When we last left poor William Browning he'd went to court and stood alongside Samuel Browning (my ancestor, whom I believe to be his older brother.) Both young men agreed to a security of $200, funds that would be taken from them in the event that William attempted to leave the county and/or refused to report for trial. William didn't abscond but did his duty and reported to the court during its March term in 1821. At that time the court reporter entered the charge against him (larceny, in which he was accused of stealing 16 pounds (two bushels) of cornmeal from one James Tarbet) and ordered that he stand trial. Subpoenas for witnesses were drawn up and given to Sherriff Reazin Arnold to serve. William B. Beebe was the prosecuting attorney in the case for the State; the attorney that William hired for his defense is unknown (although as we shall see, perhaps William did not hire an attorney and instead represented himself. Let's see if you think that's what he did...)
(Oh, before I forget...Disberry Johnson. Recall him, he was a witness in the case? He was the J.P. who married William and Hannah Barr.)
I wish I had more about the trial itself. I wish I had interviews, witness testimony, or William's own testimony. I don't. Unlike my Samuel's daughter Julia's case in 1837 (which you'll find on my sidebar if you're interested), I don't have any documentation featuring the actual content of William's trial. So while I'll have to make do without all the 'juicy bits,' so to speak, I do have a document about this case and its aftermath that didn't exist in Samuel and Julia's trial. This document provides a choice piece of evidence about William and I'll just have to be satisfied with that!
The next document I have about the case is - unfortunately - its conclusion. The court clerk duly noted the proceedings in the Harrison County (OH) Common Pleas Journal (Bk. B, p. 110.) The State of Ohio's (and by proxy, James Tarbet's) lawyer, Walter B. Beebe, came to court and the jury members impanelled for the case were listed as Samuel Beatty, Robert Givin, John Cramlet, Israel R. Kirkpatrick, Henry Carver, John Jamison, Thomas Caldwell, James Patton, William Ross, Peter Thomas, James Evans, and Barak Dickerson. The only juror's name I recognized was the last, Baruch Dickerson. Baruch served as a Captain in the War of 1812. My Samuel Browning served under his command as a private in the war. The transcription of the court clerk's entry is below:
State of Ohio vs William Browning
Indictment for Larceny
This day came Walter B. Beebe Esq Prosecuting Attorney for the state of Ohio in Harrison County and the said William Browning in his own proper person who being ordained and called upon to plead to said Indictment says he is not Guilty of Larceny in manner & form as he stands Charged in Said Indictment and of this he puts himself upon the County for trial and the said Walter Beebe in behalf of the state doth so likewise whereupon a Jury of the County being Called Came, to wit, Samuel Beatty, Robert Givin, John Cramlet, Israel R. Kirkpatrick, Henry Carver, John Jamison (Sr?), Thomas Caldwell, James Patton, William Ross, Peter Thomas, James Evans, and Barak Dickerson all good and lawful men who after being duly empannelled tried Sworn and affirmed to by the aforesaid (??) Between the state of Ohio and the said William Browning the prisoner at the Bar and after hearing the evidence adduced and the arguments of Council as well on part of the State as William Browning, do say upon their respective oaths and affirmations that the said William Browning is Guilty of Larceny in Manner and form as he stands Charged in said Indictment and that they assess the value of the property so stolen at one Dollar and seventy five cents, Whereupon it is considered by the Court that the said William Browning pay a fine of Ten Dollars and Costs of Prosecution and that execution I here therefore (?), and it is further Considered and ordained by the Court that the said William Browning be imprisoned in the Jail of said County Fifteen days.
As you can see, William didn't have an attorney (or at least, one isn't listed.) The court clerk stated that William appeared in 'his own proper person' and pled Not Guilty for himself. None of the witness subpoenas I have state any lawyer's name, either, like they did in Samuel's daughter Julia's case sixteen years later. I may be reading more into the court documentation than is meant, but it seems to me he represented himself during the proceedings. Perhaps he simply didn't have the funds to obtain a lawyer. If so, I think it might indicate why he took the cornmeal to begin with. After all, in September of 1819 William was likely only about 19 years old with a wife and a child (or with one on the way.) Who knows if he was a good farmer or a lazy or inept one. Who knows if he'd had a rash of bad luck and his own harvest was slim. I'm not condoning his actions -- if indeed he did take the cornmeal -- but if he did, he chose to steal food. All I'm saying is that there's probably a reason for that.
William was also called a prisoner at the Bar. Did this mean he had already been in jail pending trial? Sure sounds like it but I don't believe that was the case. If William had been imprisoned he and Samuel would not have needed to place bail. Bouvier's Law Dictionary states the following about prisoners (as of 1856): "Prisoners in civil cases, are persons arrested on original or mesne process, and these may generally be discharged on bail."
