THE STORY OF AN OLD CLERK
Jump to the following sections:
Contemporaneous Newspaper Accounts and Anecdotes
Completion of the Rotunda
Scattered Events of 1846
Return of the Soldiers from the Mexican War
St. Louis Celebrates
National Railroad Convention
A Scotchman's Comment
Other Railroad Conventions and Development
The Dred Scott Trials
General Grant at the Courthouse
The Test Oath
First Woman Lawyer
First Militant Suffragist in St. Louis
President Cleveland in the Courthouse
The Building of the Courthouse
It was on the fourth day of November, 1856, that I commenced my services in the Court House, as a copyist in St. Louis Land Court, then existing and of which I will mention later. I was then young and, as Mark Twain expressed himself concerning his early career, quite young. At that period I had little expectation of making this business my life work. Later, I was appointed deputy clerk, subsequently became clerk of that court, and on the consolidation of the various court' into the Circuit Court in 1866, became deputy clerk, and for ten years performed also the duties of jury commissioner Of St. Louis County. For 25 years I filled the position of Court Clerk; about 1886, was appointed supervisor of the records the various divisions of the court, and in that capacity, may, say I have examined all, or nearly all, of the decrees, judgments and orders made by the courts in civil cases. . . . .
The Court House has became endeared to the older residents, and thousands of others, because of its historic value and its solid and massive architecture. . . . As time passed, Mr. Auguste Chouteau's extensive holdings of real estate became valuable, and upon the town being incorporated, he is credited with the honor of having donated as a site for the Court House he block upon which the present structure stands. After the lapse of about three years the first Court House of any dignity, as a Temple of Justice was completed. This building was of brick, about two stories high and in accordance with the custom of the times, was a semi-circular front supported by large brick pillars and fronted on Fourth Street between Market and Chestnut streets. It was a grand structure for those days and the pride of the citizens. The jail was not upon the Court House square, but located on the present site of the Laclede Hotel. his was a very solid stone edifice, two stories high and was regarded as large and strong enough for the confinement of criminals of that era.
The old Court House remained in use, until about the year 1840. At that period the growth of population and consequent increase of litigation required a larger building and the present or Broadway wing was commenced, the corner stone being id, I think, in 1838, or thereabout, this wing being first occupied in the year 1841.
The first Court House was taken down August 1849 and the [present] east wing built. The two wings were united by the rotunda. When the two were completed, the Circuit Court was on the main floor and fronted on the present Broadway; it was, as I remember, oblong and more beautiful in its handsome ,and chaste ornamentation than any other court room in the building. This space is now occupied by Circuit Court No. 9 and the Circuit Clerk's office. On the second floor was the Court of Common Pleas and this remains much in appearance as when built.
About the year 1855, in consequence of the increasing business in the courts, and need of further accommodation, it was determined to build two wings, the main building having only occupied the center of the square fronting on Fourth Street and Broadway. These wings were completed about the year 1857 and the present dome, which is more than double the height of the original dome, was finished, leaving the exterior of the building as it is at present, in the shape of the Greek Cross. The entire Court House square was surrounded with a handsome iron railing with massive iron gates. When completed, this building was considered, and still is considered by able architects to be one' of the most perfect, architectually considered, in the United States, being at its completion exceeded by two or three, and it still holds a prominent position in that respect. A noticable feature of the interior of the rotunda, to which I wish to direct attention, are the four paintings in the alcoves above the third Gallery. These paintings have been regarded as works of art, and were the production of an artist who attained national fame, as a painter of wild western scenes: Indians, Buffalo hunts and Prairie Fires, Mr. Charles Weimer. After his death, one of his paintings, I understand, sold for ten thousand dollars. His works are highly prized. The paintings being on the wall surface became much injured by the effects of time and dampness, and have been lately renovated. Mr. Weimer died in St. Louis, I think prior to 1860, at the early age of 36 years. The subjects of these paintings are all historical. The one on the Eastern Alcove represents the landing of Laclede at the site of St. Louis, above the foot of the present Market street; the boat is intended to represent the best type of river .craft in 1763. Another representing an incident in the early history of St. Louis, is in the North Alcove. About the year 1779 the Village of St. Louis was guarded by a picket fence of posts driven into the ground, being about eight feet high, and forming, a stockade as a defense from wandering Indians. Beyond the stockade on the west in the month of May of that year wild strawberries were growing, and at a church festival after religious services, a number of women and children went outside the stockade, to gather berries, not suspecting danger, when a hostile band of Indians attacked them and before they could gain the safety of the stockade' a number were killed or wounded. This painting represents the. incident, and is well worthy of examination.
The painting on the South Side represents "The Discovery of the Mississippi River by De Soto". The West Alcove painting represents a Western scene. It relates back to the time of the California gold fever of 1849, at a time when all west of the State of Missouri was little better than a wilderness, and was represented, as I have myself seen, on an atlas of somewhat earlier date, as "The Great American Desert". Railroads west of the Mississippi had been mentioned, but were as yet unknown and travel was by means of river craft and vehicles. The means of travel overland to California was by means of wagons, then called "Prairie Schooners" drawn by oxen, or occasionally by horses and mules, and a trip from St. Louis to California (if accomplished at all) consumed about five or six months. At that time there was only one pass through the "Rockies" that could be utilized by wagons, and called the "Cotpchope Pass". This painting represents a train of emigrant wagons approaching this pass. It appears to be a sunset scene. In earlier years after the completion of the building the rotunda was the largest and most popular place for political meetings and has witnessed many incidents, and here some of the great orators of former times have been heard.
I have listened at the Court House to the speeches of such noted men as Col. Thomas H. Benton, Stephen A. Douglas, Edward Bates, Attorney- General in President Lincoln's cabinet. During the period of the Civil War, and of the emancipation proclamation, the rotunda was a drilling place for a company of militia, and has served as a temporary resting place of one or perhaps more of the war victims.
A number of the older inhabitants of St. Louis have been of the opinion, that in the earlier years of the existence of the prominent members of the Bar was greater in proportion than in after times; this may have arisen from the fact that in consequence of the City being much smaller, and less in number of inhabitants, the fame of the lawyers was more apparent, as they were better known to the people; but be this opinion correct or not, it is a certainty that when I first began my career at the Court House, and long after, the number of lawyers who had attained reputation, and more than local fame, was quite noticeable.
In order that you may appreciate the old building as a forum in which so many distinguished men practiced, I will name some of those I remember and with most of whom I had the pleasure of a personal acquaintance. Among those I recall were the Hon. John F. Darby, one of the first lawyers of the city, member of Congress, banker, mayor of the city, and for many years one of the leading members of the Bar.
Another, I recall, was Hon. John M. Krum (father of judge Chester H. Krum, who is now practicing in St. Louis). Judge John Al. Krum had the rather unique distinction of having been mayor of two cities, first of Alton Illinois, and later of St. Louis, He was also judge for some years of the Circuit Court, and it was in his court that the first trial of the famous Dred Scott case was held. Hon. Wilson Primm, leading lawyer for many years, noted for his eloquence and as early historian of St. Louis, and 10 was judge of the Criminal Court. Another gentleman of the early period was Hon. James B. Bowlin, also judge of the Criminal Court, afterwards a member of Congress, later United States -Minister to Bolivia. Roswell M. Field, father of Eugene Field, had for years perhaps the largest real estate practice in St. Louis. He possessed the faculty in a greater degree than any other lawyer I recall of condensing in a small compass and making effective his pleadings in legal documents. Hon. Edward Bates was another gentleman I knew well. He was perhaps one of the best equity lawyers St. Louis ever possessed, and practiced law for perhaps a quarter of a century. He became judge of the St. Louis Land Court, and afterwards attained a national reputation and was even considered as a possibility for nomination as President of the United States at the convention that nominated Mr. Lincoln.
Hon. Montgomery Blair formerly practiced law in St. Louis was judge of the Court of Common Pleas, and afterwards became Post-master-general of the United States. His distinguished brother, whose statue adorns the entrance to Forest Park, and one of our most distinguished citizens, Gen. Frank P. Blair, also practiced here. Gen. Blair participated in the capture of Camp Jackson, May 10th, 1861. He served during the Civil War and attained the rank of major-general. After the war he was United States Senator from Missouri, and was a nominee on the Greeley ticket for Vice-President.
Judge Charles D. Drake practiced law for many years here. I knew him well, he was bright and aggressive, was an ardent Republican and an equally ardent opposer of the Rebels, as the Confederates and their sympathizers were known during the war. He was accredited with being the author of the oath, prescribed by the State Constitution of 1865, and known as the Test Oath, containing many sections as to what the person taking the oath had not done, and to be made without any mental reservation or evasion whatever, and no one was permitted to hold office, practice law or medicine, or exercise the function of priest or minister of the Gospel in Missouri without first taking the oath; many refused to take it, and as I understand some were indicted and imprisoned for undertaking to exercise their profession without first taking it. Mr. Alexander J. P. Garesche, for years a prominent lawyer of St. Louis, refused to take the oath and continued to practice law; having been proceeded against criminally and condemned by the state court, he carried his case to the Superior Court of the United States, which Court decided that this oath was unconstitutional, void, and of no effect. Judge Drake was appointed judge of the United States Court of Claims, having been previously United States Senator from Missouri. Britton A. Hill was a very prominent lawyer for many years, a man of fine physique, an able speaker, and probably the best Insurance lawyer in St. Louis. lion. Henry S. Geyer, long a prominent practioner at the Bar, became United States Senator from Missouri. One whom I esteemed as a personal friend was Hon. Trusten Polk; he was a fine real estate lawyer, with perhaps few if any superiors in Missouri. He defeated Col. Thomas H. Benton for the office of governor of the state, and at the beginning of the Civil War was Senator from Missouri, but resigned and joined his fortunes with the Confederacy. Hon. Alexander Hamilton, judge of the Circuit Court for a number of years, was the trial judge of the second trial of the Dred Scott case. He was an estimable gentleman and much beloved. Another prominent lawyer was Hon. Hamilton R. Gamble who was appointed governor of Missouri by the State Convention held in St. Louis in 1862, which Convention expelled the Claiborne Jackson state government from office and retained Missouri in the Union. Another gentleman whom I esteemed as a friend, and who was very prominent as a lawyer editor, soldier, United States Senator, and governor of Missouri was the Hon. B. Gratz Brown.
