And a grand new site
At a Special Court of Oyer and Terminer and Jail Delivery held at Corydon in the County of Harrison on Monday, the seventh of March, 1814, 18 men found themselves cast into a role they would not likely have held, at least not often, before that date.
Starting with John Harbison, who was named foreman, and continuing through John Smith, the last chosen, the 18 men were sworn in and seated as the grand jurors of Harrison County, Indiana Territory, for that term of the court.1
As grand jurors, the men had only one task: “The Jury having heard the charge (was) ordered to consult upon presentments and Indictments” and then: “The Grand Jury returned into Court and find an Indictment against Isaac Wood for Arson a true Bill and having no other business they are discharged.”2
The names of the 18 men, and their roles in the fledgling judicial system of the territory in transition to statehood, were inscribed in a unique set of records now digitized and available for study online.
As explained by the Center for Digital Scholarship at the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis Library, the website housing the collection of Indiana Territory Court Orders:
The digital collection of Indiana Territory Court Orders is a collaborative effort between the University Library, the Indiana State Archives, and the Historical Society for the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana. This collection contains digital images of three order books: 2 original volumes created between 1800 and 1816 and a late nineteenth-century transcription for the first 114 pages of Order Book 1 (which were heavily damaged). … Created by the Clerk of the Court of Indiana Territory, Henry Hurst, the order books document the court’s actions in chronological order by court term from March 1801 to December 1816. This collection also contains the Chancery Court orders of 57 pages, recently found. The Indiana Territorial Legislature created the Chancery Court in 1805. Chancery Court judges, called chancellors, solved conflicting claims when common law and statute law offered no solutions. The Chancery Court operated between 1805 and 1814; however, the extant records only cover August 1807 to September 1811. The Indiana State Archives holds the original Indiana Territory Order Books, transcribed order books, and Chancery Orders.3
The cases included in the records are both civil and criminal — this particular oyer & terminer session was a criminal session of the Indiana Territorial Court4 — and the records and the entire website are well worth a close look.
That’s true even if the only time a person of interest shows up is in a single jury list.
Because being in that jury list — by itself — tells us something about those 18 men.
The first territorial laws passed by the Indiana Territorial Legislature didn’t really set up a jury system separate and apart from the practice previously followed in the Northwest Territory, from which Indiana Territory was created in 1800.5 They merely provided for fines for those who were called to serve and didn’t show up.6 By statute in 1814, grand jurors were to be “free and lawful householders of (the) county” where they served.7
The first comprehensive jury act appears to have been adopted in 1824. It provided that the county commissioners, each May, were to “select from the persons returned as taxable, all the discreet householders and freeholders residence in such county, between the ages of twenty one and sixty.” The names were then written on ballots, put into a ballot box and pulled at random for both grand jurors and trial jurors.8
By 1831, the laws provided that both grand and petit jurors be selected “from the list of taxable persons in the county … who shall be good, reputable freeholders or householders, resident in such county, … for one year succeeding such selection.”9
So… what do we know about John Harbinson, Samuel Black, John Armstrong, Thomas Morgan, John Dawson, John McAdams David Craig, Henry Purcell, Thomas Burns, James Wiseman, Armstead Smoot, Joseph Denbo, George McIntosh, John Rippenden, William Morgan, Samuel Bell, John Watkins, and John Smith — the men of the March 1814 Grand Jury?
They were all men. All white. Voters, or at least qualified to vote. All over the age of 21 and, likely, even though the law itself didn’t yet say so, under age 60. They were taxpayers and freeholders — in other words, property owners.
And recorded, forever, in the pages of the order book of the Clerk of the Court of Indiana Territory.
A thoroughly grand sight, on a thorough grand website, for Indiana research.
- Harrison County, Indiana, Territorial Court Order Book 2: 94, Special Court, March 1814; Indiana State Archives, Indianapolis; digital images, “Indiana Territory Court Orders,” Center for Digital Scholarship, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (https://www.iupui.edu/ : accessed 27 Feb 2017). ↩
- Ibid. ↩
- “Indiana Territory Court Orders,” Center for Digital Scholarship, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (https://www.iupui.edu/ : accessed 27 Feb 2017). ↩
- See Henry Campbell Black, A Dictionary of Law (St. Paul, Minn. : West, 1891), 292, “court of oyer and terminer.” ↩
- See Wikipedia (http://www.wikipedia.com), “Indiana Territory,” rev. 3 Nov 2016. ↩
- §13, “A Law establishing courts of judicature,” in The Laws of the Indiana Territory, 1801-1806, Inclusive (Paoli, Ind. : Throop & Clark, 1886), 20; digital images, Google Books (http://books.google.com : accessed 27 July 2017). ↩
- §7, “An Act regulating the practice in the circuit courts and court of appeals,” approved 10 Sep 1814, in Louis B. Ewbank, editor, The Laws of Indiana Territory 1809-1816, Indiana Historical Collections (Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Bureau, 1934), XX: 569; digital images, HathiTrust Digital Library (http://www.hathitrust.org/ : accessed 27 Feb 2017). ↩
- §1, “An Act regulating the mode of summoning and empannelling Grand and Petit Jurors,” approved 31 Jan 1824, in The Revised Laws of Indiana (Corydon : Carpenter & Douglass, Printers, 1824), 234-235; digital images, Internet Archive (http://www.archive.org : accessed 27 Feb 2017). ↩
- §1, “An Act to regulate the mode of summoning and empannelling Grand and Petit Jurors,” approved 29 Jan 1831, in The Revised Laws of Indiana (Indianapolis: Douglass & Maguire, Printers, 1831), 291; digital images, Google Books (http://books.google.com : accessed 27 July 2017). ↩