The Bench And Bar Of Effingham County

The bench and bar of Illinois: historical and reminiscent, Volume 1
By John McAuley Palmer  pages  406-22

EFFINGHAM COUNTY was organized in 1831. Its county seat, located where the Cumberland road crossed the Little Wabash river, was named Ewington, in honor of Hon. W. L. D. Ewing. Hon. Theophilus W. Smith, associate justice of the supreme court, presided at the first term of the circuit court, May 20, 1833. Hon. Thomas Ford, afterwards governor, was the judge at the May term, 1835. From that time until 1843 the court was held by Hon. Sidney Breese, who, upon his election to the senate of the United States, was succeeded by Hon. James Semple.

At the October term, 1840, James Shields made his appearance. Court opened the 19th day of the month. Shields was appointed by JudgeBreese attorney-general pro tem., on the 20th, and prosecuted a state case. On the 21st he filed his petition for naturalization, stating his birth in Tyrone county, Ireland, on May 17, "about 1810." He was admitted to citizenship the same day on his first papers, having declared, in his petition, that he came to the United States more than three years before attaining his majority. The advancement of General Shields, as all know, was somewhat rapid. If I mistake not, he had already served a term or two as a member of the general assembly. He was auditor of public accounts the following year. In less than three years he was one of the associate justices of the supreme court, and in March, 1844, came back to Ewington and presided over the court that had naturalized him less than three and one-half years before. The record of his naturalization fails to show that he had any witnesses. The original papers are not to be found. Probably they went as evidence to the United States senate to which he had been elected for the term beginning March 4, 1849. He was denied a seat in that body, not having been a citizen for nine years prior to his election. A special session of the legislature was, however, called after he became eligible. He was again elected and took his seat, succeedingJudge Breese. While this is not the place to give a history of General Shields' remarkable career, it might not be amiss in this connection to say that his wonderful luck did not desert him. He was brigadier-general in the Mexican war, and was desperately wounded at Cerro Gordo. His brilliant military record made him United States senator from Illinois. He afterward removed to Minnesota, and then to Missouri, and represented both those states in, the United States senate. Besides, he was a brigadier-general in the war of the rebellion.

Hon. Gustavus Koerner, associate justice, held the court from 1845 to 1849; then came Hon. W. H. Underwood, circuit judge, who was followed by Hon. Justin Harlan in 1851, and he by Hon. Charles Emerson in 1853. Judge Emerson held the court for ten years, and seems to have been the most highly regarded by the people and the bar, according to reports of "old settlers." By a change in circuits, Hon. Charles H. Constable, an able lawyer and elegant gentleman oi the "old school," presided from 1863 to October, 1865. He died at Effingham while holding a term of court.

The foregoing covers briefly the war and ante-war history of the bench in Effingham county. All of these judges were prominent characters in the history of the state; all were men of marked ability and purity of character.

The attorneys for the state who appeared during this period were: Wickhff Kitchell, attorney-general, and State's Attorneys W. H. Underwood, Phillip B. Fouke, Alfred Kitchell and John R. Eden. Underwood was afterward circuit judge, and Fouke and Eden members of congress.

The greater number of the members of the bar who tried cases at old Ewington were from other counties, and "rode the circuit" with the judge.Levi Davis, Ferris Forman, Elam Rust, Anthony Thornton, Samuel W. Moulton, M. C. McLain, John P. St. John, Tevis Greathouse, Josiah Fisk and Arthur J. Gallagher were some of the more prominent. Thornton and Moulton have both served in congress. Forman was colonel of an Illinois regiment in the Mexican war. Thornton was also judge of the supreme court, and Gallagher was, for a term, an able and upright circuitjudge. St. John was twice governor of Kansas.

Eli Philbrook, Kendall H. Burford, William B. Cooper, Henry D. Caldwell, Benjamin F. Kagay, Henry B. Kepley and Wesley Watson were local attorneys during portions of the same period, residing at Ew ington or, after the removal of the county seat, in 1862, at Effingham. Philbrook, Burford, Watson and Cooper are long since dead. Cooper was a Massachusetts Yankee and was one of the most brilliant lawyers of southern Illinois. He was major of the Ninety-eighth Illinois Infantry in the war of the Rebellion. Caldwell was a captain in the Fifth Illinois Cavalry. Watson was a sergeant in the Twenty-sixth Blinois Infantry. Kagay has served as a member of the general assembly and as mayor of the city of Effingham. Kepley is high up in the councils of the Prohibition party, of which he is an active and influential member. Both Kagay and Kepley are still active practitioners at the bar.

