Supreme Court of Meeker County

Something is due to our “Supreme Court,” presided over at times by Judges Butler, Ritchie, Geo. Frid, Robson, Griswold, Atkinson, Stevens, Walker, Campbell, Hutchins and a host of others. Jurisdiction depended somewhat on who got hold of the case first.

In 1859 a case came before Judge Ritchie of Acton. Mark Piper and Nathan Butler acted as attorneys.

Piper made a motion to “quash the summons” on the ground that the letters, s. s. were not attached to “The State of Minnesota Meeker County.”

This was a poser for Butler and his argument therein was not the most lucid, but the motion was overruled and judgment entered for Pl’ff for the value of one “Opossum supper” proved to have been unfortunately eaten on some former occasion in the early history of the county by the defendant.

Subsequently both attorneys enquired of us what connection those magic letters had in the diagnosis of the case.

If we remember rightly we informed them that the s. s. stood for “simplicity simplified,” referring to the “code” and that no case could be prosecuted without recognizing “the code” by the addition of the s. s.

The same summer we had a case before Hutchins, J. P. of Kingston, in which our old friend Fitzgerald appeared as both client and counsel against us, and moved to dismiss on the ground that the justice had never given a bond, and as the justice had quite forgotten whether he had or not, forbade any further proceedings.

Fitzgerald came into court with a club two feet long and size of a sled-stake — hence the sobriquet “Shillala Fitzgerald” which he carried ever after to the end of his days.

In 1862 Jewett sued Hoken Peterson for $4.00 sheriffs fees in some former case. Token came to us to see what we would defend him for, and warrant the case, and after an hours parley, in which we commenced on $3,000, secured on real estate, we finally struck off the three ciphers and closed a contract and sealed it at $3.

Jewett found out, by some means how the case stood, and soon after meeting Hoken he offered to settle and pay his own costs for $2.75. Hoken having an eye to finance, promptly settled, and by not paying his lawyer anything, thereby saved 25 cents. Jewett would have found it a telling business had the suit been before any one else but “Jim” Atkinson, who always regarded the fee bill as the “chief end of law,” and mulched Jewett about six dollars.

J. B. Atkinson, Esq. was chief justice of Meeker county most of the time from 1858 to 187o, usually re-elected at any time, when he saw a majority in his favor-his term of office never expiring when his party was in a minority!

His jurisdiction was extensive-never governed by imaginary or isothermal lines. His District was bounded East by the big-woods, South by the Minnesota river, West by Big Stone Lake and North by Sitting Bull’s camp: When the summons was disregarded, a warrant was dispatched, and the fellow always came. The judge was easily fatigued into granting short adjournments, particularly when both par-ties and all their witnesses were boarding at his hotel. On one occasion two parties, one man and one woman were arrested for an assault and battery. Two days were spent in trying to prove the case against the man while the testimony clearly showed the complainant was the guilty party. The court, nevertheless, imposed a fine of five dollars on the defendant who was perfectly good, while county orders were worth but 30 cents on the dollar and the court was bound to have pay for his time against a responsible party. Fine, $5.00; Costs, $45.00. taxed up on both sides and included in the judgment.

The next morning the woman appeared in court without counsel whereupon F. Belfoy (who had prior to this time settled in the County,) refused to appear for the prosecution and the woman fought the complainant, flaxed him out, and was discharged.

Once only, in our recollection did judge Atkinson find himself at the wrong end of the “judicial nippers.” The circumstance grew out of the Indian War. Jewett was a member of the organization termed by the Adjutant General “Irregular Volunteer Militia” but at Forest City, for brevity, styled the “Guerrilla Guards.”

Jewett had not answered roll call for some days owing evidently to indisposition, inclining that way. Whitcomb was captain and our judge first Lieut. a corporals guard was dispatched for Jewett and he was somewhat unceremoniously led by the collar from his house to company quarters and kept under guard over night.

On the 8th, of October Smith filed his complaint with Judge Griswold, setting forth that Wm. Branham, Geo. W. Waggoner and Cornelius McGraw did on the 7th day of the same month “willfully and without lawful authority” come unbidden into the dwelling house of deponent and seized deponent by the arms and dragged him there from.”

On this complaint a warrant was issued by Judge Griswold returnable forthwith at the office of A. C. Smith, who appeared as prosecutor, and Judson A. Stanton was appointed to execute the warrant.


Smith, A. C., A random historical sketch of Meeker County, Minnesota: from its first settlement to July 4th, 1876,;Litchfield, Minn.: Belfoy & Joubert, 1877.

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