Chapter XXII - Courts and Officers

History of Hampshire County West Virginia From Its Earliest Settlement to the Present
By Hu Maxwell and H. L. Swisher
Morgantown, West Virginia; A. Brown Boughner Printer; 1897

PART 2 County History
Pages 271-279

But little more than a decade had passed after the settlement of Jamestown before the necessity for a tribunal of justice was felt and provided for. The numerous courts of today had their origin in justice courts, or as they are more popularly called, county courts. These were established in Virginia in 1623-4. In 1652 their members were elected by the house of burgesses. It was not until 1776 that the appointing of these justices became a part of the power of the governor of the state. This power he exercised until 1852. From 1852 to 1863 the county court was composed of four justices from each magisterial district into which the county was divided. The power of appointing was taken from the governor and the justices were elected by direct vote of the people. A board of supervisors, with one member from each township of the county, took the place of the county court from 1863 to 1872. The constitution of 1872 revived the old county court and it continued until 1880. In 1880 the amendment of the eighth article of the constitution destroyed the county court and established in its stead a board of commissioners, still commonly known as the county court. This board is composed of three members elected by the people of the county and has jurisdiction over the police and fiscal affairs within the county's area.

The first mention made of a court for Hampshire county, in any records accessible, is June 11, 1755. Who the justices were is not stated, but Archibald Wager was clerk. Two years later we find another session of the same court, with a mention of the justices' names and Gabriel Jones as clerk. Among the powers conferred upon Lord Fairfax, in whose possession the whole area of this county was for many years, we find that he was permitted "to hold a court in the nature of a court baron." This court had power to collect debts not exceeding forty shillings. He also had power to hold a court leet twice a year.

One of the earliest court records now in the possession of the county clerk is an old order book for the years 1788-91. Interesting indeed are some of the orders passed by these old courts more than a century ago, and while they may seem trivial to us at this day, they were at that time, no doubt, matters of importance. Let a few instances illustrate. At a session of the justice court held March 14, 1783, Peter Theran was plaintiff in a case of "trespass, assault and battery" against Joseph Powell. The jury found the defendant guilty "in the manner and form as the plaintiff against him hath declared, and they do assess the plaintiff damages by occasion thereof to one penny." Mr. Theran is ordered to proceed at once to collect this magnanimous sum, but whether he succeeded or not we shall never know. A more serious verdict was passed, however, by a special session of the court called April 3, 1788, "for the examination of a man who stood committed to the county jail of said county charged with feloniously stealing a black mare, the property of John Thompson." The prisoner denied his guilt, but sundry witnesses brought about "the opinion of the court that the said C__ P__ is guilty of the felony aforesaid, but the court doubts whether the testimony would be sufficient to convict the prisoner before the general court, and the prisoner being willing to submit himself to the mercy of the court, it is therefore ordered that the said C__ P__ receive ten lashes on his bare back, well laid on at the public whipping post, and the sheriff is ordered to cause immediate execution thereof to be done." So the rattle of British musketry bad its echo in the crack of the torturing whip. At a session of May court in the same year, we find it ordered by the court "that the sheriff let the repairing of the gaol and also the making of a pillory and stocks to the lowest bidder."

The common medium of exchange for a period of about fifteen years after the Revolution was tobacco, and we find that witnesses were paid twenty-five pounds a day for attending court, and at the rate of four pounds for each mile traveled in going" to and from the court house. Hunting in those early days was no doubt pursued as a means of livelihood and in some instances, at least, it appears to have been profitable. By the county court of December 16, 1790, one man is ordered to be paid ten pounds and five shillings for ten wolves' heads. This sum was just equal to the salary of the prosecuting attorney of the county for that year. Such was the general routine of business that occupied the time of these early courts from which our excellent judicial system has been evolved.

The records of the superior courts for Hampshire county are very incomplete, owing partly to the fact that the courts for this county were held principally in other counties for many years after the Revolutionary war.

