Clark County, Ohio

History and Genealogy

Sketch of the Bench and Bar of Clark County

From The History of Clark County, Ohio
Chicago: W.H. Beers & Co., 1881 - Page 273


The members of the bar as it existed at the organization of the county cannot now be given. There is no recorded evidence of their names. The musty volumes which lie smoldering in the vaults of the court house do not disclose them. The condition of the country at that time did not furnish sufficient business for lawyers to locate in our county seat and attend simply to the business of the county. So they were compelled to travel the circuit, and thus the attorney who had any reputation found himself docketed in causes in dozen or more different counties. With the older lawyers came the younger member of the profession, who also traveled the circuit, briefless, and often penniless, in the hope of being retained in a case, and thus begin his arduous work. Hence we find that most of the early litigated cases in Clark County were tried by attorneys who came here from other counties. Of the early bar of this county, as far back as 1831, there is but one survivor here — the venerable Edward H. Cumming — who has vivid recollections of the pioneer lawyers of those days. He names as some of the members of the bar who were engaged in practice here before 1840, George W. Jewett, Platt, Higgins, Mott, A.G. Burnett, William A. Rogers, James M. Hunt, William White, J.B. Underwood, Joseph B. Craig, Joseph Anthony, James L. Torbert, Robert W. Carroll, William Cushing, Samson Mason, Charles Anthony and Harvey Vinal. There were other lawyers here who were engaged in practice, but their names have passed from the memories of the older lawyers.

Gen. Samson Mason, born in New Jersey in 1793, was one of the most prominent lawyers in this part of the State. The beginning of his career dates back among the early years, while his professional life closed only with his death, in 1869. Gen. Mason married the youngest daughter of the well-known Dr. Needham, of Springfield, a lady noted for her accomplishments and eminent personal qualities, who was a most pleasant and valuable companion of the General during all his public career. Gen. Mason served in the Lower House of the Ohio Legislature for several terms. He was afterward elected to the Senate. In 1830, he was Chariman of the committee which revised the statutes of the State — a very important work — a Senatorial Elector on the Clay Presidential ticket, was actively interested in the State Militia, and held different positions in the State service. He was at first Captain of a very fine cavalry company here, and afterward became, successively, Colonel, Bragadier General and Major General. He was elected to Congress in the autumn of 1834, and served eight years, retiring in 1843. In 1840, he refused to be a candidate, but was nominated and elected in spite of his protestations. Afterward, in a peculiar emergency, he consented to serve a term in the House of Representatives. During the administration of Millard Fillmore, he was United States District Attorney for Ohio. The volume of the debates of the Ohio Constitutional Convention in 1850 and 1851 show he was a prominent member. He was again in the State Senate during the first year of the late war. As a lawyer, Gen. Mason had a reputation which extended beyond the State. His professional circuit embraced the counties of Clark, Greene, Champaign, Union, Logan and Madison. It is established upon reliable authority that for one whole year he was engaged in every litigated case tried in all this territory, and gained every one of them.

Gen. Mason's public life was stainless. His integrity was never questioned. He was an honest lawyer and a faithful manager of all business intrusted to him. He was interested in all public matters. Our elder citizens remember how stoutly he advocated the cause of the city schools, and how withering the sarcasm directed against those who exerted "a malign influence" against them. So withering and so potent was his manner and language that these two words became a current phrase in common conversation. In all matters bearing upon the public and private interests of the community, Gen. Mason always took a leading part. He accomplished very much for this city, and rendered very important service to the State at large, and was very useful as a public servant at Washington. The General had a most catholic spirit, embracing in his Christian love the entire race of men. In union religious meetings, his voice was frequently in exhortation and prayer, and no one who ever heard him in such a capacity will ever forget his fervent utterances. For many years, he was a member of the First Presbyterian Church. His health had been failing for some time, but his last sickness was brief, although very painful. He died in this city February 1, 1869. His son, Rodney Mason, who was at one time a member of the law firm of Mason, Bowman & Mason, is now engaged in the practice of the law in Washington, D.C.

