I love court records! They provide so much more information than the standard birth, marriage, death, and census records that many budding genealogists cling to. Typically these records are not found online (yet!). I access court records at my local Family History Search Center. And if one happens to live close to a local court house, even better!
How do you know if your ancestor was a nice guy? Census and vital records will not reveal our ancestors’ personalities. On a side note, I also love newspapers. Why? Because you can learn the dirt, the gossip, and the minutia of our ancestors’ lives. But today I want to talk court records. While I research several groups of ancestors for my BCG portfolio, I come across all sorts of engaging court cases. This week I stumbled upon a rape indictment from 1837. The plaintiff was a spinster, Mary Ann Veatch, and the defendant was John Caldwell, laborer, late of Fayette County. As far as I know, I am not related to either. However, what caught my eye was the name of one of the jurors, Jacob Troxell—my ancestor. (Someday I really do hope to finish the book I am writing on him and his descendants.)
So far, I have not found any conclusive records about who Mary Ann Veatch or John Caldwell were beyond this trial. Both of their surnames belonged to families who had settled in Fayette County, Indiana, in the early part of the 1800s. What do you think really happened?
Fayette County (Indiana) Complete Circuit Court Record Book E: 300-301
September Term A.D. 1837—
State of Indiana }
John Caldwell } On an Indictment for a Rape—
Be it remembered that at a Term of the Fayette Circuit Court begun and held at the court house in Connersville in the County of Fayette and State of Indiana on the fourth Monday and twenty fifth day of September in the Year of Our Lord One thousand Eight hundred and thirty seven before the Honorable Samuel Bigger President Judge of the Sixth Judicial Circuit of the State of Indiana and Edward Webb and Stanhope Royston Associate Judges of said of said [sic] Court within and for said County of Fayette, upon the Oath of Joshua McIntosh foreman, John B. Tate, Nathaniel Hamilton, Aaron Perrin, John Louder, William Alger, David H. Munson, John Lester, Samuel Shortridge, Jeremiah Conwell, Hugh Reed, Zenas Powell Senr Levi Trowbridge Hugh Dickey Junr & Elias B. Stone, good and lawful men of the said County of Fayette who being empanneled and sworn as Grand Jurors at the term aforesaid to inquire within and for the body of the said County of Fayette, it is presented, “That John Caldwell late of said County, Laborer, on the ninth day of May in the Year of Our Lord one thousand Eighteen hundred and thirty seven, with force and arms at the County aforesaid and within the jurisdiction of said Court in and upon one Mary Ann Veatch spinster in the [?] of said State, then and there being unlawfully, forcibly, violently and feloniously did make an assault, and her the said Mary Ann Veatch, there and then unlawfully, forcibly, violently and against her will feloniously did ravish and carnally know, contrary to the form of the Statue in such cases made and provide and against the peace and dignity of the said State of Indiana S. W. Parker Prosecuting Atty., And Afterwards to wit at a Term of the Fayette Circuit Court began and held at the Court house in Connersville in the county of Fayette and State of Indiana on the fourth Monday and twenty fifth day of September in the Year of Our Lord one thousand eight hundred and thirty seven before the Honorable Samuel Bigger President of the sixth judicial Circuit of the said State of Indiana, and Edward Webb and Stanhope Esqrs Associate Judges of said Court, within and for the said County of Fayette and now here comes Moses Lyons one of the recognizance Bail of said John Caldwell comes and surrenders into Court the body of the said John Caldwell in discharge of his said recognizance and is there upon comes the said John Caldwell and Benjamin H. Hanson, Stephen Gordon, James Bolton, Elisha Vance and Samuel K. Ross, and acknowledge themselves to have indebted to the State of Indiana as follows to wit, the said John Caldwell in the Sum of two hundred dollars, and the said Hanson, Golden, Bolton, Vance and Ross in the like sum of two hundred dollars, to be levied on their Goods and chattels lands and tenements respectively if default be made in the following conditions which conditions are that the said Caldwell shall appear before the Judges of this Court from day to day during the present term, and answer the State of Indiana upon the above charge and not depart without leave—HC
And afterwards, to wit, at the Term aforesaid of the Court aforesaid began and held as aforesaid before the Honorable the judges aforesaid and continued from day to day before the said Judges until Tuesday the eighth juridical day of said Term, Samuel W. Park Esqr – Attorney prosecuting the pleas of the State of Indiana in this
[page 301] behalf now comes, and the said Defendant in his own proper person and by Vance and Test his Attorneys come also, and being arranged upon the Indictment aforesaid and it being forth with demanded of him how he will acquit himself of the charge in said indictment specified for plea thereto says he is not Guilty as he stand Indicted and for trial thereof he puts himself on the County, and the said prosecutor doth so likewise and thereupon comes a Jury to wit, Stephen Moore, Jacob Troxell, Denis Springer, Nathan Robinson Thomas Reed, George Stanley, Joel Williams, Thomas J. Davis, Dany Tyner – James P. Hamilton, Hiram Messersmith, and Abraham Conwell Twelve good and and [sic] lawful men of the County of Fayette who being Elected tried and sworn the truth to speak in the premises, after hearing the evidence as well in behalf of the said defendant as on the State, the arguments of counsel and a charge from the Court retire to their room to deliberate attended by a sworn Officer of this Court, and day is given H.
And afterward, to wit: On Wednesday the ninth judicial day of said term the said Samuel W. Parker, Esqr Prosecuting Attorney now comes and the said defendant in person and by her Attorneys come also and thereupon the jury empanelled in this behalf on yesterday now returns into Court the following verdict in this behalf, to wit: “We the Jury find the defendant not Guilty” It is therefore considered by the Court that the said defendant, as to the Indictment aforesaid do go hence acquit without and discharged without day. HC—
©2017 copyright owned and transcribed by Deborah Sweeney
Post originally found: https://genealogylady.net/2017/09/30/random-records-circuit-court-case-from-1837/
“I love court records! They provide so much more information than the standard birth, marriage, death, and census records…” The historian is lost without contemporary documentation….a point that I make in my speeches.
“However, what caught my eye was the name of one of the jurors, Jacob Troxell—my ancestor.” Good catch! 🙂
“Honorable Samuel Bigger” …great name!
““We the Jury find the defendant not Guilty” Gosh…i was surprised by that!