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285. William W. Thomas to William H. Herndon.

Jacksonville 1 Novr. 1866

D. Sr. —

to answer your Questions I make this statement. In 1826 — 7 the state was divided into four Judicial Circuits, the first was composed of the Counties of Greene, Morgan, Sangamon, Tazewell, Peoria Fulton, Schuyler, Adams, Pike Jo Daviess & Calhoun, and Judge Lockwood was assigned to it (Laws of 1826 — page 119. &


114. In 1828 — 9 the fifth Circuit was created, and Judge Young Elected Circuit Judge, composed of the Counties of Adams, Schuyler, Fulton, Peoria Jo Daviess and all the unorganized Counties North of the Illinois River. See Laws of 1828 — 9 38 & 51. In 1828 — 9. the Counties of Macoupin & Macon were created and attached to first Circuit, Laws of 1828 — 9 p 26 & 28.

In 1830 — 31 McLean County was created, and attached to first circuit, Laws of 1830 — 31, 57 & 46. In 1832 — 3. no new County was created, In 1834 — 5. Five circuit Judges were authorized to be, & were Elected to Hold circuit courts Laws of 1835 p 150. Stephen T Logan was Elected Judge of first circuit, composed of Counties as before, except Pike, which was attached to 5 circuit, —

In 1836 — 7 the 7 Judicial circuit was Established not touching the first. —

In the Spring of 1837 S. T Logan resigned his office of Judge, & Govr. Duncan appointed William Brown of this place to fill the vacancy. In July thereafater at a called session of the Legislature, Jesse B Thomas was Elected Judge of 1 circuit,

In 1838 — 9. Jesse B Thomas resigned, and was Elected Commissioner of the Board of public Works, and I was Elected Judge of first circuit. At the same Session, the Counties of Cass, Scott, Pike & Calhoun were attached to this court, and the 8 circuit was created, composed of Sangamon, Tazewell, McLean, Livingston, Macon, — Dane (now Christian) Logan & Menard, and S. T. Logan was Elected Judge, Shortly after his Election Logan resigned and Judge Treat was appointed by Govr Carlin, the Successor, — remained Circuit Judge until he was Elected Judge of the Supreme court.

In 1840 — & 41. the Legislature abolished the circuit courts, added five Judges to the Supreme Bench, & required the 9 Judges to perform circuit duties, —

1 circuit, Morgan, Cass, Scott, Pike, Calhoun, Green Jersey, & Macoupin, Lockwood Judge

2 circuit Breese, 3d. Scates, 4 Wilson, 5 Douglass. 6. Thos C Browne, 7 Theoppilus W Smith 8 S H Treat, 9 Thos Ford. the 8th circuit was composed of the Counties of Menard, Sangamon, Christian, Logan, Shelby, Macon, Dewitt, McLean, Champaign, Tazewell, Mason, Piatt & Livingston

In March 1839 I held the court in Sangamon, after the 2 or 3 day of the Term, Judge Ford held the first 2 or 3 days, until I reached Springfield from Vandalia,

I also held the court there in the Summer of 1839.

I held the courts for Treat in Tazewell & McLean in the Fall of 1839 or 1840 do not remember which, & he held courts for me in Macoupin, Scott & Cass, —

Mr Lincoln practiced before me in Sangamon, Tazewell, McLean, Morgan, & Pike, — though he did not regularly attend the Courts in Pike or Morgan

From the Reorganization of the courts in 1840 & 41 but few, if any changes, were made until after the adoption of the Constitution in 1848. and you can trace the history by looking at the Laws.


From the beginning of his practice, Licoln was distinguished, for fairness and candor in conducting or defending Suits, as well as for clear, Logical, Statements & deductions, — It was next to impossible for a Judge to detect an error in any grounds that he assumed in argument. Admitting his premises his conclusions were irresistable, —

Yours &c
W. W. Thomas

Library of Congress: Herndon-Weik Collection. Manuscript Division. Library of Congress. Washington, D.C. 2726 — 27; Huntington Library: LN2408, 2:68 — 70



1. The judges of the Supreme Court in 1841: Samuel D. Lockwood, Sidney Breese, Walter B. Scates, William Wilson, Stephen A. Douglas, Thomas C. Browne, Theophilus W. Smith, Samuel H. Treat, and Thomas Ford.