Two acts were passed by the Legislature for the organization of Hancock county as a separate county. The first act, approved January 26, 1827, provided, in substance, that all the territory lying one mile south of the line dividing townships 17 and 18 and within the then boundary of Madison county, should be formed as Hancock county, and should enjoy all the rights, privileges and immunities belonging to separate counties. It provided that all circuit and other courts should be held in said county at the house of Henry Pierson. It provided further that the county should be attached to Madison county for all civil, judicial and other purposes, until the county seat should be located and convenient buildings should be erected.
In the latter part of the same year, another act was passed and approved which made complete provision for the organization of the county as a separate county. This act is as follows:
An Act for the Organization of the County of Hancock
Approved December 24, 1827
Section 1. Be It Enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Indiana: That from and after the first day of March next, the county of Hancock shall enjoy the rights and jurisdiction which to separate counties do properly belong.
Section 2. That Levi Jessup, of the county of Hendricks, James Smock, of the county of Johnson, Richard Blacklidge, of the county of Rush, John Anderson, of Henry county, and Thomas Martin, of Marion county, be, and they are hereby appointed commissioners for the purpose of fixing the permanent seat of justice for said county of Hancock, agreeably to the provisions of an Act to Fix the Seats of Justice in New Counties, approved January 14, 1824, and the act amendatory of the same, approved December 19, 1825. The commissioners above named or a majority of them shall convene at the house of Samuel B. Jackson in said county, on the first Monday in April next or so soon thereafter as the majority shall agree.
Section 3. It shall be the duty of the sheriff of Henry county, on or before the fifteenth day of March next, to notify the commissioners above named, either in person or by writing, of their appointment, and of the time and place when they are to convene, and the court doing county business shall allow him a reasonable compensation for his services out of the moneys in the treasury of said county of Hancock.
Section 4. The circuit and other courts of the county of Hancock shall be held at the house of Samuel B. Jackson, until suitable accommodations can be had at the county seat, and the said courts may adjourn thereto, or to any place in said county if they think proper.
Section 5. The agent who shall be appointed to superintend the sale of lots at the county seat of the county of Hancock shall reserve ten per cent. out of the proceeds thereof, and out of all donations to said county, and pay the same over to such person or persons as may be appointed by law for the use of the library of said county, which he or his successors shall pay over at such time and in such manner as shall be directed by law.
Section 6. It shall be the duty of the qualified voters of said county of Hancock, at the time of electing the officers of said county, to elect three commissioners within and for said county, who shall constitute a board for transacting county business, and do and perform all the duties heretofore devolving on the board of county commissioners in organizing new counties. And said person so elected shall hold their offices in the same manner and under the same restrictions as they are prescribed by an Act to establish a Board of County Commissioner, approved January 31, 1824.
Section 7. The said commissioners, when so elected and qualified into office, shall have the power to hold special sessions and to do and perform at such special sessions any acts which may have been required by law to be done at any previous regular session or sessions of the court doing county business.
Section 9. This act to take effect and be in force from and after the first Monday in March next.
The organization of Hancock county as a separate county under the above act became effective on March 1, 1828. It was, however, only a "district of country," without the organized machinery of civil government. Provision had been made in the first act of the Legislature for the organization of the county, approved January 26, 1827, that the circuit court and all other courts to be held in Hancock county should be held at the house of Henry Pierson, and that all acts, judgments, and decrees of said courts should have the same force and effect as if held in Madison county. There is no record, however, of any court held in Hancock county previous to the fourth Monday of March, 1828. On that day, March 24, Bethuel F. Morris, who was president of the fifth judicial circuit, which then included a number of counties in central Indiana, came to the house of Samuel B. Jackson, which stood on the south side of the National road, just a little west of where the car barns now stand, and there held, or organized rather, the Hancock circuit court. There were present on that day, Bethuel F. Morris, judge; Lewis Tyner, clerk; Jacob Jones and James B. Stevens, associate judges, and James Whitcomb, prosecutor. The organization of the court was effected as follows: Judge Morris produced his commission as president of the fifth judicial circuit, from the hand of the governor, William Hendricks; also a written copy of his oath as such, president of the fifth judicial circuit, both of which were placed on the records of the Hancock circuit court. Lewis Tyner produced his commission as clerk of said county, and his bond, with John Foster, Samuel B. Jackson, Elijah Tyner and Israel Chapman as sureties, both of which instruments were placed on record. The associate judges next produced their commissions and oaths, as did also the prosecutor, James Whitcomb. The commissioners of the associate judges and of the prosecutor, however, were not recorded. Following this, Calvin Fletcher, Henry Gregg, Marinus Willett and Charles H. Verder, on motion of the prosecutor, were duly admitted to practice as attorneys and counsellors-at-law at the bar of the new court.
Lewis Tyner, clerk, then produced a seal, which "the court adopted and ordered to be used and taken and received as the seal of this court until the same is changed." This seal was a notched disc about one and one-half inches in diameter, with the word "HANCOCK" printed in large capitals around the margin, and eight short lines radiating in all directions from the center.
John Foster did not produce his commission as sheriff until the September term, 1828. With this exception, the organization of the court was completed on March 24, 1828, and court and attorneys were ready for any legal matters that might need attention. But there being an evident lack of business, the court adjourned sine die.
The two associated judges above mentioned were county officers and sat as a probate court without the presence of the presiding judge. Judge Morris traveled from county to county over his entire circuit and was not strictly a county officer. The presiding judge had about the same duties to perform that devolve upon our present circuit judges. The associate judges sat on either side of the presiding judge when court was in session.
At the September term, 1828, the first grand jury convened, and returned several indictments. The following men were members of this grand jury: George W. Hinton, James McKinsey, Benjamin Gordon, Meredith Gosney, Jeremiah Meek, Samuel Thompson, Robert Snodgrass, David Templeton, Ladock Stephenson, Richard Guymon, Jacob Tague, Moses McCall, Samuel Martin, Basil Meek, Owen Griffith and John Osborn. The record shows that Meredith Gosney was appointed foreman. Eight cases, including four prosecution for rioting and two for assault and battery were disposed of by the court at this term. Pleas of "guilty" were entered to all of the charges, and on the second day, September 23, there being no further business, the court adjourned.
