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JUDGE THEOPHILUS L. DICKEY AND THE FIRST
. MURDER TRIAL IN KENDALL COUNTY.
BY AVERY N. BEEBE.
Judge Dickey was of Scotch Irish ancestry, a Kentuckian by birth. He taught school in his native State, and at the age of twenty years emigrated to Illinois in 1834 with wife and year old baby, making the journey on horseback.
In 1846 T. L. Dickey gave up a fine law practice in LaSalle County and organized one of the first companies and was chosen as its captain, in the First Illinois Regiment, for the Mexican War. He was afterwards a colonel of the 4th Illinois Cavalry in the War of 1861-65.
In 1856 Mr. Dickey was nominated for Congress in the Third Illinois district, which embraced the counties of McLean, DeWitt, LaSalle, Putnam, Vermilion, Bureau and others.
The newly born Republican party had nominated Owen Lovejoy, a Congregational minister of Princeton. Hon. Isaac N. Arnold of Chicago said: “Lovejoy was a man of powerful physique, intense feeling and of great magnetism as a speaker. He went forth like Peter the Hermit, with a heart of fire, a tongue of lightning, preaching his crusade against slavery.” However, Judge David Davis of Bloomington, a strong personal friend of Judge Dickey, wrote to the latter and endeavored to dissuade him from making the canvass, because he feared defeat for his old-time friend. On the 13th of September following Judge Dickey withdrew his name as a candidate, and Lovejoy was elected by a plurality of 6,000 over Osgood, the Democratic candidate.
Though Judge Dickey was a Southern born man, he did not favor the extension of slavery. He inherited slaves himself, but gave them their freedom, though at the time he was heavily in debt by signing the bond of a dishonest partner.
In the early fifties he became a Circuit Judge in a circuit comprising ten or twelve counties. This gave scope to his great judicial mind, as he was really one of the most conspicuous lawyers of the Illinois bar; a man of quick mental grasp and clear discrimination. His strict integrity and freedom from partisan bias, his urbane and pleasant manners, all contributed to his exemplary character. Judge Dickey was afterwards selected and served with distinction as a Judge of the Supreme Court of Illinois, a most fitting climax for his judicial career.
Among those who furnished valuable data for this history was Hon. George M. Hollenback, now of Aurora, Ill. He was born December 1, 1831, the first white child born in Kendall county. He was Clerk Circuit Court and Recorder from 1856 to 1860; was appointed and served as Master in Chancery from 1868 until 1896-except two years; elected to the Twenty-eighth General Assembly of Illinois in 1872. Was admitted to the bar as an attorney in 1868.
THE FIRST MURDER TRIAL IN KENDALL COUNTY. Away back in the early forties, in the bustling little inland village of Georgetown (since renamed Newark), there lived in its outskirts one Ansel Rider, a carpenter, the possessor of one hundred and sixty acres of fine prairie land. A one-room log cabin constituted the dwelling place of the Rider family. In addition to the limited amount of farm work, Rider had a bench and some car
penter's tools, and if the neighbors wanted a door, a cupboard, window frames, or work of this kind, they would call on Rider. He was a swarthy complexioned man, eccentric in disposition and sensitive to an unusual degree as to his personal appearance. His personal habits were those usual to the habitual drinker, and under such influence he was inclined to be overbearing and disagreeable.
Georgetown was then many miles distant from railways. Nevertheless, with all these environments of pioneer days, it was a lively, thrifty town and peopled with intelligent citizens. Two good sized hotels had been established-the Mansion House, kept by Lyman Smith, and the Exchange, kept by Walter Stowell. The licensing of these hotels to “keep tavern" meant a permit to deal out grog by the drink, a permit which was usually granted to all taverns at that period in this country. Among those who constituted the business community of this village and immediate vicinity were George B. Hollenback, Moses Booth, John Pickering, dry goods and grocery dealers; Griffin Smith, the Sweetland Brothers, physicians; S. S. Wright, cabinet maker; Thomas J. Phillips and John C. Phillips, all round mechanics, house and wagon builders; Herman Dodge, D. C. Cleveland, and August Stowell, doing general blacksmithing. Walter Stowell was then postmaster, who handled the mail then brought in by the Frink and Walker stage line. Owen Haymond also carried on blacksmithing, though he owned a farm near by. He was a burly fellow, of large proportions, of a convivial nature, and used to spend considerable time among his cronies and the "cracker box philosophers” of the town. Charles McNeil was a later importation in Georgetown, a man in the prime of life, of fine presence, and always called an all round good fellow among the boys, and universally respected by all his neighbors and acquaintances.