Warren County, New York
Genealogy and History

History of Warren County, H. P. Smith
Chapter XXII: The Bench and Bar of Warren County

This transcription was produced through the use of Readiris Pro 11 OCR software. Contributed by Tim Varney.

1. Prepared by Hon. Isaac Mott, of Glens Falls.

Warren Page 294county was organized in 1813 from a portion of Washington county.

The first Court of General Sessions of the Peace for the county was held in the Lake George Coffee House at Caldwell on the 2d Tuesday of September, 1813. Court organized as follows: William Robards, esq., presided as first judge; Michael Harris, judge; David Bockes and Jeremiah Russell, esqs., justices of the peace.

The following grand jurors appeared and were sworn, to wit: -

Halsey Rogers, foreman, Dilivan Gardner, John Darby, Roger Haviland, Thomas Tilford, John H. Hitchcock, Benjamin Wing, jr., Elisha Folger, John S. St. John, Benjamin Barret, Edward Cornwell, John Lindsey, David Alden, Luther Stebbins, James Ware, Nathan Goodman, Obadiah Knapp, James L. Throman, Herman Hoffman, James Archibald, Solyman B. Fox, Thomas M. Wright.

The grand jury presented to the court seven indictments, four for assault and battery, one for assault and battery with intent to murder, and two for forgery.

Mr. Russell having been appointed district attorney, acted as such at this court. The first criminal action tried in the county was The People vs. John Harrison for an assault and battery upon the body of Isaac Farr, before the following grand jurors: Nehemiah Wing, David Havilan, Jonathan Pitcher, Obadiah Mead, Frederick Hubbell, Nathanial Tripp, Orson Mead, O. Taylor, Reuben Smith, Solomon Moon, Reuben Green, Isaac Washburn.

David Sisson and Andrew Parsons were sworn as witnesses on the part of the people, and Isaac Farr was sworn as a witness on the part of the defendant.

The jury, after being charged by Judge Robards, retired and rendered a verdict against the defendant of guilty of the assault and battery as charged in the indictment.

Whereupon, on motion of Mr. Russell, district attorney, the Court ordered "that the said John Harris for the offense aforesaid be imprisoned in the gaol of the county of Washington in close confinement far the space of two months."

At this court a second indictment against the same party for an assault and battery an the body of Daniel Sisson was tried and the defendant found guilty; and this entry on the records of the court made: "Ordered the like sentence as in the last preceding cause." Page 295

The first Court of Common Pleas held in the county of Warren was held at the Lake George Coffee House in the town of Caldwell on the second Tuesday of May, 1813, and organized as follows: -

William Robards, esq., first judge; Kitchel Bishop, Michael Harris, esqs., judges; Jeremiah Russell, esq., assistant justice; John Beebe, clerk; William Peffer, appointed crier.

The following named persons were on motion admitted as attorneys and counselors, to wit: -

Robert Wilkinson, Roswell Weston, Asahel Clark, Henry C. Martindale, Lawrence T. Vankleek, Royal Leavens, William Hay, jr., Horatio Buell and Christian Sackrider.

The following orders were entered: -

"Ordered, That the rules of the Court of Common Pleas of the County of Washington as those adopted the 12th day of March, 1808, be, and they are hereby adopted as the rules of this court in all cases where they will consistently apply.

"Ordered, That every attorney of this court residing without the county (except attorneys residing in Sandy Hill in the county of Washington), shall appoint an agent who shall be an attorney of this court and who shall reside at Queensbury or Caldwell, which appointment shall be in writing signed by the attorney and filed in the clerk's office, and the clerk shall constantly have the names of the several agents of the respective attorneys appointing them, and the latter in alphabetical order, entered on a list to be kept in his office, and all notices and pleadings served on or delivered to such agent shall be good service upon the attorney on record, and in default of such appointment (except as aforesaid), the opposite attorney may proceed as in case when no attorney is employed."

Whereupon the court adjourned.

At a Court of Common Pleas held at the Lake George Coffee House in the town of Caldwell on the 2d Tuesday of September, 1813, by William Robards, first judge; Michael Harris, esq., judge; Jeremiah Russell, David Boches, esqs., assistant justices.

Archibald Noble, Edward Noble, Duncan McEwan, Duncan Cameron, James I. Cameron, John Doig, Thomas Norman, Eliza Martha Norman, Robert Simpson, and James Dow were naturalized and declared citizens of the United States.

The first civil cause tried in this court was Hannah Austin, administratrix, and Samuel Andrews, administrator, of the estate of Phineas Austin, deceased, vs. James Divine and John Divine.