On March 19, 1829, the court convened for the March term, 1829. During this term, the first plea of "not guilty" was entered, by Nancy Shay, defendant, on a charge of assault and battery. On March 21, 1829, this case was tried before the first petit jury impanelled in this county, composed of Henry Watts, John Kauble, Peter Belllers, Benjamin Miller, George Baity, William Chapman, William Booth, David Smith, John Henley, James Goodwin, Samuel Vangilder and Eli Chapman. The jury returned a verdict of "guilty," and did "assess a fine to her of twenty-five cents."
Both of the above terms of court were held at the house of Samuel B. Jackson.
A probate court was first organized on December 8, 1828, also at the house of Samuel B. Jackson. There were present the associate judges, Jacob Jones and James B. Stevens. They produced their commissions as probate judges, but, there being no business, they adjourned "till court in course." At the March term, 1829, these judges convened again at the house of Samuel B. Jackson, but adjourned without doing any business
At the November term, 1829, however, Jeremiah Meek produced his commission from the hand of the governor as judge of the probate court for Hancock county, under the act approved January 2, 1829, providing for the organization of probate courts in the state. The first matter brought before this new court was the guardianship of the infant heirs of David John. John Foster was appointed guardian, and filed his bond, with Lewis Tyner as security.
On Monday, April 1, 1828, the county commissioners held their first meeting, in special session at the house of Samuel B. Jackson. The record of that meeting recites in part:
"Special term, Apr. 7th, A. D. 1828
At a special term of the Board of County Commissioners of the County of Hancock, at the house of Samuel B. Jackson, in the aforesaid County, on the 7th day of April in the year of our Lord, one thousand eight hundred twenty eight-
Samuel Vangilder Esqr. Presented his Certificate as first Commissioner of the County of Hancock from under the hand of John Foster, Sheriff of said County to serve as such, for the term of three years from and after the date of his said Certificate, which Certificate bears date the 20th day of March, 1828. On the back of said Certificates is endorsed the Certificate of John Foster, Esquire, Sheriff as aforesaid, of his having taken the several oaths prescribed by the Constitution and laws of the State of Indiana-Whereupon he takes his seat as first Commissioner of said County."
Elisha Chapman presented a similar certificate as second commissioner, for a period of two years, and John Hunter, as third commissioner, for a period of one year, all of which were duly recorded in the first county commissioners record.
The first official act of the county commissioners after the organization of the board, on April 7, 1828, at the house of Samuel B. Jackson, was to divide the county into townships. Three townships were organized. The minutes of that meeting recite:
"It is ordered by the Board that the County be divided into three townships, as follows, to wit: Commencing at the southeast corner of Section Thirty-four, Township Fifteen, Range Six, thence north to the north boundary of said county, and that all the lands lying west of the said line to the best boundary of said county shall be known and designated by the name and title of Sugar Creek township, No. 1st. And that all the lands lying west of the lines dividing thirty-four and thirty-five in Township Sixteen and Range Seven, thence running north to the north boundary of said County shall be known and designated by the name and title of Brandywine Township, No. 2nd. And that all the lands lying east of the aforesaid line to the east boundary shall be known and designated by the name and title of Blue River Township, No. 3rd.
It was soon found advisable to make further divisions of these townships. At the May term, 1831, several divisions were made. Blue River township was reduced in size and given its present boundary. The remaining part of the original Blue River township was organized and became known as Jackson township. Brandywine township was reduced to a district six miles east and west by five miles north and south, located where it is now except that the northern boundary was one mile further north than it is now.
Center township was organized and bounded as follows: Commencing one mile south of the township line dividing 15 and 16 at the line dividing 2 and 3; thence north to the said township line; thence east one mile; thence north one mile; thence west two miles west of the range line dividing 6 and 7; thence south two miles; thence east to the place of beginning.
Harrison township was organized and bounded as follows: Commencing one mile north of the township line dividing 15 and 16 and one mile west of the range line dividing 7 and 8; thence due north to the north line of said county; thence west on said line one mile west of the range line dividing 6 and 7; thence south, within one mile of the line dividing 16 and 15, thence east to the place of beginning.
The following addition was made to Sugar Creek township: Commencing one mile north of the township line dividing 15 and 16; north from thence one mile in width to the county line, one mile in width and ten miles in length.
At the November term, 1831, Buck Creek township was organized and bounded as follows: Commencing at the southeast corner of section 34, township 16, range 6; thence north one mile; thence east one mile; thence north to the county line; thence west to the same; thence south to the first mentioned line; thence east to the place of beginning.
At the September term, 1832, Green township was organized and made to include all of what is now Green and Brown townships, described as follows: Beginning at the east side of said county on the line dividing congressional townships 16 and 17; thence west on said line to Buck Creek township line; thence north with said Buck Creek township line to the county line; thence east and south with said county line to the place of beginning.
At the September term, 1833, Brown township was organized and given its present boundary lines.
At the January term, 1836, Center township was ordered bounded as follows: Commencing at the northwest corner of section 35, township 16 north, range 7 east (evidently range 6 east was extended); thence east seven miles to the northeast corner of section 35; thence south three miles to the southeast corner of section 11, township 15 north, of range 7 east; thence west seven miles to the southwest corner of section 11; thence north to the place of beginning.
At the May term, 1836, the southern boundary line of Vernon township was located one mile south of the line dividing townships 16 and 17 north.
