Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

1-1-2010

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Department

History

First Advisor

Sandra VanBurkleo

Abstract

ABSTRACT

MINOR COURTS AND COMMUNITIES AT THE FRONTIER JUSTICES OF THE PEACE IN EARLY MISSOURI

by

BONNIE A. SPECK

May 2011

Advisor: Sandra VanBurkleo

Major: American Legal and Constitutional History

Degree: History

This study focused on local and county courts operated by Missouri's justices of the peace between the Louisiana Purchase and roughly 1875. Its purpose was to investigate the role of township justices’ courts and county courts of commissioners in terms of interactions with local residents; effects of rulings and other court actions on everyday affairs; and wider impacts on Missouri society. Sources included territorial and state laws, court cases, local histories, memoirs, correspondence, and relevant books and articles from the secondary literature. The courts in question were studied as institutions, with litigation in justices’ courts and session minutes of county courts of commissioners as basic units of study. The study concluded that courts controlled by justices of the peace exerted influence far out of proportion to their official status within the state's judicial hierarchy. Specifically, the study found that actions of justices' courts and county courts of commissioners shaped local, county, and statewide economies; and that post–Civil War political, economical, and legal changes at the state level did not reach into rural life, where patterns of daily living and legal understandings reflected continuity with the past.