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"History of Eau Claire County Wisconsin, 1914, Past and Present"


Chapter  16
- Courts and Legal Profession

In Conclusion

(-as transcribed from pages 300 - 303)

In the early days the practice of law was not very remunerative, and the strict method of procedure and decorum was not always observed.  It was within the province of the judge to admit applicants to membership of the bar.  Judge Fuller was very accommodating in performing this part of his official duty.  It was not by him deemed essential that the applicant should have even read or looked into a law book.  All that he required was that some members of the bar move the admission of the applicant, and with one exception the motion was granted.  Hence we had a number of members of the bar not mentioned in the foregoing statement who never read or practiced law, among which were R. F. Wilson, James Gray, Captain Seeley and some others whose names I do not now remember.  The exception was Arthur Delaney, who edited a paper on the west side.  His admission was moved by Alexander Meggett.  Evidently the judge was not in a receptive mood, or else nourished a grievance against Delaney.  The judge promptly denied the application.  When asked for a reason he replied that Delaney was drunk.  The young Irishman's ire was aroused; he felt he had not only been abused but grossly insulted.  Quick as a flash he came back with the retort:  "Judge Fuller, you are so drunk yourself you cannot get off the chair."  The judge called upon the sheriff to put him out.  Delaney, as he was being forced through the door by the obedient sheriff, turned and addressing the indignant judge, said:  "Judge Fuller, I am going over to my office and I will write an article about you which will cut a wound so deep that even whiskey won't heal."  And he did.  It is not improbable that the judge was somewhat under the influence of ardent spirits, which, if reports are true, he was addicted to their use in no slight degree.

Delaney was quite a character in some respects.  He was able even brilliant, and possessed a genuine Irish wit to a considerable degree.  He was an ardent democrat and so was Dr. W. T. Galloway.  Democrats in those days were about as scarce as hens' teeth.  The congressional district was very large, with scattered settlements here and there, and in the northwestern part of it Pepin and Prescott on the Mississippi river were the most prominent.  Delaney and Galloway, with the latter's team, started to attend the convention at Pepin, some sixty miles west.  They had an ample supply of democratic enthusiasm with them.  Everything went along well until they reached a point somewhere near Fall City, when a dispute arose, and the doctor, being a powerful man, weighing over two hundred pounds, and Delaney rather slight in build, threw Delaney out of the buggy and started on without him.  Delaney, not daunted by this little mishap, trudged on on foot, occasionally catching a short ride, reached the convention just as it was about to adjourn.  He was granted the privilege of addressing that body, and in the course of his remarks explained why it was that his arrival was so late.  In eloquent words he stated how the doctor and himself had started out from Eau Claire full of enthusiasm and of mind socially and politically; how a disagreement occurred over some slight matter, how the doctor forcibly ejected him from the buggy; of his long and weary march to reach the convention, and added:  "Gentlemen of the convention, that was a contest.  It was a contest between stomach and brains, and stomach was ahead."  Ever afterward, if you wanted to arouse the ire of the genial doctor, all that was necessary was to refer tot he closing remarks of Delaney.

A special term for the whole district was provided by law to be held at Prescott, in the extreme northwest corner of the state, in the month of July.  there was no railway then from Eau Claire, and the Eau Claire lawyers having business before the court were obliged to journey by team, usually a two days' drive.  One morning Messrs. Meggett, Cousins, H. Clay Williams and the writer started for Prescott to attend the July term.  We got started a little late owing to the fact that we had to wait a long time for Mr. Cousins.  His tardiness, however, was explained by a statement of the fact that the night before a baby boy had come to gladden his household,and thus Marshall, his first born, was ushered into the world.  It is needless to state that his tardiness was excused.  The first night we stopped at Brookville, near Hersey, a stage station on the road from Eau Claire to Hudson, if I remember right.  It was about dusk, as we drove up; the keeper of the stable came out with a lantern and was engaged in assisting to unhitch the team, when Meggett asked hi the question:  "Say, how many votes did I get in this town for senator?  My name is Meggett."  The stable keeper, thinking for a moment, replied:  "I guess you got two."  Meggett indignantly retorted:  "Well, if that is the case, we will drive on to the next station."  That he would not stay over night in a town where he got only two votes.  This was met by the statement from the stable keeper:  "If I was in your place I wouldn't mind.  You didn't get any votes in that town."

It was Judge Humphrey's first year upon the bench.  We returned by the way of Hudson and were the guests that evening of the judge and his estimable wife.  She was a most devout Christian lady, and in the course of the evening, addressing herself to Mr. Williams, inquired if he was a member of the church, and he, without even the slightest hesitation, replied:  "Yes, of the Episcopal church."  If he had ever been inside of the church no one ever had any recollection of it.  She further inquired if he was a member of the Bible class, to which he replied that he was its leader.  She was much interested and pursued her inquiries as to whether many of the prominent residents of Eau Claire belonged to the class, and, without even a smile, he replied, "Most of them: mentioning Cal Spafford, Jan Gray, Dick Wilcox and several others. To fully appreciate the cheek of Williams under the circumstances a person would have to be acquainted with the habits of himself and those he mentioned as members of his Bible class.  The judge was a great humorist and enjoyed a practical joke.  It was amusing to observe his efforts to keep his face straight while Williams was thus responding to Mrs. Humphrey's inquiries.

Another incident then I have done, although there were many of a somewhat similar character that occurred in those days which would today shock the dignity of courts if indulged in.

At Judge Humphrey's first term at Chippewa Falls, Judge Wiltse, a long time justice of the peace, applied for admission to the bar.  The judge appointed Mr. Cousins, Meggett and the writer as a committee to examine him in open court as to his qualifications.  The court was held in Mitchell's Hall, if I recollect correctly; at any rate it was in a hall over the corner drug store formerly kept by Harry Goddard.  There was no court house then.  The room was full to overflowing, as almost the entire population, as was usual, were present.  Andrew Gregg, Jr., was district attorney and the only resident lawyer.  Some farmer who owned a pair of mules had hitched them immediately in front of the hall.  While the committee in the presence of the court was proceeding with great dignity in interrogating Mr. Wiltse one of the mules set up an unearthly bray.  Mr. Gregg, who was in the back end of the hall, immediately addressed the court:  "Hold on!  Hold on! There is another jackass that wants to be admitted."  It seems that Mr. Gregg had no liking for Mr. Wiltse.


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