Volume 9, Number 10 - Winter 1988

Taney County Bench and Bar
First 150 Years
By Douglas Mahnkey

Prior to 1837 the vast area from Springfield south to the presentArkansas-Missouri border and extending for great distances east and west was designated as Greene County.

The January session of the Missouri Legislature in 1837 by law established Taney County and the first boundaries extended over a much larger area than the present County.

While this vast area was still a part of Greene County the Greene County Court established a Township designated as White River Township which included a great area from a short distance south of Springfield to the Missouri-Arkansas border. The same act set up three voting precincts, the elections to be held in private homes. The first election was to last for three days to enable voters to travel the long distances from their homes in the wilderness to the designated voting precincts. Only thirty-odd votes were cast at the first election.

The Act of January 1837 provided that the home of Jesse Jennings should be the seat of justice for the new county until a new permanent one could be established. The best we can learn at this late date is that the home of Jesse Jennings was located between the present Rockaway Beach and the mouth of Swan Creek.

The Legislative Act named a commission to select the site for the seat ofjustice. The commissioners were George M. Gibson of Barry County, John Mooney of Polk County, and Thomas Horn of Greene County.

Considerable rivalry arose between two factions as to the location of this seat of justice. One group located near the mouth of Bull Creek went so far as to erect a court house and jail of cedar logs near the present location of the Renshaw Cemetery, a little way up White River (now Lake Taneycomo) from Rockaway Beach.

The area at the mouth of Bull Creek had a trading post owned and operated by James Wyatt. (I located the grave of James Wyatt in the Renshaw Cemetery, near the center, marked by an elaborate headstone.)

Those who favored the site at the mouth of Swan Creek were also busy. John W. Hancock established a post office and selected the name Forsyth in honor of his long time friend John Forsyth from the state of Georgia, who was Secretary of State under Presidents Andrew Jackson and Martin Van Buren. David Shannon had a trading post nearby, and legend has it that John W. Danforth became postmaster and acquired the David Shannon trading post.

The group at the mouth of Swan constructed a small court house and jail on Swan Creek somewhere between the mouth of the creek and Shadow Rock Bluff, the best we can now ascertain.

The commission appointed by the Legislature selected the site at the mouth of Bull Creek. According to the papers of S.C. Turnbo at least one term of court was held at this site.

he governor of Missouri appointed the first set of officers who were to hold office unit elections could be held. They were Theopolis Bass as County and Circuit Clerk; James Gideon, Sheriff; William LeBus, Deputy Sheriff; James Archer, Assessor and William Chestnut as Presiding Judge.

The persons interested in having the seat ofjustice at Forsyth were bitterly disappointed. Taney County had two seats of justice until 1840. Jesse Jennings was Representative in the State Legislature and in 1840 he introduced a bill that became law which cancelled the work of the first commission and provided that a commission elected by the voters would select the site. The election was held on the first Monday in June 1841, and the new commission was duly elected. This commission chose the site at Forsyth. John W. Danforth and his wife Priscilla deeded to Taney County fifty acres of land for a town site. This tract was surveyed and platted and became the original town of Forsyth.




The first court house was flooded and the citizens, probably byvolunteer labor, constructed a small court house and jail. The county grew rapidly, particularly along Bull, Swan and Beaver Creeks, and all along the White River bottoms. Steamboats came from Batesville to Forsyth. Mills were established and great amounts of flour were shipped down river by steamboat.

On March 3, 1855, the Legislature approved an act whereby the county court could issue bonds and obtain state money for public improvements. Taney County took advantage of this and erected a fine brick court house. In about 1863, during the Civil War, this court house was burned along with the rest of the town.

Following the war a small court house was constructed, probably at the site of the one destroyed by fire. This courthouse was burned on the night of Dec. 19, 1885. Alonzo S. Prather was Representative of Taney County at the time and obtained an appropriation of $5,000 with which to erect a new court house. This was completed in 1890. Native stone cut from the hill east of Forsyth was used to erect the building. This court house served Taney County well until the construction of Bull Shoals Dam. The question of where to build the new court house was heatedly debated. An election was held on the proposition to move the court house to Taneyville. Although receiving a majority of the votes, the proposition failed to obtain the two-thirds necessary. The county court then selected the site on the Shepherd of the Hills Estate which the town of Forsyth had annexed as a part of the town. The court house is Spanish style and was completed in the early 1950s. During 1980-81 a modern jail and additional office space were added.