Still another, who for years was a successful practitioner, and who attained considerable fame, was Sir Charles Gibson, the only one of our lawyers, as I recollect, that ever received this title. He was a genial, pleasant man, and in consequence of services rendered by him to subjects of both the Emperors of Germany and Austria, had conferred upon him by each of these monarches, decorations of merit, and was, I think, knighted by one of the Emperors. At the time of his death he was the possessor of two magnificent vases, costing several thousand dollars, which were presents from the father of the present Emperor of Germany.
Two law firms that for years were among the most prominent for ability and extensive practice in civil suits were Glover and Shepley, and Sharp and Broadhead. Col. James O. Broadhead, a member of the latter firm, was United States Minister to Switzerland. . . .
In the year 1865, between the close of the Civil War and the election of General Grant to the Presidency, he and Mrs. Grant were still interested in the old farm in St. Louis County, where he had built the famous log cabin which was on exhibition at the World's Fair. This farm had been leased to a Captain Joseph White, who, after the expiration of the lease, retained possession and in order to oust him the General and his wife brought an unlawful detainer proceeding before a justice of the peace in the county. At that time the city and county had not defeated in been separated, and Captain White, having been the suit, took an appeal to the St. Louis Land Court, of which I was at the time court clerk. General Grant remained in St. Louis for quite a while in connection with this litigation, and I thus had an opportunity to become acquainted with him. He appeared quiet and unassuming, was a good talker, notwithstanding his reputation for taciturnity, and could talk interestingly; he was a great smoker, and used about the largest sized cigars of any smoker that I remember. I saw him later, after he became President, and he had then grown quite stout."
The greater portion of the old village of St. Louis is being made into a national memorial to Thomas Jefferson and westward expansion. Dominating this site, which rises from the Mississippi River by three terraces to a height of about seventy-five feet, is the old Courthouse, which has been the pride of St. Louisans for more than a century. It seems appropriate at this time to recall some events connected with this historic spot and give a description of the building that adorned it. A deed to the old Courthouse and site has been given to the Federal Government, and this structure is now to become a part of the memorial. The old Courthouse is a classic symbol of the giant metropolis which formed the gateway to the West; the controlling center of the fur trade and the broad-extending commerce of the Mississippi Valley. The site upon which the building was erected stretched along the brow of a hill, within the confines of the old Spanish fortifications of the village of St. Louis. Here the French and Spanish stopped the British and their Indian allies and saved the western territory from danger of a rear attack upon the American colonists during the Revolutionary War. At the western edge of the town, the Courthouse looked down toward the east to the edge of the mighty- Father of Waters, some six hundred yards away. It was opposite the center of the town's river frontage, where Laclede landed in 1763 to found the future St. Louis, and was a most appropriate gift from his chief lieutenant, Auguste Chouteau. J. B. C. Lucas, a part owner and early settler, participated in the gift. Here was the center of the social, political, and business life of the city. Across the street to the north stood the famous Planters' House, known far and wide as one of the greatest hotels of the country, and a few hundred yards to the west was the shore of a broad and beautiful lake which extended for several miles to the southwest. This lake was a center of recreation and was also the handiwork of Laclede and Chouteau, who dammed up the Mill Creek that gathered the waters of an extensive valley.
A small but picturesque Courthouse, erected in 1826, one of the finest in the West at that time, was soon outgrown, and the present edifice, in the center of the block, was designed and started in 1839. From that time, step by step, the building grew along the original plan of a Greek cross. Needs of the community required extension of the wings. It was architecturally complete at each stage, but as it grew to its full proportions, the dome had to be changed from time to time, and more than one million dollars was invested ultimately in the structure.
The old Courthouse attracted and housed for many years all the local and national events of importance to the community. From the viewpoint of national history, the trials of the Dred Scott cases, alone, made the edifice a prominent figure in the struggle over African slavery. The early phases of this case were heard in November, 1846, and in this building decisions were made in that litigation which were afterwards reflected in the famous opinion of Chief Justice Taney of the Supreme Court of the United States. Here also was tried the suit of Francis P. Blair, filed in 1866, to test the legality of the "Drake Test Oath."
Meetings for volunteers were here assembled in 1846 for the Mexican War, and funds to maintain the soldiers, and their families left behind, were contributed amid oratory and all the concomitants of patriotic zeal and farewells. The following year the returned soldiers were publicly welcomed home in the rotunda of the Courthouse. Here, also, was held an impressive public funeral for two officers of Illinois volunteers, killed in the battle of Buena Vista. Here railroads were projected and nearly one thousand delegates from fourteen states conducted the National Railroad Convention of 1849. Stephen A. Douglas was Chairman, and Thomas H. Benton made to the convention his famous speech that ended with the dramatic sentence: "There is the East! There is India! In the Courthouse rotunda, October 9, 1852, the citizens of St. Louis projected the Mississippi Valley Railroad Convention.
The great orator, Seargent S. Prentiss, Senator from Mississippi, held an audience of five thousand people spell-bound for more than three hours at the Fourth Street entrance of the Courthouse in July, 1840. Henry Clay attended court in this building in 1846, and conducted a sale at the east front door. In 1859 U. S. Grant freed his only slave in this Courthouse, and in the same year made his formal application for appointment as County Engineer. Here was held the very significant meeting of "Whig Mechanics and Laborers" on July 7, 1840, demanding legislative action in favor of a ten-hour day and lien law.
On January 12, 1861, a Democratic meeting was assembled at the east front door, where speakers made impassioned addresses from its portico, advocating loyalty to the American Union and expressing hope for amicable settlement of national problems. In the fall of 1887, President Grover Cleveland held a reception in the rotunda. Of the famous lawyers who engaged in activities about the old Courthouse may be mentioned Roswell M. Field, father of Eugene Field, who was one of the attorneys in the Dred Scott case and instrumental in having the issues tried in the United States Court; Edward Bates, Montgomery Blair, Samuel M. Treat, Henry S. Geyer, Trusten Polk and Uriel Wright, who was characterized by Seargent S. Prentiss as the "Orator of the Mississippi Valley," and a host of others, "whose mighty foot-steps echo through the corridors of time."
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CONTEMPORANEOUS NEWSPAPER ACCOUNTS AND ANECDOTES
"A meeting of the Committee of Arrangements for laying the 'corner stone' of the New Court House is called for this ,evening, October 16, 1839. With due deference to the opinion of the committee, we would suggest the propriety of continuing this matter over until next Monday. On Thursday an important race is to be run, and we know many of our citizens who would take a pleasure in joining in the procession, who, nevertheless, will attend the races. Hundreds would be accommodated by continuing it over until that day. Besides, if it takes place on Thursday, it is probable, from the shortness of the notice, that many of those who are expected to participate, will be unable to prepare themselves to do that justice to the ceremonies which the occasion demands. We are pleased to see the County Court attempting this observance of an unusual and appropriate ceremony, and we trust that all thing pertaining to it will be conducted in a manner worthy of the community."
On Oct. 21, 1839, "the ceremonies of laying the corner stone of the New Court House, were witnessed by a large concourse of citizens. The procession was formed at the Masonic. Hall, and consisted of the Masonic, Odd Fellows, and Hibernian Societies-all appearing with their appropriate badges and banners. The escort duty was performed by the St. Louis Grays, who appeared remarkably well. The ceremonies in laying the stone were of Masonic order. Among the articles deposited were a list of the officers of the General and State Governments, a copy of the different journals of the city, and the various coins of the United States."
