Tag Archives: Legal History

Westchester: The Prophet Matthias and Elijah the Tishbite

MatthiasLong before the fictional and shocking “Peyton Place” of TV and film fame came along in the late 1950s, and early 1960s there was an actual suburban community where its residents were roiled by rampant scandal, moral and religious hypocrisy and a sensational a murder in their midst.

The year was 1834 and the place was the normally tranquil and bucolic Village of Sing Sing, now called Ossining. Actually, the extremely bad behavior took place just outside of the Village, on nearby farmland where a high-end condominium called “Beechwood” now stands in the Village of Briarcliff Manor, on the southwest intersection of Route 9 and Scarborough Station Road. Nonetheless, due to its proximity, it was the Village of Sing Sing that got the headlines in the “penny press,” and crowds of curious and outraged Villagers flocked to the “New York Road” in front of the farm hoping for a glimpse of the sequestered souls residing in the house. Continue reading

A Hamilton County Murder (Part 2)

Though Ernest Duane had eventually admitted killing popular Lake Pleasant guide Eula Davis, there was no guarantee he would be found guilty in court. The defense focused on proving Duane’s supposed mental abnormalities, which they claimed had been exacerbated by the lonely life of a woodsman who often spent long months alone. It seemed a weak argument at best, but then came the kicker: Duane’s epilepsy, seized upon by his attorneys in a strategy described as the “dream defense.” Continue reading

Supreme Court: The Age of Holmes and Brandeis

The influence of two men—Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., and Louis Dembitz Brandeis— will be examined in this seminar on American constitutional development from 1902 to 1939. Although the phrase “Holmes and Brandeis dissenting” led many people to believe that they shared a common jurisprudential philosophy, the differences between them are as important as the areas in which they agreed. Continue reading

Political History: A Hamilton County Write-in Campaign


It’s relatively rare for a write-in candidate to win an election. A recent, high-profile example occurred in Alaska’s senate race when Lisa Murkowski bested Joe Miller, the Tea Party candidate.

Miller took to the courts, claiming that misspellings of Murkowski’s name on many ballots disqualified those votes. The ridiculous charge—it’s an election, not a spelling contest—was dismissed. Otherwise, candidates with easy-to-spell names (like Miller, as opposed to Murkowski) would enjoy a considerable write-in advantage.

A precedent for that situation had long been established, but it wasn’t always followed. More than a century ago, an Adirondack election was decided based on the electorate’s inability to spell a candidate’s name and to record it with consistency. The result? Across the state, headlines of potential bloodshed made the news. It was a year before the issue was finally resolved.

It all began prior to the election of fall 1901 in Hamilton County, where the Republicans chose B. Frank Kathan as their candidate for sheriff. The Democrats offered no opposition, yet Kathan lost the election. Say what? Yep, it’s true. He lost, even with no opponent on the ballot.

Leading up to November, a few dedicated Democrats, including some deputy sheriffs (led by William Osborne), felt the party should have offered a candidate. They began urging voters to support a certain write-in candidate, the very popular Jim Locke.

By all accounts, it came as a total shock on Election Day when the ballots were examined and Jim Locke had triumphed by 40 votes (326–286). He was declared the winner and was issued a Certificate of Election, verifying the outcome.

When Locke took over the office of sheriff, Kathan took off for court. Despite opposition, he obtained a show-cause order requiring the Board of Canvassers to recount the votes (Kathan’s claim was that some ballots were “defective”). The judge ordered that the votes be counted exactly as they were cast, and that presented a problem for James Nathan “Jim” Locke.

Though the voters’ intentions were clear, Locke’s name had been written in many forms. In some settlements he was known as Jim, and in others as Nat. On the ballots, there appeared Jim, James, James N., James Nathan, J. N., Nat, and other variations. The recount revealed new totals: Nat Locke–223- J. N. Locke–32- James N. Locke–24- and a number of other smaller groupings.

Since Frank Kathan had garnered 286 votes, he was declared the winner and was issued a Certificate of Election. Hamilton County now had a new sheriff. Well … let me rephrase that. Hamilton County now had two sheriffs. Jim Locke had already taken up residency in the county jail at Lake Pleasant, and he wasn’t going anywhere. Suddenly, the county had a big problem, and the entire state was waiting to see how it would play out.

