pages 62 - 66
THE SUBJECT CONTINUED. JUDGE YOUNG. FORD: ETC.
John York Sawyer had ceased to be judge before I came to Peoria, and Richard M. Young was occupying that honorable position. It may be amusing to the present generation to be informed that in 1832 and 1833 the Hon. R. M. Young's judicial circuit included Quincy, Peoria, Rock Island, Galena, Ottawa, and Chicago: in fact, all the country which now constitutes the counties of Pike, Adams, Brown, Schuyler, Fulton, McDonough, Hancock, Henderson, Warren, Knox, Peoria, Marshall, Stark, Henry, Mercer, Rock Island, Putnam, Bureau, Lasalle, DeKalb, Lee, Whiteside, Carroll, Jo Daviess, Stephenson, Winnebago, Ogle, Boone, McHenry, Lake, Cook, DuPage, Kane, Grundy, and Will.
Here was a country large enough for a kingdom, and as fertile as the Garden of Eden, but almost destitute of population. The Indians were compelled, partly by the force of arms, and partly by public opinion, to leave the country in 1832, and there were but few white men in all this tract of country at that time, and that few had not been here long enough to have started much litigation. In the spring of 1833, three days were ample time to clear the docket in Peoria, Ottawa, or Chicago, although there were then but two terms of court held in a year.
In those days there were but few roads or bridges any where in the north half of the state. No road of any kind had then been opened from Peoria to Chicago. In fact, the most essential requisites of a good judge, for this circuit, were to own a good horse and be a good rider. These two requisites Judge Young possessed in a high degree. He was a fine-looking, complaisant Kentuckian, who possessed not much legal learning, but a fine, high-blooded Kentucky horse, and knew well how to ride him.
In May, 1833, he made his appearance in the Village of Peoria, and announced that he was on his way to Chicago to hold court. He had traveled about 130 miles, from Quincy, where he lived, and had to travel, as the trail then run, not less than 170 miles further, to hold the first court on his circuit. Just think of a horseback ride of at least 300 miles to hold a three days' court!
On this occasion I attended court at Chicago, partly to seek practice as a lawyer, and partly to see the country. So poor was Peoria in the way of horses, that I could not borrow nor hire a horse in Peoria to ride to Chicago. I went to the country and applied to a farmer who had a drove of horses, but the only broken ones he had he wished to use, and, as a matter of necessity, I took one 'on which man had never sat', and rode him to Chicago and back. I asked him why he had not broken his horses. He said he was too old, and his boys were too young. He made me welcome to the horse, but yet remonstrated against my taking him; for, said he, I am afraid he will break your neck. I told him I was born and raised where they made horses as a business, and I would risk him, if I could get on. He and his oldest son held him, until I had mounted him, and then let him go. He went furiously, some times end foremost, and some times side foremost, but generally in the direction of Chicago; and ultimately, in a little more than three days, got there.
Times have greatly changed since then. We can now go to Chicago by canal, or, what is much better, by either of four different railroads, in from seven and a half to ten hours; and in stead of three days, twice a year, to try what cases arise in court, it now requires a court to be in session nearly all the time to transact the necessary business. Our Peoria judge now, in stead of traveling over a third of the state to do the business of his circuit, has a circuit composed only of Peoria and Stark counties, and Stark is a small rural county, requiring but little of his time.
The above-named Judge Young deserves a further notice; and yet it is doubtful whether his memory will be much benefited by it, for his sun set in clouds. He was a very popular man, and a man of sufficient ability to fill any office respectably. He was at one time Judge of the Supreme Court, and for a term of six years he was in the United States Senate. At another time he was Clerk of the House of Representatives of Congress. For a number of years before his death he was a claim-agent, in Washington City. But for some time before his death he was confined in an asylum for maniacs. Of his last days I will not speak, because of them I know nothing, only as I have been informed by a brother of his, since he has passed away. If his story is true, Judge Young, who was once one of the most popular men in Illinois, passed many a day and night in a dungeon, under the torturing hands of fiends in human shape, in the great capital of the nation; and yet for a long time so secretly that a brother, living in that city, had no suspicion of it. He lived and died poor; but had he lived until now, and held on to certain property which has been sold by his wife since his death, he would be rich. One piece of property, which he obtained in Omaha as a fee, is said to be worth many thousand dollars. After Judge Young was elected to the United States Senate, Thomas Ford was our judge until he was elected Governor of the state. He did not, as office-holders now-a-days do, amass a fortune, but he lived and died a poor man. After his gubernatorial term had expired, he removed to Peoria, and attempted to support his wife and children by the practice of the law; but his health failed, and his wife, while rendering the kind attentions usually rendered by a good wife to a dying husband, was suddenly taken ill and died. Soon afterward he died. During this illness his family was furnished with food, and the expense of his funeral was borne, by a company of gentlemen, all of whom but two had been his political opponents, without his knowing, while alive, whence the aid came; and all his children but one, who was then about grown, were raised and educated by men who were his political opponents while alive. To show the changes that have been made in our county officers, and give a list of all who have held office under authority of the county, would alone require a volume. I will simply add to what has been said above that, at present,
Sabin D. Puterbaugh is Judge of the Circuit Court;
George Puterbaugh, State's Attorney;
George A. Wilson, Clerk of the Circuit Court;
Samuel Gill, Sheriff of Peoria county;
Edwin C. Silliman, County Treasurer.
John C. Yates, Judge of the County Court;
Col. John D. McClure, Clerk of the County Court;
Nicholas E. Worthington, Superintendent of Public Schools.
Prev Table of Contents Next
Submitted by your Host
Any contributions, corrections, or suggestions would be deeply appreciated!
Copyright © Janine Crandell
All rights reserved
Updated March 2, 2005