Judge Sorenson’s Court

Part 3 of 14: Memories of Long Ago

by Hiram Ellsworth Pearsall

Gus Sorenson, who lived on his homestead about one-half mile west of Park Place, was, at the general election of 1884, elected Justice of the Peace for the Park Place district. I believe this trial was the only case tried in Judge Sorenson’s court.

George Udell lived with his family on the hill overlooking Woods Creek valley. Udell was a small man weighing probably 135 or 140 pounds, and pretty well along in years.

On the contrary, John Fleming, who lived on his homestead near the present town of Monroe now owned by the Schuler dairy [now Blueberry Lane], was a big man, well over six feet tall and weighing 220 or 230 pounds. Those who knew Fleming said he was as strong as a bull.

Udell on this particular day, hitched his pony to a little spring wagon. That little rig was much like the old-time buckboard. He hitched to that little rig, and started on his way for Snohomish City. After leaving the Woods Creek valley, the county road was crooked and narrow with brush growing close to the roadside.

We supposed after this case was tried in Judge Sorenson’s court there must have been bad blood between Udell and Fleming.

At any rate, old John was hiding in the brush along the narrow road near Park Place and as Udell drove along, Fleming jumped out of the brush, grabbed the lines in one hand, Udell by the nape of the neck with the other, jerked him over the side of the rig and tried to put his head between the spokes of the buggy wheel. Udell was scared nearly to death and was hollering for help and yelling bloody murder. The Kelsey ranch was close by so it looked as if Fleming got scared, too. At any rate, he let Udell go and started through the brush for home. This was as it looked at the trial a couple of days later.

Udell then started on his way to Snohomish City. When he got to Judge Sorenson’s place, he went in and swore out a warrant for the arrest of John Fleming. The charge was “assault with intent to kill.” The warrant was served on Fleming but he wasn’t put in jail. He was allowed to go to Snohomish to employ counsel. He engaged Sam Piles who was practicing law in Snohomish City. Snohomish was the county seat at the time.

When the case came to trial, Judge Sorenson held his court in the little school house not far from where the crime was alleged to have been committed. A number of the settlers were on hand waiting to hear the trial.

Fleming was still a free man, but was very uneasy. He said he didn’t believe they would hang him for anything like that.

Finally Sam Piles, the attorney for the defense arrived. He was on horseback. He dismounted, tied up his horse and entered the court, with a book of law under his arm, and then the Park Place court was in session.

Udell was called on to testify to the alleged crime to have been committed. Piles asked a few questions. He then took a walk up and down the aisle between the desks. He then went to the judge’s bench, took his lawbook, turned the pages and read a little. Then with his hand behind his back, walked up and down the aisle again. He returned to the judge’s bench, slapped his hand on the table, saying, “Judge, you can’t do this. It is all illegal. It is out of your jurisdiction, entirely. The papers are drawn up wrong, and therefore illegal. The only thing you can do is throw the whole thing out of court and turn the defendant loose.”

The judge now appeared to be pretty scared. The sweat was running off his face. He gathered up the papers from the desk. He looked at the attorney for a moment, then said, “Well, if this is all illegal, there is nothing to do but throw it out. I will.” He threw the papers out of the open window saying, “The case is dismissed.”

We suppose the case was settled out of court as we heard nothing more about it.

–transcribed from the 1944 Monroe Monitor by Nellie Robertson

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