On the occasion of his visit noted above the well-known orator, Seargent S. Prentiss, came up the Mississippi on a steamboat on his way to Chicago. He had not intended to stop in St. Louis longer than to transfer to another boat, but a number of leading and prominent Whigs of the city determined to persuade the eloquent and distinguished person to make a speech in behalf of the Whig cause. A committee called upon him at the National Hotel and made known the object of their visit. Mr. Prentiss thanked the Committee for the distinguished honor paid him, but explained that he had engaged passage on a steamboat which was to leave for the Illinois River that day at two o'clock. He agreed, however, with the committee that if they could prevail upon the captain of the boat to lay over for one day he would make a speech that night. The gentlemen went to the Captain and induced him to hold the boat. (It is whispered that it cost $100). Mr. Prentiss was notified of the arrangement and thereupon large flaming handbills were struck off and posted all over town announcing that Prentiss of Mississippi would address the people that evening. A stand had been prepared at the edge of the curb-stone in front of the Courthouse, and at early candlelight an immense crowd had gathered. Accompanied by Mayor John F. Darby, "he soon appeared upon the stand; he took a seat and paused for a few moments, as if to recover from the fatigue of walking,-a fatigue caused by his being very lame. When he arose, and I [John F. Darby] had introduced him, he was received by the people with great applause The. evening was calm, and the clear, loud-ringing tones of his voice could be distinctly heard to the very outskirts of the meeting. Gov. Hamilton R. Gamble said, directly after the speech was made, that he stood in his tracks for three hours and listened to the great orator without moving and could have stood for three hours longer." One of the newspapers of the day said of Prentiss: "The Hon. S. S. Prentiss made a most magnificent and eloquent Whig speech, on the area in front of the Court House. We only express the sentiments of the judicious and intelligent of both parties, when we say that his powerful and burning eloquence enchanted the hearts of his audience, and left impressions of beauty and power upon their minds which will not soon be eradicated. His sarcasm, as bitter as wormwood, is still keen and polished, and cuts so easily that it seems to soothe even when it wounds. Of the political sentiments advanced by the orator, we have not a word to say. We have only alluded at all to the matter for the purpose of recording our tribute to eloquence and genius."
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COMPLETION OF THE ROTUNDA 1845
Said the Daily Missouri Republican on January 13 1845: "This portion of the Courthouse is rapidly approaching completion. It will be entirely finished in three or four weeks. Meanwhile, the County Court have taken incipient steps towards opening it for public use. This will be done on the 22nd of February. We understand that Uriel Wright, Esq., has been invited by the Court to deliver a public address, for which the birthday of Washington will furnish a glorious theme, and has consented to do so. The volunteer military companies of the City will also be invited to be present on the occasion. Hundreds of ladies, and thousands of gentlemen, will also witness the effect of so great a concourse of people in so unique and splendid a place. Then, if at no future time, it may be expected to be filled in every tier of galleries. . . . The Rotunda is intended for assemblages of the people, on political and other occasions. The Court will, we suppose, take upon itself to make proper regulations, so as to preserve the property from abuse, and at the same time accommodate any body of men who may desire to assemble in it for a public purpose."
"The Twenty-second.-As our readers know, the Rotunda is to be opened today. Hon. Bernard Pratte will preside, assisted by Hon. John M. Krum, and Hon. Montgomery Blair. At 11 o'clock in the morning, the military companies of the city will take the position assigned them in the Rotunda. The 'Star-Spangled Banner' will then be sung by gentlemen amateurs; and at 12 o'clock, Uriel Wright, Esq., will commence an address on the Life and Character of Washington. The two upper galleries are appropriated to the ladies and gentlemen who may be in attendance on them. Entrance for the ladies is on Fourth Street, passing through the old court room, ascending the stairs in that part of the building, and passing through the centre court and library rooms."
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On May 172 1846, on the call of Myron Leslie, the members of the St. Louis Bar met in the Circuit Court to take into consideration the question of adjourning Court until next term in November, on account of the war. Judge Lawless was called to the Chair, and "after remarks from Messrs. Geyer, Gantt, Darby, Polk and Primm, upon the present excited state of feeling and the impossibility of coolly, at this crisis, conducting the business of the Court, Mr. Geyer offered the following resolution, which was unanimously adopted: Resolved, That, in view of the state of the public affairs, and the general excitement produced by the commencement of hostilities by Mexico against the United States, and the imminent peril of the U. S. Army of occupation, we deem it proper that jurors and witnesses should be relieved from further attendance at this term, and do request the Court to adjourn the trials of all issues of fact to the next term, and that all witnesses or jurors be discharged. The Court stands adjourned until the November term."
Early in May, Gov. John C. Edwards called for twelve hundred Missouri volunteers for war. A meeting was called by several prominent St. Louis citizens in the rotunda of the Courthouse on the evening of May 11. An immense gathering of people took place. On motion of Samuel M. Treat, Maj. Thomas H. Harvey was made Chairman, and Maj. A. L. Dorn, Secretary. Speeches were made and the following resolution was adopted: "Resolved . . . We hereby pledge ourselves that the requisition of Gen. Gaines upon the Governor of our State for volunteers shall be fully and gallantly responded to and that we will not turn back so long as a hostile foe presses our virgin soil." On May 17, 1846 another meeting was held in the Courthouse rotunda to raise funds for the Missouri Volunteers, for the care of the soldiers' wives and children who may be left in want. Hon. Bryan Mullanphy was selected as treasurer. About a week later the Relief Committee held a meeting in the rotunda and committees of five men from each ward were appointed to receive subscriptions. One physician from each ward was added to the committee. Another was held with Col. Thornton Grimsley in the Chair. A letter from the Adjutant General of the State was read stating that all volunteers would be furnished with proper supplies, at the expense of the State until mustered into regular service. Resolutions were adopted, unanimously, in favor of raising one thousand mounted men-riflemen, dragoons, and flying artillery; the St. Charles Dragoons being invited to join in the movement. On May 25th it was reported that subscriptions received had been increased to over $9000. About this time companies of volunteers from Cole and Cooper Counties arrived in the city and were quartered in the Courthouse.
May 30,1846 the Laclede Mounted Rangers, numbering over one hundred men paraded and afterwards the company assembled at the Courthouse, when Capt. Thomas B. Hudson announced the acceptance of their services by Col. Robert Campbell, which "was received with deafening cheers. Capt. Hudson then proceeded to address his command in a spirit-stirring strain, which was responded to most heartily by the whole corps. We understand that the officers of the company have decided on a uniform . . . picturesque and appropriate to the service. The Rangers will meet again at the Court House, at ten o'clock Monday morning. It is expected that they will be ready in a few days to commence their march to Fort Leavenworth." Capt. Hudson, Lieut. Richard S. Elliott, and Lieut. Louis T. LaBeaume of this company were presented with swords by their friends. They embarked June 6, on board steamer Pride of the West for Fort Leavenworth. Capt. Hudson was not only a good lawyer, but a natural orator, and for several nights the Courthouse rang with militant eloquence. And so on for the next few months the rotunda of the Courthouse was the scene of muster, presentations of colors and swords, and relief meetings.
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SCATTERED EVENTS OF 1846
Native Americans observed our natal day by exercises in the rotunda of the Courthouse. The Declaration of Independence was read by C. Edmund LaBeaume, Esq., and an oration was delivered by Isaac W. Taylor, Esq. The American brass band played on this occasion. Hon. Luke E. Lawless, formerly Judge of the St. Louis Circuit Court, a lawyer of eminence at the St. Louis Bar. and who in his younger days distinguished himself as a soldier under Napoleon, died Sunday, September 10, 1846. The Court adjourned out of respect to the memory of Judge Lawless. In the afternoon of the day of the funeral, the members of the St. Louis bar assembled in the Circuit Court room, and in a series of resolutions, expressed their respect for his memory and sorrow at his loss. Messrs. Mullanphy, Darby and Edward addressed the meeting.
"A large meeting of the citizens of the city and county of St. Louis assembled at the Court House on the evening of October 22, in accordance with A call which was made through the public prints, to devise ways and means to protect their slave property. John H. Ferguson was called to the Chair, and B. F. Thomas appointed Secretary. C. C. Whittlesey moved that a committee of ten be appointed to prepare and present resolutions for the action of the meeting. The Committee having retired, Sol. Smith, Esq., being called upon, addressed the meeting in a few pointed and spirited remarks, and particularly called the attention of the meeting to the African Church North. The Rev. Joseph Tabor was about to enter into a history of the doctrines of that -Church, but was called to order by the meeting, and he accordingly took his seat-the Chairman reminding Mr. Tabor that no sectarian matter could be discussed on the occasion. A committee was appointed to report some plan of action at an adjourned meeting to be held on November 5th. A resolution was passed requesting the City Council to pass an ordinance prohibiting all assemblages and passing of Negroes after dark.
An Anti-Abolitionist meeting was held in the rotunda of the Courthouse on November 12 for the purpose of "forming an association to counteract the evil influence in our midst of the abolitionists of the North." John H. Ferguson, was in the Chair, and Henry B. Belt, Secretary. Col. John O'Fallon was appointed president of the association and vice-presidents were appointed from each ward of the city and each township, together with a finance committee, treasurer and secretary. They were empowered to employ emissaries to trace out and bring to justice the abolition agents in our country, and further aid in the protection of the owners of slave property.
Asa Whitney, a New York merchant, became interested in. a transcontinental railroad scheme, and in 1844 presented his plan to Congress favoring the route from Lake Michigan via the South Pass to the Pacific, since it included so much unoccupied but supposedly fertile land which could be sold by the government to provide funds for the railroad. Failing to interest Congress, he began a campaign to educate the public toward demanding Congressional action. Beginning with his. personal. reconnaissance of the first 800 miles of his route in the summer of 1845, which he reported in a long letter to the press, he carried on for seven years an amazing newspaper publicity campaign; addressing public meetings in all larger cities and the legislatures of most of the states. Whitney began his tour of the western states at Pittsburgh, October 20, 1846. Western states became interested in the idea. While. Whitney insisted on private construction of railroads, others, including Thomas H. Benton were for government aid. On November 17, 1846, Whitney spoke in the rotunda before a large number of business men, who, notwithstanding the inclemency of the weather, assembled to hear him. He explained his grand scheme of a railroad to the Pacific. Judge Gamble was appointed Chairman, and John S. Robb, Secretary. Whitney, in a clear, business-like manner entered into an elucidation of his plan. The obstacles with which the uninformed and prejudiced had invested the project disappeared before his cool relation of facts. A resolution was adopted favoring his plan and a committee of twelve selected to draw up a resolution to send to Congress urging the adoption of the scheme.