At the May term, 1838, it was ordered that the following described tract of land formerly belonging to Sugar Creek and Buck Creek townships be set apart and called Jones township, to wit: Beginning at the southeast corner of section 10 in township 15 north, of range 6 east; thence running west with the section lines to the southwest corner of section 17 in township 15 north, of range 5 east; thence with the county lines dividing the counties of Hancock and Marion to the northwest corner of section 26, township 16, range 6; thence one mile to the southeast corner of said section 26; thence west one mile to the southeast corner of said section 26; thence south along the section line to the place of beginning.
At the September term, 1838, it was ordered that the following described tract of land formerly belonging to the townships of Harrison, Buck Creek and Vernon "be and the same is hereby set apart and called Union township, to wit: Commencing at the southeast corner of section 30 in township 16 north, of range 7 east; thence west four miles along the section line to the southwest corner of section 27, range 6 east; township 16 north; thence north along the section lines five miles to the northwest corner of section 3 in township 16, range 6 east; thence east four miles along the section line to the northeast corner of section 6, township 16, range 7; thence south along the section line five miles to the place of beginning.
At the June term, 1850 it was "ordered that sections 1, 12, 13 and 24, in township 16 north, of range 7 east, and sections numbered 2,3,4,5,6,7. 8.9.10,11,14,15,16,17,18,19,.20,21,22, and 23, of township 16 north, range 8 east, shall compose a separate township and shall be designated and known by the name of Worth township."
On March 11, 1853, the following entry was made in commissioners Record "C",. page 142:
"The board now proceeds to lay off the county into townships, as follows, to wit:" Here follow descriptions of the nine townships of the county with their present boundaries. No change has been made in the township lines since that time.
After the division of the county into townships, the board ordered the election of two justices of the peace in each township, the first elections to be held on the first Saturday of May, 1829. The election in Sugar Creek township was ordered held at the house of William Banks, who lived within or near the present corporate limits of New Palestine. In Brandywine township, the election was ordered held at the house of Samuel B. Jackson, and in Blue River, at the house of Abraham Miller, who lived one-half mile north and one-fourth mile east of Westland. William McCance was appointed inspector in Sugar Creek township, Jeremiah Meek in Brandywine, and Jonathan Justice in Blue River township.
The board then appointed trustees for the school section in the congressional townships within the county. The following appointments wee made:
Section 16, township 15, range 6, William McCance, Jacob Murnan, Joseph Weston.
Section 16, township 15, range 7, Elijah Tyner, Samuel Martin, Lucus Brown.
Section 16, township 15, range 8, Samuel A. Hall, James Tyner, Joshua Binford
Section 16, township 15, range 8, Basil Meek, Samuel Thompson, James Dennis
Section 16, township 15, range 7, Meredith Gosney, Benjamin Spillman, Samuel B. Jackson
Section 16, township 15, range 6, Morris Pierson, Jacob Jones, James Willetts
The first days business was closed with the following order: "It is ordered by the board that each and every person producing a wolfe scalp or scalps killed within Hancock County shall severally be allowed the sum of one dollar for each scalp over six months old, and fifty cents for every scalp under six months old, and that the Treasurer shall pay the same out of any moneys not otherwise appropriated, when a certificate be produced by the applicant from under the hand and seal of the clerk of said Board."
This order was based on an act approved June 27, 1827, which provided that in case anyone produced before the clerk of any circuit court, a wolf scalp or scalps with the ears, within thirty days after the wolf had been killed, within eight miles of any settlement in Indiana, he should receive the sums above stipulated. The applicant had to make oath as to the facts, whereupon the clerk was required to destroy the wolfs ears in the presence of the applicant. The clerk then gave the applicant a certificate which enabled him to draw his money. The order is interesting as the first step toward greater security of life and property, and for the light it throws upon the conditions of the times. Quite a number of fees were paid for killing wolves in Hancock county during the first ten years after this order was made.
Among the orders drawn for wolf scalps, as shown by the early commissioners records, are those of Isaac Lucas, two scalps; one Sebastian, three scalps; Robinson Lucas, one scalp; William Records, three scalps; Reed Fuller, one scalp; Joe Kingan, two scalps; Aaron Pawd, two scalps; Joshua King, ten scalp; John Carr, one scalp; Thomas Carr, one scalp.
It was then "ordered that the board adjourn until tomorrow morning at the hour at 10 oclock-present the honorable
|Attest Lewis Tyner||Samuel Vangilder,
On the next day, April 8, 1828, the board appointed the following county officers: County lister, Samuel Martin; county treasurer, Henry Watts.
The seal of the Hancock circuit court was adopted by the board to be used when any instrument in writing required a seal affixed thereto. No further steps in the organization of the county were taken on that day.
On Wednesday and Thursday, April 9 and 10, adjourned sessions were held, but on April 11, 1828, the board received the report from the commissioners appointed by statute to select and locate the seat of justice for Hancock county. This report was accepted and ordered spread on the commissioners record. By the acceptance of this report, the present site of Greenfield became fixed as the county seat of Hancock county. The report is as follows:
"Indiana, to wit:
Pursuant to an Act of the General Assembly of the State of Indiana, approved December 24, A.D., 1827, James Smock, Thomas Martin, and Levi Jessup, three of the Commissioners appointed by the aforesaid, met at the house of Samuel Jackson, in said County of Hancock on Monday the 7th day of April. A. D., 1828, and after being sworn as the law directs: proceed to the discharge of the duties of our appointment. On Tuesday the 8th day of April, John Anderson appeared and was sworn as a Commissioner appointed by the Act aforesaid, and on the same day Richard Blacklidge appeared and was sworn as a Commissioner appointed as aforesaid. And after examining the several sites shown to us and duly considering all their donations offered, we have unanimously agreed to accept a donation of sixty acres of land donated by Cornwell Meek, John Wingfield, and Benjamin Spilman, bounded as follows to wit: Beginning at the line dividing Sections Thirty-two and Thirty-three in Township Sixteen North, Range Seven East, where the National Road crosses said line thence running north thirty rods from the north side of said Road and the same distance south from the south side of said County Road. Thence west on lines parallel with the said road one hundred and sixty rods to the open line dividing Sections Thirty-two and Five, north and south, to contain sixty acres, which we have selected as the permanent seat of Justice for the Hancock. And it is further agreed and allowed by us that the donors aforesaid be allowed every fourth block in that part of the town respectively donated by them in manner following to wit: John Wingfield and Benjamin Spilman to be entitled to every fourth block, the County Commissioners having first choice, and that Cornwell Meek be allowed every fourth block on that part of town donated by him, the said Cornwell Meek to have first choice in the first four blocks and afterward for the County Commissioners to have the first choice, and it is moreover further agreed by us that the donors aforesaid be allowed to remove all their building, rails, boards, and board timber already sawed off which may be included in their respective donation. And we have further received donations by subscription amounting to cash, labor, and lumber, to two hundred and sixty-five dollars. And furthermore we have taken bond on the donors aforesaid for the conveyance of the land above described, which with the papers containing the subscriptions aforesaid is submitted to the County Commissioners.