During the first thirty years following the organization of the circuit court there was but twice a failure to transact business at any of the terms. The April term in 1836 was opened and immediately adjourned for the term by Judge Breese, on account of "absence of jurors, by reason of high water, and indisposition of the judge." There is a tradition that at the May term, 1840, the judge, attended by the attorney-general and the goodly company of lawyers that rode the circuit with him, put in their appearance the afternoon of the second day. The gentlemen did not dismount, but sat upon their horses in front of the courthouse. The clerk, sheriff and jurors came out to greet them, and the judge, still sitting upon his horse, opened court then and there. The grand jury was selected and sworn, when the clerk reported no cases on the docket to try, and the foreman reported no business before the grand jury. The judge adjourned "till court in course," and the procession proceeded along the old Cumberland road to Greenup, the place of holding the next court. The time spent was less than ten minutes. There is a slight corroboration of this tradition. There is no record whatever of any spring term of court in 1840.
One of the earlier clerks of the circuit court was Hon. W. H. Blakely. He was appointed by Judge Breese in 1835 and served some twelve years, when he was elected a member of the constitutional convention of 1848. He was a New Yorker by birth and a man of intelligence and fine judgment. His records are models of neatness, accuracy, legibility and correct orthography. He was twice a member of the general assembly,—in 1851, and again in 1873. He died in 1878.

Some of the clerks were wont to spell words quite differently from the way of Walker and Webster. There is a record of an indictment for "purgery." Whether the offence consisted of ''swearing lies," or was a species of malpractice will perhaps never be known in the absence of the original papers.

According to the accounts of the pioneers of those early days, there was very little money in circulation, and less need of any than is now the case. Lawyers' fees were low and were paid mostly in produce and live stock. The successful practitioner, financially, was the lawyer who could best collect, handle and dispose of this kind of pay. McLain was said to have possessed good ability in this line. While he was living at Lawrenceville tradition declares that he reached home from a trip on the circuit the 4th day of July, and found an heir had been born to him that morning. He was greatly elated. He entertained his friends at the "grocery." He filled a hollow log with powder and fired it, blowing off the corner of a church building on the next lot. He then opened gates and let down bars, turning loose all of his live-stock, of which he had a large number—a stallion and two Durham bulls among the rest. He told his hired man to quit work. He declared that every person and animal about him should have liberty that day in honor of the event, and the next day went among his neighbors and satisfied all damages done. lie named the new-comer "Liberty McLain." He died not long since at Indianapolis, where the son, an honored citizen, resides.

After the war law business greatly increased, and with it there was a larger number of judges. From 1865 to 1873 Hiram B. Decius, of Cumberland county, was circuit judge. He had great success, and no one who has presided over the circuit court, before or since, has had a larger number of judgments affirmed by the supreme court. James C. Allen succeeded him in 1873. Judge Allen had served three terms in congress, one term as clerk of the national house of representatives, had been a member of the constitutional convention of 1870, and also a member of the general assembly. In 1877 John H. Halley was elected an additional circuit judge, and Allen went upon the bench of the appellate court, where he remained for two years. He has since served a term as postmaster at Olney, where he lives. He is still a practitioner. Judge Halley was a Virginian by birth. Before the war he was a member of the Missouri legislature. He was a lieutenant-colonel in the Confederate army,—a bluff Virginia gentleman of the old type, a man of strict integrity and no small ability.

Since 1879 the circuit judges have been C. S. Conger, Thomas S. Casey, William C. Jones, Carrol C. Boggs, Silas Z. Landes and E. D. Youngblood. The present judges arc Samuel L. Dwight, William M. Farmer and Truman E. Ames. Judge Landes has twice represented his district in congress. Judge Boggs is now a member of the supreme court. Judge Casey, who died some years ago, was a member of the state senate and was colonel of the One Hundred and Tenth Illinois Infantry in the late war. Judge Dwight was captain in one of the Illinois regiments.

