The History of the Kalamazoo County Courts

The County Courts in the Territory of Michigan were established on October 25, 1815.1 The first court held in Kalamazoo County occurred in 1831.2 It was held in the house of Abram I. Shaver on the “third Tuesday of October, A.D. 1831.”3 The city of Kalamazoo was originally named Bronson, after one of its founders. 3

The first court held in the county seat occurred on October 16th, 1832. 3 Present were “Bazel Harrison, chief justice, and Stephens Hoyt, associate.” 3 The very first case heard at that location was the United States vs. Hannah Carpenter. 3 Hannah failed to appear and “her recognizance was adjudged forfeited, and she was fined twenty-five dollars and costs … .” 3

The first circuit court proceeding in Kalamazoo County was said to have occurred in a blacksmith-shop on the corner of “Portage and South or Cherry Street.” 4 The actual courthouse was not completed until 1837, and so court was held wherever it was convenient. 4 “Probably the most interesting cause ever tried at Kalamazoo was the celebrated Vanderpool murder case.” 4 George Vanderpool was tried and convicted of killing Herbert Field in the spring of 1870. 4 A new trial was order and the case was transferred to Kalamazoo to avoid the “pressure of public opinion in Manistee County.”4 The trial took twenty-seven days and ultimately the jury was hung. 5 Upon a third trial, he was acquitted.5

Another noteworthy case was the Newcomer trial.5 The case was a false imprisonment suit against the “medical superintendent of the Michigan Asylum for the Insane at Kalamazoo.” One unusual aspect to the case was that there were about eighty witnesses sworn.5

1 History of Kalamazoo County, Michigan. By Durant, Samuel W. comp.,Page 103, as published on http://quod.lib.umich.edu/m/micounty/bad0947.0001.001/119?view=image&size=125
2 History of Kalamazoo County, Michigan. By Durant, Samuel W. comp.,Page 104, as published on http://quod.lib.umich.edu/m/micounty/bad0947.0001.001/119?view=image&size=125
3 History of Kalamazoo County, Michigan. By Durant, Samuel W. comp.,Page 105, quoting the court record, as published on http://quod.lib.umich.edu/m/micounty/bad0947.0001.001/119?view=image&size=125
4 History of Kalamazoo County, Michigan. By Durant, Samuel W. comp.,Page 106, quoting George Torry's History of Kalamazoo, as published on http://quod.lib.umich.edu/m/micounty/bad0947.0001.001/119?view=image&size=125
5 History of Kalamazoo County, Michigan. By Durant, Samuel W. comp.,Page 107, as published on http://quod.lib.umich.edu/m/micounty/bad0947.0001.001/119?view=image&size=125