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Henry County's 1st County Officers - 1823

By: Martin L. Bundy

A Paper Read Before the Henry County Historical Society
May 1894

Miles C. Eggleston

   The first presiding judge came to the county in 1823 to hold a court, but gave us the benefit of his autograph on the order book but once, and the following year was succeeded by Bethuel F. Morris. The well-known and highly appreciated citizens, Thomas R. Stanford and Elisha Long, near neighbors, living on Flatrock in Liberty township, were at that time the associate judges, and it would have been difficult to find better qualified men anywhere, outside of the legal profession.
   A case was submitted to a full bench of the court, and on the evidence Eggleston at once decided it without consulting the associates. As soon as the opinion was announced the associates consulted with each other, when Judge Stanford, a man of great dignity, declared the presiding judge had not given the opinion of the court, but merely his own, and that the court had reached an entirely different conclusion. Eggleston, seeing his judgment overruled, stepped down from the bench, ordered his horse, and left town, never to return. And when the lawyers began to remonstrate against his hasty action, he silenced them by saying "Why, gentlemen, you have a court that can hear and determine your cases, and my presence is entirely unnecessary." The associates were not dismayed, but went on and held the court accordingly. Know all men that I Susan Fussell of Spiceland, Henry County, Indiana do make this my last will and testament, hereby annulling any and every will made by me previous to this.

Rene Julian

   The first clerk of Henry County was a brother of the late Shubal Julian of Cadiz, and an uncle of Judge Jacob B. and George W. Julian of Indianapolis. He served as such until his death, which took place, I think in 1828. He owned and lived on land which I now posses and his residence stood near the spring, and not far from where J. A. Cotton now lives. There are fragments of the dwelling still visible, though the house must have disappeared more than sixty years ago. I remember him only as a small boy would be apt to know a man of his prominence. I imagine he was a man of convivial habits, and one who confirmed to the customs of the country and was not averse to a social glass of spirits. I am led to this conclusion by one circumstance still fresh in my memory. I was standing in front of what was then called a tavern, where spirituous liquors were sold, (there were no saloons in those days) when he rode up, dismounted, and called to me to hold his horse, which I did. He went into the house, took a-so-called refreshment and soon returned, tossing me half a dollar for my trouble. The clerk's office in those days was not the bonanza it has since become, for I seriously question whether the entire income would exceed three hundred dollars a year, but this small sum was the equivalent of eighty- acre tracts of the best lands in the county then subject to entry.

Jesse H. Healey

   The first sheriff came from North Carolina and settled in Henry County in 1821, where he remained as long as he lived. He not only served as the first sheriff, but he was for seven years judge of the probate court, one term as a member of the State Legislature and then again, about the year 1850, as sheriff for four more years, after the office had become valuable. The people never had a more trust-worthy servant He was, in fact, a man of the people and by them highly esteemed. The sheriff, during his first term was also a collector of the revenue, and had to make settlements therefore and pay over what was due the county and State, as well.
   It will be remembered by those familiar with the States history that Indianapolis became the seat of government in 1825, prior to which time Corydon, in Harrison county, was the capital, where the Governor and State officers transacted the public business. I have often heard Judge Healey say that the State's portion of the taxes collected in Henry county for the year 1823 was one hundred and twelve dollars, and that having no horse to ride, he traveled on foot from this place to Corydon and paid the money over to the State treasurer. The whole revenue would hardly compensate one now for such a trip. At this day, and for many years past, the State's portion of the revenue has amounted to many thousands of dollars annually. This was the day of small beginnings, The State had need for only a small sum of money, because, she had but few public officers and these she paid very small salaries, and no public works or benevolent institutions.
   Editor's note: (Sheriff Healey died on February 25, 1856 at the age of 60 years, 5 months and 8 days. His wife Sarah died on July 7, 1871 at the age of 79 years, 2 months and 21 days. They are buried side-by-side in the old Lick Creek Baptist cemetery in Prairie Township.)

Jacob Thorp

   Judge Thorp was an associate justice of the Henry Circuit Court, and served as such for several years prior to 1845. He was a man well stricken in years when he was elevated to the bench, and in personal appearance one of the most picturesque objects to look upon, who ever occupied a judicial seat. In zoology he would have been classified as a chimpanzee, rather than a human being. Someone may ask, "Did he know any law?" None whatsoever. He was a bell maker, a useful calling in those days, when all livestock ran at large, and had a shop, which I have often visited, situated near the southeast corner of Liberty Township. It so happened in the early times, this township furnished most of our county officers, as well as legislators, and not only this, but through their influence the county was named Henry and the county seat named New Castle, after a county and town of the same name in Kentucky, whence most of them had emigrated.
   I have no intentions to disparage the memory of Judge Thorp, for he was a useful citizen within his sphere, but as he was entirely innocent of legal knowledge, it looked like burlesque to place him on the bench, but the party to which he belonged had a manager, just as we have at this day, who thought it would be a stroke of policy to place him on the bench, and it was done. He wore his hair long and unkempt and this may have struck some as a winning card in a judicial race and caused him to be put forward.
   This whole body of side judges was often the subject of ridicule, and this, no doubt caused the constitutional conventions of 1850 to create a circuit court, composed of a single judge to which the legislature added a salary sufficient to command the services of a good lawyer.
   The salary of a circuit judge for twenty years after the State was admitted into the Union was only seven hundred dollars, and sometimes the circuit would embrace fifteen to twenty counties, which could only be visited on horseback. This sum would hardly satisfy a township trustee in these days.
   When Judge Elliot became circuit judge and had eight of our large and populous counties for a circuit the salary was $800 only, and remained so for several years. We usually had good lawyers on the bench in this part of the State, who served for the honor rather than the pay, but sometimes in other circuits inferior lawyers, by some accident, got on the bench and with side judges who, like necessity, "Knew no law," altogether the court became ridiculous. The wags would get in their work and declare the court to be like a team composed of two mules and a Jackass.
   These brief sketches do not aspire to the dignity of biographies. They are merely intended as incidents in the lives of the gentlemen named, which have come under my own observation. I might have extended these sketches to a much greater length, but what I have written will suffice, I hope, for the present, Many other early officers deserve, and should be remembered by the society's historians.

UEB 2005

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