Sunday, May 21, 2017

Searching for Abel Armitage in City Council Proceedings

Did Abel Armitage win his suit against the City of Steubenville or not?  He filed a case against the city because one night he fell into a trench that had been dug for water pipes.  The suit went to the Court of Common Pleas in Steubenville, Jefferson County, Ohio.  Joyce Jonard Humphrey, another Armitage descendant, found several entries in the Court of Common Pleas journals but they left uncertainty in my mind as to the outcome of the results in court.

When I discovered that FamilySearch has published Council Proceedings of the City of Steubenville, I wondered if Abel's case might be mentioned in those records.  I decided to search these unindexed records one page at a time, beginning with the journal that covers the dates January, 1876 through March, 1882.  In them I finally found Abel and discovered the outcome of his hearing.

From the entry for March 16, 1880, journal page 314

     The solicitor presented a communication in regard to
the case of Able [sic] Armitage asgainst [sic] the city
asking for instructions as to taking the case to
the district court and recommending that the bill
of W. F. Campbell for reporting and transcribing
the testimony in the case be paid.  Mr. Garrett
moved the report be received and the recomend-
ations [sic] be adopted.  Carried.
     A petition from four witnesses in the Armit-
age case asking council to pay their fees was
read.  Mr. Garrett moved the amount be placed
on the appropriation ordinance.  Carried.

Notes and Comments
  • Where might W. F. Campbell's transcriptions be found?  They do not appear in images of the City Council proceedings.  Might they have been kept elsewhere and, if so, where might that be?  I'm sure they would be enlightening to read.
  • Wm. F. Campbell was listed in the next appropriation ordinance with the amount of $15.00.
  • Who were the four witnesses who petitioned the Council pay their fees?  In the next appropriation ordnance there are three individuals who were paid $ .75 each but it does not tell what the payment was for.  They are J. S. Smith, Lewis A. Veite, and James McKay.  What fees did the witnesses want paid?

From the entry for April 26, 1881, journal page 399

     The case of Able [sic] Armitage against
the City for $207.84 was on motion referred to
the committee on Claims.

From the journal entry for May 10, 1881, journal page 403 and 404

     An ordinance making appropriation passed
a first ready [reading] as follows  Be it ordained
by the counsel of the City of Steubenville That
there be and hereby is appropriate [sic] out of the monies
in the Treasury not otherwise approrpiate [sic] the
following Sums of money to the following [?]
herein after named namely . . .
               Abel Armitage        207.84
     [Not on image above.] It was moved and seconded that the ruls [sic] be
Suspended and the ordinance placed on its
final passage.  Ayes.... 12  nays none.
The rules being declared Suspend[ed] the ordinance
was placed on its final passage and adopted
as follows  Ayes .... 12  Nays none. 

Notes and Comments 
  • In the newspaper's first note about Abel's court case it reported that he requested $2,500.00 for damages.  If that's accurate, receiving less than 10% of that amount must have been disappointing.  The Inflation Calculator tells me the $207.84 that he received in 1881 would have equaled $5,243.72 in 2016.  Not a tiny sum, and yet $2,500.00 would have been equal to $63,073.93 in 2016.
  • From the time Abel filed the case in February, 1879, until its resolution in May, 1881, more than two years had passed.  Even with the settlement by the City Council on record there's no telling exactly when he received his money.
  • It's interesting to note that in the 1880 U.S. Census Abel was recorded as disabled. 
  • These records have not yet helped me learn Abel's death date but at least now I know he was still alive in May, 1881.

I will continue reading these records:  it seems that Abel's wife, Ann, may have also filed against the city, also for a fall, in November, 1881 with the case continuing until 1883.


Copyright ©2017 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.


  1. It is laborious going through non-indexed images, so good for you sticking with it and finding the cases you were after.

    1. Thanks, Wendy. It helps that I didn't have to read every word and that I had target dates. Even so, I thought the council records were really interesting.


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