The History of Genesee County, MI
Chapter VI
First County Court

Online Edition by Holice, Deb & Clayton



First County Court.

All or portions of the lands now in Genesee county have at different times been included in Wayne, Macomb, Oakland, Lapeer, Saginaw and Shiawassee counties. Genesee was set off as a separate county by an act of the territorial legislature approved march 28, 1835, but for judicial purposes remained attached to Oakland. About a year later, on March 8, 1836, Genesee became an organized county.


The first county officers were elected for Genesee on August 22, 1836, as follows:

Associate Judges

Jeremiah R. Smith and Asa Bishop

Judge of Probate

Samuel Rice


Lewis Buckingham


Robert F. Stage


Charles D. W. Gibson

Register of Deeds

Oliver Wesson


Chauncey Chapin and Rufus W. Stevens

County Surveyor

Ogden Clarke


On October 4, 1836, the supervisors from the three townships then organized held the first board meeting in the tailorshop of Daniel H. Seeley, in Flint. These members were Samuel Rice, of Grand Blanc, Lyman Stowe, of Flint, and Samuel W. Pattison, of Argentine. But on finding that no books or stationery for this use had been provided, the board adjourned to October 17. Again adjournment was necessary, because of the absence of Mr. Pattison, but he was present on the 18th. the first important action of the county board of supervisors was therefore taken on October 18, which was a resolution to raise a tax of $2,000 assessed and apportioned as follows:









John Todd

Grand Blanc




Caleb S. Thompson


Some idea of relative values is given when it is understood that the assessment and apportionment of Argentine was included with that of Grand Blanc, together making only a little over half of flint's assessment, which doubtless reflects the property values in Flint village.

The county seat for Genesee was located by an act of the territorial legislature, August 25, 1835, "on the west side of the Saginaw turnpike, on lands recently deeded by John Todd and wife to one Wait Beach, known as the Todd Farm, at Flint river, at a point commencing at or within twenty rods of the center of said described land on said turnpike." It was provided, however, that the owner of the land should deed to the county two acres of land for a court house and public square, an acre for a burial ground, and two church and two school lots "of common size" which was done. A building for the county hail and court room was begun in the fall of 1838 and completed in the fall of 1839 at a cost of about five thousand dollars. It was a solid, rectangular building of oak logs. The lower and stronger part was the jail; the upper part was the court room. The persons appointed as a building committee to superintend the construction were Clarke Seymour, Robert F. Stage and John Pratt.

Temporarily, for the holding of the circuit court of Genesee for 1837 and 1838, the sheriff provided, first, the upper story of Stage & Wright's store, and afterwards the hall over Benjamin Pearson's store. At the former place the first term of court was held in February, 1837, by the Hon. George Morell, one of the justices of the state supreme court. The first case tried and decided appears to have been that of Andrew Cox vs. Goshen Olmsted, which was an appeal from Justice Stowe's decision in justice's court, in which judgment was rendered for the plaintiff for the sum of five dollars and sixty-three cents, together with costs taxed at seven dollars and sixty-three cents. The attorney for the plaintiff was Thomas J. Drake, Barton and Thomson were attorneys for the defendant. The case was appealed and a verdict returned for the defendant of sixteen dollars damages; the judgment of the justice of the peace was 'reversed, vacated and annulled, and altogether held for nothing," and Goshen Olmsted was directed to recover from Andrew Cox the damages and also the sum of eighty-eight dollars and forty-two cents for costs of the appeal. This judgment was given February 12, 1841, nearly five years after the commencement of the case.

The other cases on this first calendar were:

    1. Chauncey Bogue vs. Timothy J. Walling Action for attachment. Thomas J. Drake, attorney for plaintiff.
    2. Jason L. Austin vs. Daniel R. Williams Action, an appeal. Attorney for plaintiff, P. H. McOmber. Attorney for defendant, Thomas J. Drake.
    3. Charles McLean vs. Theodore P. Dean. Action, an appeal. Attorney for the plaintiff, T. J. Drake. Attorney for defendant, George Wisner.

The first circuit court held in the new log building was the January term for 1840.

In reference to the first case tied there, Alvah Brainard, for many years a loved and respected citizen of Grand Blanc, who was one of the jurors on the case, relates the following amusing anecdote:

"the difference between the parties was trifling. One of the parties had shut up one of the other's hogs and was going to fat it. There was no place prepared for the jurors to deliberate in. Mr. Hascall was building a dwelling house on the opposite side of the turnpike from the court house, so the arrangement was made for the jurors to go over to this place in the cellar part. The house was set upon blocks about two feet from the ground and the dirt had been thorn partially out, so that we have a shady, airy, and rustic place, with plenty of shavings under foot which had fallen down through the loose floor above. There were no seats, but we could change positions very readily, by lying down, or standing or sitting upon our feet. It was a pleasant and secluded place--we could look out on all sides and see what was going on upon the outside. Being so open, the wind would blow through and fill our eyes with sawdust, and it was a very warm day; so, under all the circumstances, we were not in a very urgent hurry and we could not agree upon a verdict. The constable would look under often; 'Gentlemen, have you agreed?' Our answer would be, 'More water, more water.' So along toward night we ventured out of the den of pen, and went before the court without having agreed on a verdict, for or against."

Judge Morell presided at this meeting. His term as justice of the supreme court began in 1832 and he was chief justice in 1843. His successors in the circuit court of Genesee county have been as follow: William A. Fletcher. Charles W. Whipple, Sanford M. Green, Josiah Turner, William Newton, Charles H. Wisner and Mark W. Stevens.

In the proceedings of the boast of supervisors for a meeting held December 5, 1836, is found the earliest official reference tot he county poor. The sum of seventy-two dollars and fifty cents was allowed to Jason L. Austin for care of county paupers, and sixty-three dollars and fourteen cents to the township of flint for care and removal of a family of county paupers. On January 8, 1839, county superintendents of the poor were appointed; they were Benjamin Rockwell, of Flushing, Lyman Stowe, of Flint, and Jhn Pratt, of Genesee. The following day the board of county commissioners abolished the distinction between town and county paupers; all paupers in the county were thereafter to be considered a county charge. It was nearly a decade, however, before a county farm was purchased and still longer before the first county poor house was built.


History of Genesee County, Michigan, Her People, Industries and Institutions
by Edwin O. Wood, LL.D, President Michigan Historical Commission, 1916

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

HTML by Deb

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