For several years after the war John Scholfield and O. B. Ficklin were regular attendants upon the sessions of the circuit court. Ficklin had been a member of congress from 1843 to 1849, and again from 1851 to 1853. Scholfield served as state's attorney and member of the legislature, one term each. He was a member of the constitutional convention of 1870, and died in office, after a service of twenty years on the bench of the supreme court. Illinois never had an abler lawyer or more upright judge than John Scholfield.

Foreign attorneys have traveled the circuit very little since 1865. Among those who occasionally attended the courts were George R. Wendling, James A. Connolly, Thomas Brewer, James C. Robinson, George W. Wall, Thomas J. Golden, Richard W. Thompson, Horace S. Clark and Jacob W. Wilkin. All these have filled places of distinction.

The members of the local bar in addition to those before named have been Benson Wood, Sylvester F. Gilmore, N. P. Robinson, William H. Gilmore, S. E. Pearson, W. H. Barlow, W. B. Wright, Virgil Wood, R. C. Harrah, E. N. Rinehart, A. W. Lecrone, D. L. Wright, F. W. Loy, H. S. Parker, W. S. Holmes, G. F. Taylor, B. Overbeck, A. S. Loy, C. H. Kelly, T. E. Gilmore and Jacob Zimmerman. Benson Wood, A. W. Lecrone and W. H. Barlow served in the late war, having each the rank of captain. S. F. Gilmore was a non-commissioned officer. Robinson was a member of the legislature. He has been dead a number of years. W. H. Gilmore, Barlow, Lecrone and Pearson have also died. S. F. Gilmore and W. B. Wright have held the office of judge of the county7 court. Harrah, W. H. Gilmore and Zimmerman have been state's attorney. Rinehart has twice served in the state senate. Benson Wood has been a member of the legislature and has also represented the district in congress.

With the passing of the foreign attorney who traveled the circuit there has been a lack of amusing incidents and the good fellowship that characterized the courts of former years. There has been more work at night in law offices, and less talk and hilarity at hotels. But some good things have occurred in court well worth preserving. Judge Hooks, of the county court, at the close of the evidence in a long-spun-out trial limited the attorneys to ten minutes, and the jurv to fifteen minutes in which to make their verdict. Under that admonition the jurv came into the court-room with their verdict promptly on time. Judge Parks, of the same court, made much use of the word "disperse." If the attorneys got to wrangling he would bid them to "go on and disperse with the case." If they were "pollyfoxing" for delay he would tell them that "the case must be dispersed." He once declared that he knew his judgment was right, because "the lawyers on both sides were mad." A German juror who was being examined touching his understanding of the English language, replied that he "knew most vat the vitness say, but not much vat the lawyer say." Judge Hooks sympathetically remarked that "The court often labors under the same difficulty," and ruled that the juror was entirely competent. At the first fall term of the circuit  
court held by Judge Decius, "Uncle John" and two others rose in response to the inquiry whether any member of the jury had any excuse to offer why he should not serve. One pleaded sickness of himself; another sickness in his family. When Uncle John was asked to state his excuse, he said: "Jedge, I can't stay. I haint gathered my hickory nuts yit, and the woods are full of hogs." Ficklin, who was present, volunteered in Uncle John's behalf, and insisted that it was a valid excuse, and the court discharged him. Indeed, the reputation of the judge for fairness and justice would have greatly suffered, in the estimation of the audience, had he done otherwise.

If this were a history of the bench and bar of Effingham county alone, it would not be complete without something concerning justices of the peace, and the practice before them. But the state would hardly have room to contain the books, if all these good things were written. Changes of venue in the early days were very frequent, and each party was allowed one, and that after he had tested the "Court" on some motion decisive of the case, and it had been decided against him. The rule quite generally prevailed, and to some extent does yet, of deciding the case in favor of the party who brought it to the justice by the change of venue. With some justices, "costs" were the principal thing,—law and evidence, the incidents. The party who was "good for costs" hardly had a fair show, unless his opponent was equally good. In all matters of misdemeanor over which justices had jurisdiction, "three dollars and costs" was the regular portion of the evildoer who was found guilty, no matter how aggravated the offence was. In many instances, one, and even two justices were invited to sit in the trial of civil cases, with the justice before whom the suit was brought.

