By Charlene Shields
Notes from the White County Historical Society as they appear in "The Carmi Times."
Copyright ©2000 by "The Carmi Times" Permission to reprint granted to Cindy Birk Conley and the ILGenWeb by Tammy Knox, editor, "The Carmi Times."
Notes from a murder trial
One of the library staff was looking up something in an old book in the circuit clerk's office when she came upon an interesting trial.
Knowing I'm always on the lookout for material for my columns, she copied down the page numbers and suggested I read through it. This week, on two occasions, I've gone to the Courthouse and laboriously read through the proceedings, copying by hand parts of pages which wouldn't fit on the copier.
Finally, today I was ready to do a write-up on this trial. Before I started, I decided to consult the 1883 White County History to see if the trial was mentioned. Much to my dismay, I found the entire proceedings had been copied verbatim from the court record, and all my hours of work were in vain!
However, it was the first murder case in White County, and I found it quite interesting (and the legalese overdone), so I decided to proceed with bits about White County's first bout with real criminality. This is found in Circuit Court Book A, starting on page 288:
"A Record of the Trial and Conviction of Frederick Cotner for the murder of William McKee.
"Be it remembered that at a special term of the White County Circuit Court, held in Carmi on Monday, the thirtieth day of August, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and twenty-four, in pursuance of an act of the General Assembly of the State of Illinois, entitled, 'An act regulating and defining the duties of the justices of the Supreme Court,' approved March the twenty-first, in the year of our Lord 1819, before the Honorable William Wilson, one of the justices of the Supreme Court of the State of Illinois, and Presiding Judge of the Second Judicial Circuit; Ezra Bastick, Foreman; John M. Stokes, John Chism, Robert David, William Hurst, Christopher Nations, Joel Herrold, Thomas R. Ezell, Thomas Brocket, Richard Harris, William Willis, Isaac Mason, Eli Stewart, John Hesty, James Jagers, Josiah McKnight, William Rearden, John Barbre and Richard Tower, good and lawful men of the country aforesaid, then and there impaneled, sworn and charged to inquire for the body of the county of White, retired to consult of presentments, etc.
'The grand jurors...upon their oaths present that Frederick Cotner, late of the township of Prairie, in the said county of White, laborer, and Hugh Shipley, later of the same, laborer, not having the fear of God before their eyes, but being moved and seduced by the instigation of the devil, on the fifth day of August, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and twenty-four, with force and arms at the township aforesaid, in the county aforesaid, and upon one William McKee, in the peace of God and the people of the State of Illinois, then and there being feloniously, willfully and with malice aforethought, did make an assault, and that the said Frederick Cotner, with a certain rifle gun of the value for $10, then and there loaded and charged with gunpowder and one leaden bullet, which rifle gun, he, the said Frederick Cotner, in his hands then and there had and held to against and upon the said William McKee, then and there feloniously, willfully and of his malice aforethought, did shoot and discharge, and that the said Frederick Cotner, with the leaden bullet aforesaid, out of the rifle gun aforesaid, then and there by force of the gunpowder, shot and sent forth as aforesaid, the aforesaid William McKee, in and upon the right side of the forehead of him, the aforesaid William McKee, a little above the right eye of him, the said William McKee, then and there feloniously, willfully and of his malice aforethought, did strike, penetrate and wound, giving to the said William McKee then and there with the leaden bullet aforesaid, as aforesaid, shot, discharged and sent forth out of the rifle gun aforesaid, by the said Frederick Cotner, in and upon the said right side of the forehead of him, the said William McKee, one mortal wound of the depth of four inches, and the breadth of one inch, of which mortal wound he, the said William McKee, from the said fifth day of August, in the year aforesaid, until the seventh day of the same month of August, in the same year at the township aforesaid, in the county aforesaid, did languish and languishing did live, on which said seventh day of August in the year aforesaid, the said William McKee, at the township aforesaid, of the county aforesaid, of the mortal wound aforesaid, died. "
If I made my way through all the "aforesaids," I believe all the above was saying was Frederick Cotner of Prairie Township used a $10 rifle to shoot William McKee in the head on Aug. 5, 1824, and that Mr. McKee lived on a couple of days before he died.
Check this spot next week if you're interested in what happened at White County's first murder trial!
The Genealogy Library will re-open Feb. 16.
gen lib typed 2/1/00 barry's mac
The Coordinator for the White County, Illinois ILGenWeb page is Cindy Birk Conley
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