The courts of this county were the same as those of Virginia until the formation, of West Virginia info a state. For this reason a brief notice of the courts of Virginia more than a century ago may not be amiss here. In the acts of the general assembly of 1792 there is provision made for a court of appeals, consisting of one judge, who composed the court. This was afterwards changed to five judges, any three of whom constituted a court for appellate cases. This court was held twice a year at Richmond, or such other place as the general assembly designated.

The general court at this time was composed of ten judges and met at Richmond twice a year. These ten judges were sent out by twos to hold district courts in the different judicial divisions of the state. In 1819 the number of judges was increased to fifteen, and each judge was to hold one circuit court a year in each county of his district. The district courts of this county were always held at Winchester, where all such legal business as fell within the jurisdiction of such a court had to be transacted. From the district court established very soon after the capture of Cornwallis we have by an easy step the circuit courts of today.

In 1818 we find it stated in the Revised Cods that there was to be held one superior court of chancery in each of the nine districts of the state. The counties of Frederick, Shenandoah, Hardy, Hampshire, Berkeley, Jefferson and Loudon composed Winchester district, where this court was held twice a year for the counties named.

It was not until after the constitution of 1830 was adopted that any superior court was held in Hampshire. The first was called the circuit superior court of law and chancery, and was held at Romney court house, October 5, 1831, with Richard E. Parker, one of the judges of the seventh judicial district and judge of the thirteenth judicial district, presiding.

At the April session, 1832, we find present as presiding judge, John Scott, "a judge of the general court." He does not appear to have tarried long, as at the next term in October, of the same year, Richard E. Parker again appears as judge, and so continues until September, 1836.

Isaac R. Douglass was his successor and appears for the first time at April session, 1837, and continues until September, 1850.

Following him came Richard Parker, evidently a different person from the first judge. He served as judge from 1851 until 1861 with the single exception of the September session, 1851, at which time G. E. Samuels was the presiding judge.

During the period, 1361 to 1865, there was no superior court on account of the. troublous conditions attendant on the civil war. The period covered by Richard Parker was under the constitution of 1850 and it was during this time that the name circuit court came into use. This court is still called by that name.

The constitution of 1850 established Clarke, Frederick, Hampshire, Morgan, Berkeley and Jefferson counties as the thirteenth judicial district. Under this constitution the present Court of appeals came into being. It was composed of five judges, one for each section. These were elected by the people for a term of twelve years while the circuit judges were elected for a term of eight years in the same manner.

After the civil war U. P. W. Balch was judge for one term, September, 1865.

In May, 1866, we find E. C. Bunker serving as judge and he continued in that capacity until 1868 with the single exception of the September term, 1866, when Thomas W. Harrison, of the Third judicial district, was judge in his stead.

J. P. Smith, of the Eleventh judicial district, served from March, 1868, to September, 1869.

For a single term, March, 1869, court was held by Judge George Loomis, of the Ninth judicial district.

The period of September, 1869, to August, 1870, was supplied by Judge Joseph A. Chapline.

Judge Ephraim B. Hall, judge of the Sixth judicial district, served from October, 1870, to March, 1873.

For a period of three years, August, 1873, to 1876, J. W. F. Allen filled the position.

The longest period covered by any judge in this county was that during which Judge James D. Armstrong served. He became judge in 1876 and presided over the courts of the counties in his district with singular ability for sixteen years, resigning in 1892. He was elected as judge of the Fourth judicial circuit, but the state has been redistricted and Pendleton, Hampshire, Hardy, Grant and Mineral counties now form the Twelfth judicial district.

Upon the resignation of Judge Armstrong, R. W. Dailey, Jr., was appointed by the governor in his stead and later was elected to the office by popular vote.

Below is a list of the justices of the county of Hampshire together with the date of their appointment or election:

1788 — Abraham Johnson, Isaac Millar, Samuel Dew, Ralph Humphries, Ignatius Wheeler, George Beall, Thomas Maccubin, Michael Cresap, John J. Jacob, Philip Wiggins, Marquis Calmes, William Fox, Thomas Collins, Andrew Cooper, John Mitchell, Okey Johnson, David McCrackin.