Mr. Wilkinson, attorney for plaintiffs.

Judgment rendered for plaintiffs for $78.56 damages and six cents costs.

Of the members of the Warren county bar, the name and fame of Enoch Page 296 H. Rosekrans occupies the most prominent place. E. H. Rosekrans was born at Waterford, New York, October 16th, 1808. His preparatory education was acquired at the Lansingburgh Academy. He entered Union College, and graduated in July, 1826, with honors. Studied law with his uncle, Judge Samuel S. Huntingdon, and after admission to the bar, in 1829, he became and continued the law partner of the latter gentleman for about two years; came to Glens Falls in 1831, and was married to Cynthia Beach, of Saratoga Springs, in 1832, and received the appointment of Supreme Court Commissioner, and Master in Chancery the same year. In 1867 the degree of L.L.D. was conferred upon him by Union College; was elected judge of the Supreme Court in 1854 and again in 1863, and continued to discharge the duties of that position until his term of office expired in 1871. He sought a renomination but failed to obtain it. His practical retirement from the bar soon followed, and although frequently consulted on important matters, he did not enter upon any active practice in court. Attorneys and clients, at times, found occasion to criticize his rulings from the bench as hasty and arbitrary. He was prompt to decide, and expeditious in the transaction of business; his language was concise and pointed, and his written opinions evinced an extensive knowledge and clear conception of the law seldom surpassed in the annals of the Supreme Court. He died May 1st, 1877, mourned by a large circle of private and professional friends.

Halsey R. Wing was born at Sandy Hill, Washington county, N. Y. He entered Middlebury College, Vermont, and graduated therein in 1832. His legal studies were pursued in the office of Hon. Samuel Cheever. He served for a brief period as assistant district attorney of Albany county. In 1835 he was married to Harriet N. Walton, of Montpelier, Vt. He came to Glens Falls in 1841, in which year he was admitted as counselor at law, and the following year as solicitor in the United States Courts, and counselor in Chancery. In 1845 he became the first judge of the county, having previously been elected to the office of justice of the peace and inspector of, common schools. In 1851 he entered into partnership in an already established business, the celebrated Jointa Lime Company, consisting of himself and Mr. John Keenan, and continued a member of the successful firm up to the time of his death. After entering the Jointa lime firm he gradually withdrew from the practice of law and did not again appear as an active practicing attorney in court. Afterwards Mr. Wing became largely connected with many other important and successful industries of Glens Falls, and was always respected by his associates for his uncompromising honesty and faithful performance of every duty which he was called upon to discharge. A careful, discreet, pains-taking, honest lawyer, a wise and prudent counselor, a faithful husband, loving father, and generous, trusting friend, he will be remembered for his progressive usefulness and virtuous manliness as one of the noble characters who has left his imprint on the Page 297 "sands of time," and made the world brighter and better by the force of character and the virtue of good example.

Halsey R. Wing

Halsey R. Wing

Orange Ferris was born at Glens Falls in 1814. His elementary education was received in his native village. His collegiate course was pursued at the University of Vermont. He studied law in the office of Hon. William Hay, of Glens Falls, and was admitted to the bar in 1840. The following year he was appointed surrogate of the county, in which position he served for four years. In 1851 he was elected county judge and surrogate, was re-elected in 1855 and again in 1859, thus serving in that capacity for twelve consecutive years. In 1865 he received the appointment of provost marshal for the Sixteenth Congressional District, but declined to serve. In 1866 he was elected to Congress, and was re-elected the succeeding term. In 1871 he was appointed commissioner of the Court of Claims, and in 1873 was reappointed for four years to the same position. In May, 1880, he was appointed second auditor of the treasury department, a position which he occupied until removed by the Democratic administration of President Cleveland. Whether acting as judge, congressman, commissioner, or auditor of the treasury, Judge Ferris has always maintained a spotless character which has commanded universal respect. A sound lawyer, an impartial judge, a faithful executive, sincere friend, and honest man, he lives loved and respected by his friends and neighbors, hale and hearty for his advanced life, with many years of usefulness yet before him.