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Henry Clay came to St. Louis on a visit in March, 1846. The most active and prominent members of the Whig party, determined to give a public reception to the distinguished statesman, wrote to Mr. Clay to that effect. He replied, declining any public demonstration, or any manifestation of respect on the part of his friends. He said he was coming to the city solely upon private business, to sell some lands that he owned here. He possessed a considerable tract of land, which is now a part of Calvary Cemetery. When he landed, three or four thousand persons were on hand to greet him, the event being announced by the firing of cannon. A speech was demanded, then and there, but Mr. Clay declined, and he was driven in state to the Planters' House.
Mr. Clay remained in St. Louis for several weeks. During that time he was engaged in trying to sell his lands. He went into the courtroom of the St. Louis Circuit Court almost every day to listen to the proceedings. A case of considerable importance was being tried in which Hamilton R. Gamble and John F. Darby were opposing counsel. When the public sale of his lands came off, a great body of people assembled, and were in attendance at the front door of the Courthouse. According to Darby, the prices which were bid did not suit him, and Clay, greatly disappointed and discouraged, stopped the sale. "He remarked to the crowd that he suspected they had all come to see him instead of to buy his land." However, the Weekly Reveille of April 20, 1846, has this item: "Some land belonging to the Hon. Henry Clay, situated in the neighborhood of the St. Louis Race Course, was offered for sale on Thursday at the Court House, and. bought in at $128. per arpent by the owner. We understand that Mr. Clay, after taking a survey of our City and its rapid progress, formed a better opinion of its value than he had previously entertained." The St. Louis Grays paid their respects to Mr. Clay at the mansion of Major D. D. Mitchell on Thursday afternoon. Later Mr. Clay built a house on this property for his son, James B. Clay, who occupied it for a few years. This house is still used by the Calvary Cemetery Association.
Col. Wm. F. Switzler, writing in January, 1893, of Clay's visit to St. Louis, said that when he called to see Mr. Clay he was told he was at the Courthouse listening to a legal argument by Hon. Thomas Ewing of Ohio in the ejectment suit of Stoddard vs. Chambers. Mr. Ewing was counsel for the plaintiff, and Hamilton R. Gamble, Josiah Spalding and John F. Darby for the defendant. Says Col. Switzler: "I found the Courthouse full of people, and Mr. Ewing was making an argument of pronounced ability and power to the Court-for it was not a jury trial. Although ordinarily interested in displays of forensic eloquence and especially in those of which such great masters as Mr. Ewing were capable, I was not in the Courthouse that day to hear speeches, no difference by whom made or the subject of them, but to see Mr. Clay-'Harry of the West.'"
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RETURN OF SOLDIERS FROM MEXICAN WAR
A public meeting was called in the rotunda of the Courthouse on June 23, 1847, to make arrangements to welcome home the returning Missouri and Illinois' Volunteers, and also to pay suitable honors to the remains of Col. John J. Hardin and others who fell gloriously in the Mexican War. The committee recommended that the hospitalities of the city be tendered to the returning volunteers under the command of Col. Alexander W. Doniphan. On June 28, the first contingent of the soldiers returned and were welcomed home in the rotunda of the Courthouse by a large number of citizens.
On July 2, a public reception for the returned soldiers was held. The procession for the parade formed in front of the Courthouse on Fourth Street, with part on Market Street. Hon. Thomas H. Benton and James B. Bowlin were orators of the day. The parade marched to Camp Lucas where the speeches were made. Col. Doniphan spoke "in a chaste and modest yet graphic address." On July 9, funeral honors were paid the remains of Col. John J. Hardin and Lieut. B. R. Houghton, of the Illinois Volunteers, who fell in the battle of Buena Vista. The committee of arrangements had already made such preparations as were deemed appropriate for the reception of the remains. The rotunda of the Courthouse was prepared for the purpose. A platform was built in the center, resting on the circular railing around the spiral stairs leading from the ground floor. In the center of this platform was erected a monument, a resting place for the dead, covered with appropriate drapery and crowned with several small cannon and an American flag.
From the dome was suspended a green chaplet of leaves. Muskets were stacked around the monument in military style, and suspended from the railing above were flags representing several states, including those of Illinois, Kentucky, and Mississippi, with the national flag being draped in mourning. The skylight had been darkened, and the rotunda faintly illuminated by light suspended around the circle, imparting to the scene a solemn and funereal appearance. The remains were taken from the steamboat through the Market street entrance of the Court House.
"Rev. Mr. Van Court, who had been selected for the purpose, addressed the Volunteers, and the auditory, in the following terms: Gentlemen of the Illinois Volunteers: A year since, at the call of your country, you left your homes and your occupations to do battle upon a distant soil, for the honor of your country. You have endured many hardships, you have braved many dangers, and you have fought nobly in behalf of your native land. As you have tarried for a short time with us on your return to your homes, and your families, it is made my duty-and it affords me no ordinary pleasure to discharge it-to bid you, in behalf of my fellow-citizens of St. Louis, a cordial welcome. This is not merely a matter of ceremony, gentlemen-a thing of course-and the gathering of our citizens to-day, is not merely to gaze upon you with idle curiosity. Because you have conducted yourselves gallantly, and with a spirit worthy of American citizens, both in the camp and in the field, we most heartily, and most joyfully bid you welcome. It is true, that you belong to Illinois, and we belong to Missouri, and the great father of waters separates us, but we are parts of the great whole. One heart animates us, and in every essential point we are brethren. . . ."
"Colonel Benton then addressed the Illinois Volunteers who were present, and the numerous assemblage of citizens, and said it was an ancient as well as a pious and sacred office. of the survivors of battles. to bring home. when they could. from foreign fields, the earthly remains of their slain comrades. It was a consolation to know that their graves should not be trod by foreign feet, but should be in their own country-among their friends and families, preserved fresh and green, and distinguished by marks of respect and affection. The two officers, whose bodies lay before them, had fallen on a distant field, but they would receive sepulture in the land of their friends and families. Near three thousand miles these inanimate remains had been brought: there were but few instances in history of the dead having be en brought such a distance. It was the highest evidence of the merit of the departed, and was as honorable to the affectionate survivors who performed this sacred and pious office, as to the memory of those thus honored. They come from the table land of Mexico-from the bloody and glorious field of Buena Vista, where American character, after having immortalized itself by valor, had done itself new honor by the devoted and pious affection which the survivors had shown to their fallen comrades. In all the States which had troops in that field, the same gratifying spectacle is seen: the remains of the dead are brought home and friends, families and fellow-citizens have the mournful satisfaction of receiving them with the honors, affections and marks of regard which are due to the brave who have died for their country. . . ."
"The ceremonies at the Rotunda being at an end, the procession was again formed, and the remains escorted to the steamer Defiance, from which they will be debarked at Meredosia, and taken to Jacksonville."
Lieut. Richard S. Elliott tells an incident of the war and the peace as follows: "Returning from the Mexican War, relatives and friends were glad to see us; but we were too late for the ovation to Doniphan and the Rangers who had come home with him. So we quietly subsided to private life. My law shop was opened again, and prospered in a moderate way. Not long after my return, I was engaged to defend a Frenchman against an indictment for assault with intent to kill. Antoine lived in the country, and in a family quarrel had struck his mother-in-law on the head with a piece of oak stuff split out in making clap-boards. It was a serious case, but some of the Rangers had told his uncle, that I was the lawyer to get him clear, and the uncle, like a sensible man, had given me as retainer a handsome fifty dollar note of the old Bank of Missouri. This bad conduct of Antoine had happened before the newspapers had begun their, despicable attempts to be witty and funny about mothers-in-law, and there was much feeling against him. It seemed so wicked and cowardly to strike -an elderly woman, that any honest jury would almost strain a point to convict. But strong as the case was, the relations of the old lady were not satisfied to leave it simply to the Circuit Attorney, but had employed Capt. Thomas Hudson to aid in the prosecution. At my suggestion, Major Uriel Wright, regarded as one of the finest orators at the bar, was called into the case on our side, and was to rank as leading counsel. . . .
The only thing I could do was to undermine Capt. Hudson's oratory, and leave Maj. Wright to argue the oaken club into a harmless weapon, if he could. Accordingly, I began my speech to the jury very modestly, magnifying the power of Hudson's eloquence, and warning them against it. Then briefly giving an account of his address to the Rangers at Fort Leavenworth, when they were all hungry for supper, and he put them supperless to bed with a speech, I closed: 'Such, gentlemen, is the man that will address you. It might seem irreverent to refer to the miraculous feeding of the multitude under the new dispensation, by one who was more than man; but I may, be permitted to say, that never has mortal man, since Moses and the Children of Israel fed on manna in the wilderness, achieved so wonderful a success in the commissary line, as did Capt. Hudson at Fort Leavenworth!' Court, jury and spectators saw the point and enjoyed it. I had the laugh on my side, and when Hudson addressed the jury, the most eloquent appeals only brought to their minds the ludicrous picture of the Rangers at Fort Leavenworth supping on his oratory. Antoine was acquitted."
