The Owyhee Nugget, January 03, 1908

Library of Congress, Chronicling America


The Weiser Signal copies a dispatch from Denver, reading as follows

Dec. 21.—It took six good women and true just ten minutes in Justice Carlon's court to find for plaintiff in the now celebrated case of Victor Porel against Mrs. James W. Wallwork. Besides being the first case ever tried before a woman jury, first in all the history of the world, the action had other highly interesting features.

The case was a suit case. Victor Porel, "tailor to gentlewomen," as his sign says, made a $60 suit for Mrs. Wallwork, which she alleged, did not fit and refused to pay for. He sued for his money and when the suit was fitted in court, the women jurors pronounced it a "lovely fit."

The Signal then goes on to say: The above dispatch sent out from Denver appeared in the Oregonian last Sunday. The main importance of the item is that it was the first woman jury ever impaneled to try a case, and this is a mistake. The first female jury that ever graced a court room was impaneled in Weiser on Monday, April 18, 1898, in Judge Mitchell's court. The jury was composed of Mrs. J. H. Hanthorn, Mrs. N. M. Hanthorn, Mrs. Shaire, Mrs. N. B. Robertson, Mrs. Frank Hopkins and Miss Frances Galloway, and any of the ladies you ask about it will have a faint recollection of the matter.

The case itself was a difference between two neighbors who fell out about some fruit jars and some sewing. In the argument that followed one of the women, a Mrs Abshire, received an npper(?) cut on the point of the jaw and had her assailant, a Mrs. Smith, arrested. She was hailed into court before Judge Mitchell and called for a jury. At the suggestion of I. F. Smith, Dan Kerfoot, the sheriff, secured a jury composed entirely of women. Frank Harris, the present prosecutor, prosecuted the prisoner and. C. M. Stearns appeared in her defense. After a long and solemn deliberation the prisoner was declared not guilty by the jury who recommended that she and the complainant both be reprimanded. The case caused considerable stir at the time and many different stories were printed over the state concerning it. Whoever sent out the Denver dispatch must certainly be very young or a new comer to the west, as any western paper of date will show it and a glance through their files will refresh them.

Both the Denver dispatch and the Weiser Signal are wrong. The first case tried by a woman jury and where both the complaining witness and the defendant and all the jurors were women was tried at De Lamar, this county, November 18, 1897. Mrs. M. G. Stiles was the complaining witness and Mrs. Litetia Reagan the defendent. The editor of Nugget was then a justice of the peace in De Lamar, and the trial was brought in his court. The charge was for disturbing the peace. The two women had a quarrel about chickens in their adjoining dooryards in the lower town of De Lamar, then known as "Toughtown" which ended in the defendent being accused of throwing rocks and the complaining witness bringing out a rifle and admitting in court that she told the other woman she could "pick a hair out of her head with it." James W. Pascoe, the only one of the parties not now living, was deputy sheriff at the time, and when the trial came up and a jury trial was called for he was handed a summons, when he asked if women were eligible to serve and the J. P. said, "certainly." "Then I will get women's righters," he replied. Whereupon he summoned Mesdames Morgan Keltner, Francis Crosson, Mary Morgan, Grace Somerville, Verna Lee, and Catherine Franks, who all promptly came into court and were sworn in as jurors. The little court room was literally packed with onlookers. The judge then called upon the sheriff and admonished him to see to it that the strictest order was maintained, and it was done. No trial ever was held when stricter decorum prevailed. Six witnesses—all women, were examined, and the complaining witness made a short plea, and the case was given to the jury. There being no room to which they could retire to make up their verdict, the court room was cleared and they locked in and told to rap on the window for the sheriff when they reached a decision. Forty minutes afterward court was again called and a verdict reading, "We the jury find the defendant not guilty as charged." The judge discharged the defendant, thanked the jury and made each of them out a certificate for their pay. Some of the ladies, we believe, still retain those certificates as souvenirs of the first women's jury.

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