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Title: Early Judges of Warren County
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Charles V. McAdams, for twenty years a well known and successful attorney at Williamsport but now of Lafayetter, made a very interesting and valuable contribution to local history this year when he presented to the Warren Circuit court large framed portraits of eleven of the men who have served that county as judge. The list includes Isaac Naylor, Eleazor Purviance, Wm. Perkins Bryant, William R. Boyer, John M. Cowan, James Park, John M. LaRue, James McCabe, Joseph M. Rabb and James R. Saunderson. This, of course, is not a complete list of the judges of the county, but is includes all those whom photographs are in existence.

Mr. McAdams prefaced his remarks with the statement that he had begun the study of law in Williamsport in 1879 in the office of Judge Rabb. In his legal work as the years went by he had often run across the names of men who served the county in a judicial capacity during the early history and was imprest by the fact that an unusual number of them afterwards became prominent in state and national affairs. A few weeks before he noticed in the papers a story that the oldest living alumnus of Indiana university was John M. Cowan, now 94 years old and a resident of Missouri. In the story it was related that he had been a judge in Indiana, and Mr. McAdams recalled that a man by the same name had been circuit judge in Warren county during the Civil War. He wrote to Judge Crowen and verified this and later secured from his a photograph which formed the nucleus of the collection. This discovery led to others. By devling into old court records he secured names of the other judges and after locating their descendants wherever possible secured from them photographs , daguerrotypes, or tintypes from which he had the larger portraits made.

The first judge that dispensed justice in Warren county was John Porter, a "president judge," who was assisted by two associate judges. Judge Porter was born at Pittsfiels, Mass. In 1822 he came to Indiana, settled at Paoli, and was soon afterward elected judge. To be nearer to the center of his district he moved to Vermillion county, locating near the town of Eugene, which at that time was one of the most thriving in western Indiana. He served as president judge until 1838 and was widely noted for his judicial ability. No picture of Judge Porter was obtainable.

Next was Isaac Naylor, who succeeded Judge Porter in 1838 and retained the position until 1852 when the office of president judge was abolisht by the new construction. Later (1863 to 1867) he was judge of the common pleas court, making 21 years that he was a judge of Warren conty. His home was at Crawfordsville. He was a native of Rockingham, Va., and came from there to Kentucky, thence to Charleston, Ind., later moving to Vevay and finding his final home in Crawfordsville. He was admitted to the Warren county bar in 1833. His son is now professor in English in a well known university, but strangely enough, knows practically nothing about his father's judicial record. He was one of the band of Hoosier settlers that pursued the Indians after the Pigeon Roost massacre, and was a private in the battle of Tippecanoe. In the great rally held on the Tippecanoe battlefield in 1840 he was one of the principle speakers.

The new constitution adopted in 1851 ablisht the president judges and created circuit judges in their stead. The first circuit judge was Wm. P. Bryant, whose circuit included Warren, Vermillion, Parke, Fountain, Montgomery, Clinton, and Tippecanoe counties. He was a native of Lexington, Ky., born in 1806, married there in 1832 and located at Rockville, where he formed a law partnership with Tighlman A. Howard, later U.S. senator. Bryant served as state senator from 1832 to '33, prosecutor from 1834 to '38, and later he was appointed chief justice of Oregan territory, which position he filled for four years. On his return to Indiana he was elected circuit judge in 1852 and filled the position until 1858, and when he was succeeded by Judge Cowan, to whom reference has already been made.

The later circuit judges were Thomas F. Davidson, 1870-1882, Joseph M. Rabb, 1882- 1906, James T. Saunderson, 1906-1912, Burton B. Berry, this present incumbent.

From 1852 to 1873 there was also a court of common pleas in addition to the circuit court, which had jurisdiction only in the county. Its first judge was Daniel Mills, and then followed in order, Wm. R. Boyer, (an uncle of the late W.B. Durborow,) Isaac Naylor, James Park, (who built the house in Williamsport in which E.F. McCabe now lives). He was provost marshal of this district during the Civil war and served as judge only from March to October 1867. Later he was appointed consul to Aix la Chapelle, France. John M. LaRue was the last judge of the court of common pleas.

As first organized the circuit courts of Indiana had three judges, the circuit or president judge, and two associate judges in each county, who occupied the bench with the presiding judge and sometimes held court on certain cases without him being present. These associate judges were seldom lawyers but men of sound common sense and judgement. Nathaniel Butterfield and Samuel Clark, grandfather of O.S. Clark, of Attica, were the first of these associates judges in Warren county. They were followed by Isaac Rains, James Crawford, David McConnell, Hugh M. King, Wm. Allen, Thomas Collin, Levi Jennings, Williams Caldron, Eleazer Purviance, Josiah Thorpe and Silas Hooker. Judge Purviance was a grandfather of Dr. E.D. Purviance of Attica.

From 1829 to 1852 the matter of looking after wills and the settlement of estates was handled by a special court maintained for that purpose and known as the probate court. There were only four probate judges. Wm. Willmuth served from 1829 to 1836, John B. King from 1836 to 1840, Edward Mace form 1840 tp 1846, and Peter Schoonover from 1846 till the court was abolisht with the adoption of the new constitution in 1852. The last named was the father of I.A. Schoonover, present judge of Fountain Circuit Court.

It seems a little remarkable, but is doubtless true, no other county in the state has had such a number of noted men connected with its court. In addition to the mention that had already been made of the honors achieved by some of them there is Judge James McCabe, of the Warren county bar, who served as justice of the supreme court. Judge J.M. Rabb served on the Appellate bench. The list of men who served as prosecuting attorney also contains a number that afterwards became known to fame. Edwards A. Hannegan, was state senator, United States senator, minister to Prussia and a candidate for the presidency. J.E. McDonald, James Bingham and Ele Stansbury being present incumbent. McDonald also served as United States senator. Samuel C. Wilson and Robert B.F. Pierce became congressman, the former being a friend and supporter of Lincoln. Lew Wallace made a notable military record in the Civil war and is thrown thruout the world as an author. He also served with credit as minister in Mexico and to Turkey. Joseph A. Wright served twice as governor. J. Frank Hanly, who began his legal career in Warren bar, also served as state senator, congressman and governor, and later was a candidate for the presidency on the Prohibition ticket.

Date: 1/1/1916
Origin: Historical Sketches of the Wabash Valley
Author: J. Wesley Whicker
Record ID: 00001101
Type: Book
Source Archive: Williamsport-Washington Township Public Library
Date Entered: 8/10/2001
Entered By: Amber M Knipe

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