Chapter 10. - Bench and Bar.


    The establishment of courts of justice and the installation of the necessary officials were naturally the first work attending the organization of Richland county. Upon its organization the county became a part of the fifth judicial circuit, and the first term of court was held by Judge Mortimer m. Jackson, in a rented building at Richmond (now Orion), commencing September 11, 1850. Terms of circuit court were subsequently held at Richmond, in April, 1851; September, 1851, and April, 1852. In September, 1852, court convened for the first time in Richland Center, and since that time terms have been regularly held, with a very few exceptions, every spring and fall. Richland county has never been honored by having a circuit judge chosen from among her members of the legal profession.


    Following is a list of those who have held the office of district attorney in Richland county, and which in some cases has been the beginning of a distinguished career in the law: 1850, John J. Moreland; 1851, John Stone; 1852, David Strickland; 1854, H. A. Eastland; 1856, James H. Miner; 1860, A. P. Thompson; 1862, H. A. Eastland; 1866, John S. Wilson; 1868, Oscar F. Black; 1872, James Lewis; 1876, Eugene Wulfing; 1880, K. W. Eastland; 1882, Michael Murphy; 1884, F. W. Burnham; 1886, L. H. Bancroft; 1888, M. Murphy; 1890, F. W. Burnham; 1892, K. W. Eastland; 1894, Grant L. Miner; 1898, Frank W. Burnham; 1900, George M. Shonts; 1902, Pearl L. Lincoln.

    Some of these names are mentioned biographically in other chapters. A. P. Thompson was an Eastern man. He was a graduate of the Albany law school, New York, and came west to pass through pioneer life and secure a foothold in his chosen profession as the country developed. He first located in Sauk county and began practice, but in 1852 came to Richland county and settled in Richmond, now Orion. He was at that time about thirty-five years old, and he remained at Richmond for about fifteen years, when he removed to Grant county, where he spent the remainder of his life. He served Richland county as district attorney for two years. He was an able lawyer, a close reasoner, a good speaker, and a man of much more than ordinary acquirements.

    H. A. Eastland located and hung out his shingle at Sextonville in April, 1851. He practiced law at that place for about ten years, then removed to Richland Center, where he engaged in a general law and collection business. Mr. Eastland was born in Oneida county, N. Y., April 4, 1816. In 1833 he migrated with his parents to Michigan, where he studied law and was admitted to the bar. In 1847 he came to Wisconsin and practiced law at Prairie du Sac, until he came to Richland county. He was an active temperance worker, and the only office he ever held was that of district attorney.

    Oscar F. Black was born in Virginia, June 1, 1840. He came with his father to Wisconsin in 1854, and the first season broke land and raised a crop of corn. During the next five years, assisted by his brother, he broke four hundred acres with ox-teams. He was educated at the academy at Richland City, at Albion, and at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. In the fall of 1861 he commenced to read law, with John S. Wilson as preceptor, and afterwards with J. H. Miner. In 1863 he was admitted to the bar. He then read law with H. W. & D. K. Tenney, of Madison, one year, and then taught school six months at Muscoda. In the fall of 1864 he stumped the county for Gen. George D. McClellan for the Presidency, in joint debate against D. L. Downs and others. He then clerked in the quartermaster's department at Memphis, Tenn., until the following spring, and, beginning with 1866, gave his attention to the legal profession, obtaining a good practice. He was very fond of traveling, crossed the plains four times, and visited nearly all portions of the United States. He served two terms as district attorney. He died March 13, 1900.

    Eugene C. Wulfing was one of the most promising young attorneys who have ever belonged to the Richland county bar. He was of German descent, and came to the county at an early day, settling with his parents upon a farm in the town of Orion. He afterward came to Richland Center and took a thorough course of reading with O. F. Black, and in 1873 was admitted to the bar. For several years he was in partnership with James H. Miner, after which he was alone in the practice of his profession. In 1876 he was elected district attorney for Richland county, and being re-elected in 1878, served four years, making an efficient officer. Mr. Wulfing remained in Richland Center, acquiring a good practice, until 1882, when he went to Mitchell, Dakota, where he spent the remainder of his life.