Jared Chapman was appointed county agent to sell the lots and account for the moneys as provided by the statute.
On April 11, 1828, the board also ordered "that the seat of Justice of Hancock county, shall be known and designated by the name and title of Greenfield. (The Seat of Justice of Hancock County.)
Even at this early day the count was not unmindful of those who might be in need. At the May term, 1828, John Hager and Noble Banks were appointed overseers of the poor in Sugar Creek township, and James Reeves and David Vangilder, overseers of the poor in Brandywine township.
Fence viewers were also appointed at the same term, George Baity and James Anderson for Sugar Creek, William Simmons and Isaac Roberts for Brandywine, and Harmon Wareham and Abraham Miller for Blue River township.
To meet the expense of the new county government, the board, at the May term, 1828, made the first tax levy. The first rate of taxation on the persons and property of Hancock county was as follows: Polls, 50 cents; horse, 37 _ cents; work ox, 18 _ cents; silver and pinchbeck watches, 25 cents; gold watches, $1.00; land, one-half state tax.
John Foster, acting sheriff of the county, was appointed collector of revenue for the year 1828.
At this time, May 4, 1828, the board also appointed the first grand jurors, who were to serve at the September term of the Hancock circuit court, and who have been named above. On the same day the board also drew the following list of names from which the first petit jury was to be chosen for the September term of the Hancock Circuit Court: Josiah Vanmeter, Thomas Phillips, Sr., Joseph Mitchell, Adonijah Rambo, William Wilson, Jr., Jacob Manan, Daniel Smith, Andrew Flowers, William Simmons, Warner Copeland, George Smith, John Harwood, Solomon Catt, William Burris, Ambrose Shirley and Harry Pierson. No jury cases were tried at this term, hence these men did not serve.
The organization of the Hancock circuit court, as above stated, with two associated judges and the presiding judge, was maintained until 1852. The presiding judge alone, or the presiding judge and one associate judge, could hold court, but the two associated judges could not hold court in the absence of the presiding judge except to hear certain matters in chancery or equity. The associated judges were not always elected from the legal profession, but were chosen rather because they were good, substantial business men, in whose character and intelligence people had confidence. The men who served one or more terms as associated judge from 1828 to 1852 were: Jacob Jones, James Stevens, John Ogg, Robert McCorkhill, Nathan Crawford, George Henry, Hector H. Hall, George Tague, Owen Jarrett, Andrew T. Hatfield, P. H. Foy.
In 1852 the number of judges of the Hancock circuit court was reduced from three to one.
When the court was first organized it was made a part of the fifth judicial circuit. It remained a part of this circuit until February 1, 1859, when it was made a part of the seventh judicial circuit. In 1873 the eighteenth judicial circuit was formed of Hancock and Henry counties. In 1889 this circuit was divided, and since that time the Hancock circuit court of Hancock county has constituted the eighteenth judicial circuit. The following men have presided over this court since its organization:
|Judges||Elected or Appointed|
|Betheul F. Morris||1828|
|William W. Wick||1835|
|William J. Peasley||1843|
|William W. Wick||1850|
|Joseph S. Buckles||1859|
|Joshua H. Mellett||1870|
|Robert J. Polk||1876|
|Mark E. Forkner||1881|
|William H. Martin||1888|
|Charles G. Offutt||1894|
|Edward W. Felt||1900|
|Robert L. Mason||1906|
Since the organization of the county there has always been a probate court, having jurisdiction of the settlement of decendents estates, the care and preservation of the property of minors and of persons of unsound mind, etc. Such a court was first organized at the house of Samuel B. Jackson on December 8, 1828, by the associate judges of the Hancock circuit court. The record shows that this court convened in December, 1828, and in March, 1829. It fails to show, however, that any probate business was transacted.
Under another statute, another probate court was organized in 1829, and was maintained until 1852. Three men presided over this court: Jeremiah Meek, until 1836; John Ogg, from 1836 to 1850, and Samuel Hottle, from 1850 until 1852. The probate judges, like the associate judges, were elected because of character and business ability rather than for their technical knowledge of the law.
In 1852 the Legislature passed an act establishing the common pleas courts in the state, which took over all the business of the former probate courts and also had jurisdiction of some other matters. Under this act, the common pleas court of Hancock county became a part of a circuit composed of Rush, Decatur, Madison and Hancock counties. Section 5 of the act of 1852 provided that "the circuit and common pleas courts shall have concurrent jurisdiction in all actions against heirs, devisees and sureties of executors, administrators and guardians, in the partition of real estate, assignment of dowers, and appointments of a commissioner to execute a deed on any title bond given by the decedent." This provision means that any action or lawsuit against any of the persons, or for any of the purposes, set out in the act, could be brought in either the Hancock circuit court or in the Hancock common pleas court. The common pleas court was in fact a probate court, and was maintained until it was abolished by the act of March 6, 1873. In the office of the clerk of the Hancock circuit court may be seen the two sets of books or records of the courts of the county covering the period from 1852 to 1873- the records of the Hancock circuit court and of the Hancock court of common pleas. Since 1853 the Hancock circuit court has had jurisdiction of all probate matters within the county, and it is now our only county court.
