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|Civil War Soldiers|
of Common Pleas Courts
by Bill Oliver for Rebecca Bhaer
Clerk of Courts, Wood County, Ohio
The Office of Clerk of Common Pleas Courts.
The Court of Common Pleas is tracable to English antiquity. It is an offshoot of the ancient "great universal" court known as the Aula Regis (King's Hall) otherwise called Curia Regis (the King's Court) established by William the Conqueror.
The king's great officers who resided in the palace and attended his person composed the court. These included the lord high constable, the lord high stewart, the lord chamberlain, and the lord high treasurer. To these certain justices learned in the law and the greater barons of parliament were added. A chief justiciar, who was the prime minister, presided. This court attended the person of the king wherever he might be. During the latter years of the 12th century the Common Pleas was created, and consisted of one chief justice and four puisne (associate) justices, its jurisdiction being confined altogether to civil matters (common pleas), having no cognizance of criminal matters (pleas of the crown).
One of the concessions of the Magna Carta was that the common pleas should no longer follow the person of the king but should be established in some certain place, that place being later agreed upon as Westminster Hall, where it was referred to as the Court of Common Pleas or Common Bench.
The office of the Clerk of Courts of Common Pleas traces its beginnings to the medieval cleric. They maintained the records, were responsible for correspondence and had various powers to issue writs or other processes ordered by the court. The cleric was generally one of the few educated persons in the community.
Thus, established, this office originating before the time of Edward II, was brought to this continent, and adopted as an office of government during the colonial period. The American Revolution made no radical changes in the political heritage derived from England, the office was continued by the states because of the separation of the administrative and judicial functions of government.
The court of common pleas was the first to be organized under the ordinance of 1787. When the Governor and judges of the Northwest Territory in 1788 were confronted with the task of establishing civil courts in Washington County, Ohio, they looked to the established pattern of the court system of England and to its prototypes in the states of the new Union.
The law established: "A number of suitable persons, not exceeding five, nor less than three shall be appointed in each county, and commissioned by the Governor under the seal of the Territory to hold and keep a court of record, to be styled the County Court of Common Pleas." The jurisdiction covered "all manner of pleas, actions, suits and causes of a civil nature, real, personal and mixed according to the constitution and laws of the territory." Further, it provided that the judges might determine demands upon bond, bill, note, book account or assumpsit where the amount did not exceed five dollars.
Thus, from the very beginning the English system was broadened so there was no matter too trivial to be the objects of exclusion, nor any controversy so important or far reaching as to be "exempt from its power." Though there were different courts for civil and criminal suits, one judge was the head of each of the courts in Washington County. The first known clerk of all these courts was Return Johnathan Meigs, later to become Governor of the State of Ohio.
In 1790, Hamilton County was created and Israel Ludlow was named clerk of courts. In 1798, Ross County was established and Edward Tiffin, Ohio's first Governor, was appointed clerk. And, so were the same methods pursued in each of the other seven counties created prior to the Constitution of 1802.
Another prominent Ohioan to serve as a Clerk of the Court of Common Pleas was William Henry Harrison, who was a Clerk of Courts when he was elected ninth President of the United States.
An aside, is the interesting fact that the first five judges appointed by the legislature were Rufus Putnam, Benjamin Tupper, Archibald Crary, Isaac Pierce and Thomas Lord, not one of who had any legal training. They were each commissioned as a justice of the peace and therefore qualified to sit in the Court of General Quarter Sessions in the hearing of criminal causes, as they in fact did. The framers of the first constitution gave the legislative branch the predominance, and to render the executive and judicial branches subordinate and subservient. In carrying out that policy, the vast majority of the associate judges were at first selected from the ranks of the laymen. While it was planned to have the President Judge to preside at all general sessions of the court, the three associate judges could hold court at the stated times in his absence.
Creation of the Ohio Clerk of Courts Office Article III of the Constitution of 1802 provided that the judicial power of the State should be vested in the Supreme Court, courts of Common Pleas, justices of the peace, and such other courts as the Legislature might establish. At this time it was vested with common law and criminal jurisdiction, because the Court of General Quarter Sessions was abolished. Judges were appointed by the legislature, and they in turn appointed their Clerks of Courts, usually for seven years. Under the Constitution of 1851 the office of clerk became an elective office with a term of three years. In the year 1936, the term of the Clerk was extended to four years.
In Wood County the Court of Common Pleas had four judges -- a president judge, and three associates, all appointed by the Legislature. George Tod, father of the Governor David Tod, was president judge at the first court, and his associates were Samuel Vance, Horatio Conant, and Peter G. Oliver. David Hull was the first sheriff who rapped on the table to open the Common Pleas court. The first official act was to appoint Thomas R. McKnight, Clerk. Then C. J. McCurdy was appointed prosecutor for the State.
Fees of the judge, clerk and sheriff were fixed by statue. The act of 1792 fixed the fees at rediculously small sums. There was a distinction made between "small causes" and "actions," the latter fees were substantially larger. The fee law of 1795 generally reduced fees and did away with the class distinction. In 1798 the fees of the clerk and sheriff were materially increased. By the [unfinished...]