    This court was created by the constitution of the state, with the provision that one judge of the same should be elected in each county. It is an office peculiarly local and intimately associated with the affairs of all the people, and has been filled by some of our best citizens. J. W. Coffinberry, the first judge elected, came to Richland county in 1849, from Michigan, and settled with his family at Richland City. He was elected the first county judge of the county, but resigned in 1851. During 1852 and 1853 he kept a hotel and real-estate office in Richland City, and was quite a prominent man in public affairs. In 1856 he had his name changed by the board of supervisors from "J. W. Coffinberry" to "C. Bre." He remained in the county until just before the Civil War broke out, when he moved to Kansas. Mr. Coffinberry, or perhaps, more properly, Mr. Bre, did not engage in active law practice when he first came to the county, but after resigning the office of county judge and having his name changed, he devoted a great deal, if not all, of his time to the profession. He was a man of a good deal more than ordinary education for those days, and a man of much ability. He was affable and pleasant in his manners, and held the respect of the early settlers.

    David Strickland, the immediate successor to Mr. Coffinberry, held the office for the remainder of the term for which the latter had been elected. The next, A. B. Slaughter, was the first clerk of court for Richland county, elected to that position in April, 1850, and re-elected in November, 1850, and in 1852. In 1853 he was elected county judge and held that office for three successive terms. Judge Slaughter was a Kentuckian by birth. He came to Richland county in 1848-9 and settled in the town of Richwood. A few years afterward he moved to what is now the village of Orion, where he remained, coming to Richland Center to attend to the duties of county judge, until after the close of the Civil War, when the removed to Kansas, where he resided until his death. Judge Slaughter was a man of a good deal of natural ability, which was supplemented by a good business education. He was kind-hearted, benevolent, genial and pleasant, and a man of the strictest sense of honor.

    James H. Miner was elected in 1865. A complete biography of him will be found in the biographical department of this publication.

    The county judge in 1869-80 was Henry W. Fries, who was of German descent, his father, Rev. Henry Fries, having come from Germany and settled in Union county, Penn., where Judge Fries was born in 1813. He remained there until 1858, when he came west and settled in Richland county. Here he remained until the time of his death, which occurred on Feb. 14, 1880. He had gathered about him many strong friends, having by his social and affable ways, as well as by his strict integrity, won the confidence and esteem of all the citizens. He was well liked as a public officer, noted for those sterling virtues which go to make up an independent and fearless man, and yet had but few, if any, enemies. In his official acts he was impartial, conscientious and particularly careful of the rights of the widow and fatherless, and it is conceded that the probate business of the county was never better or more impartially discharged. Upon the death of Judge Fries, D. L. Downs was appointed county judge, and filled out the residue of the term. In April, 1881, he was elected for the full term and continued to serve by repeated re-elections until his death, September 14, 1897. L. H. Bancroft was then appointed to the vacancy and served out the remainder of the last term to which Judge Downs had been elected, the present incumbent, William S. McCorkle, entering upon the duties of the office January 1, 1903.


    A. B. Slaughter, as noted previously, was the first clerk of court in 1850, and continued in the office until 1853, when C. D. Belleville succeeded him, holding the office but a short time, when he was in turn succeeded by Judge Slaughter. In November, 1856, John S. Wilson was elected clerk of court and served one term. The successors of Slaughter, Belleville and Wilson have been the following, all men of ability and prominence: 1858, Lawrence Van Dusen; 1860, James L. McKee; 1862, Milton Satterlee; 1864, D. S. Hamilton; 1868, James Lewis; 1872, Michael Murphy; 1878, Homer J. Clark; 1880, George E. Bennett; 1888, J. W. Renick; 1892, O. E. Winton; 1894, J. W. Renick; 1896, O. E. Winton; 1898, C. A. Monson; 1902, Emery J. Langdon.


    The first executive officer of the courts in Richland county was John J. Matthews. He was elected at the organization of the county in April, 1850, and was re-elected in November of that year for the full term. Mr. Matthews was among the very earliest settlers in the county, and as his name frequently occurs in this volume it is unnecessary, in this connection, to speak of him at length. The successors to Matthews, with the years of their election to office, are as follows: 1852, R. C. Hawkins; 1854, George C. White; 1856, L. M. Thorp; 1858, William H. Joslin; 1860, E. L. Moody; 1862, A. S. Neff (appointed to fill vacancy); 1862, Joseph McMurtrie; 1864, L. M. Thorp; 1865, Hiram Welton (appointed to fill vacancy); 1866, Joseph McMurtrie; 1868, J. B. McGrew; 1870, W. C. S. Barron; 1872, R. D. Robinson; 1874, W. C. S. Barron; 1876, G. N. Matteson; 1878, D. L. Noble; 1880, Harry Busby ; 1882, W. C. S. Barron (appointed to fill vacancy) ; 1882, A. D. Lane ; 1884, Thomas Sippy ; 1886, Austin Chandler ; 1888, John McKy; 1890, Samuel T. Ross ; 1892, Austin J. McKy ; 1894, Warren I. Griffin ; 1896, George M. Snyder ; 1898, Samuel T. Ross ; 1900, James A. Sharp ; 1902, Martin Copenhafer ; 1904, George H. Roudebush.