As a matter of fact, this was the incident at Fort Leavenworth above referred to: When the Rangers reached Fort Leavenworth, the Commissary was so tangled in red tape that it was impossible to issue a ration until the muster was over next morning. It was late in the evening and the soldiers had not eaten since noon. The Sergeant told Capt. Hudson the men were rebellious. "The Captain said to me: 'What do you think we'd better do?' I said: 'There is but one thing to be done, Capt. Hudson. You got up the company in St. Louis on your speeches. You must give 'em a blast about hardship, patience, fortitude, and all that sort of thing.' It was the only advice possible, and was acted upon. 'The Government,' said the Captain to the Rangers 'has done no more for your officers than for you; and then in glowing phases he pictured the heroism of war, the sublime achievements of patriotism-the great things we would accomplish-our pluck, discipline, fortitude-our splendid march into the Fort with our guidon up, as emblematic of our march into the strong places of New Mexico! 'Yes, we shall knock at the gates of Santa Fe, as Ethan Allen knocked at the gates of Ticonderoga, and to the question who's there? we shall reply-open these gates in the name of the Great Jehovah and the Laclede Rangers!' This was received with tremendous applause. 'But suppose,' he continued, 'the fellows inside should call out-are you the same Laclede Rangers who went whining around Fort Leavenworth in search of a supper?' That settled them. The clamor subsided, and in excellent humor the brave Rangers went supperless to bed, rolled in their blankets on the floor."
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ST. LOUIS CELEBRATES
The citizens of St. Louis decided to have a celebration of the founding of St. Louis. The day chosen was February 15, 1847. It was "a mild day with a hazy and dense atmosphere, not unlike a morning in Indian summer." At eight o'clock in the morning the Grand Marshals on horses started the parade. The long procession, which included Pierre Chouteau, the only survivor of those who landed at the site of St. Louis February 15, 1764, wound through the city and elided on the east side of Fourth Street, where, facing the Courthouse a speaker's stand had been built. The Hon. Wilson Primm was the principal speaker.
A reception was given at the Courthouse on April 17, 1848, to Gen. James Shields. A special committee met the steamboat on which Gen. Shields arrived, and escorted by a parade went to the Courthouse where he was met by the Mayor. Gen. Shields responded to the Mayor's welcome with a speech, paying high compliment to both the regular army and "our citizen soldiers for their gallant conduct in Mexico." He believed that neither would have been so signally successful without the other, and while the officers of both performed their duty well, it was the national impetuosity and indomitable bravery of the rank and file which made victory perch upon our banners. Men, he said, who had never seen a squadron in the field vied with the veteran in the most trying scenes of carnage. The General thought that "Freedom at home, and the prestige of an honored flag, makes the American an invincible soldier." Gen. Shields had stopped at St. Louis on his way to take command at Tampico, Mexico.
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On April 25, 1848, a torchlight procession of followers of "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity" took up their position in front of the Courthouse. Volunteers for an European campaign against despotism, who had volunteered to take part in the war in Germany, were armed with that effective weapon the "American Rifle." Germans, French, Irish and Italian citizens marched carrying their banners and flags. "As long as the long line moved onward, patriotic strains peeled from the different bands . . . . . The procession in due course of progression returned to the Courthouse, where Judge Mullanphy addressed the assembled throng in an eloquent and ,Appropriate manner. After a round of hearty cheers for the success of Republics, the dense crowd quietly dispersed to meet again in the evening.
"The scene at the Courthouse that evening was grand beyond anything we have ever before witnessed in St. Louis. The Courthouse square, the area in front of the east portico, the streets, the windows of the Planters' House, the windows of all the surrounding houses, the trees, and every spot and perch out of the passing current, was crowded with an enthusiastic multitude of both sexes, and all ages. Two large bonfires, kindled at the corners of Market and Chestnut streets, lit up the sea of human beings. The meeting was called to order from the portico and Pierce C. Grace read the address. . . . Five hundred brilliant torches now lent their light to the scene, and the effect was truly magnificent. Shout after shout rent the air, as the files of torch bearers moved into the court yard-and the firing of guns, waving of flags, and bursts of music from the bands, the brilliant lights flashing over the whole scene, made it a spectacle which will long be remembered by those who had the good fortune to witness it."
"The chivalrous Missourian, Col. Alexander W. Doniphan, made a noble speech favoring 'Old Zack' Taylor for President, in front of the Courthouse, on July 28, 1848. In answer to the sneers of 'Pinfeather politicians,' that the hero of Buena Vista had 'No sense,' he gave a vivid sketch of Gen. Taylor's career as a soldier and a general. Col. Doniphan, though. in some respects a rough speaker, spoke with surpassing eloquence and force. Col. Doniphan was rich in anecdotes as he was fervid in enthusiasms, and 'Old Zack' stood forth in all his simplicity, yet force of character, in the graphic description of the speaker."
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NATIONAL RAILROAD CONVENTION
It is impossible to estimate the loss suffered by St. Louis from fire and cholera in 1849; but the spirit of her people was not broken. Arrangements were at once made to build, up the burned district better than it was before, and this was in a short time accomplished. "The loss by the 'big fire' was possibly as great in proportion as that of Chicago in 1871, but I do not recollect that any 'relief' was sent from other parts of the country. We had even life and spirit enough left to look beyond our immediate interests, and concern ourselves with those of the world at large. Lifting ourselves above our local calamities, we looked even to the Pacific Ocean, and to the far away Orient. It seems queer, that at a time of so much disaster, we should have had a thought to spare for such a thing as a railroad across the continent. We, however, not only thought of it, but acted. In May, Isaac H. Sturgeon introduced resolutions which were passed by the City Council, calling a National Convention to meet in St. Louis in October, to consider the subject of a Pacific Railroad." This convention was the first ever held solely in the interest of railroads. Many preliminary meetings were held in the Courthouse, beginning June 1, 1849. On October 15, delegates assembled in the rotunda of the Courthouse-at 12 o'clock noon. Representatives came from many Missouri counties, New York, Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, New Jersey, Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Louisiana. Stephen A. Douglas, of Illinois, was elected president. On October 16, Col. Benton made his famous speech, part of which is as follows: "We live in extraordinary times and are called upon to elevate ourselves to the grandeur of the occasion. . . .
Now, in our day, mechanical genius has again triumphed over the obstacles of nature, and converted into a facility that which had so long been an impassable obstacle. . . . The land has now become the facility for the most distant communication, the conveyance being invented which annihilates both time and space.... Let us rise to the grandeur of the occasion. Let us complete the grand design of Columbus by putting Europe and Asia into communication and that to our advantage, through the heart of our own country. Let us make the iron road-and make it from sea to sea. Let us now, in this convention, rise above everything sectional, personal, local. Let us complete the grand design of Columbus by putting Europe and Asia into communication and that to our advantage, through the heart of our own country. Let us make the iron road-and make it from sea to sea. Let us now, in this convention, rise above everything sectional, personal, local. Let us beseech the National Legislature to build the great road upon the great national line which suits Europe and Asia the line which will find, on our continent, the Bay of San Francisco at one end, St. Louis in the middle, the national metropolis, and great commercial emporium on the other-and which shall be adorned with its crowning honor, the colossal statue of the great Columbus, whose design is accomplished, hewn from the granite mass of a peak of the Rocky Mountains overlooking the road-the mountain itself the pedestal, and the statue a part of the mountain-pointing with outstretched arm to the western horizon, and saying to the flying passenger, There is the East! There is India."
On October 17, Mr. Douglas vacated the Chair and made a speech to the convention. A motion was introduced by Mr. Thomas B. Hudson, of St. Louis, that the thanks of the convention be tendered the Hon. Stephen A. Douglas, late president of the convention, for the dignified and impartial manner in which he presided over their deliberations. In offering his resolution, Mr. Hudson explained to the convention the relation of himself and the Missouri delegation toward Judge Douglas, respecting his selection as president of the convention. He made the explanation from a sense of duty, and in refutation of an intimation that he was placed in that position at the instance of the Missouri delegation, in order to suppress the voice of Douglas in the convention. Before the committee had selected the officers, Judge Douglas was waited upon by himself and others of the Missouri delegation, and urged to accept the position of president. He at first declined the honor, but upon repeated solicitations yielded to our request. Mr. Hudson would say that no sentiment was expressed in relation to him, farther than the desire he should be selected. If the feelings of Judge Douglas were wounded, or he supposed the object was to place him in a position where he could not take an active part in their deliberations, such was not the intention of the Missouri delegation. The Resolutions offered at this convention were: That the convention is in its spirit and object, strictly national, having no party, no sectional, no local interest to serve or promote, but having at heart the interests of the whole country; that it is the duty of Congress to make immediate provision for the construction of a great trunk railroad to the Pacific Ocean, in California, with a branch road to Oregon, 'from such point in the Mississippi Valley, or on the frontier of the states, as may be found most eligible and convenient; that it is the duty of the national government to provide, at an early period for the construction of a central national railroad from the Valley of the Mississippi to the Pacific Ocean; that in the opinion of the convention a grand trunk railroad, with branches to St. Louis, Memphis and Chicago would be such a central and national one; that a committee be appointed to communicate to the convention to be held in Memphis, the foregoing resolutions, and to request the concurrence of said convention therein. Approximately fifty delegates were selected to go to the Memphis Convention to be held on October 23, 1849. Among the thousand delegates to this convention at St. Louis were gentlemen of science, engineers, merchants, farmers, planters and manufacturers.
