-->When we last left off, Samuel Browning had submitted his statement for his Trespass On The Case suit against James Beck, the man accused of fathering the child born to Samuel’s eldest daughter, 16-yr old Julia Ann. Julia Ann -- who herself was a plaintiff in a case of Bastardy against Beck -- had also submitted her statement. Counsel for both sides had been drawing up witness lists and filling out subpoenas for the witnesses they’d chosen to call for both cases. William Milligan, the sheriff of Harrison County, was given all the subpoenas to serve. He began serving them on 18 October for Julia Ann’s Bastardy suit and had finished serving them (either in writing or by reading them aloud) to all the witnesses by 27 October for Samuel’s Trespass On The Case suit.
Witnesses subpoened for Julia Ann’s suit were scheduled to attend court at 8 am on 24 October 1837, when the proceedings in the Bastardy case would begin. Witnesses subpoened for Samuel’s suit were scheduled to attend court at 8 am on 27 October 1837, when the proceedings in the Trespass On The Case trial would begin. All the witnesses (subpoened or not) had shown up at their appointed times by the morning of 27 October and were duly sworn in to give their testimony in the proceedings. Well…..all except one.
Hester Nash, one of the witnesses subpoened as a witness for the Defense in both Julia Ann’s Bastardy suit and Samuel’s Trespass suit did not show on 24 October as she’d been directed to do so by the court. On 28 October an attachment was made to the case files and the State of Ohio drafted its own case against Hester entitled, “The State Of Ohio vs. Hester Nash: Attachment for Contempt.” William Milligan sent his Deputy Sherriff, William Cady, to fetch Hester and bring her to court. He did as instructed and placed her bodily before the Court. The county held her in contempt and levied a $100 fine as well as charging her mileage, a service fee, and a charge that was called “bringing the lady up” that came to an additional $1.40.
I have to wonder……why didn’t she want to testify? Was she a friend of Julia’s?
The trials began as scheduled. I don’t have any documents pertaining to the substance of the trial testimony (I’m hoping that some of this might survive in the James Beck file (if there IS one! -- I’m busy checking that out) in the Harrison County Historical Society’s record vaults. The only records that I do have are those pertaining to the jurists chosen in each of the cases and the verdicts the respective juries handed down.
The jury convened in the matter of Julia Ann Browning vs. James Beck on 26 October 1837. James Christy, McCauslin McGonigle, Thomas Day, Emanuel Custer, John L. Layport, William Cunningham, George Foster, James Haverfield, Charles Patterson, George Day, James Matthias and David G. McGuire were chosen as the jurists. They heard testimony on the part of the Plaintiff and adjourned until the next morning. The following morning (27 October) they reconvened and heard testimony from the Defense before rendering their verdict: guilty as charged. Sentencing was to be at a later date.
The following day, on 28 October 1837, the jury convened in the matter of Samuel Browning vs. James Beck. Zadock Bliss, James D. Anderson, George Baker, Silvanus Lamb, Elzy Chaney, Peter Barger, Samuel Boland, Alexander Beall, John Layport, Robert Guinea, Ephraim Johnson and William Barrett were chosen as the jurists for the case. The panel heard testimony from both defense and plaintiff and rendered their verdict the same day: guilty in “manner and form.” He was sentenced to pay a sum of $100 in damages to Samuel.
It had been a rough two days for James Beck.
Beck’s lawyer, John Goodenow, filed a motion for a new trial in the case between his client and Julia Ann. The document he filed with the court is interesting but it is difficult to read in places. I’d welcome any translation of the words that I’ve left out! Anyway, the motion suggests that there was testimony given that might not place James Beck as the only man ever to share Julia Ann’s bed. I unfortunately don’t have the trial testimony itself but this little tease sure does make me wish I did! I’m sure it was very much a “he said/she said” case, hinging upon witness testimony, credibility, and whether or not Julia could convince the men sitting in judgement of her that she wasn’t a “loose woman” but a simple girl naïve enough to believe words a man would say to have his way with her. If Beck was a bit of a rounder (the other case against him in a matter similar to this comes to mind -- the case I thought I copied but did not, alas!) then his assumption of guilt would be even harder to surmount. Without DNA it would be nearly impossible to prove Beck’s case, and he does seem to have went into it at somewhat of a disadvantage.
The motion (see right) was as follows:
OHIO on complaint of JULIA ANN BROWNING vs. JAMES BECK
Complaint of Bastardy after Verdict of Guilty The Defendant, by his counsel, moves the Court here for a new trial, for the causes following: 1. that the credibility of the complaining witness was so far impeached as to render her testimony unsafe and insufficient uncorroborated, to sustain this issue before the jury.
2. that the evidences when altogether conclusively show that if the Defendant has connection with the complainant at the times she states, still he is not the father of the child.
3. that the case made out by the testimony entire is one which clearly entitles the Defendant to an acquittal.
4. that the verdict is against the evidence given to the jury and against the law governing the case.
Jno. M. Goodinow
atty for Defendant
In any event, the Court summarily overruled the motion on 30 October 1837. They sentenced him as follows:
“…do order that the said James Beck stand charged with the maintenance thereof as follows to wit: that he pay to the clerk of this court for the time being for the use of the mother of said child or other person having the care or maintenance thereof the sum of fifty-four dollars. And also that he pay weekly into the hands of the clerk of this court for the time being for the use aforesaid the sum of seventy-five cents for the period of five years from the expiration of the term of this court, provided the said weekly payments shall cease in case of the death of the said child, and it is further considered and ordered by the court that the said James Beck pay the costs of this prosecution.”
In James Beck’s case against Samuel, things weren’t much better. Damages had been assessed in the amount of $100. Beck was advised to pursue the matter further and he gave notice of his intention to take the matter to the Ohio State Supreme Court. Samuel’s lawyers -- the famous Dewey and Stanton -- made their intention to do the same equally known (I imagine because the damages were much less than the $1000 Samuel had wanted!)
I researched the Ohio State Supreme Court cases in the ten years after the verdict. No further record of the case has been located. I imagine it was merely an empty threat.
And that resolves the cases surrounding my ancestor, Samuel Browning, and his daughter Julia Ann. What a glimpse into the legal system of the early 1800’s!
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