Moore County, Tennessee County, Circuit, Chancery Courts

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The county court is composed of the several civil magistrates of the several civil districts of the county, and is presided over by one of their number, whom they elect as a chairman. The county court clerk and the sheriff are officers of this court. The court meets in quarterly sessions the first Mondays of January, April, July and October. Quorum courts convene on the first Mondays of each month. For the organization of this court and a sketch of its proceedings, the reader is referred to the organization of the county, in which its history is interwoven.

The first term of the circuit court was held in the room used for court purposes in Lynchburg, beginning on the third Monday of June 1872, the time fixed by act of the General Assembly of the State. W. P. Hickerson, judge in the Sixth Judicial District, of which Moore County forms a part, presided. The court was opened by proclamation made by J. A. Norman, sheriff.

Whereupon W. R. Waggoner, clerk-elect, produced to the court his certificate of election and filed his bonds as required by law, and was duly sworn into office. J. W. Byrom, clerk of the county court, then officially certified the names of twenty four “householders and freeholders” of the county, appointed by said county court at its June term, 1872, out of which the circuit court should select a grand jury. And out of the number so certified the following named persons were selected as the first grand jury of Moore County, viz.: J. T. Motlow, J. H. Taylor, B. F. Womach, Jacob Tipps, J. E. Spencer, J. W. Franklin, Wm. Tolley, J. L. Ashby, A. M. Prosser, P. G. Prosser, J. M. Byrom, J. J. Burt and J. F. Leach. Wm. Tolley was made foreman. H.S. Hudson and Wm. Cooper were appointed constables to wait upon the court. W. H. Allen and E. S. N. Bobo each presented his license as an attorney at law, and was admitted to the bar. The first cause of action in this court was Pique, Manier and Hall vs. John Read, to recover a judgment of $249.15 rendered by F. P. Fulton, a justice of the peace. The case was tried, and the court decreed that the land of the defendant be sold to satisfy the said judgment and costs. The grand jury, after having retired to inquire into “indictable offenses,” etc., returned into court an indictment against Jeff Berry (colored) for assault, and four presentments against other offenders, to wit, Calvin Shofner, James Simpson, Daniel Downing and Hiles Blythe, for “carrying pistols.” Thus ended the business of the first term of the circuit court.

At the next term, the court ordered that the first Monday of each term be fixed “as state’s day for the county.” Jeff Berry, colored, was then tried for assault by the first petit jury of “good and lawful men of the county,” viz.: J. D. Smith, Wm. Richardson, W. A. Hobbs, A. C. Cobble, N. Boone, K. J. Bobo, E. J. Chambers, John N. Morehead, William Copeland, William Waller, Henderson Gilbert, and Walter Holt. The defendant was found guilty, and fined $5 and costs.

At this term, T. P. Flack, who professed to be an attorney at law, was arraigned for larceny. The attorney general, being related to him, declined to prosecute, whereupon the court appointed Hon. W. D. L. Record attorney general pro tem to prosecute the defendant. Wricketts was then arraigned and tried for “horse stealing and larceny.” He was found guilty, and was sentenced to jail and penitentiary for five years. At the February term 1873, of this court, the grand jury found a true bill against Wesley Speck for the murder of John Jean. The defendant was tried, found guilty, and sentenced to twenty years in the penitentiary. An appeal was taken to the Supreme Court, where the sentence was affirmed. After serving for a few years the defendant was released by executive clemency. At the February term, 1885, Jordan Whitaker, colored, was tried for the murder of John Kiser, colored. The jury found the prisoner “guilty of murder in the first degree, with mitigating circumstances,” and fixed his penalty at imprisonment in the penitentiary for life. Whereupon the attorney general, A. B. Woodard, and Judge Williams joined in suggesting to the governor that sentence ought to be commuted to twenty years instead of for life. Also at this term James Silvertooth, marshal of the town of Lynchburg, was indicted for the murder of Bird Millsap. He asked for and obtained a change of venue to the Lincoln County Circuit Court, where he was tried and acquitted, on the ground that he committed the act in self defense. These are the principal criminal cases that have been brought in this court.

In the year 1875 there were 87 prosecutions for carrying pistols, 8 for assault and battery, and 7 for disturbing public meetings. In 1885, ten years later, there were 21 prosecutions for carrying pistols, 5 for assault and battery, and 3 for disturbing public meetings; thus showing that crime is on the decrease. Judge W. P. Hickerson presided over this court, either in person or by proxy, from its organization up to and including Its October term, 1877, and Judge J. J. Williams, the present incumbent, has presided over it since.

The first term of the Chancery Court was held in the court room at Lynchburg, beginning on the fourth Monday of July 1872, with Hon. A. S. Marks, chancellor, presiding. The court was opened in due form by Sheriff John A. Norman. Dr. E. Y. Salmon was appointed clerk and master, and filed his bond, to “safely keep the records of said office and faithfully discharge the duties thereof,” and took the oath of office. He also filed a bond to faithfully collect and, account for fines, taxes, etc., and another as special commissioner and receiver. There being no other business the court adjourned to “term in course.”

At the next term of this court William Thomison and others filed a petition for a turnpike road from Lynchburg to Prosser and Sullivan’s store, in Moore County, a distance of about six miles. A number of the petitioners were then named and appointed a body politic and corporate, by name of The Lynchburg & West Mulberry Turnpike Company. The capital stock was divided into shares of $95 each. At this term, December 1872, the charter of the town of Lynchburg was amended so as to enlarge its power and immunities. The first case brought in this court was “Lewis Newson vs. Mollie Neece and others.” At the October term 1873, E. S. N. Bobo, the county superintendent filed his report of the formation of school districts for Moore County, numbering them from one to eleven; and the court declared each one an incorporated town, with all the privilege conferred thereupon by law. At the June term, 1877, the members of the bar and visiting attorneys held a meeting, and passed resolutions of condolence upon the death of Hon. Abe Frizzell, a member of the Moore County bar, who died June 17, 1877. The first resolution reads as follows: “That in the death of Abe Frizzell this bar and community have lost a member, who in generosity of nature, kindness of heart, and charitable conduct was without an equal, and one who loved his neighbor better than himself. That while he had faults, they were so far outweighed by his many distinguished virtues, that the first are lost in the splendor of the last.” Judge Marks served as chancellor of this court from its organization to the close of the June term 1878. And from time to the close of the October term 1883, Judge J. W. Burton served as chancellor. And since then Hon. E. D. Hancock, the present chancellor has officiated. R. B. Parks, the present obliging clerk and master was appointed in 1884.

Hon. Abe Frizzell was a member of the bar from the organization of the county until his death, in 1877. He was an able lawyer and fine business man. The following attorneys were all members of the bar at the organization of the county: W. A. Cole, a young and studious lawyer, who moved to Alabama some years ago; E. S. N. Bobo, who practiced until 1880, and then went into other business; W. H. Allen, who practiced only a short time; James M. Travis, who practiced a few years, and J. T. Galbreth, likewise; R. A. Parks, who now edits and publishes the Lynchburg Falcon, joined the bar soon after its organization, and has practiced ever since; W. D. L. Record joined the bar at its inception, and has been a constant practitioner ever since; R. E. L. Montcastle, a young and energetic attorney, joined the bar in 1885. The latter three are now the only resident attorneys.


History of Tennessee from the Earliest Time to the Present: Together with an Historical and a Biographical Sketch of from Twenty-Five to Thirty Counties of East Tennessee. Chicago: Goodspeed Publishing Co., 1887.

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