Introduction to Niswanger v. Wight and Jett

Document Transcript

Niswanger v. Wight and Jett
Nauvoo, Hancock Co., Illinois, Justice of the Peace Court, 19 September 1843
Hancock Co, Illinois, Circuit Court, 23 May 1844
 
Historical Introduction
In September 1843 William Niswanger commenced proceedings against and Hamilton Jett to collect an unpaid debt before , a , Illinois, justice of the peace. On 5 April 1842, Wight and Jett signed a promissory note for $315.20, payable within six weeks to Niswanger in the form of a horse, wagon, and groceries. Although the note became due the following month, Niswanger did not pursue legal action right away, allowing Wight and Jett to make payments in June and September 1843. A balance of $72.10 remained unpaid.
Sometime in September 1843, Niswanger initiated the suit against and Jett for $79.84. , who was authorized under law to hear debt cases for sums that did not exceed $100.00, presumably issued a summons, which is not extant, notifying the defendants to answer the suit. However, because Wight had left for on 21 July, the summons was served only on Jett. For unknown reasons, Jett had the case transferred to , a newly elected justice of the peace for Hancock County. On 18 September, Higbee issued a subpoena for JS, Wilkinson Hewit, and Jacob Zundel to appear as witnesses. Higbee attempted to hold the trial the same day, but due to the absence of material defense witnesses, he granted a continuance until the following day. On 19 September, Jett requested a trial by jury, and twelve men were selected. Zundel and Hewit provided testimony, but JS evidently did not attend the proceedings. After hearing the evidence, the jury returned a verdict in favor of Niswanger. Higbee rendered judgment against Jett for $72.10 plus costs. Niswanger then assigned his judgment to Joseph Fisher.
On 20 September, Jett, represented by attorneys and , appealed the case to the Circuit Court. The appeal was scheduled for the October 1843 term. On 2 October, JS, Zundel, , and Stephen Litz were subpoenaed as witnesses. The appeal was continued until the May 1844 term, with the subpoena being again issued for the witnesses. Hancock County sheriff served it on Litz on 22 May 1844 but was unable to locate JS or the others. The appeal was heard the following day, but when neither Jett nor appeared, the circuit court upheld ’s ruling. Approximately two months after the ruling, the judgment remained unpaid and Fisher requested the court issue a against Jett. Seventy dollars was collected in October 1844, with approximately half of this amount directed toward paying costs. The following month, Fisher assigned the judgment, with its remaining balance of $35.79, to Charles Bird, who in turn assigned his interest to William Backenstos in September 1845. It is unknown if the judgment was paid in its entirety.
 
Calendar of Documents
This calendar lists all known documents created by or for the court, whether extant or not. It does not include versions of documents created for other purposes, though those versions may be listed in footnotes. In certain cases, especially in cases concerning unpaid debts, the originating document (promissory note, invoice, etc.) is listed here. Note that documents in the calendar are grouped with their originating court. Where a version of a document was subsequently filed with another court, that version is listed under both courts.
 

Footnotes

  1. 1

    Promissory Note, 5 Apr. 1842 [Niswanger v. Wight and Jett]  

  2. 2

    Docket Entry, 18–19 Sept. 1843 [Niswanger v. Wight and Jett]; An Act concerning Justices of the Peace and Constables [3 Feb. 1827], Public and General Statute Laws of the State of Illinois [1834–1837], p. 402, sec. 1. The specific common law action Niswanger used is unknown. The figure of $79.84 comes from a notation on the promissory note and is included in Isaac Higbee’s docket entry for the case. It is unclear how Niswanger arrived at this figure. (Promissory Note, 5 Apr. 1842 [Niswanger v. Wight and Jett].)  

    The Public and General Statute Laws of the State of Illinois: Containing All the Laws . . . Passed by the Ninth General Assembly, at Their First Session, Commencing December 1, 1834, and Ending February 13, 1835; and at Their Second Session, Commencing December 7, 1835, and Ending January 18, 1836; and Those Passed by the Tenth General Assembly, at Their Session Commencing December 5, 1836, and Ending March 6, 1837; and at Their Special Session, Commencing July 10, and Ending July 22, 1837. . . . Compiled by Jonathan Young Scammon. Chicago: Stephen F. Gale, 1839.