The following men presided over the Hancock court of common pleas:
|David S. Gooding||1852|
|David S. Gooding||1861|
|William R. West||1864|
|Robert L. Polk||1872|
The value of property in those days was not very high, and personal property was not very plentiful. Hence, in order to meet the current expenses of the county, other methods than the tax levy were resorted to. The law of the state permitted the board of commissioners to impose a revenue upon licenses granted to sell groceries, merchandise, liquors, et. Our county commissioners took advantage of this law, and their first records contains a great number of orders like the following:
"It is ordered that Elijah Tyner is licensed to vend foreign merchandise at his store on Brandywine for and during a term of six months from and after this date [November, 1828]. And the said Elijah Tyner here now files receipt from under the hand of the Treasurer of his having paid five dollars as a tax on said license."
"On application of Joseph Chapman for a license to retail spirituous and strong liquors, foreign and domestic groceries at his grocery at the town of Greenfield in the County of Hancock, Indiana: Therefore it is ordered by the Board that the said Joseph Chapman be licensed as such for and during the period of one year from the date of his license [November, 1829] upon paying the license fee of $5.00."
"On application of Samuel S. Duncan for a license to open a tavern at his tavern in Brandywine Township and County of Hancock; Therefore it is ordered and considered by the Board that the said Samuel S. Duncan be licensed as such for and during the term of one year from the date of his paying a tax of $5.00 and by filing his bond with approved security."
As early as 1834 the report of the county treasurer also shows that he collected a license fee of five dollars for a "circus performance."
The license fees imposed upon the retail and tavern business varied from five dollars to fifteen dollars for different years. The commissioners records show that the county collected a large amount of money from this source during its early history and in fact until 1852.
As the population of the county increased and business assumed more important proportions, some features of the early government were reorganized, and in some instances new offices were created. Thus, in the very early history of the county, three men were appointed in each township to examine teachers, or pass upon their qualifications for teaching. In 1854, however, a county examiner was provided for by law, whose duty it was to examine all the teachers of the county, but who had very little other power.
In 1873 the county superintendents office was created by a law which gave to the county superintendent supervisory as well as other duties in addition to examining teachers.
In 1891 the county assessors office was created, so that one officer might have it within his power to discover the omission of any property from the tax sheets.
In 1899 a county council was provided for by statute, whose duty it is to consider the amount of money that may be expended for county purposes.
The first board of childrens guardians of Hancock county was appointed by Judge Felt, on February 22, 1905. The law under which this board was appointed provides that such board shall be composed of six persons, three of whom shall be women and every member of which shall be a parent. The members of the board are appointed by the circuit court and serve without compensation.
The board has the care and supervision of all neglected and dependent children under fifteen years of age domiciled and resident in the county for which it is created. It has power to take under its control, in the manner specified by law, any children abandoned, neglected or cruelly treated by their parents; children begging on the streets; children of habitual drunkards or vicious and unfit parents; children kept in vicious or immoral associations; children known by their language and life to be vicious and incorrigible, and juvenile delinquents and truants.
The first board appointed by Judge Felt was composed of the following members, who served during the periods indicated: William C. Welborn, three years; J. P. Knight, ten years; W. C. Goble, six years; Mrs. J. M. Pogue, on year; Mrs. Dr. Barnes, eight years; Dr. Mary L. Bruner, ten years.
There have been resignations and the following appointments have been made to fill such vacancies: Mrs. A. P. Conklin, 1906, seven years; George J. Richman, 1908, six years; Frank Larrabee, 1911, four years; Mrs. Ella Hough, 1913, two years; Mrs. Florence Larimore, 1913, two years.
The board at present is composed of Dr. Mary L. Bruner, Mrs. Florence Larimore, Mrs. Ella Hough, J. P. Knight, Frank Larrabee and George J. Richman.
In the performance of its duties, the board has taken and placed in homes thirty children and has inspected and tried to help in various ways twice as many more. The greater number of children taken by the board have been placed in home-finding institutions, such as Whites Manual Institute at Wabash and the Indianapolis Orphans Home. By far the greater number of children taken from Hancock county have been palced in homes through the efforts of Whites Manual Insitute.
In view of the great number of roads that the county is taking charge of, a county road superintendent has been provided for, and the first appointment was made in this county in January, 1914.
It is interesting to observe, in the administration of county offices, that when the county was first organized, the office of clerk, auditor and recorder were combined, and for four years the work of all of them was done by Lewis Tyner. For this reason his name appears as clerk of the Hancock circuit court, and also as auditor or clerk of the board of county commissioners at their first meetings. The filing and recording of the first deeds are also attested by his signature in the county recorders office. In 1832 his term of office expired, and then a division was made of the official work of the county.
In that years Joseph Chapman, famous as one of the first politicians of the county, and whose fame bids fair to become national, became the clerk of the Hancock circuit court. In 1837 he was followed by John Hager, who held the office for twelve years. Both Chapman and Hager filled the office of clerk of the Hancock circuit court and also performed the duties of the auditors office. In 1841 John Templin took his seat as the first county auditor of Hancock county. From 1832 to 1841 Joseph Chapman and John Hager, as clerk, Joshua Meek, as recorder, and Morris Pierson, as county treasurer, were the principal figures around the court house at Greenfield. A number of officers since that time have served eight years, as may be been by referring to the tables appended hereto. During the last fifteen or twenty years, however, an unwritten law has put a limit of four years on every office-holder except the county commissioners, the most of whom have been serving two terms of three years each.
