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Histories:  Trempealeau Co. Historical Accounts:

"History of Trempealeau County Wisconsin, 1917":

Chapter 21:

Bench and Bar

-As transcribed from pages 864 - 867

When the Indian title to this region was relinquished in 1837, the area that is now Trempealeau County was under the jurisdiction of the territory of Wisconsin, whose judicial power was vested in a Supreme Court, District of Courts, Probate Courts and justices of the peace.  The little settlement at Trempealeau remained under the judicial jurisdiction of Crawford County throughout the territorial days and during the early years of statehood.

By the state constitution which went into effect in 1848, Crawford County, of which Trempealeau County was a part, was made a part of the fifth circuit.  Mortimer M. Jackson went on the bench Aug. 28, 1848.  When the sixth circuit was created in 1850, the little settlement at Trempealeau fell under its jurisdiction, and in that district this county still remains.  Wm. Knowlton went on the bench Aug. 6, 1850.

In 1851 the settlement at Trempealeau came under the jurisdiction of La Crosse County, and at the first town election held at La Crosse in April, 1851, James A. Reed was elected justice of the peace.  At the county election held in the summer of that year, Timothy Burns was elected county judge, and William T. Price clerk of the circuit court.  In the fall of that year George Gale was elected county judge, and Robert Loomey clerk of the circuit court.

In February, 1853, the part of Trempealeau County north of the line between Townships 18 and 19 was placed in Jackson County, and on July 6 of the same year that part north of the line between Townships 18 and 19 and west of the line between Ranges 7 and 8 was placed in Buffalo County.  This jurisdiction, however, was only nominal, for the settlement at Trempealeau was still a part of La Crosse County, and few settlers had ventured north of the line between Townships 18 and 19.

When Trempealeau County was created, Jan. 27, 1854, a provision was made that the county should remain attached to La Crosse County for judicial purposes until Jan. 1, 1855, when it was to be fully organized for judicial purposes and attached to the sixth circuit.  Court was to be held at the county seat on the first Monday in March, June, September and December of each year.  But a few days later court was ordered to be held at the county seat of Trempealeau County the fourth Mondays of April and October.

B. F. Heuston was chosen as county judge at an election held in November, 1854, and in November George H. Smith was elected clerk of the circuit court, and Charles Utter, district attorney.

The first term of circuit court in Trempealeau County was called April 28, 1856, with A. M. Brandenburg, sheriff and Geo. H. Smith, clerk, in attendance, but the judge being absent the first court was held the next day in the lower part of the court house at Galesville, then in the process of construction by Isaac Noyes and Amasa P. Webb.  Hiram Knowlton, judge of the sixth district, presided, and the only business transacted was the admission to the bar of Romanzo Bunn, who thus became the first lawyer in Trempealeau County.  July 23 of the same year the court house was completed, and on October 28, following, Judge Knowlton held court there, with Sheriff Brandenburg and Clerk Smith in attendance.  The docket contained two cases, one of which was non-suited, and the other continued.  At the same session John F. Brewin and Christian Schmitz were admitted as citizens of the United States.  The grand jury list contained the names of William Lee, D. B. Thomson, John Nicholls, Edward Barnard, James Nichols, Byland Parker, Hollister Wright, Bostwick Beardsley, Francis Hoffner, Absolom Curry, David Cook, Richard Collins, Jacob Holmes, G. W. Parker, William Dick, L. P. Armstrong and William Adams.  Beardsley was chosen foreman.

The names on the petit jury list were:  Charles Holmes, Warren Adams, George Batchelder, Richard Grant, Isaac Nash, Joshua Rhodes, John Salsman, William Olds, Alexander Stevens, Joseph Dale, Douglas Hunter, L. F. Niffen, George Olds, William Nichols, Jonathan Ramsden, Archibald Grover, Robert F. Farrington, John Pardon, William Bright, Frederick Clark, George B. Terry, Jeremiah Finch, B. B. Healy and James Reed.

George Gale held his first court April 13, 1857, William P. Clark being the sheriff and George W. Parker the clerk.  No business was transacted.  April 28, 1857, B. F. Heuston was admitted to the bar.

Nov. 11, 1857, the county commissioners rejected a number of bills for charges in sundry criminal cases tried in justice courts.  the report of the committee stated that much of the expense of older counties arose from the cost of useless litigation and declared that everything possible should be done thus early in the history of Trempealeau County to discourage such litigation.  One of the suits for which expenses were asked was for stealing a pocket knife.  Several were for assault and battery in trifling neighborhood quarrels.  the only serious case was one in which the defendant was charged with horse stealing.  None were sustained.  The committee recommended that in such cases the justices exercise their powers under the statutes and require security from the complainants for costs in suits before issuing any papers.  Such a course, the committee said, would put a stop to much useless and vexatious litigation, which when suffered to go on involves often great expense besides provoking much ill feeling and discord in whole neighborhoods.  The committee also expressed the opinion that as a general rule in such small matters where the parties were determined to go to law, the civil remedies should be applied.