  3. 3

    JS, Journal, 21 July 1843; Docket Entry, 18–19 Sept. 1843 [Niswanger v. Wight and Jett]. Illinois law allowed the justice of the peace to proceed against the party that was served with notice and to determine a judgment. (An Act concerning Justices of the Peace and Constables [3 Feb. 1827], Public and General Statute Laws of the State of Illinois [1834–1837], pp. 404–405, sec. 7.)  

    The Public and General Statute Laws of the State of Illinois: Containing All the Laws . . . Passed by the Ninth General Assembly, at Their First Session, Commencing December 1, 1834, and Ending February 13, 1835; and at Their Second Session, Commencing December 7, 1835, and Ending January 18, 1836; and Those Passed by the Tenth General Assembly, at Their Session Commencing December 5, 1836, and Ending March 6, 1837; and at Their Special Session, Commencing July 10, and Ending July 22, 1837. . . . Compiled by Jonathan Young Scammon. Chicago: Stephen F. Gale, 1839.

  4. 4

    Higbee’s docket entry simply stated, “By oath of defendant before R D Foster Esq. cause of action brought before me.” Illinois law provided that a defendant, upon his oath that he believed he could not obtain an impartial trial, could have the proceedings transferred to the nearest justice of the peace. (Docket Entry, 18–19 Sept. 1843 [Niswanger v. Wight and Jett]; An Act concerning Justices of the Peace and Constables [3 Feb. 1827], Public and General Statute Laws of the State of Illinois [1834–1837], p. 408, sec. 25.)  

    The Public and General Statute Laws of the State of Illinois: Containing All the Laws . . . Passed by the Ninth General Assembly, at Their First Session, Commencing December 1, 1834, and Ending February 13, 1835; and at Their Second Session, Commencing December 7, 1835, and Ending January 18, 1836; and Those Passed by the Tenth General Assembly, at Their Session Commencing December 5, 1836, and Ending March 6, 1837; and at Their Special Session, Commencing July 10, and Ending July 22, 1837. . . . Compiled by Jonathan Young Scammon. Chicago: Stephen F. Gale, 1839.

  5. 5

    Subpoena, 18 Sept. 1843 [Niswanger v. Wight and Jett].  

  6. 6

    Docket Entry, 18–19 Sept. 1843 [Niswanger v. Wight and Jett]. According to Higbee’s list of costs associated with the case, Hewit and Zundel were entitled to compensation for attending two days of trial, yet JS was not. JS’s journal makes no mention of JS attending the trial, and William Clayton’s journal states that JS and Emma Smith “rode to Woolleys” that day, presumably a reference to Edwin Woolley and family, who owned a farm about two miles east of Nauvoo. (JS, Journal, 19 Sept. 1843; Clayton, Journal, 19 Sept. 1843; Robert Peirce and Hannah Peirce, Deed to Edwin D. Woolley, 12 Aug. 1842, in Nauvoo Registry of Deeds, Record of Deeds, bk. B, p. 298.)  

    Clayton, William. Journals, 1842–1845. CHL.

    Nauvoo Registry of Deeds. Record of Deeds, bk. B, 1843–1846. CHL. MS 3443.

  7. 7

    List of Fees, 20 Sept. 1843 [Niswanger v. Wight and Jett]; Assignment of Judgment, 19 Sept. 1843 [Niswanger v. Wight and Jett].  

  8. 8

    Praecipe, 21 Sept. 1843 [Niswanger v. Wight and Jett]; Subpoena, 21 Sept. 1843 [Niswanger v. Wight and Jett].  

  9. 9

    Subpoena, 20 May 1844 [Niswanger v. Wight and Jett]. JS’s journal indicated that although he was at home on 22 May 1844, he was avoiding Backenstos, who was attempting to serve a summons on him for a separate suit initiated by church dissident Francis M. Higbee. (JS, Journal, 22 May 1844.)  

  10. 10

    Docket Entry, Judgment, 23 May 1844 [Niswanger v. Wight and Jett]. Two days before the hearing, Wight left Nauvoo on the steamship Osprey for St. Louis, Missouri. (JS, Journal, 21 May 1844.)  

  11. 11

    Praecipe, 15 July 1844 [Niswanger v. Wight and Jett].  

  12. 12

    Docket Entry, Fieri Facias, between 16 Aug. and ca. 9 Oct. 1844 [Niswanger v. Wight and Jett].  

  13. 13

    Assignment of Judgment, 29 Nov. 1844 [Niswanger v. Wight and Jett]; Assignment of Judgment, 22 Sept. 1845 [Niswanger v. Wight and Jett].