1789 — James Monroe.

1790 — Isaac Parsons, Jonathan Purcell, James Martin, Cornelius Ferrel, Edward McCarty, Solomon Jones, Elias Poston.

The records for the years 1790 to 1795 are lost.

1795 — Alexander King, Francis White, William Vause, John Jack, Virgil McCrackin, John Snyder.

1796 — John Parish.

1798 — John Mitchell, James McBride, John Parrill, Mathew Pigmon, Archibald Linthicum.

No records for the years 1798 to 1814.

1815 — James Dailey, Isaac Kuykendall.

1816 — Henry Cookus.

1817 — Thomas Collins.

1817 to 1824 — No records.

1824 — George Sharpe, Jacob Vandiver, Christopher Heiskell, David Gibson, Frederick Sheets, Samuel Cockerill, John Sloan, Reuben Davis, William Armstrong, William Muiledy, Eli Beal, Elisha Thompson, Jacob Smith, Robert Sherrard, David Parsons, Nathaniel Kuykendall, Vause Fox, John McDowell, John Stump.

1828 — William C. Wodrow, Ephraim Dunn, Marquis Monroe, Philip Falls, John Brady, William Donaldson, William Welch, Zebulon Sheetz.

1831 — Michael Pagh.

1832 to 1837 — No record.

1837 — James Higgins, William Vance, Thomas Carskadon, Robert Newman, William Racey, John McDowell, Daniel Mytinger.

1838 — Daniel Keller, William Ely, John Stump, William A. Heiskell.

1840 — Robert Sherrard.

1842 — William Vandiver, Samuel Davis, George Baker, Robert Monroe, William Miller, Joseph Frazier.

1843 — Robert Carmichael, David Pugh, George W. Washington, Charles Blue, Joseph Smith, Samuel Bumgarner.

1844 — Thomas B. White, Isaac Baker, Nimrod McNary. 1846 — George Baker, Isaac Baker, Robert B. Sherrard.

1849 — John E. Temole, Edward M. Armstrong.

1850 — Samuel J. Stump.

The office of justice was abandoned with the adoption of the constitution of 1851.

The judges of the superior courts of Hampshire county since 1830 are given below. The dates show in what year they began to serve:

Richard E. Parker, 1831; Isaac R. Douglass, 1837; Richard Parker, 1851. Courts were practically suspended during the civil war. The judges since the war are: L. P. W. Balch, 1865; E. C. Banker, 1866; J. P. Smith, 1868; Geo. Loomis, 1869; Joseph A. Chapline, 1869; Ephraim B. Hall, 1870; J. W. F. Allen, 1873; Jas. D. Armstrong, 1876; R. W. Dailey, Jr., 1892.

The names of those who have served as members of the house of delegates from Hampshire county are as follows:

James I. Barrick, 1863; Thomas P. Adams, 1865; Samuel Cooper, 1866; John Largent, 1868; John J. Jacobs, 1869; Alfred K. Pownall, 1870; Francis W. Heiskell, 1871; John Monroe, 1872; George Deaver, Jr., 1873; Alexander Monroe, 1875; Asa Hiett, 1877; Alexander Monroe, 1879; Henry B. Gilkeson, 1883; A. L. Pugh, 1887; George A. Hott, 1891; Evan P. Pugh, 1895; B. W. Power, 1897.

The following is a list of the prosecuting attorneys of the county, with the year of their appointment or election: Chas. McGill, 1788; William Naylor, 1828; Philip B. Streit, 1830; Angus McDonald, 1836; Jas. D. Armstrong, 1844; Alfred P. White, 1850; A. W. McDonald, Jr., 1858, William Perry, 1865; R. W. Dailey, Jr., 1870; W. B. Cornwall, 1892.