Isaac J. Davis was born at Castleton, Vt., in 1831. His education was chiefly acquired at the common schools. He came to Glens Falls in 1851 and commenced reading law in the office of L. H. Baldwin. Taught a district school the following winter, and in the spring renewed his legal studies with Henry B. Northup, of Sandy Hill, where he remained one year. He then returned to Glens Falls and finished his studies in Baldwin's office. He was admitted to the bar in 1853, and immediately opened an office. From 1854 to 1857 he was a law partner of Halsey R. Wing. He was the Democratic candidate for district attorney in 1859 and in 1863 for senator; was defeated, although running ahead of his party ticket in both instances. He was elected county judge in 1871 and again in 1877. He was twice married, to Miss Gray, of Arlington, Vt., in 1857, and to Miss Williams, of Schuylerville, N. Y., in 1865. The latter lady survives him. Judge Davis was emphatically democratic in make up and manner, rarely lost an opportunity to make a new acquaintance, and as a consequence was more generally known through the county than any man that had ever lived in it. As a friend, counselor, and peacemaker Mr. Davis was very generally sought, and whenever an amicable adjustment was reached without service of legal papers, he invariably rendered his services free of charge, laughing as he would sometimes remark, "Oh, never mind; let it go, that is all right." Generous beyond the capacity of his purse, never refusing to buy a book, feed a pauper, or feast a prince, he became the Page 298 idol of the populace, was cheered in every assembly, feasted at every board, and irresistible at the hustings, defeating Isaac Mott for the county judgeship in 1871 by seventy-three, and A. J. Cheritree in 1877 by four hundred and eighty-seven majority. He possessed a clear, sound, legal mind, and when pressed into service was eloquent and effective with judge and jury, and not unfrequently converted defeat into victory by his earnestness and honesty of purpose. Careless and indifferent by nature to the acquirement of this world's goods, he could never learn to say no, and was a prey to the greed and selfishness of real and fancied friends. Dilatory and procrastinating in his practice, his wealthy clients were not numerous or his income large, and when death came, if poverty is a passport to eternal bliss, for kind hearted, good natured Davis, the gates stood ajar. Judge Davis died in 1881, respected and esteemed by the entire community, as an upright judge, honest lawyer, good neighbor and faithful friend; peace and farewell.

William Hay was born in Cambridge, Washington county, N. Y. in 1790. About the year 1800 Mr. Hay came with his family to Glens Falls and received only a limited school education, from the scanty opportunities afforded in the unsettled condition of the county in those early years of our history. In 1808 we find him pursuing the study of law in the office of Henry C. Martindale. In 1813 he opened an office for the practice of law at the head of Lake George. In 1817 he was married to Miss Paine, of Northumberland, Saratoga county. In 1819 he became the proprietor and publisher of the Warren Patriot, the first and only newspaper published at Lake George. In 1822 he removed to Glens Falls and resumed the practice of law. In 1827 he was elected to the Assembly from Warren county. In 1837 he removed to Ballston, retaining a branch office at Glens Falls. In 1840 he transferred his residence to Saratoga Springs, where he continued to live up to the time of his death. He was a man of broad views, of extensive and varied information, and endowed by nature with great intellectual qualifications, which were always used for the improvement and advancement of human thought and, progress. With a heart as gentle as a girl's, he was a man among men, a philosopher among philosophers, and may be justly regarded as one of the bright spirits who adorned every walk of life, always defending the right fearless of consequences, dying as he had lived, esteemed and venerated by all who knew him.

Stephen Brown was born in Massachusetts, and came to Glens Falls in 1852. By persistent industry and close attention to the duties of his profession he soon acquired an extensive and lucrative practice. He served most acceptably as county judge from 1863 to 1871. The law firm of Brown & Sheldon, dissolved a few years since, was one of the best known in Northern New York during the several years of their copartnership. Judge Brown is yet in active practice, deservedly holds a prominent position before the bar, and is always discreet, able and eloquent.

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Andrew J. Cheritree, the present county judge, was born in Greene county, N. Y., in 1830; came to Warren county in 1854; was supervisor of the town of Luzerne for several years; was appointed provost marshal at the close of the War of the Rebellion; served as school commissioner for about two years, and was subsequently appointed collector of internal revenue; was elected district attorney in 1871 without opposition, and county judge in 1882 by a large majority. Judge Cheritree has justly earned a reputation for integrity and ability before the bar and on the bench which points to a wider field of usefulness in the not distant future.

Isaac Mott

Isaac Mott

Isaac Mott (1) - The levity and brevity of human life with its innumerable train of fleeting ambitions, are but as the faint reflection of a passing shadow, which may be tinged with prismatic beauty and leave its imprint for a brief space of time upon the collective susceptibility of human nature, speaking to the senses through the beautiful in poetry, music and art. Or, it may be the more bold and picturesque shadow of tyrannic power and decorated pomp marching in triumph o'er "the purple flood" of human hopes and universal slaughter. The pyramids which have endured the wreck of time and the shock of worlds, are but ghastly spectacles of the whirling sands and red simoon of the desert, which have consigned to oblivion the kingly names vain glory designed to perpetuate.

