Introduction to Butterfield v. Mills

Document Transcript

Butterfield v. Mills
Nauvoo, Hancock Co., Illinois, Mayor’s Court, 17 August 1843
Hancock Co., Illinois, Circuit Court, 17 October 1843
Historical Introduction
In August 1843, commenced an against before JS, sitting as a justice of the peace in the mayor’s court of , Illinois, for borrowed money and unpaid rent plus interest, totaling $32.50. This suit is notable as being one of the few cases brought before JS by a female plaintiff. Because Butterfield was married at the time of the suit, the instigation of this suit without her husband was a technical violation of the common-law doctrine of . Mills was summoned to appear before the court on 14 August 1843, but the case was continued until 17 August. When the court reconvened, Butterfield provided a statement of the debt Mills owed to her. Mills pleaded for unidentified reasons, possibly challenging the legitimacy of the evidence Butterfield had provided or objecting to the evident violation of coverture norms. JS rejected Mills’s plea and ruled in favor of Butterfield.
appealed JS’s decision, on unspecified grounds, to the Circuit Court for the October 1843 term. Presumably the parties made some kind of settlement before the appeal could be heard because on 17 October, motioned for a dismissal, which was granted, and the court assessed costs of the proceedings to her. She had not paid the court costs over a year later. On 15 March 1845, former Hancock County sheriff requested that a fee bill be issued to allow the current sheriff, , to collect money owed for services relating to the case. Deming sold land owned by Butterfield in Kimball’s Addition to to Backenstos for $4.79. The sale covered Backenstos’s and Deming’s fees as sheriffs, but not the $6.06¼ costs assessed to Mills. It is unknown if Butterfield satisfied the balance of the costs.
Calendar of Documents
This calendar lists all known documents created by or for the court, whether extant or not. It does not include versions of documents created for other purposes, though those versions may be listed in footnotes. In certain cases, especially in cases concerning unpaid debts, the originating document (promissory note, invoice, etc.) is listed here. Note that documents in the calendar are grouped with their originating court. Where a version of a document was subsequently filed with another court, that version is listed under both courts.


  1. 1

    Statement of Account, ca. 17 Aug. 1843 [Butterfield v. Mills]; Docket Entry, 8–ca. 17 Aug. 1843 [Butterfield v. Mills]. The Nauvoo charter provided that the mayor “shall have all the powers of Justices of the Peace therein, both in civil and criminal cases.” (Act to Incorporate the City of Nauvoo, 16 Dec. 1840.)  

  2. 2

    Pleading rules under the doctrine of coverture were “diverse and nearly incomprehensible.” Under this doctrine, according to one nineteenth-century legal guidebook, “The effect of marriage is to deprive the wife, in courts of law, of all separate legal existence; her husband and herself being, in law, but one person. It is, therefore, a general rule, that she cannot, during the marriage, maintain an action without her husband, either upon contracts made by her before, or after the marriage.” It is unclear how widely such prescriptions were followed in the 1840s in Illinois. In at least one other 1843 case, JS similarly ignored the coverture prohibition on allowing married women to testify. (Hartog, Man and Wife in America, 155; Swan, Practice in Civil Actions and Proceedings at Law,1:53; Stephen, Treatise on the Principles of Pleading, 152; Introduction to Dana v. Brink.)  

    Hartog, Hendrik. Man and Wife in America: A History. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000.

    Swan, Joseph R. The Practice in Civil Actions and Proceedings at Law, in Ohio, and Precedents in Pleading, with Practical Notes; together with the Forms of Process and Clerks’ Entries. 2 vols. Columbus: Isaac N. Whiting, 1845.

    Stephen, Henry John. A Treatise on the Principles of Pleading in Civil Actions; Comprising a Summary View of the Whole Proceedings in a Suit at Law. 2nd American ed. Philadelphia: Robert H. Small, 1831.

  3. 3

    Docket Entry, 8–ca. 17 Aug. 1843 [Butterfield v. Mills].  

  4. 4

    Statement of Account, ca. 17 Aug. 1843 [Butterfield v. Mills].  

  5. 5

    Docket Entry, 8–ca. 17 Aug. 1843 [Butterfield v. Mills].  

  6. 6

    Docket Entry, 8–ca. 17 Aug. 1843 [Butterfield v. Mills]; Injunction, 7 Sept. 1843 [Butterfield v. Mills].  

  7. 7

    Docket Entry, Dismissal, 17 Oct. 1843 [Butterfield v. Mills].  

  8. 8

    Praecipe, 15 Mar. 1845 [Butterfield v. Mills].  

  9. 9

    Docket Entry, Fee Bill, 19 Mar.–ca. 8 July 1845 [Butterfield v. Mills]. She had purchased this land for $150 from Hiram Dayton in May 1843. (Black, Property Transactions in Nauvoo, 678.)  

    Black, Susan Easton, Harvey Bischoff Black, and Brandon Plewe. Property Transactions in Nauvoo, Hancock County, Illinois and Surrounding Communities (1839–1859). 7 vols. Wilmington, DE: World Vital Records, 2006.

  10. 10

    Sheriffs were entitled to 50 cents for serving a summons and 12½ cents for returning process on a writ. Other associated costs would be the notification of the auction to be held to satisfy court costs, which was advertised in a local newspaper. A legal notice that ran for four weeks in the Nauvoo Neighbor cost $4.25. (An Act Regulating the Salaries, Fees, and Compensation of the Several Officers and Persons Therein Mentioned [19 Feb. 1827], Public and General Statute Laws of the State of Illinois [1834–1837], p. 294; John Taylor, Affidavit, 17 May 1845, Hancock Co., IL, Circuit Court, Civil and Criminal Files, 1830–1860, Clapp v. Lyons [Hancock Co. Cir. Ct. 1845], microfilm 1,521,606, U.S. and Canada Record Collection, FHL.)  

    The Public and General Statute Laws of the State of Illinois: Containing All the Laws . . . Passed by the Ninth General Assembly, at Their First Session, Commencing December 1, 1834, and Ending February 13, 1835; and at Their Second Session, Commencing December 7, 1835, and Ending January 18, 1836; and Those Passed by the Tenth General Assembly, at Their Session Commencing December 5, 1836, and Ending March 6, 1837; and at Their Special Session, Commencing July 10, and Ending July 22, 1837. . . . Compiled by Jonathan Young Scammon. Chicago: Stephen F. Gale, 1839.

    U.S. and Canada Record Collection. FHL.