Charles Anthony — or Gen. Anthony, as he was more widely known — was a prominent member of the bar from 1824 to 1862. He was the third son of Joseph and Rhoda Anthony, who were members of the Society of Friends of Richmond, Va. Gen. Anthony came to Ohio in 1811, settling on a farm in Clinton County, but, soon after, he removed to Cincinnati, where, March 23, 1820, he was married to Miss Elizabeth Evans, and came to Springfield in 1824. As soon as he engaged in the practice of his profession here, he began to develop rapidly into the successful jury lawyer. He was a man of sterling integrity, of force of character, and suavity of manner, which made him popular among the people. He was three times elected Representative in the State Legislature, and was one of the most efficient, dignified and popular speakers of the House. Following his service in the Lower House, he was chosen to the Senate in 1833. In 1840, Gen. Anthony was an active participant in the Harrison campaign, making speeches all over the State, with Tom Corwin; had a great reputation upon the stump, and was in great demand. As a reward for his zeal, under the Harrison-Tyler administration, he was appointed United States Attorney for Ohio, and held it four years. In all public enterprises, he was foremost in voice and deed, and was one of the architects of the good fortune of the city. The Masonic fraternity recognized in him a leader. He was elected Grand Master of the State. His death occurred March 31, 1862, and he was buried with Masonic honors. The funeral ws attended by an immense concourse of citizens, such was the universal respect in which he was held. The bar of the county passed appropriate memorial resolutions. His son, Joseph, was engaged in the practice of the law. He was a young man of promise, but died shortly after he entered his profession.

Hon. Samuel Shellabarger, the most prominent lawyer in the annals of our bar, who to-day stands foremost at the American bar, and has added to the achievements of the lawyer a national reputation as a statesman, read law in Springfield under Samson Mason, and was admitted to practice in the winter of 1846, and immediately thereafter located in Troy, Ohio, having formed a partnership with Hon. Thomas Smith, of Dayton, Ohio. Mr. Shellabarger remained in Troy about a year, when, in 1848, he returned to Springfield and entered into a partnership with James M. Hunt. Mr. Shellabarger was elected to the first General Assembly which met under the new constitution. In 1859, a partnership was formed with Judge James S. Goode, but the next year Mr. Shellabarger was elected to Congress. He took his seat in the extra session of the Thirty-seventh, called for July, 1861. He was re-elected to the Thirty-ninth, Fortieth and Forty-second Congresses. During his service in the Congress of the United States, Mr. Shellabarger took a prominent part in all measures of national importance. He was an eloquent speaker, and his voice always gained him auditors. In the exciting periods which called for prompt and judicious action on the part of Congress, Mr. Shellabarger was considered a safe guide. He was one of the recognized leaders of the House, and wielded a potent influence. He was a faithful adherent to his party, but eminently just. Throughout his Congressional career, not even his bitterest political opponents could say aught against his honesty.

His incessant application to his public duties having seriously impaired his health, an appointment as Minister Resident to Portugal was accepted, in the hope that a sea voyage and a change of climate would restore his system to its wonted vigor; but he was compelled to resign in December, 1869. In the fall of 1870, he was again elected to Congress, and, after serving that term, has so far permanently retired from public life and engaged in the active practice of his profession. Mr. Shellabarger has been for several years, and is now, practicing law at Washington, D.C. The eminent ability which he has displayed as a lawyer has brought him lucrative employment. As one of the counsel before the Electoral Commission at Washington, the most august tribunal the world has ever known, his argument in favor of the election of the Republican candidate received national commendation.

George Spence, who has been the leading Democratic lawyer of the bar for a number of years, is a representative of that class of men who, by their own indefatigable efforts, have attained a position of prominence in the community. Mr. Spence is "to the manor born," his birthplace being in Pike Township. By energy and perseverance, Mr. Spence was enabled to obtain an education during his early youth, and, being of a mathematical turn, at seventeen he secured the position of Assistant County Surveyor, which he held several years. During the fall of 1845, he was severley injured by being caught in the "tumbling shaft" of a thresher horse-power, from which he has never fully recovered. He taught school the following winter, and began to read Blackstone, with a view of securing a profession which would not require manual labor, for which he was unfitted. The following year, he attended the spring term of the Springfield High School, and continued his studies, teaching at intervals, and also attended a course at Gundry & Bacon's Commercial, Business and Law College at Cincinnati, afterward reading law in the office of Rogers & White, and was finally admitted to practice in the spring of 1850. In 1851, he opened a law office, where he has since continued to practice his profession. Mr. Spence has been identified with the growth and history of this city and county for upward of thirty years. He is a Democrat in politics, and thoroughly identified with his party in this city, county and State. He was a member of the Charleston Convention in 1860, and the candidate of his party for State Treasurer in 1865. Mr. Spence's energy is a marked characteristic, and to this trait, and his natural ability as a lawyer, is largely due to the success to which he has attained, in spite of his early disadvantages.