But some, yes, many, of these old justices of the peace were men of fine sense and strong character. John Broom, George M. Sharp and Samuel Fortney were long in office, and their decisions would have been a credit to any circuit court. All have passed away,—the last named but quite recently. Fortney was an oldfashioned Democrat of the "states-rights" school,—a believer in the "resolutions of '98." He was orderly sergeant of Captain Lee's company of the Fourth Regiment of Illinois Volunteers in the Mexican war, and, it is said, learned to read and write while filling that position. He was strictly honest and fair, and was a most excellent officer and citizen. Before the war was officially declared to be ended, he held that that part of the federal law which made an unstamped instrument inadmissible as evidence in a state court was unconstitutional,—not in just that language, however. He said: "Congress nor nobody else has any business to say what kind of evidence goes into my court." At the same time he informed the party who had put forth the document that he had "lain himself liable" to severe penalty, at the hands of the United States courts, by his failure to put on the requisite stamp. This doctrine, put forth in this homely way, was afterward held good by the supreme court of the United States.

John Conant White was prominently identified with the bar of Effingham for many years and won a position of distinctive preferment as a member of the legal profession of southern Illinois. In this profession, which embraces many of the most brilliant minds of the state, it is difficult to win a name and place of prominence. Many aspire, but few attain. In commercial life one may start out on a more elevated plane than others; he may enter into a business already established, and carry it still further forward; but this is not true in the case of the lawyer, for he must commence at an initial point, plead and win his first case and work his way upward by ability, gaining his reputation and success by merit. Persons do not generally place their legal business in unskilled hands; it is the man of power before judge and jury who commands public patronage. Of this class Mr. White was an illustrious type. He began as all others do in the practice of law and his prominence came to him as the reward of earnest endeavor, fidelity to trust and recognized ability.

Mr. White was born in Forestville, North Carolina, May 21, 1846, and in 1855 removed with his parents to Greenville, Illinois. He was a student in Almira College, of which his father was president, and in 1863 entered the model department of the State Normal University at Normal, Illinois. The following year he was a student in the Chicago University and in the fall of 1865 matriculated in Shurtleff College, of Upper Alton, Illinois. At the close of his junior year he entered Brown University, at Providence, Rhode Island, in which institution he was graduated with the class of 1869. Having now gained a broad general knowledge, he determined to take up a special line of study in order to fit himself for professional life, and began reading law in the office of Judge Samuel Reber, of St. Louis, with whom he remained until 1871, when he came to Effingham. Here he read law, J. N. Gwin and W. B. Cooper being his preceptors, and in 1872 w as admitted to the bar. Forming a partnership with Hon. E. N. Rinehart, they practiced together until 1873, when Mr. White became a copartner of Judge S. F. Gilmore. That connection was continued until 1883, whenJudge Gilmore was elected to the bench of the county court.

In December, 1886, Mr. White became a partner of W. B. Wright, and the firm of White & Wright maintained a very prominent position at the bar of southern Illinois until his death. As a lawyer he was capable and well trained, a strong advocate before the jury and concise in his appeals before the court. He was so thoroughly well read in the minutae of the law that he was able to base his arguments upon thorough knowledge of and familiarity with precedents and to present a case upon its merits, never failing to recognize the main point at issue, and never neglecting to give a thorough preparation. His pleas were characterized by a terse and decisive logic and a lucid presentation rather than by flights of oratory, and his power was the greater before court or jury from the fact that it was his aim ever to secure pressed us with his great superiority as a lawyer and as a just and humane man. We cannot recall the loss of any one whom we more deeply regret so far as our own affairs may be affected. We know his loss to you is infinitely greater. In his relations as husband and possibly as father, we can imagine that he possessed many qualities that endeared him to you and to the community of which he was a part.

At the time of your recent visit to our office, while no mention was made of the fact, we felt that he held to life's tenure by a weak hand, and that possibly we should not see him again. Of course it is a common thing for our friends and our associates to drop out of the line in which we are accustomed to walk. Nothing is more common than death, and perhaps there is nothing that we should regard with greater favor. We who have traveled along in the hard and dusty roads of life, receiving but little for our labor and our pains save vexation and disappointment, do not prize too highly the gift and we have come to doubt whether life or death is the greater boon. The loss is to you, we are assured, and not to your husband. He had lived to learn in life's difficult school the vanity and worthlessness of those things for which men chiefly strive. He had seen that wealth and ambition are not worth the labor they cost. But one thing he has proven of advantage. We refer to growth of character. He had obtained the full stature of a noble and fully developed man, morally and intellectually. He had acquired that wealth and those prizes that suffer no detraction, no depreciation submitted to any standards of value, whether here or hereafter. What he has gained in those particulars have added to the permanent value of his soul and will follow him in any life to which he may be born. You will find much comfort in the recollection that you have been associated in life and enjoyed the opportunities of so close a communion with so good a character and so noble a type of a gentleman.
Yours with great respect,