It wasn’t pretty. Locke soon made his position clear—he expected to remain sheriff. To that end, headlines from Albany to Buffalo proclaimed that the Hamilton County Jail was under siege, and that violence might well play a role in the outcome. As one article noted, “Kathan demanded possession of the keys to the jail, but Locke had three guards on duty, armed to the teeth with revolvers and Winchesters. Kathan’s demands were refused.”

Adding drama to the situation, it was noted that Arietta sharpshooter Jim Higgins was among those defending the jail. A set of Albany headlines in mid-February said it all: “Crack Shot Guards Jail at Lake Pleasant—Supreme Court Defied—May be Necessary to Call Out Troops to Oust Locke.”

With the state militia already mentioned, Kathan turned again to the courts. A few days later, Locke was ordered to show cause why he should not be punished for contempt of court.

Next week: 2nd of two parts: High drama and a jailhouse coup at Lake Pleasant.

Photo: At Lake Pleasant, old jail and courthouse on left, modern courthouse on right.

Lawrence Gooley has authored 11 books and dozens of articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004. Expanding their services in 2008, they have produced 24 titles to date, and are now offering web design. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.

Susan B. Anthony Festival Set For Saturday

The annual Susan B. Anthony Festival is set for Saturday, August 18, 2012 from noon to 5 p.m. in the Susan B. Anthony Square Park between Madison and King streets in Rochester. The events celebrates the 92nd anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, granting women throughout the country the right to vote.

Music and entertainment will be provided in the park by the Hochstein School of Music and Dance as well as the Rochester Raging Grannies, a group that promotes peace, justice, and social and economic equality through song and dance. Food vendors and unique crafts vendors will sell their goods in the park.

 Authentic nineteenth-century base ball (it was actually two words when it first began in the 19th century!) demonstrations will be provided by Genesee Country Village’s women base ball team, in period costumes, following the rules and etiquette of the game as it was played in the 1800s.

Walking tours of this historic 19th century Historic Preservation District will also be offered. Tours of the Anthony House will be available beginning at 11 a.m. at the special admission price that day only of $5.00 for all ages.

The event is presented by the Susan B. Anthony Neighborhood Association and the National Susan B. Anthony Museum & House. Deborah L. Hughes, President of the Anthony House, explains, “This annual event is close to our hearts because it recognizes the date—August 26, 1920—when the 19th amendment was officially declared law by the Secretary of State after it was ratified by the required 36 states. It honors the women and men who struggled so long—over 72 years—and so hard—often at personal danger—to achieve equality for women. Many of those who worked so fervently in the cause, including Susan B. Anthony, did not live to see the amendment finally ratified. We thank them each year with this festival.”

For more information, visit www.susanbanthonyhouse.org or call 585-279-7490, ext. 10.

Henry Markham: New Yorks Governor of California

The section of Wilmington referred to as Haselton was once known as Markhamville. The name came from settlers who arrived prior to 1800, and it was more than a century before the change was made to Haselton. Among the early-nineteenth-century residents was Nathan Markham, who earned a living in iron manufacturing before turning to farming. He and wife Susan raised six sons and four daughters. The Markham work ethic served them well.Three daughters and two sons were teachers in area schools. Several sons became prominent businessmen in different cities, and four of them were successful attorneys. George became the president of Northwest Mutual Life, an insurance company that is now 153 years old and holds more than $1 trillion in individual policies. And Henry became the governor of California.