Duties of the Common Pleas Court.
The duties of the Common Pleas Court then (1802) might be some different than today. All probate work, including appointment of guardians, granting administration, recording wills, taking bonds, etc rested with the court. The court granted all licenses. Every business paid license, such as taverns, stores, ferries, bridges, ware-houses.
Wood county's jurisdictional history began with the explorations of the French in 1679. Until 1713 it was part of Quebec. From then to 1764 it was a part of Louisiana. For a short five years, until 1769, it was under British Parliament Statute in the Quebec Province. In 1769, until 1778, the governing authority was the Virginia Legislature, and attached to Botetourt county. The next nine years [until 1787] it was a part of Illinois county, Virginia.
In 1787, when the Northwest Territory was established, what is today, Wood county was wild and rough, inhospitable swamp, and the hunting grounds of the Ottawa, Wyondot, Seneca, Sandusky, Delaware and other nations.
Finally, in 1796, under the provisions of the Jay Treaty, General "Mad" Anthony Wayne was sent to fortify the garrisons given up by the British. Governor St Clair proclaimed the third county of the NW Territory and named it Wayne, for the General, with Detroit as the county seat. The boundaries of this new county was Detroit east to Cleveland, southwest to Fort Wayne, northwest to Chicago, north to the Canadian border [claiming all the lands that drained into Lake Michigan] east along the border, then south along the border back to Detroit.
Washington and Hamilton counties were the first two counties formed in the Northwest Territory. Wayne was the third county to be formed. Trumbull county was the fourth. When the State of Ohio was established on 3 March 1803, the first thing the Legislature did was to create seven new counties: Greene, Montgomery, Gallia, Butler, Warren, Geauga, and Scioto. In April more counties were formed, including Franklin county.
Green and Franklin counties were organized and their borders were extended north to the State line [Michigan], with the eastern part of what is now Wood couty in Franklin county. Champaign county was formed from Greene and Franklin counties, with jurisdiction transferring there. Then in 1817 Logan county was created and jurisdiction was once more transferred.
Thus, on 12 February 1820, the Legislature defined fourteen new counties out of the territory recently purchased from the Indians in northwest Ohio. However, provisions for only two counties were made at this time: Wood and Sandusky counties. Maumee was named temporary county seat. On April first the vote was held. The Act further provided that the unorganized counties of Hancock, Henry, Putnam, Paulding and Williams should be attached to Wood county for civil purposes. Since then, Lucas, Fulton and Defiance counties were formed from these territories.
Today Wood county is bounded by Lucas county to the north, Ottawa, Sandusky and Seneca counties to the east, Hancock county to the south, and Henry county to the west.
Jurisdiction Table for Wood County, Ohio
Time Table of Jurisdiction that Neighbors were part of Wood County.
County Seat: Bowling Green 43402
Court House: 1 Courthouse Square, Bowling Green 43402
Library: 251 N. Main St., Bowling Green 43402
Historical Society: 13660 County Home Rd, Bowling Green 43402
Genealogical Society: Wood County Chapter OGS POB 722, Bowling Green 43402
Health Department: 541 W. Wooster St., Bowling Green 43402 (separate offices for Bowling Green city, Perrysburg, Rossford, Northwood & Fostoria)
Archival District: Jerome Library, Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green 43402
Land Surveys: Congress Lands, E & N of 1st Prin. Meridian Twelve Mile Square Reserve, 1805
East -- Ottawa, Sandusky & Seneca cos.
Townships: Bloom, Center, Freedom, Grand Rapids, Henry, Jackson, Lake, Liberty, Middleton, Milton, Montgomery, Perry, Perrysburg, Plain, Portage, Ross, Troy, Washington, Webster, Weston.