    John J. Moreland was the first lawyer who permanently established himself in the practice in Richland county. He came here from Indiana as early as 1850, and settled at Richmond (now Orion). He was the first prosecuting attorney of the county, and remained at Richland until 1853, when he moved to the northeastern part of Iowa. He claimed to have been in practice prior to coming here. He was not a man of education by any means, but was possessed of good natural ability and tact, and while here he had his share of the practice before justice courts. In the year 1851 Mr. Moreland had an associate in the person of H. A. Eastland, and by 1852, A. P. Thompson and Josiah McCaskey had been added to the list. The latter was a native of Scotland. He came to Richland county as early as 1852 and settled with his family on Fancy creek, in the town of Marshall, and through his influence a postoffice was established at that place, with himself as postmaster. He remained there until 1874, when he removed to Taylor county, where he died in 1879. Josiah McCaskey was a noted character in Richland county. He was educated in Scotland, and came from the old "blue Presbyterian stock," but while studying Greek, as he said, he became converted from the Presbyterian to the Baptist doctrine, and was always a man of strong religious tendencies. He was a man of high moral character, a great lover of books, and a self-constituted guardian of the people, always being upon the alert to detect fraud in persons serving in official capacities. He was a very active surveyor and an active politician; he was not a very good speaker, but what he had to say he delivered in "sledge-hammer style." In the practice of law he was never very active aside from trials in justice courts. It is useless to attempt to give a complete roster of those who have at different times "swung their signs to the breezes" as resident attorneys in Richland county, but the following is thought to contain the names of the more prominent ones, and the years given represent about the dates of their appearance as attorneys: 1849, J. W. Coffinberry; 1851, Daniel Strickland; 1852, A. C. Eastland; 1854, E. M. Sexton and Byron W. Telfair; 1855, Daniel B. Priest, Charles G. Rodolf, and James H. Miner; 1856, William F. Crawford ; 1857, Amos Nudd ; 1859, John S. Wilson and Charles D. Stewart ; 1860, W. C. Wright ; 1861, Lawrence Van Dusen ; 1862, James Lewis ; 1866, Oscar F. Black and George C. Wright ; 1870, W. S. Black ; 1873, E. C. Wulfing and George Jarvis ; 1875, Kirk W. Eastland ; 1877, F. W. Burnham; 1878, J. H. Berryman; 1880, A. E. Stroud and Michael Murphy.

    The foregoing names represent the larger number of those who have practiced law in Richland county. In addition, however, there have been William McFarland, W. H. Downs, Josephus Downs, Ira S. Haseltine, Hascal Haseltine, A. B. Slaughter, Robert Akan, G. W. Hadder, D. S. Hamilton, C. D. Belleville, LeRoy D. Gage, R. R. Hamilton, W. F. Hart, E. Livingston, E. C. Hammond, S. H. Doolittle, A. Dumford, H. W. Eastland, Newton Wells, L. M. Thorp, and Dr. R. M. Miller. These have not engaged actively in the practice.

    A. C. Eastland was born in the state of New York in 1830, and his early life was spent upon his father's farm. When about twenty-one years of age he began the study of law in Michigan, and was admitted to the bar at Kalamazoo when twenty-four. He located at that place and began the practice of his profession, remaining about four years, and in 1852 he came to Richland county and located at Sextonville. For several years he was engaged in a saw-mill enterprise and then came to Richland Center and resumed the practice of law. For a number of years he was alone, after which he was in partnership with his brother, H. A. Eastland. He remained in Richland Center until 1881, when he moved to Muscoda, Grant county, and there spent the remainder of his life. He was a man of a great deal of both natural and acquired ability, a well-read lawyer and an able speaker. For many years he was considered one of Richland county's most able lawyers.

