Chronicles of Oklahoma

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Chronicles of Oklahoma
Volume 13, No. 2
June, 1935
THE SUPREME COURT OF THE TERRITORY OF OKLAHOMA

By THOS. H. DOYLE

Page 214

Under the organic act of the Territory of Oklahoma, entitled "An act to provide a temporary government for the Territory of Oklahoma, to enlarge the jurisdiction of the United States Court in the Indian Territory, and for other purposes" approved May 2, 1890. Section 9 thereof provided that the judicial power of said territory shall be vested in a Supreme Court, District Courts, Probate Courts and Justices of the Peace; the Supreme Court to consist of a chief justice and two associate justices, any two of whom shall constitute a quorum; to hold their office for four years, and until their successors are appointed and qualified, and to hold a term annually at the seat of government of said territory; the Supreme and District Courts possessing chancery as well as common law jurisdiction. Said act provided that the territory should be divided into three district court judicial districts by the Supreme Court, and one of the justices of said court, at such time and place as might be prescribed by law, to hold court in each of said districts; and provided further that each of said District Courts shall have and exercise, exclusive of any court heretofore established, the same jurisdiction in all cases arising under the constitution and laws of the United States, as is vested in the Circuit and District Courts of the United States.

Hon. Edward B. Green, of Mt. Carmel, Illinois, Hon. John G. Clark, of Lancaster, Wisconsin, and Hon. Abraham J. Seay, of Osage County, Missouri, the former as chief justice and latter two as associate justices, were appointed by President Harrison on May 14, A. D., 1890. On May 29, 1890, the Supreme Court of the Territory of Oklahoma was organized at Guthrie.

Upon the organization of said court an order was made fixing the judicial districts of the territory, as follows: The First Judicial District embracing the counties of Logan and Payne, then numbered 1 and 6, together with all the lands occupied by the Ponca, Tonkawa, Otoe and Missouri, Pawnee, and

Page 215

Osage and Kansas tribes of Indians, and all that part of the "Cherokee Outlet" lying east of the range line between ranges 3 and 4 West of the Indian Meridian, and all that part of the lands occupied by the Iowa, Kickapoo, and Sac and Fox Indians lying north of the township line between townships 14 and 15 North of ranges 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 East of the Indian Meridian.

Chief Justice Green was assigned to this district, with Guthrie, in County No. 1, (now Logan County) and Stillwater in County No. 6, (now Payne County), as the places for holding court therein. The Second Judicial District embracing the counties of Canadian, Kingfisher and Beaver, then numbered 4, 5 and 7, together, with all that part of the "Cherokee Outet" lying west of the range line between ranges 3 and 4 West of the Indian Meridian, and all the Cheyenne and Arapahoe, Wichita, Kiowa, Comanche and Apache Indian country, Judge Seay was assigned to said district, with Beaver, in County No. 7, (now Beaver County), El Reno, in County No. 4, (now Canadian County), and Kingfisher, in County No. 5, (now Kingfisher County), as the places for holding court therein. The Third Judicial District embracing the counties of Oklahoma and Cleveland, then numbered 2 and 3, together with the lands occupied by the Pottawatomie Tribe of Indians, and all that part of the lands occupied by the Iowa, Kickapoo, and Sac and Fox tribes of Indians lying south of the township line between townships 14 and 15 North of ranges 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 East of the Indian Meridian. Judge Clark was assigned to said district, with Norman, in County No. 3, (now Cleveland County), and Oklahoma City, in County No. 2 (now Oklahoma County), as the places for holding court therein.

On March 8, A. D., 1892, John H. Burford, formerly of Crawfordsville, Indiana, was appointed by President Harrison to succeed Judge Seay, who had resigned to become Governor of the Territory of Oklahoma, succeeding Governor Steele, of Indiana, afterwards congressman from that state. On May 26, 1893, Hon. Frank Dale, of Guthrie, formerly of Wichita, Kansas, was appointed by President Cleveland to succeed Judge Green, and on September 19, 1893, Hon. Henry W. Scott, of Oklahoma City, formerly of Kansas, was appointed by President Cleveland to succeed Judge Clark.

Page 216

By Act of Congress of December 21, A. D., 1893, two additional judges of the supreme court of the Territory of Oklahoma were provided for, and Hon. A. G. C. Bierer, of Guthrie, Oklahoma, formerly of Garden City, Kansas, on January 17, A. D., 1894, Hon. John L. McAtee, of Maryland, on April 19, A. D., 1894, were appointed by President Cleveland to said places. Following the passage of said act the territory was, on February 3, 1894, redistricted as follows: The First Judicial District embracing Logan, Payne, Lincoln and "Q" (now Pawnee) Counties, with Judge Dale assigned thereto; the Second Judicial District embracing Canadian, Kingfisher, Blaine, Washita and "O" (now Garfield) Counties, with Judge Burford assigned thereto; the Third Judicial District embracing Oklahoma, Cleveland and Pottawatomie Counties, with Judge Scott assigned thereto; the Fourth Judicial District embracing "P" (now Noble), "K" (now Kay), "L" (now Grant), and "M" (now Woods), Counties, with Judge Bierer assigned thereto; the Fifth Judicial District embracing "N" (now Woodward), "D" (now Dewey), "G" (now Custer), Day, Roger Mills and Beaver Counties, with Judge McAtee assigned thereto.

All that portion of the Osage Indian Reservation lying south of the township line between townships 25 and 26 North, was attached to "Q" (now Pawnee) County, and that portion of said reservation lying north of said line, together with the Kaw or Kansas Indian Reservation, was attached to Kay County, and the Ponca, Otoe and Missouri Indian Reservations were attached to "P" (now Noble) County for judicial purposes.