Dr. B. F. Wise, state agent of the Phoenix Insurance Company, wrote of Mr. White: "He was one of the brightest men I have ever known, and a highly accomplished and genial gentleman, thoroughly a master of his profession. We will find no more John C. Whites for a long time to come; in fact, I believe he had no superior in Illinois and very few equals." Such words well indicate the life of Mr. White. He was a man of very strong character, fearless in defense of what he believed to be right, and his influence was a potent factor for good in the community. His record forms a part of the history of southern Illinois and his memory remains as a welcome benediction to all who knew him.

Ferdinand W. Loy was born March 10, 1859, m Effingham county, Illinois. His parents, Thomas M. and Susanna (Wright) Loy, have long since departed this life. His father came to this county in 1832, emigrating from the state of Alabama, and aided in organizing Effingham county. He filled a number of offices in the county: was the first probate judge of this county; was county surveyor, county clerk, and represented this and Fayette county in the legislature at an early day. His wife also was an early settler, coming from the state of New Jersey. Her people were Quakers.

The subject of this sketch attended the common schools of this county, taught three terms of school and read law in vacation. He afterward attended the normal school at Valparaiso, Indiana, for one year, and then determined to complete his law course. He secured the position of principal in said school, and in this way he earned his expenses while taking the course in the law department of that institution, graduating in 1881. He was afterward admitted, by the supreme court, to practice in Indiana and Illinois. He is a self-educated and selfmade man in every sense of the word, having depended upon his own exertions from his youth, and in a business way he has been successful.

Hon. Benjamin F. Kagay has been identified with the legal profession for forty-three years, and is the oldest practicing lawyer in Effingham. His ambition and earnest purpose in early life soon enabled him to attain to a leading position among the successful practitioners, and he has ever maintained a place of distinctive preferment among those who have devoted their energies to the law in southern Illinois. He has won for himself very favorable criticism for the careful and systematic methods which he has followed. He has remarkable powers of concentration and application, and his retentive mind has often excited the surprise and admiration of his colleagues.

Mr. Kagay was born in Fairfield county, Ohio, February 27, 1831, and is a son of A. B. and Sarah (Hall) Kagay. His mother was of Scotch-Irish extraction and the fatT1er was directly of German descent, but his ancestry could be traced back to Switzerland, whence originated the family that has now numerous branches in America. In 1715 John Kagay, emigrating to this country, located in Pennsylvania, and afterward removed to the Shenandoah valley. He had three sons, one of whom became a resident of the Shenandoah valley, while the second remained in Pennsylvania, and the third emigrated to Canada. Among the children of the latter was a son who engaged in the John Brown raid at Harper's Ferry, and was killed near that place. There have been four emigrations of the Kagay family to this country, the first being John Kagay in 1715, the second Johormes Kagay in 17.39, the third Rudolph Kagay in 1764, and the fourth Simon Kagay in 1818. In Switzerland the family name is spelled Kagi, but in America it has various spellings, including Keagy, Kagy, Kagay, Kagey and Cagy. However, the ancestry can all be traced to a common source.

Benjamin F. Kagay of this review acquired his elementary education in the schools of Findlay, Ohio, in which town his father had located in 1832. In 1841 the latter removed with his family to Ewington, Effingham county, Illinois, where he engaged in the saddlery and harness business, and in 1843 he was elected county clerk. Educational privileges in the town were very meager. A strolling school-teacher would usually be employed to take charge of the school during the three-months winter term, and such schools Mr. Kagay attended. Writing and singing masters would also organize classes, likewise a teacher of geography, and through such means, by diligent study, Mr. Kagay fitted himself for the profession of teaching. He was employed to take charge of a school in the "lost township" of Fayette county, Illinois, his pupils, some of whom were older than himself, coming from Clay, Effingham and Fayette counties. While thus engaged he boarded around among his students. Later he took several courses in penmanship, after which he taught that art in Marion, Fayette, Effingham, Clay, Bond, McLean and Sangamon counties. Thus passed the time from 1851 until 1853, after which he engaged in teaching in the common schools in Effingham, Fayette and Shelby counties.