Gen. J. Warren Kiefer occupied a prominent position at the Clark County bar, but his distinguished services in the war of the rebellion have merged the lawyer into the soldier, and when again he resumed his practice, he was called into the service of his country as a statesman, so that his biography must, for the most part, narrate his achievements in the field and in the forum, as they have interfered with his professional career. Gen. Kiefer is another native of the county, having been born in Bethel Township January 30, 1836. His education was obtained in the public schools and at Antioch College. In 1855, he commenced the study of law with Gen. Charles Anthony, in Springfield; was admitted to the bar January 12, 1858, praciticing his profession thereafter. Upon the inauguration of hostilities in 1861, he volunteered, was commissioned Major of the Third Ohio Volunteer Infantry, and mustered into service on April 27. On the 12th of June, the regiment re-enlisted for three years, was assigned to McClellan's command, and participated in the battles of Richmond, Cheat Mountain and Elkwater. In November, 1861, it was transferred to Buell's command, in Kentucky. In February, 1862, Maj. Kiefer was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel, and was engaged in the campaign against Bowling Green, Nashville and Huntsville. On September 30, 1862, he was appointed to the Colonelcy of the One Hundred and Tenth Ohio Volunteer Infantry, joining Milroy's command in Virginia, and, in the winter of 1862-63, commanded the post at Moorefield; was slightly wounded in the battle of Winchester, in June, 1863, while commanding a brigade. He was severly wounded (having his left arm shattered) at the battle of the Wilderness, May 5, 1864, but was not thereby prevented from joining Phil Sheridan's army at Harper's Ferry, with his arm still in a sling. In this maimed condition, he was engaged in the battles of Opequon, Fisher's Hill and Cedar Creek, receiving in the former engagement a shell wound in the thigh, which did not deter him from leading a brigade successfully in the battles occurring almost immediately thereafter. "For gallant and meritorious services" in these battles, he was brevetted Brigadier General, and as such, asigned by President Lincoln December 29, 1864, and joined the army in front of Petersburg, taking prominent part in the important engagements just preceding. In 1865, Gen. Kiefer was brevetted Major General "for gallant and distinguished services," and was mustered out of service on the 27th of June of that year, after a military service of four years and two months. Returning to Springfield, he resumed the practice of his profession in July, 1865. On November 30, 1866, he was appointed Lieutenant-colonel of the Twenty-sixth Regular United States Infantry, which he declined. In 1867, he was elected to the Ohio Senate. In 1868, while Commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, he organized the "Board of Control," for the establishment of the "Soldiers' and Sailors' Orphans' Home," at Xenia, of which the State assumed control in 1870, making Gen. Kiefer one of its Trustees. In 1876, he was elected to the Forty-fifth Congress from the Eighth Congressional District of Ohio, by a handsome Republican majority of 3,716 votes, being, two years later, re-elected in the Fourth District, over W. Vance Marquis, by 5,090 votes, receiving three-fifths of the whole vote cast. In the October State election of the year 1880, he received, as Representative of the Eighth District, 5,918 majority, the largest ever polled by any candidate in this district. In the Forty-fifth Congress, he served on the Committee on War Claims, and in the Forty-sixth on the Elections Committee.

Samuel A. Bowman, who was at one time the law partner of Gen. Mason, and afterward associated with Judge Goode, was a graduate of Wittenberg college, and commenced the practice of the law in Springfield. Mr. Bowman soon rose to a commanding position at the bar. He has a well-deserved reputation throughout the State as a corporation lawyer, and his services are required for the most part in the higher courts of the State and in the United States. He has also conducted some important and intricate patent suits, which involved thousands of dollars. Mr. Bowman has not mingled in politics to any great extent, having never been a candidate for any office except that of a member of the Constitutional Convention. His professional duties have absorbed his time and attention.

