cory & Kimball and later Cory & Simons each had a fine business and managed it successfully. Mr. Cory was elected county attorney and died while filling that office.
Walter L. Simons came from Neosho county to Parsons in 1879 and entered into partnership with Mr. Cory. Whether with a partner or alone Mr. Simons always had a good business, and was prominent both as a lawyer and politician. He stood among the first at our bar and commanded the confidence and respect of all who knew him. From here he went to Fort Scott where he is now serving his second term as district judge.
W. P. Atkinson came to Chetopa in the latter part of 1871 and early in 1872 was admitted to our bar. He became a partner of Mr. Crichton. He had a good deal of physical strength and endurance but a very limited education and scarcely any knowledge of the law. In a year or two he returned to his former fields of labor.
Charles H. Kimball had been admitted to the bar in the state of New York before coming west. He settled in Parsons the latter part of 1872 and a few months thereafter became a partner of Mr. Cory. Later the firm of Kimball & Ayres was formed; and in 1879 the firm of Kimball & Osgood was started and still continues. Mr. Kimball came to Parsons without means and has acquired quite a large amount of property. He has always been recognized as a fine trial lawyer and able attorney, and his services have been in demand in many important cases. He has served two terms in the State Senate.
Transcribed from History of Labette County, Kansas and its Representative Citizens, ed. & comp. by Hon. Nelson Case. Pub. by Biographical Publishing Co., Chicago, Ill. 1901
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