Noble County Courts
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Circuit Court - History of Judges

McMahon

The first Circuit Court Judge was Elza A. McMahon who served from 1852 through 1855. Prior to the formation of the 10th Judicial Circuit, McMahon had served as a Prosecuting Attorney and Judge of the Allen Circuit Court. He lived in Fort Wayne, having arrived from Ohio about 1845. He was about 42 years of age when he became a Judge and was unmarried. He was regarded as a fair lawyer, high minded, and pleasant as a Judge. Although delicate in health, and occasionally melancholy, he was at times witty and fond of humor. In 1855 after leaving the bench, he traveled to Rochester, Minnesota. Rochester was a new community at that time. McMahon served as Prosecuting Attorney and President of the local bar association. It was reported that he became a mental wreck and traveled, along with a few others, to Leon County, Florida in 1876, where he became an acting District Judge. He died in Tallahassee, Florida on September 26, 1879.

Worden

James L. Worden served as Circuit Court Judge from 1855 through 1858. He had been a Prosecuting Attorney. He was born in 1819 in Massachusetts and was one of the early residents of Noble County. It is reported that from the time he first pitched his tent here, his course had been steadily upward. He served three years as Prosecutor and was appointed Judge. In January 1858, he resigned and ultimately became a Judge on the Indiana Supreme Court. He later served as Mayor in Fort Wayne and again sat on the Supreme Court. It is written that his decisions were quoted “ wherever the principles of the common law prevailed.” He was described as “quiet and unassuming in his manners, calm, and deliberate in his judgment, and was generally correct in his conclusions.”

Dawson

Rueben J. Dawson was appointed by the Governor in January 1858. He was born in 1811 and had moved from Fort Wayne to DeKalb County, where he platted the Town of Spencerville and surveyed much of Noble and LaGrange Counties. He served in both branches of the legislature prior to being appointed Judge of the Circuit Court. During his term Noble County suffered from many horse thieves and counterfeiters. Dawson couldn’t be intimidated. He held court in Albion soon after the Regulators had hanged Gregory McDougall. Regulators planned to challenge the court’s authority, but Dawson proved equal to the emergency. Described as “faithful, conscientious, energetic, pure, impartial and efficient,” Dawson resigned for health reasons and died in 1859.

Wilson

Edward R. Wilson served from 1858 through 1864. He was a young man at the time of his election, residing in Bluffton. He was described as impulsive and quick to form his conclusions, yet his decisions generally stood the test in the Supreme Court, best evidence that he was correct. He was a popular officer, and yet from his peculiar temperament, was liable to make warm friends or bitter enemies He had served as Prosecutor and when elected Judge at the age of 32 enjoyed the distinction of being the youngest judge in the state, presiding over the largest judicial circuit therein. He was later elected to a term as State Senator and died in Bluffton in 1879.

LoweryRobert R. Lowery served from 1864 through 1867. He was born in Ireland and resided in Fort Wayne after beginning his practice of law at Goshen. He was recognized as one of the best attorneys in the state and later became a Judge of the Allen Superior Court in 1879. Lowery was the first president of the Indiana Bar Association. He served two terms in Congress beginning in 1882. Lowery “gives the question of the day that calm, judicial examination which only a trained intellect can bestow.” Noble County was removed from his judicial district in 1867.

TousleyHiram S. Tousley has the distinction of serving twice as our Circuit Court Judge. His initial term was 1867 through 1872 and later from 1876 to 1882 when the judicial circuits were reorganized. Tousley was born in New York in 1821, later became a resident of Albion, and was probably as well known as any one living in Albion. He attended I.U. and had been identified with the interest of our county. He served as Clerk prior to his appointment in 1867. He had a “remarkable, retentive memory and as a scholar of history has few equals.” He became paralyzed in 1880 and served until 1882.

BestJames I. Best of DeKalb County served from 1872 through 1876. He “discharged the duties of the position in a manner at once credible to himself and acceptable to his people.” His business interest, however, required his attention at home and he resigned the office. He was later employed by the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railroad Company as attorney, formed the DeKalb Bank, and owned a flour mill in Waterloo. From 1881 through 1885 he was appointed as one of the commissioners to assist the judges of the Indiana Supreme Court. He moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota and practiced law with his son until his death in 1919.

Judge WoodhullJoseph A. Woodhull served in part during part of the year 1876, until the district was reformed and Hiram S. Tousley again became Judge. Born in 1828 in New York, he moved to Michigan and attended Michigan Central College at Spring Arbor. He began reading medicine in Fremont, but soon changed to law. Woodhull served as a Legislator in 1861, prior to his judicial appointment in 1876. Woodhull died in 1912.

Judge McBrideRobert W. McBride served from 1882 to 1888. Prior to that, McBride had the distinction as serving as a personal bodyguard to President Abraham Lincoln. McBride is mentioned twice in Carl Sandburg’s biography of Abraham Lincoln and himself wrote a book, published in 1911. In 1866 McBride returned to Waterloo and began studying law. After serving as our Circuit Court Judge, he moved to Elkhart and practiced there for a short period of time before becoming a Justice on the Indiana Supreme Court. He passed away in Indianapolis in 1926 at the age of 84. He is pictured both in his Civil War uniform and as a Supreme Court Justice.

Judge PowersStephen A. Powers served as Circuit Judge from 1888 through 1889. His family migrated from New York to Steuben County. Born in 1851, Powers was a scholar and his obituary noted that during his term as judge, he “tried and disposed of many of the most noted and important cases ever tried in this court.” When he retired from office, he took with him the “respect, confidence and esteem of all that knew him, and universal commendation for his honesty, fairness, and conscientious regard for the right.” He served as a state senator and when he died in 1913, it was said that “this world has been made better by and through Stephen A. Powers and his having lived in it.”