1. Contributed to the chapter by a friend.

The imperial tyrant of Persia, with his myriads of desecrating vassals, live only in the hated recollection of Greece's proud, but melancholy history, which portrays Xerxes as the most tyrannic monster before whom an awed world ever bowed in abject submission. Earth, from pole to pole, resounded with the name and fame of Alexander who wept for other worlds in which ambition might revel in triumphal conquest. Caesar, Hannibal, Charlemagne, Napoleon, alternately saint and sinner, emblazoned their lurid pathways, and sailed in tempest down the stream of life amid the meteoric splendor of marvelous achievements.

"And now, a single spot
Where oft they triumphed is forgot."

Passing away is written upon the brow of man and the face of nature. Philosophical reflection and Christian resignation, views with smiling complacency the brevity of human ambition. Spring and summer, ere long give place to autumn, when we that are now must take our destined places in the silent cavalcade ever moving to that mystical realm where no wave of trouble breaks upon the silent shore; where no echo of joy or sadness disturbs eternal repose, or everlasting gladness. Calmed by the elysian reveries of hope, imagination wings its flight beyond the shining stars and finds there written in legends of eternal light, this golden motto, "'Tis only truly noble to be truly good."

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From this atmosphere of moral purity, we may pursue with pleasure and profit the subject of our present sketch who was born in the town of Moreau, Saratoga county, New York. September 25th, 1818. His parents, James Mott and Anstis Merritt, were among the early settlers of Saratoga county and were blessed with a family of fourteen children, nine sons and five daughters. Isaac, the fifth son, "worked on the farm" and attended the "district school" until about the age of sixteen years, at which time he attended the schools at Glens Falls, where he obtained a good English education and the higher branches of mathematics. In 1836, a young man just from school, he was engaged as civil engineer on the New York and Erie R. R. The financial crisis of 1837 led to a suspension of the work and the young engineer was thrown out of employment, an incident which probably changed the entire current of his life. About this time he was offered a lucrative position on the State works, but declined, anticipating the continuance of the work on the Erie R. R. The summer of 1837 was devoted to the study of mathematics and traveling, and the following winter was profitably spent in teaching school in Washington county. In the spring of '38 he commenced the study of law in the office of Hon. William Hay at Glens Falls, and continued his studies for several years, occasionally teaching school in the winter. Was admitted to the bar in 1844 and commenced at once the practice of his profession at Schuylerville, Saratoga county. In 1847 Mr. Mott was married to Miss Mary A. Cox, of Schuylerville, by whom he has had three sons, Charles M., Abram C. and Edward P., and a daughter, Alice E. Charles M. Mott, now of Dakota Territory, was one of the youngest and brightest ornaments of the Warren county bar. Genial of nature, happy of thought, pleasing in conversation, a safe counselor and honest friend; the happy possessor of every quality that endears, and every virtue that ennobles, he is a valuable acqusition to his new home, and will be admired and respected most by those who know him best. Abram C. is extensively engaged in the iron trade, and is president of the Abram Cox Stove Company of Philadelphia. Edward P. Mott is manager of a branch house of the latter company at Chicago. Alice E., a most estimable and talented lady, is the wife of Edward E. Hazlett, M.D., an eminent young physician now practicing in Kansas.

In the fall of 1847, Mr. Mott, then but little known in the legal profession, moved to Glens Falls, N. Y., where he formed a law partnership with Allen T. Wilson and in a few months succeeded to the extensive law practice of Mr. Wilson, who moved to California. In 1850 Mr. Mott was elected superintendent of public schools for the town of Queensbury, a position which he most satisfactorily discharged for six successive years. In 1856 he was elected district attorney for the county of Warren and discharged the duties of this position with marked ability, tact, wisdom, prudence and economy, which merited and won universal respect, and as a consequence retained possession of the office for twelve successive years.

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So generally was the ability, talent and sterling honesty of Mr. Mott recognized by the community that he was nominated on the Republican ticket for the position of county judge in 1871, and under many adverse circumstances and a pernicious system of electioneering practiced by the opposition which Mr. Matt could not and would not practice, was, after a most brilliant run, defeated by a small majority. In 1872 he was elected presidential elector on the Republican ticket and voted for General Grant at the electoral college of that year.

