Monday, February 27, 2017

Abel Armitage's Court Case(s) Announced in Newspapers

Abel Armitage and his second wife, Ann (Bell) Armitage, appear in several editions of Steubenville and other Ohio newspapers from 1879 until 1881.  Most are the briefest of notices.  With the lapse in announcement dates it's hard to know if these tidbits indicate one court case or several. 

On February 14, 1879, the announcement below was published in Steubenville, Ohio, where Abel and his wife lived.  The article states that Abel fell on South street.

Steubenville Weekly Herald, February 14, 1879

Suit against the city. --- Abel Armitage has sued the city, through his attorney, W. A. Owesney, for $2,500 damages, resulting from a fall in the night time in the trench dug for water pipes on South street.

On March 5, 1880, more than a year after the announcement above, this notice was published in a section of the newspaper listing court dates.  Did Abel wait more than a year for his court date to arrive?
Steubenville Weekly Herald, March 5, 1880
   Abel Armitage vs. the city of Steubenville March 11.

The next newspaper article of January 15, 1881, appeared 10 months after the previous one.  This article states that a suit was filed in court on the morning of January 15, 1881.  Further, the article indicates that the suit was filed by both Abel Armitage and his wife, Ann, and that Ann was the one who fell on November 25, 1880.  The location named is Fifth street.

Steubenville Daily Gazette, Saturday, January 15, 1881
   ---W. A. Owesney, Esq., this morning commenced a suit in the Court of Common Pleas for Abel Armitage and Ann, his wife, against the City of Steubenville, to recover damages in the sum of $5,100 which they claim to have sustained by reason of Mrs. Armitage falling on the street and fracturing her left leg above the knee.  They aver that the city negligently permitted a post about ten inches high to stand in the gutter on the West side of Fifth street, and that on the 25th of November last she was passing along the street, slipped on an uneven place and fell on this post resulting in the injury complained of.

The news of this suit was of interest to more than the people of Steubenville, Ohio, because it appeared in a Cincinnati newspaper on January 16, 1881, the day after the above article was published in Steubenville.

Cincinnati Gazette, abt. January 16, 1881
A City Sued for Damages.
Special Dispatch to the Cincinnati Gazette.     Steubenville, O., Jan. 16.--- Yesterday Mrs. Abel Armitage entered suit in the Court of Common Pleas against this city for $5,100 damages, for injuries sustained by falling over a stake set in the gutter.
A similar article to the two above was published in a second Steubenville newspaper on January 21, 1881.

The Ohio Press (Steubenville), January 21, 1881

   —Suit entered against city by Abel and Ann Armitage to recover $5,100 damages by reason of injuries sustained by the latter in November last, by falling over a stake set in the gutter on Fifth street.

The article below was published on April 8, 1881, in a column under court information.  It seems to be a correction of previously published information. 

Steubenville Weekly Herald, April 8, 1881
   The city of Steubenville vs. Abel Armitage.  In error:  Battin for plaintiff; Owesney and Daton contra.

Below is the last article I found pertaining to Abel's claim and court case.  The date is April 29, 1881, just 3 weeks after the previous article.  Can this mean that he went to court on April 8 and the case was settled in three weeks?

Steubenville Weekly Herald, April 29, 1881
   The claim of Abel Armitage for $207.84, judgment and costs obtained against the city in a damage suite, being recommended for payment by the former Solicitor, was referred to Claims Committee.
Notes and Comments
After careful consideration of these articles I believe that two different court cases were filed:  one in February, 1879, and another in January, 1881.  The attorney was W. A. Owesney in both cases.

The 1879 suit (in the first two notices)
> was filed by Abel Armitage
> for $2500.00
> because of a nighttime fall on South street

The 1881 suit (in the third through last notices)
> was filed by both Abel and Ann Armitage
> for $5100.00
> because Ann fell and broke a leg on Fifth street on November 25, 1880
> was filed in the Court of Common Pleas
> was settled for $207.84

As I think about Abel and Ann and these court cases I have several questions.  Did both Abel and Ann have problems with balance since both suits involved falls?  How did Abel miss seeing the water trench (even at night)?  Abel was noted as disabled in the 1880 U.S. Census.  Was the disability in either his mobility or his vision?  Did he use alcohol to reduce pain?  How did he have money to pay for a lawyer (assuming he wasn't working because he was disabled)?  Was the first case settled and was Abel awarded the money he requested?  In the second case, what happened to the original $5100.00 he and Ann requested?

A few days ago I posted an annotated list of Jefferson County, Ohio, court records on FamilySearch.  I hope records for these two cases will be somewhere amongst the images on FamilySearch.  While they will probably not lead me to a death date for Abel, finding records of the cases will add details to the life of my ancestor, Abel.

If any of you more experienced family historians have thoughts about these news articles, court cases, and where to search, please share.


Copyright ©2017 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.


  1. I winced reading about Ann's injury. How awful! I hope someone comes along to answer your questions. I have several chancery causes that have left me wondering about the outcome. Are pages missing or do I not understand what I read?

    1. I haven't begun searching court records on FamilySearch yet, Wendy, but I hope there are no pages missing in those records. How would I know, though, if they just weren't there? And I don't know if they have Court of Common Pleas records or not. I'm really just beginning this search.

      I think Ann was in her mid-50s when her fall occurred. Not easy at any age but in those days of pre-modern medicine I'm sure it was awful.


I appreciate your comments and look forward to reading what you have to say. Thanks for stopping by.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...