Darby in his Recollections, says of the convention: "Some days before the convention, I took the invitation to Col. Benton and delivered it to him in person. I found him at Col. Brant's residence on Washington Avenue, where he always made his home when he came to St. Louis. He received me cordially. I said to him: 'Col. Benton we expect you to aid us in this matter. St. Louis, from her central position, is entitled to have the road start from here. We shall have opposition, and much to contend with. Douglas is striving hard for the presidency [of the United States], and he will try to have the Pacific Railroad start from Chicago instead of St. Louis, run through Iowa, and give us the 'go-by'. And should Douglas succeed in his presidential aspirations, it will give him additional power and influence.' Col. Benton replied: 'I shall be there, sir; I shall attend the convention, and advocate the building of the road from St. Louis to San Francisco. Douglas can never be president, sir. His legs are too short, sir. His coat, like a cow's tail, hangs too near the ground, sir.' Col. Benton did attend the convention, and made a splendid speech, for which he had a statue erected to him in Lafayette Park in St. Louis."
This railroad convention, "held amidst the debris of a most calamitous season, was one of the aids in educating the American people, but when, thirteen years later, Congress acted on the Pacific Railroad question, the prevalence of the Civil War threw the line north of the latitude of St. Louis, and for years after its completion, the city was practically ignored by the very road which we had been most persistent in urging upon the attention of the country."
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A SCOTCHMAN'S COMMENT
"To the Editors of the Reveille: I am a stranger in St. Louis. I came direct from Perth, in Scotland. Having nothing of any importance to do for a day or two, I visited the courthouse yesterday morning. The general impression made upon my mind, at first, was the common sense of plain, clean, unpretending halls-fresh painted, airy and spacious. The youth of the Judge, I confess, at first struck me as a defect. The counsel wear no gowns; nor is the place decorated with any armorial bearings that I could observe. I looked for soldiers, but I saw not so much as a file to keep the door. This all seemed odd enough. A plain, middle-sized man, about thirty years of age, had charge of the prisoner's defence (it was. some shooting charge). He began in slow, rather feeble accents, and, as I thought, far from the main question. He seemed to rise mentally, however, and even in person. He spoke fluently, pertinently, and with grace and ease for at least two hours. The scene deepened; his voice became more sonorous; his whole soul seemed thrown into the case of his client. I shall never again doubt of magnetism. I was perfectly spell-bound. I felt no weariness, nor hunger; no thirst, nor inconvenience of any kind, though I had to stand in a crowded court room the whole day. For six hours did this tide of perfectly tremendous eloquence roll along, and still it seemed to be gathering power. I have never heard anything that could be compared to the eloquence of this gifted orator. I said in my heart, the court that has counsel like this requires no other ornament. I have heard Jeffreys, Campbell and Brougham, but never heard anything like this. I inquired his name; I think they told me that it was Wright."
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OTHER RAILROAD CONVENTIONS AND DEVELOPMENT
A meeting of St. Louis citizens was held at the Courthouse on October 9, 1852, to "consult about the propriety of calling a convention at St. Louis, to obtain the cooperation of the North and South along the Mississippi Valley, in behalf of a line of longitudinal railroad from Louisiana to Minnesota." The meeting resolved that the valley of the Mississippi "requires new channels to develop the resources of this vast extent of country, and the best way of doing so is by building a railroad from the Falls of St. Anthony to the Gulf of Mexico."
The St. Louis Railroad Convention was held in the old Courthouse June 5, 6, 1857. The first railroad communication between the Atlantic Ocean and Mississippi River opened in 1857. The Ohio and Mississippi Railroad (now the Baltimore and Ohio) completed its road from Cincinnati to the Mississippi River at Illinoistown (now East St. Louis), Illinois, April 22, 1857. One thousand invitations and railroad passes were issued to guests throughout the country. Those who came included Compte de Sartiges, Minister from France and his suite; Chevalier Bosch Spencer, Minister from Belgium; Edward D. Stockel, Minister from Russia, Ex-Governor Philip Francis Thomas of Maryland, George Bancroft, the historian, and many other notable persons. On the morning of June 6, speeches were heard at the Courthouse.
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THE DRED SCOTT TRIALS
The old Courthouse was the scene of several trials involving Dred Scott, and was, in fact, the only place where the notorious negro slave gained a decision in his favor.
It should be remembered that from the time of the admission of Missouri into the Union until the early trials of the Dred Scott cases, the principal conflict over slavery was concerned with the admission of new states into the Union, as slave or non-slave States; rather an economic or social problem for the white inhabitants. By the time the last Dred Scott suit was filed November 2, 1853, the struggle had broadened into contentions over the constitutional obligation of Free States to return fugitive slaves, and the status of slaves who were temporarily brought into Free States by their owners. Dred Scott belongs in the latter category.
The first suit filed against the widow of Dr. John Emerson (who was formerly Irene Sanford) was tried in November, 1846. It was technically an action for trespass and false imprisonment, submitted to a jury, and a verdict rendered against Dred Scott. This was set aside by the trial court which awarded him a new trial. The second trial came on in January, 1850, when the slave won a victory. On appeal to the Missouri Supreme Court this judgment was set aside in March, 1852. Meanwhile, during 1847 and 1848, various suits were filed by Dred Scott and by his wife, for trespass, assault, back wages, etc., all'of which-resulted adversely to him and were likewise tried in the old Courthouse. In order to understand a later suit which got into the United States Court in 1853, and which ultimately brought forth the famous opinion of Chief Justice Taney, it is necessary to give some details.
Peter Blow, a Virginian, moved to St. Louis from Teniiessee about 1827, bringing with him a number of negro slaves, among them Dred Scott, who was born in Virginia about 1800. Mr. Blow was "slave poor," as some expressed it; that is, he had more slaves than he required for the needs of his family. After his death in 1831, Dred was allotted to the unmarried daughter, Miss Elizabeth Blow, and it was hoped that his earnings, when hired out, would partly con,tribute to her support. He was often employed on steamboats going up and down the river, but on account of his peculiarities there.was little or no return from his labor. After three years of this profitless hiring out, a purchaser was found for Dred in the person of Dr. John Emerson, an army surgeon stationed at Jefferson Barracks. Dr. Emerson used Dred as a "body servant," an appellation which some times described a -humble companion and protector of the master, but in many instances, merely a valet. It should be understood that Dred Scott was not equipped by nature to work profitably for himself or for a master. He was only four feet nine inches in height. Easy going and shiftless by nature, he was not much sought after as a worker of priime quality. The result was, that although he was sold by the Blows, he was never "well sold." He kept bouncing back, so to speak. In 1857 Dred Scott was emancipated by voluntary act of his master, but until his death he was a pensioner of the Blow family. Quarters, half-dollars, and old clothes were the least of his demands.
During an interview in 1907 with Mrs. William T. Blow the librarian of the Missouri Historical Society, Miss Mary Louise Dalton, was able to make some interesting notes concerning Dred Scott. Mrs. Blow said that her husband, on his return home one afternoon, when they were living on a large estate in the southern part of St. Louis, overlooking the Mississippi River, addressed one of the old family servants, as follows: "Luke, I saw Dred today. He asked me for work. I told him he might come down and whitewash the trees and fences." The negro replied: "Now, Marse William, what you want that no-account nigger round here fer. Don't you know we'll have to watch him all de time?" Mr. Blow replied: "Luke, he won't carry off the place, will he?" But Luke could not be reconciled, and walked away grumbling in an undertone. So Mr. Blow said to his wife: "I won't send Dred down since Luke objects so much. I'll just give him some money."
The Blow family was divided politically. Henry T. Blow, being a strong Union man, while Peter E., Taylor and William T. Blow were strong Southern sympathizers. None of them participated in the War. Why the Blows helped Dred Scott in his litigation with the Sanfords is problematical. It was perhaps their desire to get him pronounced free by the Courts so that he would be stimulated to make more effort to establish himself on his own responsibility. He still belonged to Mrs. Emerson, in some capacity or other. She was the widow of Dr. Emerson, who had died in Iowa December 30, 1843, and left Dred, among other property, to his wife and brother-in-law, John F. A. Sanford, in trust for the benefit of his wife and daughter. After her husband's death, Mrs. Emerson returned to St. Louis and lived on the Sanford estate, about fifteen miles from the city. Dred Scott and his family were not taken to this place, but were left in the city. Dr. Emerson, as an army surgeon, had been transferred in 1834 to Rock Island, Illinois. He took Dred along with him. Subsequently, Dred wanted to marry a woman named Harriet, who belonged to another army officer, and Dr. Emerson bought her in order to facilitate the marriage and have them in one family. This was at Fort Snelling, then in Wisconsin Territory. Dred and Harriet had one child born on a steamboat on the Mississippi River above the Missouri state line, and another born at Jefferson Barracks.
In 1837 Dr. Emerson returned to Jefferson Barracks and died six years later. His widow could do nothing about the slaves on account of the trust, and having little use for them she finally moved to the East, leaving them to shift for themselves. Scott, with his family, had already become a charge on the bounty of Taylor Blow, a son of his old master, and playmate of his childhood in Virginia. Blow felt a duty imposed upon him under a code of noblesse oblige existing in the relations of slave and former master to do something for him and went security for the costs in one of his suits. He finally paid all of the costs in the various suits.