Mr. Mott is of long-living Quaker stock, and, although advanced in years, is hale and hearty in body and mind; possessing a fine person, pleasing features, a most agreeable manner of address, and a peculiar manliness and grace which art cannot teach or method imitate. Honesty, candor, moderation, is the golden tie running through the pearl-chain of his every day duty.

"These shall resist the empire of decay,
When time is o'er, and worlds have passed away."

Feeling from his youth that the fundamental principles of moral and political philosophy are realities of the grandest and greatest importance, he never has fallen into the indolent and popular habit of declaiming about them as if they were nonentities incapable of being seen or understood. He therefore never hesitates to frankly express his views on important subjects when the occasion demands it. Ardently devoted to home and family he naturally prefers an atmosphere superlatively pure and calm, to the more turbulent and tumultuous channels of life, where lives are wrecked and hopes are blighted. Whole-souled and generous to a fault, his theology is tinged with the same characteristic generosity. A believer in a Supreme overruling power, yet absolutely without" ism" and therefore free from the distorted vision, cramped views, clouded understanding, illiberal opinions, and restless melancholy so frequently the prey and pride, the glory and shame of the narrow and contracted mind. Evidently believing with the poet,

"If there is another world, I'll live in bliss,
If not. I've made the best of this."

Respected by his neighbors, and admired by his friends; a successful lawyer, a kind husband and prudent father. No sentiments can embellish, no words can add to the worth and importance of a life of usefulness devoted to honest and successful effort for nearly a half century.

"To guild refined gold, to paint the lily,
To throw a perfume on the violet,
To smooth ice or add another hue
Unto the rainbow, or with taper light
To seek the beauteous eye of heaven to garnish
Is wasteful and ridiculous excess."

From Holden's History of tile Town of Queensbury, to which we are largely indebted for much of the information contained in this sketch, we find that Seth C. Baldwin, Hiram Barber, Horatio Buell and William Robards were judges of this county for terms varying from three to eight years.

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Melville A. Sheldon, for fourteen years a partner of Judge Brown's, was born in Essex county, N. Y., in 1829; was admitted to the bar in 1852. Came to Glens Falls in 1868, has been president of the village of Glens Falls, district attorney for three years, and is now a member of the board of education of the Union Free School. As a lawyer Mr. Sheldon is conceded to be without a superior in Northern New York, is a man absolutely without hypocritical polish, sham or pretense, a man eminently worthy of respect and confidence and an honor to the profession and the community in which he lives. Seemingly reserved and distant in manner, yet possessing a heart kind, generous and sympathetic as could bless man.

Emery D. Harris, for many years a law partner of the late Judge Davis, was born in Washington county, N. Y., in 1837; was admitted to the bar in 1861; was the Democratic candidate for district attorney in 1868, making a remarkable run under adverse circumstances, and coming within thirteen votes of an election. Genial and warm hearted by nature, generous to a fault, possessed of a bright, clear, perceptive intellect, widely known and very popular, a good lawyer and devoted friend, he has passed quietly away in the morning of his manhood, a victim of the fatal malady of consumption, loved and esteemed most by those who knew him best.

"Green be the turf above thee, friend of my better days,
None knew thee but to love thee, or named thee but to praise."

In addition to the above mentioned, the following gentlemen constitute the members of the Warren county bar admitted to practice in the Supreme Court: -

A. B. Abbott, Eugene L. Ashley, Louis S. Brown, J. H. Bain, W. M. Cameron, Henry A. Howard, W. A. Holman, D. F. Keeffe, H. Prior King, Charles F. King, Calhoon S. Enches, Charles M. Mott, James J. Mead, Charles R. Patterson, Edwin R. Safford, Edward L. Sterns, Frank H. Streeter, Royal L. Davis, of Glens Falls; H. P. Gwinup, Abram Newcomb, of Luzerne; Thomas Cunningham, L. C. Aldrich, of Warrensburgh; Adam Armstrong, Charles P. Coyle, Stanly H. Bevins, of Chester; C. F. Aldrich; L. H. Aldrich, of Thurman.

Within the recollection of the writer many bright and noble spirits, ornaments of the Warren county bar, and the pride of the community in which they lived, have fallen by the wayside to appear before the final tribunal, where the costs are fixed by statute; where motions for new trials will not be heard, proceedings stayed, or appeal possible.

In conclusion it is but just to say, that the Warren county bar has furnished its full quota of distinguished men to the legal profession, men who have swam to triumph on the crest of fortune, to pass away down the receding slope of years, leaving behind them sunny recollections and noble aspirations with those who in their turn shall obey the command of Nature and pass away.

"Thus the multitude goes like the flowers and the weeds;
The multitude goes to let others succeed."

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