At the age of eighteen Mr. Kagay began reading law and mastered Blackstone's Commentaries under the instruction of Eli Philbrook, the second lawyer to locate in Ewington, Effingham county, Illinois. During the year 1853 he taught school in Fayette county and at the same time pursued a course in the studv of law under the direction of Mr. Crump and William Campbell. In August, 1854, he was licensed to practice in the courts of Illinois, and the following year opened an office in Ewington, then the county seat of Effingham county, at which time his father was serving as county treasurer. On the removal of the county seat to Effingham in 1860 he opened an office in the court-house at that place and lias since been an honored and prominent member of its bar. In 1862 he formed a partnership with William B. Cooper, and for twelve years the firm was employed on one side or the other of every important case that was tried in the circuit court during that period, their clientage being very extensive. Since the dissolution of that partnership Mr. Kagay has been alone and has continued actively in practice up to the present time. While he was well grounded in the principles of common law and admitted to the bar, he has continued through the whole of his professional life a diligent student of those elementary principles that constitute the basis of all legal science. He prepares his cases with great care and his addresses before the courts are models of clearness and logic. He is ever faithful and true to his clients' interests and as a result has been connected with the most important litigation of his district.

From his boyhood Mr. Kagay has been interested in military affairs and early learned to play the tenor drum. His knowledge in this direction was utilized in summoning the volunteers for the Mexican war and also the war of the Rebellion and at the old settlers' reunions. This faithful drummer still calls the people to the place of meeting. His service in civil office began as clerk of the board of trustees of the incorporation of the town of Ewington in 1855. He filled the position of supervisor of Douglas township. Effingham county, for three terms from 1869. was president of the town of Effingham from 1864 until 1867, and when the city was incorporated in the latter year he was elected its first mayor. In 1S71 he was elected to represent Effingham county in the state legislature to fill a vacancy occasioned by the death of David Leith. For four years Mr. Kagay served as police magistrate, was city attorney of Effingham for four terms of two years each, and for thirty years has been a notary public. Politically he followed in his father's footsteps and became a Whig; in 1858 he supported James C. Robinson for congress; in 1860 he voted for Douglas for president, and from that time to the present has followed the fortunes of the Democratic party. In early life he belonged to the Methodist Episcopal church, but is now inclined to the belief of the Unitarian church, although he is not identified with any religious organization. Since 1857 he has been a valued and faithful member of Effingham Lodge, No. 149, A. F. & A. M., in which he served as worshipful master for a number of terms, while of Effingham Chapter, R. A. M., he has been high priest for a number of years.

The home life of Mr. Kagay has been very pleasant. While teaching penmanship in Fayette county he became acquainted with Miss Martha J. Stearns, a daughter of Dr. Abraham and Ann S. Stearns, and after a short courtship they were married, February 6, 1853. Her parents were pioneer settlers of Illinois, locating in the state during its territorial days. Her father was a native of Tennessee, and her mother belonged to the Thompson family of Kentucky. Mr. and Mrs. Kagay became the parents of five children, three of whom are living: B. F., who is engaged in the real-estate and insurance business in Effingham, is married and has one son, B. F., Jr., aged ten years, and a daughter, Bessie Pearl, aged seven; Laura K. is the widow of A. B. Judkins, of Springfield, Illinois, who died September 23, 1897, since which time she has removed to Los Angeles, California, where she lives with her two children, Aline and Alvin Franklin, aged respectively sixteen and twelve years; and Mattie K., wife of O. P. Bray, of Indianapolis, Indiana, a passenger conductor on the Vandalia line, by whom she has one son, Orvill Perry, aged ten years.
In 1890 Mr. Kagay visited California, where he remained one year, and during that time obtained a license to practice law in all the courts of the state. He is still an active and able member of the bar of Effingham and has won honorable distinction by the capable manner in which he has cared for the litigat1on intrusted to him. His name has been long conspicuously identified with the history of Effingham county and he is a worthy representative of that type of American character and of that progressive spirit which promote public good in advancing individual prosperity and conserving popular interests.