The early cases presented no evidence of political purpose. The lawyers representing Dred Scott from time to time do not appear to have been prominent, and may have been attracted by the prospect of collecting damages or back pay for him. Early in 1850 Mrs. Emerson married Dr. Calvin C. Chaffee, a physician of Springfield, Massachusetts, and her husband being a member of Congress and an abolitionist, her interest in her slaves was further reduced. However, under the laws of Missouri existing at all times prior to 1919, her marriage disqualified her from serving any longer as one of the executors of her husband's will. This left her brother, Mr. Sanford, the sole executor, and nominal title-holder of the Scott family.
By this time conditions had changed so as to permit the politicians to get the Dred Scott matter into a controversy of national significance. Mr. Sanford was living in New York City and thus gave the matter the appearance of controversy between citizens of different states, which gave jurisdiction to the United States Court. Roswell M. Field, a native of New England, and one of the leading lawyers of St. Louis, was now pleased to take on the Dred Scott case. In November of 1853, he brought a new action for Dred Scott, this time including his wife and two daughters, in the United States Court at St. Louis. The lawyers drew up an agreed statement of facts, and in May, 1854, the jury, under instructions of the Court, declared Scott and his family to be the lawful property of the defendant. The crowded condition of the old Courthouse had now forced the United States Court to move to a building afterwards known as 113 North Main Street and it was there that this particular trial was held.
Mr. Field appealed this case to the Supreme Court of the United States. Abolitionists all over the country now took a hand, and in consequence, Montgomery Blair of Washington and George T. Curtis, of Boston, volunteered their legal services to Dred Scott, and Henry S. Geyer, one of the leaders of the St. Louis Bar, together with the great Maryland advocate, Reverdy Johnson, appeared for the defendant. Thus the illiterate and insignificant negro, who signed his name with a mark, and had no ambition beyond the goal of his daily bread, was plunged into national fame. During the course of the litigation which was terminated by the U. S. Supreme Court on March 6, 1857, Dred Scott was an object of great interest. He was not very fit for work, but Theron Barnum supported him at his famous hotel for a time. Dred Scott reaped a golden harvest from the generosity of travelers who stopped at the hotel. He saved nothing and when he died September 17, 1858, he was buried by the Blow family in the old Weslyan Cemetery on Grand and Laclede Avenues, of St. Louis. This cemetery, of course, has long since been abandoned.
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GENERAL GRANT AT THE COURT-HOUSE
In 1859 U. S. Grant made formal application to the Commissioners of St. Louis County, for appointment as county engineer. Technically the place was that of county superintendent of roads. The salary was $1500.00 a year. With his application Grant filed a petition headed by Thomas E. Tutt and signed by thirty well-known and substantial citizens. Charles E. Salomon, a brother of the War Governor of Wisconsin, was appointed. Grant wrote in September of 1859 that "the Democratic Commissioners voted for me and the Free Soilers against me."
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THE TEST OATH
The Oath of Purgation on Trial: Gen. Francis P. Blair sued Stephen Ridgely and John S. Thompson for refusing to permit him to vote at the November election of 1865. He asked for $10,000 damages. The defendants were two of the judges of election at the precinct where Gen. Blair went to vote. He refused to take the oath required by the new constitutionknown as the "Drake Test Oath,"-on the ground that the new constitution of Missouri was in that respect in opposition to the Constitution of the United States. Although a Union man Blair refused to submit to a test of loyalty. He lost his case which was submitted April 20, 1866.
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FIRST WOMAN LAWYER
Miss Phoebe Couzins graduated in 1871 from the Law Department of Washington University with the degree of LL.B., the first woman to be graduated from a law school. Miss Couzins was appointed U. S. Marshal following the death of her father. Her appointment was dated September 30, 1887.
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FIRST MILITANT SUFFRAGIST IN ST. LOUIS
Mrs. Virginia Louise Minor, had long been interested in politics and public affairs, and soon after the Civil War she became active in the movement to raise the political status of .women in America. In 1866 she launched the woman-suffrage movement in Missouri-the first organization in the world to make its exclusive aim that of enfranchising women. She was elected president, and at the convention of that organization, held at St. Louis in 1869, she made a militant speech, urging women no longer to submit to their inferior condition. On October 15, 1872, as "a native born, free white citizen of the United States and of the State of Missouri, over the age of twenty-one years," she made her famous claim to the right to vote, and presented herself for registration. She was refused, and sued for damages in the Circuit Court at St. Louis. The decision was against her. On appeal to the Supreme Court of Missouri, the Court unanimously upheld the decision. The case was carried to the Supreme Court of the United States, and her husband, Francis Minor, was one of her attorneys. The United States Court upheld the Missouri decision, but she continued her suffrage efforts. She died in St. Louis in 1894. Mrs. Minor was born in Goochland County, Virginia. She was noted for her personal charm and beauty. In 1843 she married Francis Minor, a relative. After living for a time in Mississippi, she and her husband moved to St. Louis. During the Civil War Mrs. Minor was actively engaged in welfare and relief work among the sick and wounded in the hospitals in and around St. Louis.
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PRESIDENT CLEVELAND IN THE COURTHOUSE
On July 31, 1887, Mayor David Rowland Francis, with a large delegation of St. Louisans, called on President Grover Cleveland at the White House and extended to him an invitation to visit St. Louis. The President graciously accepted, and arrived in St. Louis on October 1, 1887, where he and Mrs. Cleveland were entertained by Mayor and Mrs. Francis at their home in Vandeventer Place.
A newspaper account of the parade and reception says: "President Cleveland yesterday morning [October 4, 1887] passed through the rough ordeal of shaking hands with several thousand people in the rotunda of the Courthouse. . . . The President and committee left the Lindell Hotel at nine o'clock a. m. in carriages; passed on Washington Avenue to Fourth, down Fourth to Chestnut and up Chestnut to the north door of the Courthouse.". . .
"The decoration of the Courthouse rotunda had been going on for days, and it was a beautiful piece of work. From the floor to the apex of the dome were to be seen bright colors. Evergreens and flags composed the major portion of the decorations. The walls of the rotunda on the first and second floors were completely obscured by evergreens, but the decorations on the balustrade above them consisted mostly of flags and bunting of red, white, and blue. Flags protruded in all directions, and the large pillars were wound with bunting of the national colors. From the center of the dome hung a ball, into which were stuck small flags. The wind kept the ball vibrating and it made a very pretty effect. On the main floor there were a large number of potted plants, such as cacti, ferns, palms, and lemon trees. A pagoda had been built and placed in the center of the rotunda, from which the President was to greet the people. It was -about twelve feet high, and was elegantly built. The roof was supported by six pillars and was covered with heavy plush curtains of old gold patterns. The floor was covered by a velvet carpet of the most expensive kind, and everything about it was of the richest description. The entire hall was illuminated by calcium lights. . . . Fifteen minutes after -nine o'clock everything was prepared. The President had taken a stand in front of the pagoda, and 'announced that he was ready to start."' The reception lasted until 11 o'clock."
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THE BUILDING OF THE COURTHOUSE
In February, 1826, three years after the site had been accepted by the County, the firm of Morton and Laveille began work on plans for the first Courthouse, the courts having been previously housed in various rented quarters. By May the design was selected and the plans completed. The contract for building the structure was also let to these same architects, who were commissioned to erect the main building, 60 by 60 feet; the lower story to be 15 feet high and the upper story 13 feet high. The foundation walls were to be stone and .sunk three feet below the surface of the ground; the outside walls to be two and a half feet thick, the inside two feet thick. . . . The circular portico of the principal front to be of Grecian Ionic order, the shafts of the columns to be brick neatly plastered in imitation of cut stone with caps, plinths, and bases of cut stone, the whole resting on a circular border of cut stone . . . with a flight of six circular steps of wood. The windows in front to correspond with the plan, those lighting the stairs and the two in the extreme rear for lighting the judges' seats to be Venetian, all the others to contain each twenty-four lights. . . . The roof to be surmounted with a cupola executed for the reception of a clock. . . . The window shutters to be Venetian or panel at the option of the Superintendent.
This building had not passed many years from its completion in 1830, when it was described by a visiting mechanic as middling convenient, but small and inhdequate for the rapidly expanding business of the county. In the same year, 1838, Henry Chouteau, as Clerk of the County Court, advertised for plans and estimates for the best and most suitable plan of a building or buildings for the accommodation of the officers of the different courts, and for the safe-keeping of all the public records of the county. It was specified that such building or buildings be erected on the square on which the Courthouse was located, either adjoining, or otherwise, to have four rooms, of which two would be 20 by 20 and the remaining two 20 by 30 feet above a fireproof basement. Peter Brooks received $100.00 award for his plan submitted for the Courthouse addition, and Henry Spence, $75.00 as a second award. However, both plans were discarded in favor of a more impressive idea involved in the sketch of Henry Singleton, which pictured a building entirely new.
Thus began the building of the majestic structure which gradually took form, in spite of ridicule and cries of extravagance. The growing pains were indeed persistent and very severe as the appropriation of money increased. On July 9, 1830, the County Court adopted Singleton's plan, and bids for needed materials were advertised for to be used in a Courthouse addition, to be delivered early in May, 1840. Although Singleton's plans cannot be located, an interesting lithographic interpretation of his design appears in Wild's Valley of the Mississippi Illustrated.