Wood County Clerks of Common Pleas Courts
============================================= From _Commemorative Historical and Biographical Record of WOOD COUNTY, OHIO; Its Past and Present_, Chicago, J H Beers & Co, 1897. Webb, John --Among the residents at the Rapids, in 1818, at Perrysburg. [p55] McKnight, Thomas R -- The first official act of the Court [1820 May 3] was to appoint Thomas R. McKnight, clerk. [p57] McKnight, Thomas R -- On the transfer of the county seat from Maumee to Perrysburg, 1823, the commissioners on May 26th, as part of the business transactions cancelled a contract with TJMcK to furnish a court room to the county for ten years. [p50] McKnight, Tomas R -- paid $28.00 on 1820 May 5th by Wood County Commissioners. [p60] McKnight, T R -- town of Perrysburg trustees. [p60] Robinson, James W -- ca this time appointed clerk of courts and in January 1831 due to death of T R McK appointed Recorder to replace TRMcK. [p61] McKnight, Thomas R -- estate case #37, Probate Court Office -- 20 January 1831 Admin. Ross, James W -- was treasurer in March 1856. [p63] Webb, John -- member grand jury March [1st session at P/burg] session [p70] Webb, John -- guardian for Olive Ewing [Mrs Rolla H Chubb] March 1823 [p70] McKnifhr, Thomas R -- guardian for Angelina Ewing March 1823 [p70] Robinson, James W -- appointed clerk vice Thomas R Mcknight, deceased [p72] Webb, John -- resigned office of sheriff and apponted clerk May 1831; reapponted 1835. [p72] Utley, Joseph -- spring term 1844, John Webb sheriff and JU clerk. [p73] Simmons, L O -- 1852 was clerk [p73] Webb, John -- clerk in 1855 [p73] Jones, William H -- Feb 1861 clerk [p73] Knaggs, James W -- clerk Maar 1864 w/ Thomas J WEbb and W S Eberly deputies. [p73] Weddell, George -- 1866 clerk [p74] Weddell, George -- 1870 clerk [p74] Eberly, W S -- Mar 1878 clerk [p74] Webb, John -- Nov 1830, executed person convicted of murder. [p76] was sheriff [p369] at time. Robinson, James W -- admitted as attorney of the Ohio Bar Winter 1830 session. [p76] Utley, Joseph -- admitted as attorney 1839 [p76] Utley Joseph -- appointed clerk of the court for the constitutional term of seven years in 1845 [p76]Simmons, L O -- 1852 clerk [district court] p76] Webb, John -- election of 1850, lost recorder as a Whig; won coroner as a Democrat [p87] Simmons, L O -- elected clerk in 1851 election [p87] Simmons, L O -- in 1848 election lost to J W Ross for coroner [p87] Webb, John (W) -- won clerk's seat over L O Simmons in electon of Nov 1854. [p88] Ross, James W (R) -- won auditor's position election 1855 [p88] Weddell, George -- Republican rep to County Union Mass Convention 1862 [p88] Knaggs, J W -- election of oct 1863 won clerk's position [p88] Webb, John -- sheriff in 1848 [p92] McKnight, Thomas R -- clerk 1820 [p92] Webb, John -- clerk 1834 [p92] Utley, Joseph -- clerk 1842 [p92] Ross, James W -- clerk 1849 [p92] Simmons, L O -- clerk 1850 [p92] Donnelly, R M m Mary A Harrison b 1851 Aug 18 [p776] Muir, A L -- elected 1887 clerk of county courts; president of the Wood coun;ty Tribune Company. [p541] Weddell, George -- son of William and Margaret Dunipace [p519] Eberly, William S -- son of Jacob [p490] [p461] Weddell, George -- member of United Presbyterian Church of Scotch Ridge. [p421] Weddell, George -- was a teacher Webster Township [p416] Donnelly, R M -- member of United Brethren Church, Portage; Clerk of portage to 1876. [p395] Knaggs, J W -- councilman Portage 1878, 1884, 1886, 1888. [p395] Donnelly, R M -- teacher Portage twp down to 1870. [p394] Webb, John -- Perrysburg twp trustie 1848. [p358] McKnight, Thomas R -- property/lived at Orleans. [p360] Webb, John -- enumberated in 1839, P'burg twp. [p363] Webb, John -- P'burg Village, died 1885 Aug 27, settled in 1822, occupation hat-=maker. [p366] McKnight Thomas R -- first postmaster of P'burg, was with John Webb in 1822. [p368] Ross, J W -- P'burg councilman 1853, 1860, 1861, 1863. [p373] Blue, E L -- P'burg councilman 1893, 1894. [p373] Webb, John -- muni clerk 1833 [p374] p'burg Ross, J W -- muni clerk 1849 [p374] p'burg Weddell, George -- muni clerk 1872 [p374] p'beurg Ross, James W -- established select school in old court house, charged tuition 2-2.50 for 3 mon term. [p376] p'burg. Ross, James W -- member Walnut Street Presbyterian; eventually moved to Kansas; p'burg village [p379] Simmons, L O --member Phoenix Lodge, 123, F&AM chartered 1844, PastMaster in 1851 and secretary 1846. [p380] Blue, Ed L -- member Phoenix Lodge, 123, F&AM chartered 1844, PMaster 1891. [p380] Baird, Joe E -- member Fort Meigs Lodge, No 774, I.O.O.F. instituted 1889; Noble Grand 1890; secretary 1889. [p380] Blue, E L -- member Perrysburg Lodge, # 524, K of P, org 1891; C.C.[chancellor?]; also, member of Tippecanoe Council #77, National Union, chartered 1889; [p382] Baird, Joe E -- member P'burg Lodge #524, K of P, unofficial member; keeper of records and seals [p383] McKnight, Thomas R -- Justice P'burg twp June 30, 1824-1826. [p357] Ross, James W -- twp clerk 1849 [p357] Webb, John -- 1852 assessor p'burg twp [p357] Baird, Joe E -- 1889 & 1892 assessor p'burg twp [p357] Lake, Thomas J -- Grand Rapids Turkey Foot Lodge # 529, I.O.O.F. chartered 1872; [p277] [p92] [p266]