Henry Harrison Markham was born in Wilmington on November 16, 1840. At the age of 19, he was still working on the family farm, but extended his education by attending Vermont’s Wheeler Academy, from which he graduated in 1862. Shortly after, he moved to Manitowoc, Wisconsin, on the western shore of Lake Michigan.An overriding concern at the time was the war, and just as his young father (only 18) had fought in the Battle of Plattsburgh, 23-year-old Henry enlisted, joining the North’s Civil War forces in December 1863. Tracking the movements of Company G, 32nd Wisconsin Infantry reveals their role in Sherman’s infamous March to the Sea. Henry survived that campaign, but for him, the war ended soon after.In January 1865 in South Carolina, the troops of the 32nd had slogged their way for days through the muddy morass of Whippy Swamp, sometimes waste deep in cold water. At a place known as River’s Bridge, the Confederates released a hellfire in defense of their position, but a relentless push forward by Union troops forced the rebels to fall back.Dozens died in the battle, and Henry was badly wounded. After a period of recovery at Beaufort, S.C., he was mustered out in May 1865 as a 2nd Lieutenant. Returning to Wisconsin, Henry took up the study of law with a well-known firm, and within a few short years, he was admitted to legal practice at various levels, including the US Supreme Court.When his brother Charles arrived, they formed a very successful law partnership in Milwaukee. Henry was joined in marriage with Mary Dana at Waukesha, Wisconsin, in May 1876, and from outward appearances, life was good.But illness and the nagging effects of his war injuries took an increasing toll, compelling Henry to seek a more healthful climate. Catching his eye was a magazine advertisement: “To Health Seekers—A Beautiful Home in a Beautiful Land—A Fruit Farm in Southern California.” With 22 acres, 750 fruit trees, and a vineyard, Henry was sold. In the late 1870s, Pasadena, California, became the new Markham homestead.In addition to operating his fruit orchard, Henry kept busy pursing civic and business interests in California. Besides investing in various mines, he helped found the Pasadena Public Library and served on the school board, assuming a position of prominence in the community.In 1884, the Republican Party in southern California was searching for a strategy to defeat the Democrats, who had long wielded power. A few interested candidates seemed lackluster at best, and Henry was approached as a dark horse possibility. He consented, and then did what he had always done in any endeavor: worked hard. Success followed, and for the next two years, the interests of southern California were looked after in Washington by Congressman Markham.At re-election time in 1886, he seemed a sure bet to win again. But, just as he had reluctantly surrendered his law practice in Wisconsin, Henry said “Thanks, but no thanks” in declining the opportunity. The east-coast climate had again diminished his health, and he opted for civilian life in Pasadena rather than another term in Washington. Aware of his leadership capabilities and his interest in the plight of war veterans, Congress elected him as a manager of the National Homes for Disabled Soldiers. The position was unpaid, and Henry frequently used his own money to finance related expenditures. In that regard, the home in Santa Monica greatly benefited from his largesse.In 1887, Henry commissioned a magnificent three-story home to be built on his property (the cost in 2010 translates to well over $1 million). The huge mansion would easily accommodate his growing family (three young daughters), but Henry wanted more for them. He began building a playhouse, specially constructed to also accommodate Dad, who was 6 feet 2 inches tall. It was a beloved structure that the children shared for years with many friends.Next week: Markham’s career rises to new heights.Photos: Top?Henry Harrison Markham, circa 1864. Bottom?The Markham Mansion, once a landmark in Pasadena, California.The story of Henry Markham is one of 51 original North Country history pieces appearing in Adirondack & North Country Gold: 50+ New & True Stories You’re Sure to Love (352 pp.), a recent release by author Lawrence Gooley, owner of Bloated Toe Publishing.

Civil War Legal Issues Conference Planned

A conference entitled “Civil War on Trial-Legal Issues That Divided A Nation” will feature a three-day program over June 7-9, 2012, include some of the foremost Civil War and Constitutional scholars in the nation on the subjects of the Civil War and the law, and will look at this iconic period in American history in a way unique from virtually all other conferences nationwide. The conference is being chaired by nationally prominent Civil War scholars Paul Finkelman and Harold Holzer.

The conference will be held on the campus of Albany Law School in Albany, New York from June 7-9, 2012. For more information on the conference agenda and registration, go to www.nysarchivestrust.org or call (518) 473-7091.

The New York State Archives Partnership Trust and the Government Law Center at Albany Law School, in cooperation with the Historical Society of the Courts of the State of New York, the New York State Bar Association, and the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Foundation are organizing the conference. Principal financial support has been provided by History Channel and the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Foundation.

New Book on Convicts in Colonial America

Independent scholar Anthony Vaver’s blog Early American Crime has staked-out some substantial ground with what he calls “an exploration of the social and cultural history of crime and punishment in colonial America and the early United States.” Now Vaver has an outstanding volume to accompany his work on the web, Bound with an Iron Chain: The Untold Story of How the British Transported 50,000 Convicts to Colonial America (Pickpocket Publishing, 2011).

Most people know that England shipped thousands of convicts to Australia, but few are aware that colonial America was the original destination for Britain’s unwanted criminals. In the 18th century, thousands of British convicts were separated from their families, chained together in the hold of a ship, and carried off to America, sometimes for the theft of a mere handkerchief.

