Since Lincoln county was organized in 1870, the various probate judges have issued well over 5,000 marriage licenses, more than 3,000 estates have been probated in the local office, and there are few tracts of land in the county that have not been before the probate court at one time or another.
Although the history of Lincoln county begins some years before 1870, that is when the county began to function officially. Up until that time, Lincoln county was a part of Saline county.
The first court house in Lincoln county was erected on the townsite of Abram, which was located about 3 1/2 miles southeast of the present courthouse. In 1872 an election was held, and the county seat was moved to the present site of Lincoln.
The probate court, by an act of the state legislature, was established for the administration of estates of deeased persons. However, it also functions in several other capacities -- such as the issuing and recording of marriage licenses, as a juvenile court, and in other ways which have been assigned to it from time to time by act of law.
The first estate to be probated and recorded in the county after its organization was that of Ezra Hubbard. The Moffitt brothers had been killed in 1864, but since Lincoln county had not yet been organized, their estates were probated in Saline county.
The early records in the probate judge’s office show many post offices in the county, which have long discontinued, some of them almost forgetten. Following is a partial list of these offices: Colbert, Bashan, Victor, Bacon, Cedron, Yorktown, Orbitello, Bluehill, Paris, Pottersburg, Rosette, Tower Springs, Lone Walnut, Dew Drop and Glenn.
Soon after the probate court went into operation in the county with D.C. Skinner presiding as judge, a marriage licnese was issued to Edward G. Tozier of Ottawa county and Elvira J. Bishop of Lincoln. Judge Skinnner performed his first official duty in issuing the licesen which is dated Jan. 13, 1871. He also married the couple.
During the years Rev. H.C. Bradbury holds the record for the number of couples married with Rev. John Medcraft as a close second. The records show that many couples wer married by justices of the peace as well as by ministers of the gospel. People from foreign countries and for nearly every state in the union have procured the licenses to be married in Lincoln county.
Some times the marriage licenses were not used, and the records show why, for instance: "Death claimed the bride on her wedding day, and the marriage will undoubtedly be solemnized in that world where partings are unknown, and where time and eternity are ever the same. ‘So Mote it be.’" was writen by Probate Judge G.M. Wellman on one record.
The explanation given on another unused license in 1880 was "She saw another man she liked better."
On still another the words were written, "From reliable information received from parties that should know, I find that the above and foregoing license was never used, the bridegroom being accidentally killed in a railroad accident."
In cases involving the issuing of a marriage license to a couple in which one, or both, of the parties were under the legal age, the parents sometimes sent a note to the probate judge. In one such case the following note was sent from Lucas: "Dear sir: We give our consent for you to grant a license to John Doe for to marry one of our girls, Mary Roe." (The names are not the true names of the persons concerned.)
Another young lady presented the following note, "Please let Bill have license for him and my daughter and oblige me."
The ages for marriage applications vary from 15 years to 84 with 22 years the most popular.
Since Judge R.W. Greene took office on May 1, 1944 he has issued 368 licenses, and he estimates that he has married about 60 couples. During the first year that he was in office he issued only 10 licenses. That was a war year.
Lincoln county has had a little more than a hundred juvenile cases during its 80 years of organized history. Nearly all of these cases involved the treatment and care of crippled children. Lincoln county, as evidenced by the records, has no juvenile delinquency problem, since there have been very few such cases before the probate judge in the entire 80-year span.
The following men have served as probate judge: D.C. Skinner, Henry Vernon, Washington Smith, W.M. Hedrick, G.M. Wellman, A. Artman Sr., J.H. Smith, F.H. Dunham, H.H. Gilpin, J.A. Smith, M.P. King, J.A. Schofield, Arthur Artman, Orye Lessor and R.W. Greene.