The clerks of the county court of Hampshire county are as follows:

Archibald Wager, 1755; Gabriel Jones, 1757; Andrew Woodrow, 1782; Samuel McGuire, 1815; John B. White, 1815. No courts 1861-64. Thos. A. Kellar, 1865; J. A. Parsons, 1870; C. S. White, 1873.

The clerks of circuit court of Hampshire county:

___ Smith, 1865; C. M. Taylor, 1865; C. S. White, 1873; V. M. Poling, 1876.

The following list contains the names of the surveyors of Hampshire county:

James Genn, 1755; Elias Poston, 1778; Joseph Nevill, 1786; John Mitchell, 1788; John Jones, 1808; Daniel Lyons, 1810; Samuel Dew, 1816; John Sloan, 1827; Samuel Cooper, 1852; Abram Smith, 1859; Warner T. High, 1865; David Biser, 1866; J. Z. Chadwick, 1868; Chas. N, Hiett, 1870; Alex. Monroe, J. G. Ruckman, Robert Monroe.

The following is a list of the assessors of Hampshire county from 1865 to 1897:

Alfred H. Pownall, Eastern district, 1865; William S. Purgett, Western district, 1865; George Hawes, district No. 1, 1866; George Milleson, district No. 2, 1866; Benjamin Pugh, district No. 1, 1870; George Milleson, district No. 2, 1870; Samuel C. Ruckman, district No. 1, 1872; Geo. Milleson, district No. 2, 1872: James A. Gibson, district No. 1, 1876; George Milleson, district No. 2, 1876; James A. Gibson, district No. 1, 1880; George Milleson, district district No. 2, 1830; James A. Gibson, district No. 1, 1884; Evan P. Pugh, district No. 2, 1884; James A. Gibson, district No. 1, 1888; Evan P. Pugh, district No. 2, 1888; John Blue, district No. 1, 1892; Maurice Scanlon, district No. 2, 1892; John Blue, district No. 1, 1896; C. W. Schaffenaker, district No. 2, 1896.

A list of the sheriffs of Hampshire county since its formation is as follows:

Edward C. Davis, 1754; Abraham Johnson, 1756; Elias Posten, 1738; Thomas McCubbin, 1790; William Fox, 1814; James Coleman, 1815; Lewis Petters, 1816; Thomas Collins, 1818; James Dailey, 1819; E. M. McCarty, 1821; Francis White, 1825; Isaac Kuykendall, 1826; Frederick Sheetz, 1829; George Sharpe, 1831; J. Vandiver, 1833; M, Pugh, 1835; Samuel Cockerel, 1837; John Sloan, 1839; John McDowell, 1841: William Armstrong, 1843; Vause Fox, 1845; Reuben Davis, 1848; John Stump, 1850; Eli Beall, 1852; J. C. Heiskell, 1854; George Milleson, 1856; D. T. Keller, 1858; J. C. Heiskell, 1860; J. H. Trout, 1865; J. A. Jarboe, 1866; J. H. Powell, 1868; Samuel Cooper, 1870; W. H. Powell, 1872; R. D. Powell, 1876; Jonn Monroe, 1830; W. H. Powell, 1834; George Milleson, 1838; A. L. Pugh, 1892; James A. Monroe, 1896.

At the legislature of 1863 Hampshire was among the counties reported as having no sheriff or other collector of the revenue "because of the dangers incident thereto."

County superintendents of Hampshire:

Henry Head, 1865; John J. Jacob, 1866; Rev. O. P. Wirgman, 1867; Thomas A. Kellar, 1871; Dr. Townsend Clayton, 1873; A. M. Alverson, 1875; Henry B. Gilkeson, 1877; Chas. N. Hiett, 1879; Daniel M. Shawen, 1835; Chas. W. Stump, 1889; Jonathan F. Tutwiler, 1891; Chas. N. Hiett, 1895. Jocob was appointed to fill out the term of Head.

1. JUDGE ROBERT WHITE.                     2. JOHN B. WHITE.


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