What happened to these convicts once they arrived in America? Did they prosper in an environment of unlimited opportunity, or were they ostracized by the other colonists? Anthony Vaver, who has a Ph.D. from the State University of New York at Stony Brook, tells the stories of the petty thieves and professional criminals who were punished by being sent across the ocean to work on plantations. In bringing to life this forgotten chapter in American history, he challenges the way we think about immigration to early America.

The book also includes an index and an appendix with helpful tips for researching individual convicts who were transported to America.

Note: Books noticed on this site have been provided by the publishers. Purchases made through this Amazon link help support this site.

New CT Legal History Research Tool Online

The Litchfield Historical Society has announces the availability of The Ledger, a new online resource funded by the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS), the Council on Library and Information Resources, the Connecticut Humanities Council, and the Seherr-Thoss Foundation.

The Ledger presents the stories of the Litchfield Law School and Litchfield Female Academy and the founders and students of these institutions. In 1784 Tapping Reeve opened the first law school in America. It attracted 934 documented students from 13 states and territories to study in Litchfield. Graduates formed a network of leadership and influence that encompassed public service, business, and other areas of American life. In 1792 Sarah Pierce founded a pioneer institution of female education in America. Her innovative curriculum of academic, practical, and ornamental courses expanded the world of the estimated 3,000 girls (1681 are currently known by name) who attended the Litchfield Female Academy over its 41 year history.

The words, artwork, and personal belongings of the students and instructors are presented together with biographical and genealogical information. Some documents are displayed individually while others are presented as part of collection level descriptions which link to finding aids. Needlework, portraits, personal effects, and other items associated with the school or its students appear on the pages. The Ledger Studies section contains overviews of Litchfield during this era and histories of each school. The Society will continue to add pertinent essays to this section.

Students traveled from around the country and the world to attend these schools. Their result is that their records and artifacts are scattered across the nation in various repositories and private collections. The Society’s goal was to make this tool available to researchers as soon as possible. Staff have already identified a number of other collections of papers, portraits, needlework, and other artifacts that will be added to the database in the coming weeks and months. The Society anticipates input and suggestions for improvements, and continues to seek information about any related materials which could be included in the Ledger. For further details about the project, a complete list of students, or to submit information to be included contact the curator, Julie Frey, at curator@litchfieldhistoricalsociety.org or archivist, Linda Hocking, at archivist@litchfieldhistoricalsociety.org.

Photo: Tapping Reeve House and Law School, Litchfield, CT (Courtesy Wikipedia).

New CT Legal History Research Tool Online

The Litchfield Historical Society has announces the availability of The Ledger, a new online resource funded by the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS), the Council on Library and Information Resources, the Connecticut Humanities Council, and the Seherr-Thoss Foundation.

The Ledger presents the stories of the Litchfield Law School and Litchfield Female Academy and the founders and students of these institutions. In 1784 Tapping Reeve opened the first law school in America. It attracted 934 documented students from 13 states and territories to study in Litchfield. Graduates formed a network of leadership and influence that encompassed public service, business, and other areas of American life. In 1792 Sarah Pierce founded a pioneer institution of female education in America. Her innovative curriculum of academic, practical, and ornamental courses expanded the world of the estimated 3,000 girls (1681 are currently known by name) who attended the Litchfield Female Academy over its 41 year history.

The words, artwork, and personal belongings of the students and instructors are presented together with biographical and genealogical information. Some documents are displayed individually while others are presented as part of collection level descriptions which link to finding aids. Needlework, portraits, personal effects, and other items associated with the school or its students appear on the pages. The Ledger Studies section contains overviews of Litchfield during this era and histories of each school. The Society will continue to add pertinent essays to this section.

Students traveled from around the country and the world to attend these schools. Their result is that their records and artifacts are scattered across the nation in various repositories and private collections. The Society’s goal was to make this tool available to researchers as soon as possible. Staff have already identified a number of other collections of papers, portraits, needlework, and other artifacts that will be added to the database in the coming weeks and months. The Society anticipates input and suggestions for improvements, and continues to seek information about any related materials which could be included in the Ledger. For further details about the project, a complete list of students, or to submit information to be included contact the curator, Julie Frey, at curator@litchfieldhistoricalsociety.org or archivist, Linda Hocking, at archivist@litchfieldhistoricalsociety.org.

Photo: Tapping Reeve House and Law School, Litchfield, CT (Courtesy Wikipedia).