In 1832 the first county recorder, Joshua Meek, took his office, and served three terms of seven years each. He owned a brick factory just north of what was then the town of Greenfield and much of his time was given to his individual business. His eldest son, Oscar F. Meek, was taken into the office when a mere lad and he began copying deeds with a quill pen in 1839-40. He developed a beautiful script when a boy, and retained it until the time of his death, at the age of eighty-three years. His letters were always made small and he delighted to make little flourishes, and shade his letters. He indulged in these little exhibitions of his skill to such an extent that it is even now possible to point out practically every deed that he recorded, beginning with Deed Record "I," page 72, to Deed Record "O", page 220. He did not record all the deeds that were recorded during those years, but his fine, clear writing, with his frequent emphasis placed on the words, "This Indenture Witnesseth," "To Have and to Hold," and "Warrant and Forever Defend," distinguished his hand throughout the record. Early in 1847 he was seized with a severe illness which kept him out of the office for quite a while. In the latter part of that year, however, his presence is again attested by Deed Record "L", pages 174, 220, 272, etc. The beauty of those early records inspires frequent comment to this day among those who have occasion to inspect them. It was his fine hand that gave them this touch.
Among those who performed distinguished service in the county recorders office, and who thereby endeared themselves to the people of the county, was Miss Mary N. Roberts. She was the daughter of County Recorder Nathaniel H. Roberts. She entered the office as her fathers deputy in 1876, and performed the duties imposed upon her so efficiently that when her father died in 1881 public sentiment was in favor of giving her the emoluments of the office for the unexpired term. A public meeting of the citizens of the county was held at which a nonpartisan committee was appointed to select some person as the nominal recorder in whose name she should act. John W. Ryon was appointed. His name appears upon the record as county recorder, but Miss Roberts assumed all the responsibilities of the office and drew the salary.
Beginning with the administration of Henry A. Swope, a series of deputyships began which developed several very efficient officers. Mr. Swope took into the clerks office as deputy, Ephraim Marsh. During the several years that Mr. Marsh served in this capacity, he applied himself very earnestly to the study of law. In 1874 he himself was elected to the office, and served the people as clerk for a period of eight years. His training as a deputy under Mr. Swope, together with his legal knowledge, of course, made him an authority on questions pertaining to his office. Upon his election he selected as his deputy, Charles Downing. Mr. Downing served as deputy for eight years, then took charge of the office himself, admirably equipped for the execution of his duties, which extended through another period of eight years.
In the clerks office, the present generation, and especially the members of the Hancock bar, will long remember the efficient and accommodating service of Moses C. Wood. He became his fathers deputy in that office in 1899. He had mastered the intricate duties of the office so thoroughly when his fathers term expired on January 1, 1905, that he was retained as deputy by Clerks Hall and Service during the following eight years. Not only the successive clerks for whom he served, but the members of the bar as well, appreciated the ability and the technical knowledge with he brought to that office. In 1912 the people of the county honored him with an election to the office himself. He remained for awhile with his successor, Horace E. Wilson, then turned in his keys on July 1, 1915, after more than sixteen years of continuous service.
In the auditors office the face of the present auditor, Lawrence Wood, has long been familiar to the people of the county. His experience in the execution of the duties of that office began during the administration of Lawrence Boring, under whom he served as deputy for five years. This was followed with four years more of service under Auditor Richman. In 1910 he was elected to the office for a term of four years, at the close of which he had rendered the county thirteen years of efficient and accommodating service.
A few unfortunate things have also occurred in the administration of county affairs. On January 12, 1866, the safe in the county treasury was opened, and about thirteen thousand dollars was stolen. This was before there were any local banks, and the safe in the t4reasurers office was the only safe in the county. County officers, township trustees, and many private citizens, deposited their money in this safe. The money for which the county treasurer was responsible amounted, it seems, to about five thousand dollars. The remaining portion of the money had been placed in the safe at the risk of the depositors. The county treasurer was held to be without fault, and at the June session of the board of county commissioners the following order was entered on their record:
"Whereas, it has been shown to the full satisfaction of the board of county commissioners of Hancock county, Indiana, by competent and sufficient evidence, that on the night of the 12th of January, A. D., 1866, the treasurers office of this (Hancock) county was feloniously entered, the iron safe broken open, and a large sum of money stolen therefrom, of which five thousand dollars was money belonging to Hancock county, the same having been collected by Nelson Bradley, treasurer of said county for the year 1865, and delinquencies for former years; and,
"Whereas, it further appearing that said loss occurred without the acquiescence, negligence or fault of said Nelson Bradley, treasurer as aforesaid; therefore,
"Be it ordered by the board aforesaid, that Nelson Bradley, treasurer of Hancock county, be, and he is hereby relieved and discharged from the payment of the said sum of five thousand ($5,000) dollars so feloniously taken from the county safe as aforesaid."
The above finding and order did not satisfy everybody, and an action was instituted later to investigate the matter more fully. The investigation, however, by an auditing committee, only substantiated the former finding of the board of commissioners.
The matter caused a great deal of discussion and gossip, which occasioned several lawsuits. John Fulton was charged with the robbery. The testimony in the preliminary hearing of Fulton involved Jonathan Dunbar. Both defendants were acquitted. One Charles Livingstone, alias William Jackson, was suspected and later arrested at Pana, Illinois, and brought to Indiana for trial. He was found guilty, but before the close of the trial George Y. Atkison was indicted for perjury. Atkison was acquitted of this charge. Jonathan Dunbar next brought an action against Atkison and McCorkhill for slander, as did also John Fulton against Taylor W. Thomas. All these actions terminated in favor of the defendants.
Though Mr. Bradley was saved from loss, not all of the depositors fared so well. David Priddy, trustee of Jackson township, lost eleven hundred dollars of township funds and others lost smaller amounts.
