Monday, August 3, 2009

Everybody Has at Least One Black Sheep Ancestor

Years of research never produced any black sheep ancestors until one day about 8 years ago I discovered the Shelby County (Illinois) Circuit Court Case Files online. I can’t say I ever wished for black sheep but when they showed up I learned that what they say about the past is true. We are doomed to repeat it.

Between 1855 and 1870 the Lamb family members that lived in northern Shelby and southern Macon County Illinois created 14 Circuit Court case files in Shelby County alone. The list of indictments included "tippling house", "gaming house", "trespass", "burglary", "debt", "riot", "resisting an officer", and "assault with intent to murder", and best of all, "fornication" in 1868.

With visions of my ancestors and their neighbors dancing in the streets drunk, gambling away the family funds, and causing great havoc in the towns and country as well as participating in other sordid acts, flashing through my head, I ordered copies of the files. Although the visions didn't go away I did feel a bit better when I received the first copies and found that Sarah Lamb and Frank Ousley were actually accused of "Living in Open State of Fornication" which simply meant they were living together but not married to each other. At least they weren’t doing that in the streets. In this one case I hadn’t repeated the past.

However, they didn’t do all of that alone. Various others related and not related to the Lambs were also named in the indictments. But that’s another story.

The following are transcriptions of two of the six documents contained in the file labeled The People vs John P Lamb & others; Grand Jury, Illinois State Regional Archives Depository, Eastern Illinois University, Charleston, IL. Box 40, Folder 141.

The People vs John P. Lamb and others

Grand Jury

State of Illinois

Shelby County

To any Citizen of said County, Greetings

Whereas oath has been made before William H. Snell Esquire a Justice of the Peace in and for said county by William Portwood that one William O D Lamb and John P Lamb did on the twenty fourth day of November A D 1863 at Moawequa in said County in and __ the said William Portwood unlawfully willfully feloniously and against the Peace of the People make an assault and did assault with a deadly weapon to wit a knife and also a stick commonly called a club to wit a hickory cane with intent him the said William Portwood feloniously willfully and of malice aforethought to kill and murder and that he has reason to believe that Elias Denton Henry Biram Henry Armstrong William Dobson John Saush Levi Carey are Material Witnesses to prove by whom the said assault with intent to kill was committed. These are therefore in the Name of the People of the State of Illinois to require you to cause the said Elias Denton Henry Biram Henry Armstrong William Dobson Levi Carey James Baker forthwith to come before the said Justice to give such information and evidence as they or either of them know concerning this.

State of Illinois Shelby County Nov 25th 1863

Justices Court

The People of the State of Illinois


William O D Lamb

John P. Lamb

Justices cost 100

Court cost 200

William H Snell J P

Warrant issued Returned Nov 25th 1863

Serviced the within by arresting the within named defendants and they are now in custody Nov 25 1863

W _ Clark const

Defendants foresant

John P Lamb upon conplesion of the charges set fourth in the complaint were bound ove to the next term of the circuit court in abont of two hundred dollars

Wm O D Lamb aquited

William H Snell J P

John P. Lamb appeared on the 4th day of February 1864 and paid two hundred dollars recognizance and promised to appear at the next term of the circuit court to answer the indictment for assault. There are no papers in the file that say whether or not he appeared and what the result was.

John P. Lamb was the oldest son of William O. D. Lamb. William O. D. Lamb died at the age of 52, the father of 19 children with two wives. My July 29, 2009 posting Wordless Wednesday includes a scan of the tintype of W.O.D. Lamb. He holds in his hand…a cane. Maybe a hickory cane?

(also see This is Lydia and She Is Dead July 29, 2009. Lydia is W.O.D. Lamb’s mother).

©Sue Tolbert 2009

1 comment:

dustbunny8 said...

Good story and great picture!How cool to have the court records to add to your family history.Funny how we love finding this black sheep stuff now but boy I bet the family was not so excited about it back then!Thanks for sharing!