• Journal Of Antebellum Pennsylvania Attempts To Bring Justice To Criminal Cases Of Assault, Abuse, Disturbing A School

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    In antebellum Pennsylvania, local justices of the peace had civil jurisdiction over issues of contract where the sum involved did not exceed $100. They also had criminal jurisdiction over unlawful actions that took place within their county. They could order the arrest of those accused of crimes and set bail for their appearance in court. Their dockets are often rare as many have been lost and some were destroyed during the Civil War.


    HENRY REED was justice of the peace for Branch Township in Schuylkill County from at least 1853 to 1855.


    Offering a docket of dozens of criminal cases that was kept by Reed. It includes cases of assault, domestic abuse, burglary, disturbing a school and bastardy, threats of violence, among other offenses. 60 pp with text, 7 1/2 x 12 3/4 with creative spelling and jargon of the day.  The docket, in journal form, takes the reader back to Antebellum Pennsylvania and the manner in which crime was dealt with.


    A few excerpts with the spelling as found:


    April 29, 1853: “Parr Phillips for Frances Macdonel of the Township of Branch in the said County...upon oth according to Law saith taht on the night of the 28 of April 1853 Mark Lamp, William Thornwell, Robert Patterson, Emeline Felton...foresebley entered and detained into the House of this deponent at the place cald Paterson Sawmill, broke in the dor and windos with clubs and stones and took poseshion of the above house contrary to the act of assembly.”


    May 19, 1853: “Mary Wilson of Branch Township who upon Her Solem Oth according to Law saith that Thomas Wilson of the Township of Branch this Day being the 19 Day of May 1853 thedened this Depondent to take Her Life if she wood Come inside of the House so that this Depondand is afraid he will Do Harm in body or Estate.”


    September 8, 1853: “Jacob Yount of the Township of Branch take upon his sole moth according to Law saith that on Sunday last Being the 4th Day of September Between 8 or nine O Clock wen on his Rod going home from Llewlyn Jacob Clauser, David Richt & Henry Shower had assembled together with a Gun in the Publick road and swor that the Body or Estate and further saith not.”

    [Reed issued a warrant to the constable to arrest Clauser, Richt and Shower, and they posted $300 bond for their appearance at the next court of quarter sessions. On November 21, according to a note, the complainant and defendants requested that the case be dismissed.


    December 15, 1853: “W.A. Fries Teacher whoe upon his Sole moth according to Law saith that on the 12 Day of December 1853, Patrick Morris of the township of Branch in the said County, Came to the School House No 1 in Lewellyn for the purpos of Disturbing said School By Plasing som slabs of Bords to the windows and Loocking in and abusing the Children wen out Doors in a Milichous and Disturbing Maner Contrary to the act of assembly and further saith not.”

    [Reed later discharged the defendant on “account of Being an Orpen [orphan] Child.”


    October 15, 1854: “George Reaman of the Township of Branch who upon His solem Oth according to Law saith that he suspects that Peeter Frank of the Township affaresaid on Thursday night Last the 25 of October Did take and Carey away 1 Chicken & 2 Rooster from the stable of the said George Reaman Contrary to the act of assembly and further saith not.”


    November 27, 1854: “Luckriescha Barkellet of the Township of Branch in the County aforesaid Whoe upon her sollem oth according to Law saith That she is Perflent with a Bastird Child and that William Bawn of the Same County is the father of the said Child and further saith not.”


    Leather bound volume with spine missing, wear to boards, back board detached, several loose leaves, a few leaves removed, minor scattered stains. A fine historic example of antebellum criminal activity and the justice system’s attempt to rectify it.


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