Judge AdairJoseph W. Adair served from 1889 through 1908. While he was born in Noble County in 1843, his father was born in Ireland and came to America in early childhood. Judge Adair attended Wabash College and studied law, resulting in his admission to the Whitley County Bar in 1869. It was reported that there was seldom a case of any import in which he did not appear either for plaintiff or defense. He appeared for a defendant, Dr. Gotwald of Springfield, Ohio, charged with preaching and teaching doctrines contrary to the accepted creed of his church, facing a charge of heresy. He served one year as superintendent of the Whitley County Schools, was Mayor of Columbia City, and was described as an “able, brilliant, and honest lawyer.” Judge Adair served as the first circuit court judge in the current Noble County Courthouse.

Judge WrigleyLuke H. Wrigley was born in Richmond, Indiana, in 1856. He studied law in Richmond and was admitted to the Wayne County Bar in 1879. He located in Albion in 1881 and served as Judge from 1908 to 1920. Judge Wrigley was well respected and exhibited a keen sense of humor from the bench. He was a moving force behind establishing a Carnegie Library in Albion. Wrigley died in Albion in 1946.

Arthur F. Biggs served from 1920 to 1931. Born in Kosciusko County in 1866, he was the son of Kosciusko Circuit Court Judge Hiram Biggs in Warsaw who served there from 1896 to 1904. Arthur Biggs attended Michigan University. Prior to his election, he practiced law with his father in Warsaw. He moved to Ligonier and became the attorney for Straus Bros. until elected judge. He loved baseball, served during Prohibition, facing many moonshine cases. Stories reflect that he had a sympathetic heart for the down and out. Judge Biggs died in 1931, while serving his second term

Judge FooteGeorge L. Foote was appointed in 1931 to fill the last 16 months of the unexpired term of Judge Biggs. Born in 1867, Foote had practiced in Albion and served as County Clerk. Prior to that, he was a Captain in 1916 in the Mexican Border War and also served in World War I. After filling out the judicial term, he returned to practice in Albion until his death in 1945.

Judge McNagnyRob R. McNagny, son of a Congressman, served as the last joint circuit court judge from 1932 to 1938. Born in Columbia City in 1884 he attended Wabash College and graduated from the Chicago Art Institute. He joined his father’s law firm, yet remained an accomplished artist and author. A dashing and beloved figure, McNagny died in 1974.

Judge BodenhaferIn 1939 Noble County became its own judicial circuit. Fred L. Bodenhafer was elected Judge and served until 1950. Born in 1876, Bodenhafer lived in Kendallville and was up in years when elected. He was known to be short tempered, pointed, but a keen legal scholar. He had little use for attorneys he regarded as less intelligent than he. Bodenhafer had served in the General Assembly in 1905. He died in 1952.

Judge KingKenneth A. King was elected in 1951 and served until 1962. Judge King came from the Wabash area and had moved to Noble County a few years prior to becoming judge. He bragged that he knocked on every door in the county and he won the election easily. He presided over the highly public trial involving the embezzlement of funds from the Noble County Credit Union. During his term the elevator and 4th floor were installed. He resided in Rome City and practiced in Kendallville until his retirement. He later moved to Fort Wayne and survives today.

Judge HagenJohn C. Hagen served from 1963 through 1974. Born in Morocco, Indiana in 1919, John attended Indiana University and was a life long fan of their football and basketball teams. John also coached American Legion baseball. Judge Hagen always believed that there was good in everyone and he attempted to bring out that good, if possible. He had a keen sense of humor and was universally liked and respected. Hagen later practiced in Syracuse until his death in 1995. It was written that all will miss “his sunny smile, infectious wit, kind heart and good works.”

Judge ProbstRobert C. Probst has the distinction of servicing the longest time on the bench, from 1975 through 1998. He graduated from Valpo Law School and practiced with his father. During his tenure the courtroom was reversed from the south side to the north side, two Superior Courts were added and the caseload grew. Judge Probst became one of the most beloved and respected judges in the state, having a reputation of honesty and fairness. Adjoining counties often venued cases to Judge Probst. His strong faith and devotion to his family gained him great respect in the community. Born in Kendallville, Indiana in 1934, he survives today.

Judge LaurG. David Laur was elected in 1999, having served as prosecutor from 1975 through 1998. Born in 1947 in Hudson, Michigan, and educated at Ohio State University, Judge Laur moved to Noble County in 1972. While prosecutor, he obtained the first Noble County death sentence for the murderer of Avilla Town Marshal William Miner in 1983. Laur was also instrumental in obtaining convictions for child neglect against Faith Assembly members whose children died when the members failed to seek medical attention. In 2002, he spearheaded the renovation of the Circuit Court and assembled the photos and biographies of prior judges.

Note: Prior to the creation of judicial circuits, there were judges appointed by the Governors of Indiana.

President Judges
Gustavus A. Everts 1836
Samuel C. Sample 1836
Charles W. Ewing 1836-1839
Dudley H. Chase 1839
John W. Wright 1839-1841
James E. Borden 1841-1852
Associate Judges
Elisha Blackman 1836-1843
James Latta 1836-1843
Jacob Stage 1843-1850
Thomas H. Wilson 1841-1848
Edwin Randall 1843-1850
David S. Simons 1850-1857
Probate Judges
Horatio M. Slack 1844
Henry R. Burnam 1845-1849
Harrison Wood 1849-1852
Common Pleas Judges
Stephen Wildman 1852-1856
James C. Bodley 1856-1859
Sanford J. Stoughton 1859-1860
William M. Clapp 1860-1873