Among the other members of the bar who may be counted among the older lawyers are Hon. John C. Miller, the present Probate Judge, who has also filled the office of Mayor of the city, Prosecuting Attorney and City Solicitor; Hon. J.K. Mower, who has been City Solicitor and Representative in the General Assembly; A.P.L. Cochran, Esq., who has never been an aspirant for political preferment, although he has been frequently solicited for the use of his name for various positions of trust; Hon. John H. Littler and E.G. Dial, each of whom have filled the offices of Probate Judge and Representative in the Ohio Legislature; D.M. Cochran, brother of A.P.L. Cochran, and former partner, was a prominent member of the bar, but died several years ago; James Willis was also a young man of brilliant parts, but died shortly after he commenced practice.

There has been no organization of any kind connected with the Clark County bar until recently, when, at a called meeting of the members of the bar, April 5, 1878, an attempt was made to form a Bar Association. S.A. Bowman, Esq., was made Chairman of the meeting, and F.M. Hagan, Esq., appointed Secretary. A large number of the attorneys were interested in the matter, and at this meeting a committee of five was selected to report a plan of organization. This committee consisted of the following gentlemen: S.A. Bowman, George Spence, Oscar T. Martin, Charles R. White and F.M. Hagan, with instructions to make their report at the next meeting. The association met again April 12, 1878, and this committee presented a constitution and by-laws, which was duly adopted and signed by most of the lawyers in the city. On the 15th of April, the association elected their officers and appointed standing committees as follows: President, S.A. Bowman; Vice President, George Spence; Secretary, J.J. Hanna; Treasurer, Charles R. White; Executive comittee, A.P.L. Cochran, F.M. Hagan, A.H. Gillett; Investigating committee, J.K. Mower, Oscar T. Martin, J. Harry Rabbits; Legal Reform Committee, George Arthur, J.F. Oglevee, W.A. Scott; Law Library Committee, T.J. Pringle, F.C. Goode, W.H. Dugdale. No further meetings of the association have been held, for the reason that it was deemed advisable to wait until the completion of the new court house, and also because it was expected that the asociation would be merged into a library association. The preliminary measures for the organization of the latter were taken, but they have not been completed. The following are members of the bar of Clark County, Ohio, as enrolled in 1881. Some are not in active practice:

George Arthur, S.A. Bowman, A.T. Byers, M.T.Burnham, W.F.Bevitt, A.G. Burnett, A.P.L. Cochran, C.W. Constantine, Milton Cole, B. Chinn, E.G. Dial, W.H. Dugdale, Charles Dunlap, Graham Duwell, A.H. Gillett, Frank C. Goode, F.M. Hagan, E.O. Hagan, W.R. Horner, James Johnson, Jr., O.B. Johnson, J. Warren Kiefer, C.C. Kirkpatrick, John H. Littler, J.K. Mower, Oscar T. Martin, P.B. Martin, B.F. Martz, J.F. McGrew, J.J. Miller, Percy Norton, W.S. Newberry, James H. Piles, Thomas J. Pringle, George C. Rawlins, J.H. Rabbits, R.C. Rodgers, W.M. Rockle, C.B. Rockhill, D.S. Runyan, George Spence, W.A. Scott, Frank Showers, Joseph Tritt, E.S. Wallace, F.W. Willis, W.H. Willis, Charles R. White, Fletcher White, Amos Wolf, Walter L. Weaver. C.F. Yakey.


Ohio Genealogy



Battle of Piqua



City Charter

County Politics and Roster of Officers

Early Clark County

George Rogers Clark

Clark-Shawnee Centennial

Education in Clark County

Ghost Towns

Indians in Clark County

Pioneers and Pioneer Days

Simon Kenton

Military History


The National Road


The Old Northwest




Springfield in 1852

Springfield in 1859

Springfield in 1863

Springfield in 1868

Springfield History

SHS 1951 Yearbook

State and County Government

Then & Now

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