Let's explore the legalese first. What is mesne process? Bouvier says that it is "any process issued between original and final process; that is, between the original writ and the execution," or "a writ or proceedings in an action to summon or bring the defendant into court, or compel him to appear or put in bail, and then to hear and answer the plaintiff's claim." Therefore, mesne process in William's case had begun with the document stating William and Samuel has appeared in court to provide bail and had been completed when the court had stated the accusations against William in his presence. It's unfortunate that I don't have the entire case file or else we might know for sure whether William had spent time in jail prior to his actual trial, but with the evidence I see here -- the securing of bond to prevent him from running -- I would hazard an educated guess that he was not.
Anyway, the jury found him guilty and sentenced him to pay a fine of $10 plus any court costs and to spend a total of fifteen days in jail. Then another writ was drawn up, a writ of Fieri Facias. This writ is a judgement for debt and damages and was served to the sherriff of Jefferson County, Ohio, one county west of Harrison. This small clue gives William's whereabouts in the days following the trial.
This writ is an interesting document. The writ, once served, bound the sherriff to obtain the money due the state from the goods and chattels of the convicted and present them to the judges of the said court on a day named in the writ. According to Bouvier's there were many rules the sherriff had to follow in executing this writ:
1) The sheriff could not break the outer door of a house for the purpose of executing a fieri facias, nor could he break a window. He could enter the defendant's house if it was open, and, being once lawfully entered, he could break open an inner door or chest to seize the goods even without any request to open them.
2) Although the sheriff was authorized to enter the house of the party to search for goods he was not allowed to enter that of a stranger for that purpose, without being guilty of a trespass, unless the defendant's goods were actually in the house.
3) The sheriff was allowed to break the outer door of a barn or of a store disconnected with the dwelling-house, and forming no part of the curtilage. 16 Johns. R. 287. The fi. fa.
4) The writ may be executed at any time before, and on the return day, but not on Sunday, where it is forbidden by statute.
Here is the transcription of the writ in William's trial:
(front cover of Writ of FIERI FACIAS)
Fi da et fev facias Ca Sa. To July Term 1821 STATE of Ohio vs. William Browning Indictment for Larceny
fifa Ca Sa& -------- $ .35
Add the jail fees before sentence.......
C.P. 121 Calculate Interest from March 23, 1821 W.B.Beebe Atty for State
(in different handwriting) Rec'd this writ March 29th, 1821
(upside down) May 26th 1821 Made in full, Rezin Arnold, Sherriff --
(body of the Writ of FIERI FACIAS)
State of Ohio Harrison County The State of Ohio to the Sherriff of Jefferson County in said State
Greeting -------------------- We Command you that of the Goods and Chattels Lands & tenements and body of William Browning within your County you cause to be levied the Sum of Ten Dollars being a fine, and the Sum of Sixteen Dollars & twenty two cents Costs of Prosecution together with Interest thereon the Costs of this writ and all legal accruing costs, which the State of Ohio lately in our Court of Common pleas for said of Harrison County to wit at the March Term thereof A.D. 1821 by the Consideration and Judgments of our said Court recovered against the said William Browning in a certain action of Indictment for Larceny --. Whereof the said Wlliam Browning is convict as appears of Record in our said Court and have you that Money on the body of the said William Browning before our said Court at the next Term to be holden at Cadiz in said Harrison County on the thirtieth day of July next to render unto the said State of Ohio for the fine and Costs aforesaid, and have you then there this writ. Witness the honourable Benjamin Tappan President of our said Court at Cadiz this twenty ninth day of March Anno Domini ---- 1821.
William Tingley Clerk
As you can see, the writ was received on 29 March 1821 (received by whom, I'm not sure, for it doesn't say; my assumption is that it was received by the Jefferson County sherriff.) However the writ was served and executed, there is a upside-down notation on the front cover of the writ by Rezin Arnold, the sherriff of Harrison County, that it was "Made In Full" on 26 May 1821.
What happened to William and Hannah after the trial? I really don't know. There are a few William Browning's enumerated in close counties in 1830 (one in Tuscarawas County living close by James Markee, who was Margaret (Markee) Browning's brother) and another in Coshocton County, Ohio, but I can't be certain that either of these are William and Hannah. If I had to guess which one he'd likely be I would guess the Tuscarawas County one, but that's just a guess. So in conclusion, other than the fact that William was in Jefferson County, Ohio, in March-May 1821, I don't know what became of him and Hannah.
It sure was an interesting trial, though!
25 minutes ago