Captain Henry D. Caldwell, long numbered among the honored citizens of Effingham county, deserves special mention as having been one of the brave soldier boys who shouldered arms in the defense of the Union, and in many a long, weary campaign carried the old stars and stripes to victory. At his country's call he was ready to cheerfully lay down his life for her good, and though this supreme sacrifice was not required of him, something almost as priceless, health, was the price he paid for the preservation of the principles of equality and union for which he struggled. With characteristic reticence and modesty he frequently sums up his army life in one short sentence, but the detailed history of the long, arduous 1narches, hard-fought battles, skirmishes with the enemy, exposure to all kinds of weather, lack of food and proper clothing, etc., would fill a volume. He was always faithful, prompt and reliable, always at his post of duty, and the praise and hearty commendation of his superior officers were freely accorded him. Beginning his army service in the ranks he was gradually promoted, and was finally commissioned captain of his company. His duties did not stop there, however, for upon different occasions he was the officer in charge of various battalions of his regiment and also of his regiment and brigade. He won the respect and loyalty of the men under his command, as well as the esteem of those who were in authority over him, and in many a gallant act of bravery and daring brought fresh honors to the Union cause.

In tracing the ancestry of Captain Caldwell we find that he springs from sturdy English-Irish stock, some of the most sterling characteristics of each having descended to him by inheritance. Born January 21, 1825, in Russell county, Virginia, he is a son of Andrew Caldwell, who was of Irish parentage, and possibly a native of the Emerald Isle. The mother of the Captain was a Miss Jerusha Filington in her girlhood, her parents being English people. Mrs. Caldwell died when her son, our subject, was but ten years old, in Shelby county, Illinois, whither the Caldwell family had removed some years previously. Her mother, whose surname was Dickinson, was also English. Andrew Caldwell resided in this state for some fourteen years, from 1830 to 1844, his death occurring in the year last named. During the war of 1812 he served as a lieutenant in a Virginia regiment, and later was a member of the state legislature there. He was a man of education and prominence, respected by a large circle of friends. Having decided to seek a new home and wider opportunities in the growing west, he took his little family to Illinois. For some time he resided near Mattoon, Coles county, and subsequently he made his home in the town of Chester, Randolph county.

The early years in the life of Captain Caldwell were spent in the Illinois of pioneer days, when privations and hardships were a matter of course. Cabins were rudely constructed; had dirt floors, chimneys built of clay and sticks, and great wide doors, large enough to drive a yoke of oxen through, so that the huge logs which were to be burned in the fireplace could be taken into the house with little effort on the part of the inmates. The hardy pioneers, who were obliged to rely entirely upon themselves in every essential, were really men of genius, as may be gathered from the fact that in the construction of the cabins of those days in this state, not a nail or strip of iron was used, the deficiencies being supplied in various ways. Wooden pins served for hinges to doors and shutters, and a wooden latch, with the "latch-string always hanging out," in the hospitable language of the period, was a sign of welcome to the rare passer-by. Primitive and simplyconstructed bedsteads, benches and tables constituted all the furniture of the humble cabin, save a chest, perhaps, and a few treasured articles, brought from the far-away eastern home. A gun, powder-horn and bowie-knife were in evidence in these pioneer habitations, and many a meal was supplied by the skilled shot of the man of the house, who brought in wild game of various sorts.

As may be inferred, the subject of this narrative had but limited opportunities for gaining an education. For a short time he attended a subscription school and after he grew to manhood he went to the Sullivan (Indiana) Seminary for two or three terms. When he had become a strong, sturdy youth, he commenced flatboating on the rivers, and followed this pursuit for several years. Being of a studious disposition he put in many a leisure hour with his books, and after he had left the pleasant river life he even went to school again for a short time. He began the study of law then, and started in practice, giving all his energies to his profession up to the outbreak of the civil war. Next, he followed his army service, he being one of the first to enter the ranks of devoted patriots and one of the last to leave, as he would not have done, had his country longer needed him. Poor health has always been his portion since, and for a number of years he has been practically retired from business on this account. The boys who wore the blue have always been very near and dear to his heart, and for years he has been a valued member of the Grand Army of the Republic. Politically, he has ever been an uncompromising politician, supporting the party nearest his convictions and avoiding sectionalism. He voted for Bell and Everett, but has since voted the Republican ticket. Among his old friends and associates of the bench and bar were J. C. Emerson, of Decatur; Elam Russ, of Greenville, prosecuting attorney; John S. Kelley, clerk of the circuit court and master in chancery; Samuel B. Park, sheriff; Eli Philbrook; James Ladow, etc.
The first marriage of Mr. Caldwell was with Sarah A. Edwards, their union being solemnized in Darwin, Clark county, Illinois, on the 20th of March, 1858. She died June 30, 1860, at Teutopolis, Effingham county. All of the four children born to them are deceased, two having died in infancy and the others in later years. The Captain married his present wife, who was then Miss Ann M. West, in Moultrie county, Illinois, April 17, 1864. Their six children were Charles W., Robert A., Franklin L., Walter T., Wert B. and Jack. Charles W., Wert B. and Jack survive.