Isaiah A. Curry, while county treasurer, also had the misfortune to lose $7,366.34 in the failure of the Indiana Banking Companys bank at Indianapolis on August 9, 1883. The receiver of the bank afterward paid to the creditors a dividend of fifty per cent, on their claims. This still dept the sum of $3,683.17, a total loss to Mr. Curry, which amount he paid in full to the county upon going out of office on November 20, 1884. Ten years later, however, in 1893, a large number of citizens and taxpayers petitioned the General Assembly of the state, which was then in session, for the passage of a law for the relief of Mr. Curry and the repayment of the sum of $3,683.17 to him. The petitioners represented to the Legislature that they believed he was wholly without fault in the loss of that amount, and that such repayment would be an act of justice due an honest, faithful and efficient officer. The Legislature acted upon this petition, and by special statue directed the county auditor to issue his warrant upon the county treasurer for the above amount. By virtue of the passage of this act, Mr. Curry was reimbursed in full.
Following are the names of the men not elsewhere enumerated, who have occupied county offices, with the dates of their election or appointment:
|George Y. Atkison||1856|
|John T. Sebastian||1857|
|Henry A. Swope||1865|
|R. A. Black||1886|
|A. V. B. Sample||1894|
|William A. Wood||1898|
|John M. Hall||1902|
|W. A. Service||1906|
|Horace E. Wilson||1914|
|Barsilla G. Jay||1855|
|A. C. Handy||1870|
|James L. Mitchell||1886|
|Charles J. Richman||1898|
|William I. Garriott||1902|
|Charles H. Troy||1906|
|Harvey J. Rhue||1914|
|James B. Stevens||1830|
|William O. Ross||1832|
|Andrew T. Hart||1841|
|Elijah S. Cooper||1855|
|George W. Hatfield||1857|
|Robert P. Brown||1867|
|Ernest H. Faut||1872|
|C. H. Fort||1884|
|William C. Barnard||1888|
|G. W. Ham||1892|
|Theodore L. Smith||1896|
|James A. Flippo||1900|
|T. N. Jackson||1904|
|Samuel C. Duncan||1832|
|William P. Rush||1848|
|Joshua W. Shelby||1852|
|William H. Curry||1854|
|Taylor W. Thomas||1859|
|William G. Cauldwell||1863|
|George W. Sample||1872|
|Robert P. Brown||1873|
|W. H. Thompson||1878|
|William M. Lewis||1882|
|U. S. Jackson||1884|
|Benjamin F. Pauley||1888|
|Marshall T. Smith||1891|
|Marshall T. Smith||1892|
|William H. Pauley||1894|
|William H. Pauley||1898|
|Lewis N. Larrabee||1900|
|William R. West||1861|
|Amos C. Beeson||1866|
|Francis O. Sears||1869|
|N. H. Roberts||1873|
|J. W. Ryon||1881|
|Ira D. Collins||1882|
|William R. White||1902|
|James E. Sample||1910|
|John T. Rash||1914|
|William E. Chappell||1906|
|John H. Reeves||1910|
|Eli A. Parish||1914|
|George W. Hatfield||1850|
|C. G. Sample||1854|
|James K. King||1860|
|J. H. Landis||1874|
|John V. Coyner||1878|
|Winfield S. Fries||1880|
|John V. Coyner||1882|
|Winfield S. Fries||1884|
|Ed. M. Johnson||1888|
|Samuel R. Waters||1890|
|Will J. Cleary||1894|
|O. H. Monger||1904|
|James A. Cleary||1908|
|G. C. Winslow||1912|
|George W. Hopkins||1858|
|Barnabas B. Gray||1860|
|Isaac H. Ballenger||1861|
|Charles A. Burk||1865|
|William N. Johnson||1867|
|Adam F. Brown||1870|
|Harrison L. Cooper||1872|
|Henry C. Garriott||1878|
|James R. Trees||1880|
|Noble P. Howard||1882|
|W. A. Justice||1884|
|Oliver A. Collins||1888|
|John H. Justice||1892|
|Noble P. Howard||1901|
|Milo M. Gibbs||1902|
|Joseph L. Allen||1906|
|Earl R. Gibbs||1910|
|William A. Justice||1914|
|John S. Lewis||1870|
|William H. Dye||1870|
|Willliam P. Brokaw||1874|
|William P. Brokaw||1876|
|John E. Dye||1880|
|Edward P. Scott||1880|
|John B. Hays||1884|
|M. L. Paullus||1884|
|John E. Dye||1886|
|M. L. Paullus||1888|
|B. F. Wilson||1890|
|William M. Thomas||1892|
|Benjamin F. Wilson||1894|
|William M. Thomas||1894|
|Robert G. Wilson||1898|
|Robert G. Wilson||1902|
|William T. Spell||1904|
|George W. Gordon||1905|
|William T. Spell||1908|
|James H. Bussell||1910|
|William H. Albea||1910|
|James H. Bussell||1912|
|George W. Allen||1912|
|John T. Burk||1914|
|William H. Albea||1914|
|Daniel M. Ballenger||1914|
Among the men from Hancock county who were elected as prosecutor before the county was set apart as a separate judicial circuit by the act of 1889, were Reuben A. Riley, 1844; David S. Gooding, 1848; Montgomery Marsh, 1856; William R. Hough, 1860; Lemuel W. Gooding, 1865; and George W. Duncan, 1882. The following are the names of the men who have served in this office since the county has been a circuit within itself::
|Edward W. Felt||1890|
|John L. McNew||1894|
|John F. Wiggins||1896|
|Arthur C. VanDuyn||1900|
|Charles L. Tindall||1904|
|Edward W. Quigley||1908|
|Hiram L. Thomas||1912|
|Robert F. Reeves||1915|
|Charles N. Warren||1914|