Although Taney County was established as a new county in 1837, the area was still in the Greene County Judicial Circuit. Judges from Springfield came to Forsyth andheld court until 1901. The State Legislature in 1901 established a new judicial circuit and the Governor appointed attorney Thornberry of Stone County to serve as Judge until the next election. During the passing years other counties were carved from the area that was originally Taney County. At least a part of Douglas, Christian, Ozark and Stone Counties were once part of Taney County. This new circuit was comprised of Taney, Stone, Christian, Ozark and Douglas Counties. Following Judge Thornberry on the bench were Asbury Broadhead, John T. Moore, Fred Stewart, Robert L. Gideon, Tom

Moore, Joe Cram and Garner Moody. ~‘ while in office and the Governor appoint4 Crouch to fill the vacancy.

A great deal of information heretofore ~ from The Land of Taney, by Elmo Ingen from the S.C. Turnbo papers. Some cam’ papers of my grandfather, Alonzo S. Prathi of Dec. 19, 1885, destroyed all the count3 began with Circuit Court Record Nun and searched down to the present record Number Twenty-Two, for additional inf

There is a roll of attorneys who practi Circuit Court of Taney County since lawyer who appears before the court forth is expected to sign this roll. I copied those here they are:

L.F. Beardon, Day, MO

Rufus Burns, Forsyth, MO

GA. Watson, Ozark, MO

James J. Gideon, Springfield, MO

J.M. Patterson, Springfield, MO

George C. Tandal, Charleston, MO

J.A. DeLong, Forsyth, MO

(Stepson of Captain Kinney)

George L. Taylor, Forsyth, MO

(Uncle of George L. Hunt, later sherifD

L.R. Knowles, Oregon, Holt Co., MO

T.J. Gideon, Springfield, MO

D.W. Pogue

C.B. Sharp, Forsyth, MO

R.M. McDavid, Springfield, MO

Thomas W. Kersey, Springfield, MO

A.B. Head, Ava, MO

A.M. Pursell, Taney City, MO

George E. McDowell, Dit, MO

T.E. Phillips, Forsyth, MO

James T. Neville, Springfield, MO

(Later Judge)

Francis M. Wolf, Springfield, MO

(Admitted 1870)

A.G. Knight, Trenton, MO

Franklin Ferris, St. Louis, MO

NW. Agee, Linn, MO

W.A. Tipton, Springfield, MO

Charles H. Groom, Forsyth, MO

George Pepperdine, Springfield, MO

D.F. McConkey, Forsyth, MO


Len Walker, Jr., Springfield, MO

W.A. Long, Ozark, MO

J.J. Brown, Ozark, MO

B.B. Price Forsyth, MO

W.H. Pollard, Forsyth, MO

A.S. Prather, Kirbyvile, MO

W.H. Marton, Oceola, MO

G.W. Thornberry, Galena, MO

S.G. Wood, Forsyth, MO

J.F. Joines, Galena, MO

Samuel M. Weatherman, Forsyth, MO

J.C.L. McKnight, Forsyth, MO

G.L. Holt, Protem, MO

P.B. Kennedy, St. Louis, MO

L.V. Flowers, Walnut Shade, MO

J.M. Kinyon, Forsyth, MO

J.C. West, Ozark, MO

D.E. Gorman, Springfield, MO

W.E. Bading, Forsyth, MO

Otis F. Douglas, Crane, MO

T.J. Harper, Ozark, MO

C.L. Hanson, Mt. Vernon, MO

Arthur F., Farrar, Forsyth, MO

L.B. Sawyer, Kansas City, MO

G. A. McCafferty, Ozark, MO

Charles Farrar, Ozark, MO

Wm. L. Johnson, Kissee Mills, MO

W.R. Adams, Bradleyville, MO

Fred W. Barrett, Ozark, MO

James B. Delaney, Springfield, MO

J.P. Dunningan, Taneyville, MO

W.T. Tyndall, Sparta, MO

H.C. Cartmel, Galena, MO

R.C. Ford, Forsyth, MO

John A. Patterson, Springfield, MO

Robert L. Gideon, Forsyth, MO

(Later Circuit Judge)