The reaction of St. Louis County to Singleton's impressive plans excited strong opposition. A former resident of the city on his return visit in June, 1841, wrote to the Daily Argus that "he visited the Courthouse now erecting, and, as I gazed upon it, there was a spark of pride arose in my bosom which enkindled a fine lively flame." Evidently deprecating the opposition he knew to exist, he concluded his letter as follows: "Mr. Singleton, the architect, doubtless has the thanks of the older citizens of the country for his energy in prosecuting this work, and rearing in our midst a model which still stands as a proof in future years of our taste and our encouragement to honest industry."
The phrase "honest industry" was not happily chosen by the writer, for even then accusations and cross-accusations were being heard, and some of the "older citizens" did not approve the building of such an imposing structure. One correspondent, writing anonymously to the County Court says: "If you can find money enough to build a Parliament House, a capitol for Court and Lawers, but cannot find money enough to build a decent jail, had you not better resign."
Two weeks later a Grand Jury investigating the county jail, presented a scathing report of conditions found in the overcrowded structure. Under the vigorous leadership of its foreman, John O'Fallon, the Grand Jury demanded to know "why a public building-the minimum cost of which is estimated at $140,000-is to be erected for the purpose of show, rather than necessity, while a deaf ear is turned to urgent and repeated calls for an appropriation . . . to erect a prison, which humanity pleads for." . . . Irate farmers who had failed to interest the Court in the betterment of county roads, also joined the opposition. The Grand Jury presented a list of questions to the county officials, including the query: "What amount of funds have been expended to keep in repair roads during the last year?" The Court's reply that it did not have time to answer all the questions, angered the Courthouse opponents.
The editor of the Argus urged such an expression of public opinion as would induce the County Court to "put up with a Courthouse a little more republican in its appearance," and "to put up a good, substantial and sufficient jail-not a State Prison."
The opposition was somewhat weakened by arrangements soon made to build a new jail, but in June of 1841, the Court was compelled amidst the taunts of extravagance to advertise "'for a loan of $30,000 for the purpose of building and finishing the addition to the Courthouse."
Work on the building continued until February, 1842, when Singleton was replaced as architect by William Twombly, By January 4, 1842, Henry Singleton had paid out $86,549.97, and the following March was allowed a fee of $8,256.77 for his services. The Court then announced all work on the building would be suspended, excepting the plastering and carpenter work. Failing to secure a loan of $75,000, the Court on October 21, 1842, ordered that all work on the Courthouse be suspended, excepting that already under contract.
At this juncture Twombly was dismissed and the County Court soon found it necessary to borrow $2,000 for current expenses in the name of its president. Nevertheless, the work on the building was resumed so that by January, 1843, the "big court room" in the (second floor) west wing was nearly completed. This was described by a writer as "this spaciously and generously furnished and finished room, with its fluted columns and massive railing around the bar-its costly masonry and lofty ceilings-with cornices and center circle." . . . Who paid for all this, or is it all paid for?" This article, published in the Daily People's Organ, raised the ques- tion as to why the lawyers were not required to pay for their use of the Courthouse, just as shopkeepers are compelled to furnish their own stands to do business.
It was July 3, 1843, when the design was adopted for completing the rotunda. This was drawn by George I. Barnett of the firm of Barnett, Brewster & Hart. The rotunda was built during that year and the dome painted in water color by Asa Wilgus. The rotunda was originally dominated by a spiral stairway of oak and cast-iron leading to the first gallery. Upper galleries were accessible by side stairways supported by iron columns. In each gallery six cast-iron bracketed lamps were placed. The stone flagging was completed in December, 1844. The grounds were landscaped with a row of white locust trees around the outer edge; a cast-iron fence made by McMurray & Dorman of St. Louis,at a, cost of $3,000; mounds, gravel walks, and everything necessary to make it 'one of the handsomest squares in the country."
The last stage of construction to meet Singleton's plan was brought rapidly along by the insistent growth of the city and county. Editorial comment was now favoring construction of a new east wing to take the place of the first Courthouse. Charles Keemle of the Weekly Reveille of October 8, 1848, says: "that he found the structure deformed and unfinished. Its dome looks, phrenologically speaking, like a huge cranium upon a disproportionate body. The old portion of the building on Fourth Street, appears to the eye like an unhealthy decaying fungus, which has grown out from its overshadowing neighbor." . . . This sort of extravagant statement of the case was doubtless a sign of the times.
Meanwhile the roof of the west wing (the first part constructed) needed attention, and it was in 1856 reconstructed of wrought iron and fire-proof floors. The south wing was extended and completed in 1853, and in 1856 the north wing was likewise extended. It will be noticed that the columns of the south wing were omitted, and use was made of pilasters instead. This was not originally intended. In 1853 Mitchell contracted with Bernard Crickard for six stone columns to grace the portico. Soon after the other stone work needed was completed.
Now that the edifice had grown to full proportions, the dome seemed out of keeping with the other parts, and Mitchell pictured the Courthouse with a taller dome of Italiain-Renaissance design, as the next objective. Any thought of further delay was now met with groans of distress. John Hogan in his Thoughts about St. Louis in 1854, published the drawing of the Courthouse. The Daily Evening News said: "The picture is surprisingly beautiful," and the Morning Herald: "We are sick of looking at our new Courthouse, it does not look much more finished now than it did years ago." Even the Memphis Eagle and Enquirer sarcastically announced that "The Court House . . . has been in construction for three or four hundred years; its first architect has been dead some two hundred years." But the Missouri Republican said that the slowness in completing the Courthouse had been due to the rapid growth of the city, which had been unexampled and exceeded the most sanguine expectations.
Mitchell resigned during May, 1857. Several months earlier he had refused to approve the accounts of Joseph Foster and - Bernard Crickard, wherein they claimed $200,756.71. The account was paid after he resigned; the dispute being with the contractors over measurements. The row over this inci- dent resulted in the County Court, composed of Judge John M. Wimer and Philip S. Lanham, being removed as super- intendents of Courthouse construction. . A new body was elected to supervise construction of county buildings and roads. William Rumbold was appointed superintendent and architect in June, 1859, to succeed Mitchell. Thomas D. P. Lanham, brother of Philip Lanham, who was only a carpentercontractor, held forth meanwhile. He had suggested a design for the new dome which Rumbold now held was too heavy; himself presenting plans for a wrought and cast-iron dome of his own design. The soundness of Rumbold's plan was questioned by some local architects, but he constructed a wrought iron model, loaded it with 13,000 pounds of pig iron, and demonstrated to the satisfaction of the commissioners that his plan was safe and sufficient. The exterior of the dome followed the design of Mitchell, but the frame of wrought and cast-iron was built according to Rumbold's design, for which he was given a patent by the Government on June 17, 1862. Although the idea may not have originated with Rumbold, the dome of the St. Louis Courthouse seems to have been the first of this construction to be completed in the United States."
The new dome was completed in June, 1861. Rumbold also changed the rotunda by removing the spiral stairway and adding cast-iron stairways in spaces opening from the rotunda. The first gallery was reduced in size, and the limestone Tuscan columns replaced by cast-iron columns, covered with plaster, to form an arcade. The entire structure was declared finished on July 4, 18692 and the County Auditor anounced the total cost as $1,199,871. 91.
During that summer Carl Wimar, the German-born St. Louis artist, completed his great murals on the interior of the dome. On the north "Indians Attacking the Village of St. Louis, 1780"; on the east "The Landing of Laclede"; on the south "Desoto Discovering the Mississippi River"; and on the west "Westward the Star of Empire takes its Way." On the fourth gallery Wimar painted four figures representing: Law, Commerce, Justice and Liberty. Inside, the dome is decorated with portraits of George Washington, Martha Washington Edward Bates and Thomas H. Benton. Wimar here pioneered in the use in America of both classical allegories and historical realism in his subject matter. This was an adaptation of a European practice in the use of two modes of mural painting. It is interesting to recall that at the same time Wimar was completing these murals in the Courthouse, Emanuel Leutze his instructor at Dusseldorf, was completing similar murals a; Washington.
Many subsequent changes were made in the Courthouse but many of these are difficult to date or trace. In 1893 the iron fence and cast-iron fountain were removed. About this same time the arrangement of doors and windows in the east and west wings were changed considerably. On February 9, 1923 the residents of the city voted a bond issue of $87,000,000 for various civic improvements, including the Civil Courts Building. The site chosen was the block covering Market to Chestnut Streets, Twelfth to Eleventh Streets. Ground was broken May 19, 1926, and the corner stone was laid February 3, 1928. The building was completed in June 1930 and cost $4,520,000. The last official act in the old Courthouse was at eleven o'clock, June 21, 1930, at which time the judges convened in General Term in the rotunda and made a formal order transferring all cases and records to the new building, and adjourning until June 23, 1930 at ten o'clock a. m., with this final sentence: "on which day and hour the Court will convene in the Civil Courts Building." After General Term adjourned, valedictory addresses were made by the late O'Neill Ryran, Judge of the Circuit Court, for the Bench and Hon. Isaac H. Lionberger for the Bar. The late Charles W. Rutledge, Judge of the Circuit Court, presided.
A procession of state, judicial, city officers, and members of the Bar was formed at twelve o'clock and moved up Chestnut Street to the new building, symbolic of the change in the seat of justice. Addresses were delivered from the east front door, the audience assembled on the lawn.
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"Story of an Old Clerk." By Edward P. Walsh. Glimpses of the Past vol. 1, no. 8 (July 1934): pp. 63-70.
with permission from the Missouri Historical Society.