The county seat was located at Richmond, Oct. 6, 1837. The. first term of Circuit Court was held here by Hon. Thomas Ford, afterwards Governor of the state, on April 2, Ifc&J). In the month of June following the small frame court-house was burned, also a two-story house erected by ------ Harris. Steps were at once taken to remove the seat of justice to a more convenient locality, the citizens of Geneseo being most active in this move wishing to secure the prize for their own town.
In this they were defeated, as the site selected was the Morristown Colony purchase. One term of court was, however, held at Geneseo on April 6, 1840, and two the following year. Court was removed to Morristown, and the first session held there on Mav 16, 1842 ; afterwards, on Sept. 26 ; on May 15, 1843 ; on Sept. 25; and lastly, on May 24, 1844.
The county seat was located at Cambridge in the early part of 1843 ; hut no provision being made for holding courts there, they continued to meet at Morristown, where the court-house, a small unfinished frame building, was located. The citizens of Cambridge, desiring to make certain of the seat of justice within their own limits, obtained permission from the county officers to remove this building to their town. It was granted, and the building removed in the Summer or Fall of 1843. Yet court did not come ; still continuing the county business at Morristown two sessions in September and in May following. The court-house referred to was brought to Cambridge with ox teams, and placed on the southeast corner of what is now the College Square. Here courts were held until the erection of the present structure, which was completed and accepted July 8, 1845. It was erected by Sullivan Howard, one of the early settlers of Wethersfield, and cost about $83,000. The old wooden jail was begun in 1858. and completed the following year.The present court-house, a very commodious and comfortable building in all its parts, was finished in 1866. In 1858 a small fire proof building was erected immediately west of the court-house, costing about $10,000. It is used as the receptacle for all the county records, and as the offices of the county and circuit clerks, and that of the county treasurer. It is intended to erect, as soon as practicable, probably during the coming year, a court house suitable to the needs of the county, and one which will be an ornament to the energy and taste of the citizens.
The first case tried in the Henry County Court before a jury, was an appeal case wherein Hiram Pearce was tried for disturbing the peace and good order of a congregation assembled for divine worship, by pro fane language and disorderly and immoral conduct." He was found guilty and fined twenty dollars.
In the old court-house, accommodation could hardly lie had for the officers of the court, when they had to find room for the jury. This body often retired to the shadow of a near tree, or hay stack, and carried on their deliberations in commodious but rather undesirable quarters.
To find lodging at first in Cambridge was almost an impossibility, and tended greatly to lessen the growth of that place. The members of the bar would have to go to Andover, and to neighboring cabins for shelter and food. Pages could be filled with incidents illustrating the mode of administering justice which, though generally unhindered by legal forms, was sure. The first case in the present court-house was conducted by Judge Jos. Tillson, now a resident of Cambridge, and who has been closely identified with all her interests.November, 1849, under the new constitution, a county judge (who was also probate) and two associates, styled county justices, were elected, to wit: J. M. Allan, judge; Wm. Miller and John Piatt, associates.
In 1850, Allan was elected Representative to the General Assembly, and a special election for judge to fill the vacancy occasioned by his resigna tion, resulted in the election of Joseph Tillson. In 1853. Stephen Palmer was elected judge, and Robert Getty and John Piatt, associates. In 1857, the township organization was effected, and the board of supervisors discharged the duties of the former court.
Portrait and Biographical Album of Henry County Illinois
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