On May 19, A. D., 1896, Hon. John C. Tarsney, of Kansas City, Missouri, formerly a member of congress from that city, was appointed by President Cleveland to succeed Judge Burford, and on September 19, A. D., 1896, Hon. James R. Keaton, of Oklahoma City, formerly of Carter County, Kentucky, was appointed by President Cleveland to succeed Judge Scott.

On February 16, A. D., 1898, Hon. John H. Burford was appointed Chief Justice by President McKinley, succeeding Judge Dale. On the same day Hon. Bayard T. Hainer, of Guthrie, now of Oklahoma City, formerly of Missouri, was appointed by President McKinley Associate Justice to succeed Judge Bierer. On March 22, A. D., 1898, Hon. B. F. Burwell, of Oklahoma, City,

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formerly of Kansas, was appointed Associate Justice by President McKinley to succeed Judge Keaton. On February 21, A. D., 1899, Hon. Clinton F. Irwin, of Elgin, Illinois, was appointed by President McKinley Associate Justice to succeed Judge Tarsney. On May 30, A. D., 1902, Hon. J. K. Beauchamp, of Enid, Oklahoma, formerly of Kansas, was appointed Associate Justice by President Roosevelt to succeed Judge McAtee.

By Act of Congress of May 2, A. D., 1902, the supreme court was increased by two additional judges, and Hon. J. L. Pancoast, of Blackwell, Oklahoma, formerly of Kansas, and Hon. Frank E. Gillette, of El Reno, Oklahoma, formerly of Kansas, were appointed by President Roosevelt to said places.

On June 4, A. D., 1902, the territory was divided into seven Judicial Districts, as follows: The First District embracing Logan, Lincoln, and Payne Counties, with Chief Justice Burford assigned thereto; the Second District embracing Canadian, Kingfisher, Cleveland, Washita and Custer Counties, with Judge Irwin assigned thereto; the Third District embracing Oklahoma and Pottawatomie Counties, with Judge Burwell assigned thereto; the Fourth District embracing Noble, Kay and Pawnee Counties, with the district court at Pawhuska, Osage Nation, with Judge Hainer assigned thereto; the Fifth District embracing Garfield, Grant, Blaine and Roger Mills Counties, with Judge Beauchamp assigned thereto; the Sixth District embracing Woods, Woodward, Beaver, Day and Dewey Counties, with Judge Pancoast assigned thereto; the Seventh District embracing Caddo, Comanche, Kiowa and Greer Counties, with Judge Gillette assigned thereto.

On the 24th day of April, A. D., 1906, Hon. Milton C. Garber, of Garber, Oklahoma, formerly of Iowa, was appointed by President Roosevelt associate Justice to succeed Judge Beauchamp.

At the time the territory was admitted into the Union as a part of the State of Oklahoma, the Supreme Court of the Territory of Oklahoma was composed of the following members: Burford, Chief Justice, Hainer, Burwell, Irwin, Pancoast, Gillette and Garber, Associate Justices.

The same Act of Congress, of May 2, A. D., 1890, for the organization of the Territory of Oklahoma and the creation of its judiciary, also provided for three judicial districts in the

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Indian Territory, the Act of Congress of March 1st, A. D., 1889, having created a United States Court for the Indian Territory.

Chas. H. Filson, of Guthrie, Oklahoma, formerly of Indiana, was the first clerk of the supreme court of Oklahoma Territory, being succeeded by Edgar W. Jones, now deceased, of Guthrie, Oklahoma, formerly of Virginia.

Mr. Jones was succeeded by Captain Benj. F. Hegler, now deceased, of Guthrie, Oklahoma, formerly of Indiana.

Warren G. Lurty, of West Virginia, was the first Marshal of said court. He was succeeded by William Grimes, now deceased, of Kingfisher, formerly of Nebraska. Mr. Grimes was succeeded by Evitt D. Nix, of Guthrie, Oklahoma, formerly of Missouri; Mr. Nix was succeeded by Patrick S. Nagle, of Kingfisher, formerly of Kansas; Mr. Nagle was succeeded by Canada H. Thompson, of Enid, Oklahoma, formerly of Kansas; Mr. Thompson was succeeded by Wm. D. Fossett, of Kansas, and Mr. Fossett by John Abernathy, of Frederick, Oklahoma, formerly of Texas.

Charles Brown, of Kansas, was the first Attorney General of Oklahoma Territory. He was succeeded by C. A. Galbraith of Oklahoma City, formerly of Texas; Judge Galbraith was succeeded by Hon. Harper S. Cunningham, of Guthrie, formerly of Kansas; Judge Cunningham was succeeded by J. C. Strang, of Guthrie, formerly of Kansas; Judge Strang was succeeded by J. C. Roberts of Kingfisher, formerly of Nebraska; Judge Roberts was succeeded by Percy C. Simons, of Pond Creek, formerly of Kansas, and Judge Simons by W. O. Cromwell, of Enid, formerly of Nebraska.

Horace Speed, of Guthrie, formerly of Indiana, was the first United States attorney for Oklahoma Territory. He was succeeded by Caleb B. Brooks, of Oklahoma City, formerly of Kentucky, with T. F. McMechan, of Oklahoma City, and General Roy V. Hoffman, of Chandler, Oklahoma, as his assistants; Judge Brooks was succeeded by Samuel L. Overstreet, of Guthrie, formerly of Indiana, with Hon. Bird S. McGuire, of Pawnee and John W. Seothorn, of Guthrie as his assistants; Judge Overstreet was succeeded by Horace Speed, and Judge Speed by John Embry, of Chandler, formerly of Kentucky.

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