In 1861, Isaac E. Messmore contested Judge Gale's seat.  Judge Gale had been elected for the six years beginning Jan. 1, 1857, as judge of the sixth district, then embracing Crawford, Bad Ax, La Crosse, Monroe, Jackson, Clark, Buffalo and Trempealeau Counties.  But by an act of the Legislature (approved March 30, 1861) the counties  of Crawford, Bad Ax, La Crosse, Monroe and Jackson were constituted the sixth district, and the counties of Trempealeau, Buffalo, Pepin, Dunn, Dallas, Chippewa, Clark and Eau Claire were constituted the eleventh district.  Judge Gale was by this act made judge of the eleventh district.  The governor on April 10, 1861, appointed Isaac E. Messmore judge of the sixth district.  The matter went to the supreme court (14 Wis. 164) and it was determined that the Legislature had no authority to assign Gale to the eleventh district, and that the governor had no power to appoint Messmore to the sixth.  Judge Gale, therefore, remained the judge of the counties which constituted his district at the time of his election.  In 1862 the Legislature placed Crawford, La Crosse, Monroe, Jackson, Clark, Buffalo, Trempealeau, Richland and Vernon in the sixth district.

Judge Gale served until the end of 1862.  When he went on the bench the only lawyer in Trempealeau County was Romanzo Bunn.  In 1857 F. A. Utter located in Trempealeau, and A. A. Arnold and Geo. Y. Freeman in Galesville.  In 1858 A. W. Newman and John A. Daniels located in Trempealeau, and not long afterward Lyman Cowdry and C. E. Turner also settled there.  This constituted the Trempealeau County bar up to the outbreak of the Civil War.

Edwin Flint became judge Jan. 1, 1863, and served six years.

Romanzo Bunn, the first lawyer in Trempealeau County, went on the bench Jan. 1, 1869, and served eight years, retiring to go on the bench of the United States federal court for the western district of Wisconsin after the October term of the Trempealeau County court in 1877.

A. W. Newman of Trempealeau, after long service as district attorney, succeeded Judge Bunn after the October term of the Trempealeau County court in 1876.  He served seventeen years and resigned late in 1893 to become an associate justice of the supreme court of Madison.

With the resignation of Judge Newman the judgeship went out of Trempealeau County for the first time since Judge Gale moved here in 1857.  Joseph M. Morrow of Sparta, appointed late in 1893, served one year.

O. B. Wyman of Viroqua went on the bench Jan. 1, 1895, and served until his death, Dec. 2, 1900.

John J. Fruit of La Crosse succeeded Judge Wyman and served until his death in 1909.

Judge Fruit was unable to sit in March, 1909, and postponed the term until June, when Judge James O'Neil of Neilsville presided.  E. C. Higbee of La Crosse, a former Arcadia attorney, was appointed that summer, held the fall term of 1909, and has since remained on the bench.

The present bar consists of the following gentlemen: 

Whitehall -    
            H. A. Anderson (admitted in 1888)
            Robert S. Cowie (admitted in 1894)
            Earl F. Hensel (admitted in 1900)
            Ole J. Eggum (admitted in 1907)
Galesville -    
            George Gale (admitted in 1868)
            W. S. Wadleigh (admitted in 1894)
            A. T. Twesme (admitted in 1908)
Arcadia -   
            John C. Gaveney (admitted in 1888)
            F. C. Richmond (admitted in 1902)
            Elmer E. Barlow (admitted in 1910)
Independence -    
            John A. Markham (admitted in 1901)
            John F. Kulig (admitted in ____)
Trempealeau -   
            J. C. Button (admitted in 1858)
Osseo -       
            J. Reese Jones

Among the lawyers who have practiced in Trempealeau County may be mentioned:

Galesville -    
            C. W. Farrand
            M. Mulligan
            H. T. Smith
            E. White Moore
            M. F. Hegge
            E. W. Freeman
            G. R. Freeman
            Robert Christianson
            James M. Pryse
            Richard F. Smith
Trempealeau -   
            J. E. Robinson
            Bert E. Clark
            Seth W. Button
Arcadia -    
            L. W. Griswold
            C. W. Farrand
            Stephen Richmond
            H. R. Day
            E. C. Higbee
            Peter Phillippe
            E. Q. Nye
            Seth Mills
            W. H. Graves
            T. J. Connor
            H. S. Comstock
            C. E. Perkins
            R. S. Cowie
            Ben F. Richmond
            J. A. Cashel
            Lewis Runkel
            Nathan Comstock
            Emil Scow
            Roy E. Bingham
Whitehall -    
            O. J. Allen
            P. A. Williams
            R. A. Odell
            Carroll Atwood
            Sam S. Miller
            H. Gilliland
            H. L. Ekern
Independence -   
            M. Mulligan
            Nathan Nichols
            H. R. Day
            W. W. Arnold
Osseo -           
            G. O. Linderman
            E. S. Gedney




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