Hon. Rufus C. Harrah of Effingham is one of the representative members of the bar in this section of the Prairie state. Moreover, he is one of the pioneers of Illinois, and for forty years has been actively interested in everything relating to the commercial and public prosperity of his adopted state. In the various important offices of distinction and responsibility which he has filled he has given entire satisfaction to the general public, those of his own profession and all interested in the proper management of civic affairs. While he stands as an able exponent of the Democratic party platform, he is not a partisan in the narrow sense, but is broad-minded and liberal, devoted to the good of his fellow men.

Born in Putnam county, Indiana, in 1846, Mr. llarrah was a lad of twelve years when he accompanied his parents to Jasper county, Illinois. The country was sparsely settled at that time and he was obliged to walk three miles to school, which, however, he attended only in the winter season, the rest of the year being devoted to farming. He was a quick, intelligent student and with the money which he earned in teaching school for three years he paid his tuition in the Carbondale schools and in Westfield College. When in his fourth year at the college he left its halls in order to begin the study of law. His preceptor was J. N. Gwin, of this city, and it was not until 1874 that he was admitted to the bar, for, in the meantime he was elected and served as a police magistrate. In that capacity he met with commendation, and in 1877 he was honored by a re-election.

He continued to act as a magistrate until 1880, when he was further honored by being elected state's attorney. During the long period—some sixteen years—of his service as such he made a record of which he has just cause to be proud. Neither fear nor favor had any influence over him, and at all times he earnestly sought to bring the guilty to justice, though no trace of ill will or unfairness was ever observable in his treatment of defendants.

At the same time that he was officiating as state's attorney Mr. Harrah conducted an extensive law practice for himself, but never did he allow the one to encroach upon the other. He is particularly well versed in law and has met with marked success at the numerous times that he has appeared in cases before the supreme court and the appellate courts of the state. Among his other victories was that in the case of the American Express Company versus the People, in the supreme court, where he successfully defended the constitutionality of the present game law.

Having had abundant opportunity to know what the courts of the state cost the people, he is the more solicitous on their behalf and has a much higher idea of his duty toward the great commonwealth than many members of the bar possess. He is firm and unyielding when he has become convinced of the rights of a case, and unwaveringly carries out his convictions of duty. With one accord, his associates in the legal profession render him praise and honor, and regardless of party they gave him their support, when, in the spring of 1897, he was a candidate for the circuit judgeship.

Hours & Location

100 E. Jefferson Ave.,
Effingham, IL 62401

Daytime Hours:
(January-February)- By appointment only and some special evening hours, TBA
Phone: 217.240.2471 to leave a message

(March through December)
Tuesday and Saturday 10 a.m-2 p.m.

Evening Hours:
6:00-7:00 p.m. on night of lecture series, November-March
Other times by appointment: Call (217)240-2471 to leave a message

ECCCMA Meeting Schedule

Board Meetings are held on the second Tuesday of each month at 6:00 p.m. at the court-house first floor courtroom. For information contact Delaine Donaldson, President at:

General Membership Meetings are held once a month of the second Tuesday of the month at 6:00 p.m. at the court-house first floor courtroom.

Our MISSION is to preserve our Historic Register structure, to collect artifacts from county history, and to use them to educate our local and external communities, while immersed in the broader context of American history.

Our VISION is that the 1872 Effingham County Courthouse remains as an architectural gem that instills a sense of community pride and provides a venue to
educate and showcase the history, art, and transportation of Effingham County.

Get Involved

On November 11, 2012, the Museum opened its doors to the public. Currently there are exhibits on the first floor and the second floor. On the second floor there is exhibit space as well as room for lectures and other types of public gatherings.