|1828||Calvin Fletcher||Hancock, Hamilton, Hendricks, Marion, Carroll,Madison|
|1829||Calvin Fletcher||Hancock, Hamilton, Hendricks, Madison, Marion|
|1829||Elisha Long||Hancock, Hamilton, Henry, Madison, other territory|
|1830||Calvin Fletcher||Hamilton, Hendiricks, Marion, Madison, Boone|
|1830||Elisha Long||Hancock, Hamilton, Henry, Madison, other territory|
|1831||Elisha Long||Hancock, Henry, Madison|
|1831||Thomas Bell||Hancock, Madison|
|1832||Elisha Long||Hancock, Henry, Madison|
|1832||Thomas Bell||Hancock, Madison|
|1833||Elisha Long||Hancock, Henry, Madison|
|1833||John Foster||Hancock, Madison|
|1834||Elisha Long||Hancock, Henry, Madison|
|1834||Thomas Bell||Hancock, Madison|
|1835||Thomas Bell||Hancock, Henry, Madison|
|1836||Thomas Bell||Hancock, Madison|
|1836||Thomas D. Walpole||Hancock|
|1837||Thomas Bell||Hancock, Madison|
|1837||Thomas D. Walpole||Hancock|
|1838||Thomas Bell||Hancock, Madison|
|1839||Thomas Bell||Hancock, Madison|
|1840||Thomas Bell||Hancock, Madison|
|1840||Thomas D. Walpole||Hancock|
|1841||Thomas D. Walpole||Hancock, Madison|
|1841||Jos. Chapman, James|
|1842||Thomas D. Walpole||Hancock, Madison|
|1843||Thomas D. Walpole||Hancock, Madison|
|1843||Jos. Chapman, James|
|1844||Andrew Jackson||Hancock, Madison|
|1845||Rueben A. Riley||Hancock|
|1845||Andrew Jackson||Hancock, Madison|
|1846||A. J. Hatfield||Hancock|
|1847||Thomas D. Walpole||Hancock, Madison|
|1847||David S. Gooding||Hancock|
|1848||Thomas D. Walpole||Hancock, Madison|
|1848||Reuben A. Riley||Hancock|
|1849||Thomas D. Walpole||Hancock, Madison|
|1850||John Hunt||Hancock, Madison|
|1851||John Hunt||Hancock, Madison|
|1853||Andrew Jackson||Hancock, Madison|
|1855||Thomas D. Walpole||Hancock|
|1855||Andrew Jackson||Hancock, Madison|
|1857||Thomas D. Walpole||Hancock|
|1857||David S. Gooding||Hancock, Madison|
|1859||David S. Gooding||Hancock, Shelby|
|1861||Martin M. Ray||Hancock, Shelby|
|1861||George Y. Atkison||Hancock,Shelby|
|1863||George Y. Atkison||Hancock|
|1863||Martin M. Ray||Hancock, Shelby|
|1863||James L. Mason||Hancock, Shelby|
|1865||James L. Mason||Hancock, Shelby|
|1865||John H. White||Hancock|
|1865||George C. Thatcher||Hancock, Shelby|
|1867||John H. White||Hancock|
|1867||James L. Mason||Hancock, Shelby|
|1867||John L. Montgomery||Hancock, Shelby|
|1869||Luther W. Hess||Hancock, Henry|
|1871||Luther W. Hess||Hancock, Henry|
|1873||Charles G. Offutt||Hancock|
|1873||William R. Hough||Hancock, Henry|
|1875||William R. Hough||Hancock, Henry|
|1877||Benjamin Shirk||Hancock, Henry|
|1879||A. C. Handy||Hancock|
|1879||Benjamin Shirk||Hancock, Henry|
|1881||Simon P. Yancey||Hancock Marion, Shelby|
|1881||Isaac Franklin||Hancock, Henry, Madison|
|1883||Morgan Chandler||Hancock, Henry, Madison|
|1883||Simon P. Yancey||Hancock, Marion, Shelby|
|1883||Henry Marsh||Hancock, Henry, Madison|
|1885||Leon Bailey||Hancock, Marion, Shelby|
|1885||David S. Gooding||Hancock|
|1885||Joseph Franklin||Hancock, Henry, Madison|
|1887||W. F. Ackuman||Hancock|
|1887||Leon Bailey||Hancock, Marion|
|1887||Sidney Conger||Hancock, Marion, Shelby|
|1889||A. M. Kennedy||Hancock, Rush|
|1889||James B. Curtis||Hancock, Marion, Shelby|
|1891||James B. Curtis||Hancock, Marion, Shelby|
|1891||Morgan Chandler||Hancock, Rush|
|1891||Samuel A. Troy||Hancock|
|1893||Morgan Chandler||Hancock, Rush|
|1893||Benjamin F. Reeves||Hancock|
|1895||John Q. White||Hancock|
|1895||Thomas K. Mull||Hancock, Rush|
|1897||Frank L. Littleton||Hancock, Marion, Shelby|
|1897||Thomas K. Mull||Hancock, Rush|
|1899||Frank W. Cregor||Hancock, Madison, Rush|
|1899||Morgan Caraway||Hancock, Marion|
|1901||L. A. Whitcomb||Hancock, Marion|
|1901||Frank W. Cregor||Hancock, Madison, Rush|
|1903||Edgar H. Hendee||Hancock, Madison, Rush|
|1903||W. H. H. Rock||Hancock, Marion|
|1905||W. H. H. Rock||Hancock, Marion|
|1905||Edgar H. Hendee||Hancock, Madison, Rush|
|1907||Edward E. Moore||Hancock, Fayette, Rush|
|1907||Harry G. Strickland||Hancock|
|1909||Harry G. Strickland||Hancock|
|1909||Edward E. Moore||Hancock, Fayette, Rush|
|1911||Harry G. Strickland||Hancock|
|1911||Edward E. Moore||Hancock, Fayette, Rush|
|1913||Carey Jackson||Hancock, Fayette, Rush|
|1913||Robert F. Reeves||Hancock|
|1914||Robert F. Reeves||Hancock|
|1915||Robert F. Reeves||Hancock|
|1915||Edward C. Eikman||Hancock, Fayette, Rush|
Transcribed from History of Hancock County, Indiana, Its People, Industries and Institutions by George J. Richman, B. L., Federal Publishing Co., Indianapolis, Indiana, 1916. Pages 58-84.
Submitted by Sylvia (Rose) Duda, Laingsburg, MI May 23, 2002.
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|Tom & Carolyn Ward / Columbus, Kansas / firstname.lastname@example.org|