    Bryon W. Telfair became a member of the Richland county bar in 1854. He came from New York, being a graduate of the Albany law school, and located at Sextonville. He had been admitted to the bar prior to his removal west, and brought a small library with him. His professional life dates from his arrival, for he at once began practice and continued until the beginning of the Civil War. He enlisted on September 9, 1861, and went into the service in the Sixth Battery, serving with distinction, and finally became captain of Company B, Twentieth Wisconsin infantry, before his discharge. Upon the close of the war he returned to his Richland county home and again took up the practice of law, which he continued until his death, in 1872. He was a man of much energy in anything he earnestly undertook, yet he lacked the necessary application to study which must always be a component part of a successful disciple of Blackstone. He was an earnest and forcible jury advocate, and withal, fairly successful at the bar. He never had much circuit court business, but appeared in nearly all trials before the justice court in his part of the county.

    Daniel Badger Priest became a member of the Richland county bar in June, 1855. He was born March 9, 1830, in Putnam county, Ind., and his early life was spent upon his father's farm, attending school during the winter months. He completed a liberal education at the Asbury University. He chose the profession of law for his life calling, and even before arriving at his majority was well and favorably known to many of the prominent men of his native state. In the fall of 1850 he emigrated to Fort Snelling, Minn., near where St. Anthony now stands, and pre-empted one hundred and sixty acres of land, and remained until the following spring. In 1852 he located for the practice of law at Monroe, Wis. In June, 1855, he removed to Richland Center and remained in the active practice of law until 1861, when he removed to Viroqua, Vernon county. During his residence of seven years at Viroqua he was twice elected to the office of district attorney, served two terms in the assembly, and also discharged the duties of the office of assistant assessor of internal revenue for Vernon county. He was also one of the editors of the Vernon County Censor. In March, 1869, Secretary Washburn tendered to him the appointment of minister to Naples, which he declined, and accepted the appointment of collector of internal revenue for the sixth district of Wisconsin. In 1869 he removed to Sparta, Wis., where he was connected with the editorial department of the Sparta Eagle for some time. That place remained his home until the time of his death, September 6, 1870. While Mr. Priest was a resident of Richland county he made a great many friends. He was always prominent in all public movements and enterprises, and was a leader among men. When he came here in June, 1855, Richland Center was without any educational facilities al all. He at once took hold of the matter, worked up an interest, and through his influence, to a very large degree, a schoolhouse site was secured and a building erected. He was ever a champion of public interests and educational progress. When the news of his death was received, a meeting of the bar was held and the following resolutions of respect and regret were passed:

    Whereas, God in his wisdom has removed from us by death our professional brother, Honorable Daniel Badger Priest, therefore, Resolved by the members of the bar of the fifth circuit, that while we bow with humble submission to the will of Providence, we feel that this bar has lost one of its most worthy and noble counselors; the state a wise legislator; society a valuable member; his family a loving husband and an affectionate and generous father; we mourn the loss of one cut down in his manhood and in the midst of his usefulness.

    Resolved, That our sympathies are extended to his family in their deep sorrow and great bereavement, and that a certified copy of the foregoing preamble and resolutions under the seal of the court be transmitted to the widow of the deceased, after the same shall have been spread upon the records of the court.
Dated at the courthouse, Richland Center, Wisconsin, October 25, 1870, A. D.

									James H. Miner,
									A. C. Eastland,		
									O. F. Black.					

    William F. Crawford came to Richland county in 1855 and settled upon a farm in the town of Ithaca. In 1856 he moved into Richland Center and began the practice of law, becoming a partner of Lawyer Frost, of Mineral Point. He had never read very much law, but was a man of much more than ordinary intelligence and information, and had very good success at the bar, before the circuit court.

    Amos Nudd came from some of the New England states and settled with his family at Richland Center, in 1856. The first winter of his residence in Richland county he was engaged at teaching school, after which he went into the real-estate and loan business with L. D. Gage, and began the study of law. He was admitted to the bar and began practice, but only kept his "shingle" out a short time, when he removed to Waupon, Ia., where he engaged in the manufacture of pumps. He was a man of high moral character and strict integrity, and held the respect and esteem of all. While he never became very prominently identified with the bar of Richland county, he had very bright prospects for future success in the profession, being a man of ability and education.