Corner Spreking, Branson, MO

Awbrey Hamlet Blunk,

Forsyth, MO

John W. Bragg, Ava, MO

J.R. Gideon, Forsyth, MO

(Later Magistrate and Probate Judge)

Joseph H. Ingenthron, Forsyth, MO

Henry W. Fox, Kansas City, MO

George 0. Pratt, Kansas City, MO

Allen E. Cox, Dickens, MO

E.B. Garner, West Plains, MO

? Walker, St. Louis, MO

J. William Cook, Jr., Branson, MO

J. William Cook, Sr., Crane, MO

Tom R. Moore, Ozark, MO

(Later Circuit Judge)

Olin K. Wolf’, Forsyth, MO

H.R. Awbery, Branson, MO

Charles Douglas Mahnkey, Forsyth, MO

Joseph Pitts, Ava, MO

L.Z. Banta, Ava, MO

Joseph C. Cram, Ozark, MO

(Later Circuit Judge)

Jerry L. Redfern, Forsyth, MO

Peter H. Rea, Branson, MO

Richard Massey, Forsyth, MO

Marvin Motley, Branson, MO

W. Joseph Adams, Branson, MO

Joe Chowning, Branson, MO

(Present Division Two Circuit judge)

J.T. Magness, Forsyth, MO

George B. Wilson, Bradleyville, MO

Burton Oldeftord, lola, KS

E.G. Hancock, St. Louis, MO

Henry Youngblood, Omaha, AR

Gail Fredrick, Forsyth, MO

Gary W. Ailman, Branson, MO

James Clifford Crouch, Forsyth, MO

(Present Circuit Judge)

James K. Justice, Branson, MO

Donald W. Ingrum, Branson, MO

David L. Smith, Branson, MO

Joseph A. Morrisey, Branson, MO

Carl B. Cantwell, Springfield,MO

Michael E. Merrell, Forsyth, MO

William McCullah, Crane, MO

Donald R. Duncan, Springfield,MO

Jed Meadows, Branson, MO

James Patrick Sullivan, Branson, MO

Cecil Ford, Branson, MO

Robert S. Wiley, Crane, MO

Michelle L. Wilson

G. W. Rogers, Gainesville, MO

Clyde Rogers, Gainesville, MO Charles Moon, Springfield, MO William Moon, Springfield, MO Parker Moon, Springfield, MO ? Stonebraker, St. Louis, MO Paul Barrett, Springfield, MO

(Served as Commissioner on Supreme Court of Missouri)

Roscoe Patterson, Springfield, MO (Served as U.S. Senator from Missouri)

William L. Vandevanter, Ozark and Springfield, MO

(Served as Judge, Missouri Court of Appeals)

Quentin Haden, Ava, MO

Frank B. Williams, Springfield, MO

Garner Moody, Mansfield, MO

(Served as Circuit Judge and died while in office)

Rex McPherson, Joplin, MO

John T. Moore, Ozark, MO

(Served as Circuit Judge)

Clay Cantwell, Branson, MO

This list may not be complete as all attorneys did not sign the roll. Some of the above did not sign but I recall that they practiced in the Taney County Circuit Court and so added their names.

Before the State required would-be attorneys to pass a state examination, admission was obtained by examination by a cornmittee of attorneys appointed by the Circuit Judge, the old joke being that a quart of whiskey and a box of cigars did not harm the applicant’s chances of admission.


This volume: Next Article | Table of Contents | Other Issues

Other Volumes | Keyword Search | White River Valley Quarterly Home | Local History Home

Copyright © White River Valley Historical Quarterly

 Springfield-Greene County Library