First District Court, Meeker County, Minnesota

The first District Court held in Meeker county was in October 1859—Hon. E.. O. Hamlin Judge, and was held in Judge Smiths office.

The bar consisting spiritually of Messrs Smith & Willie-Materially of Geo. B. Wrights old draw ing board 1 feet by 7-and the first case tried was that of John Pfeifer vs Peter Steirne–and as the case Was reported in Harpers New Monthly for Nov. 1861, I give the substance of the report from that work.

“When Meeker County, Minnesota, was new before lawyers found their way out there, two Dutchmen, Pfeifer and Steirne (brothers-in-law), undertook to cheat Uncle Sam by pre-empt ing two claims with one cabin, each furnishing half the lumber, the cabin to stand on the line be tween the two claims. Before the claims were
pre-empted the brothers fell out, Steirne under-took to carry away his half of the lumber, when Pfeifer shot Steirne. Steirne complains of Pfeifer for an assault with intent to kill, and Pfeifer settles up by giving Steirne a chattel mortgage on two yoke of oxen (all the property either party had in the world except a wife and several children each.)

“When the mortgage came due Steirne takes the cattle and Pfeifer replevied them, on the ground that the mortgage was given to compound a felony and was void.

“Maturing the mortgage, two pettifoggers arrived at the county seat, one Smith, a frontier law – vet. and a notorious wag, and Willie, a clever young lawyer from Western Virginia.

“Pfeifer having the actual possession of the oxen, delivers one yoke to Smith for his fee, and Steirne, having the cattle in expectancy, mortgaged one yoke to Willie also to secure his fee.

“The case was tried by His Honor, E. O. Hamlin, then on the bench of the Fourth District, at the October Term, 1859, at Forest City. Being but one spare room in town, the court adjourned to give the use of the room to the jury. About 11 P. M. jury sent for the Court and informed the judge that there was no possibility of an agreement. The judge thereupon instructed the sheriff to take the jury to the tavern and give the a sup per and then shut them up again with the case. “At 4 o’clock A. M. the jury sent for’ the Court, and gave in a sealed verdict, and were discharged from further attendance on the Court, with the judge’s thanks. When the court convened at 9 A. M. the verdict was opened, and read as follows:

“Jury find for plaintiff, three cents damages.
(“Signed) GEO. S. SHOLES, Foreman.”

Atkinson affirms that those supplies have not yet been paid for.

The following is a list of the jurors in this case. Geo. S. Sholes Sen, A, B. Hoyt, John C. Scribner Alexander Lee. T. R. Webb, Thos. Dough erty A. C. Maddox, Sam’l L. Getchell, Geo. W Baird Edward Brown John Blackwell Charles Duffy.

At this term of court Wm. Richards Esq. county Attorney “nunc pro tunc”, was admitted to practice as an attorney and counselor, on his own motion, assuring the court that although an Englishman, he was nevertheless a man of good moral character, attached to the constitution and the principles of a Republican Government, and could prove it by all the boys in Jim’s bar room-and as material was somewhat scarce for lawyers west of the woods, trusted that his application would be favorably considered. The Judge casting a longing eye over the paucity of the Bar, remarked “did you ever” and directed the clerk to “swear him in.”

Meeker County

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