    Lawrence Van Dusen came originally from Albany, New York. In 1854 he located at Milwaukee, Wis., and two years later came to Richland county and settled upon a farm north of Richland Center. In 1858 he was elected clerk of court, and during his term of office he studied law and was admitted to the bar. About 1861 he began practice and remained until the spring of 1863, when he removed to Iowa. He afterwards engaged in the practice of medicine. He was a man of polished manners and of great ability, affable in manner and an excellent financier.

    W. C. Wright came to Richland county as a lawyer in 1860 and settled at Lone Rock. He had been in practice before coming here and was a very well-educated man. He was a hard worker, and a good speaker, when he had time to prepare himself. He had a fair practice and was very successful at the bar. After practicing the profession for several years he gave it up and began preaching for the Baptist church. For a number of years he was located at Richland Center, and the Baptist church at that place was erected during his pastorate. He finally moved to Madison and subsequently changed his religious doctrine from the Baptist to the Unitarian faith.

    Winfield Scott Black was born in Montgomery county, Va., in 1848, and came to Richland county with his parents in 1854, settling on Willow creek. He received a good education, taking a commercial course at the Chicago Mercantile College, and attending the University of Wisconsin at Madison. In the spring of 1869 he began reading law with his brother, O. F. Black, of Richland Center, and was admitted to the bar in the fall of 1870. He at once began the practice of law in partnership with his brother, and this relationship was maintained until the fall of 1873, when W. S. went to Minneapolis as collecting agent for O. P. Baker & Co. In January, 1876, he returned to Richland Center and died March 22, following, from pleuro-pneumonia, the effects of a stroke of paralysis he had received. He was a young man of more than ordinary promise, and had the prospect of becoming an honor to the profession. He was bright and keen, a good speaker, and a well-read lawyer. He was usually energetic in everything he undertook.

    George Jarvis came here with his parents, while a young man, and settled in Richland City. He afterward moved to Richland Center, where he was elected a justice of the peace. He thus became pretty well posted in law and conversant with the detail of practice, and was admitted to the bar. He remained here until 1882, when he went to Minnesota and there engaged in the milling business. While here he devoted a good deal of his time to pension matters.

    A. E. Stroud was a lawyer who located at Lone Rock in the late seventies, and after remaining two years, left the county and went to Milwaukee, where he became a justice of the peace in one of the wards of the city.

    J. H. Berryman was born in LaFayette county, Wis., March 31, 1854, and his early life was spent upon a farm. When he was twelve years old, his parents removed to Jo Daviess county, Ill., and he was educated at the normal school at Galena, afterward teaching school. In 1876 he went to Madison, where he acted as assistant state librarian, and also read law; he afterward read law in the office of Lewis, Lewis & Hale, and in November, 1878, was admitted to the bar by the circuit court. In June, 1879, he was graduated from the law department of the University of Wisconsin, and he took up his residence at Richland Center, where he began the practice of law. In 1889 he removed to Nebraska and now resides at Creighton, where he is filling the position of district attorney.

    D. S. Hamilton was elected clerk of court in November, 1864, and re-elected in 1866. He was originally from the state of New York, but came to Richland county directly from the southern part of Wisconsin in 1854. He located in Richland Center, and among other lines of business which at times he followed, he engaged in the practice of law before justice courts. He remained until about 1873, when he removed to Reedsburg, Sauk county.

    Alfred Durnford was a native of England, born in Peckham, near London, May 1, 1818. He was educated for the legal profession, and for a number of years was engaged in parliamentary solicitorship. In the fall of 1854 he migrated to the United States, stopped at Milwaukee until the spring following, then came farther west and became one of the early settlers of Richland county. He purchased land on section 2, town of Dayton, and engaged in farming. But as he was admitted to the bar soon after coming to the county, he gave considerable of his time to the practice of law, and as his practice increased he left the farm and removed to Richland Center and gave his entire attention to the legal profession until 1880, when, on account of failing health, he retired from practice. He was court commissioner for several years, and also served as justice of the peace. He died April 17, 1898.

    More extended mention of other members of the legal fraternity will be found upon other pages of this volume. In 1906, the following resident attorneys have their names printed in the bar docket of the circuit court: L. H. Bancroft, F. W. Burnham, K. W. Eastland, P. H. Fay, P. L. Lincoln, W. S. McCorkle, J. H. Miner, G. L. Miner, Michael Murphy, G. M. Shonts, A. C. Vaughan, James Lewis.

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