Utah Department of Administrative Services

Division of Archives & Records Service

CEDAR COUNTY COURT

Agency History #2651

CREATION

The Cedar County Court was established with the creation of the county by the territorial legislature in January 1856 ("An Act in Relation to Counties," Laws of Utah, 5th Annual Session, 1855-1856, sec. 8, p. 7 ). The Court was authorized to manage all county business and county property. The County Court was abolished with the dissolution of the county in 1862.

FUNCTIONS

By the laws enacted by the Legislature in the 1851 session, the Probate Judge in connection with the Selectmen, were invested with the usual powers and jurisdiction of County Commissioners. The Court was to manage all county business and county property, "and generally do, and perform, all such duties, as shall be required by the nature of their office, and as shall be required by law." (Laws of Utah 1852 p. 46-47). Over the years, these duties were defined in more detail by the territorial legislature and additional duties were added. The county court controlled the finances of the county, assessing taxes and settling and allowing claims for goods and services; administered elections; oversaw the welfare of the county' s inhabitants, including the poor, insane, and orphans; created school and road districts and oversaw the layout of roads; supervised county and district officers and paid their salaries; licensed liquor vendors; managed public property; regulated programs for the benefit of livestock; and controlled water and timber privileges in the county.

The Court was to audit and settle all claims against the county, and to audit and settle accounts of any collector of county revenue, taxes, or income payable into the county treasury. The members had the authority to assess a tax for county purposes and a road tax which were to be collected under the direction of the Court. The Court controlled all timber and water privileges and could grant mill sites. In 1859, the Court was to implement federal public land allotments . Beginning in 1860, liquor vendors were to obtain licenses from the County Court rather than from the legislature, which they had been doing in Cedar County for several years.

The County Court set polling places, appointed election judges, and oversaw the conduct of elections. They set the number of justices of the peace and constables and approved their bonds. They also approved the bonds and took the oaths for most elected county officials such as surveyor, treasurer, or sheriff. Many of these officials also were required to provide regular fiscal reports to the Court and the county recorder was obligated to get a County Selectman to sign a survey certificate before transferring land. In the case of a vacancy within an elected position, the Court could appoint an interim official. The Court also appointed numerous other officials who were more directly overseen by the Court.

The County Court oversaw the layout of roads. The Court was to district the county into road districts, precincts, school districts, and other subdivisions as needed. Until 1857, the Court also was directed to divide the county into districts and erect fortifications. The Court could locate sites for and erect public buildings. The Selectmen, in conjunction with the Court, were to take care of the poor and insane and to bind out orphans and vicious, idle, or vagrant children or Indian prisoners.

The Court could regulate bounties on wolf and fox pates. It was in charge of fisheries to prevent the needless destruction of fish. The County Court was authorized to establish estray pounds under each road commissioner. Starting in 1857 the Court could create quarantine grounds. In 1862, the legislature gave the County Court some say over the location of herdgrounds, a privilege the Cedar County Court already had been exercising for several years.

Cedar County was dissolved by failure to include the law creating the county in a list of revised laws ("An Act in relation to the Compilation and Revision of the Laws and Resolutions in force in Utah Territory, and embodying certain Amendments," Laws of Utah, 11th Annual Session, 1861-1862, p. 14-32 ) and by dividing the territory once included in Cedar County between Tooele and Utah Counties ("An Act Defining the Boundaries of Counties, and for other Purposes," ibid., p. 46-51. ).

ADMINISTRATION

Court administration followed the pattern legislated in 1852 for the formation and government of counties. The Court consisted of three Selectmen presided over by the Probate Court Judge. The Probate Judge in conjunction with any two of the Selectmen constituted a quorum. The Selectmen could also hold session in the absence of the Probate Judge. The Clerk of the Probate Court, also known as the County Clerk, was to attend all sessions of the Court and to keep the records of the Court.

The Probate Court Judge was elected by the joint vote of the Legislative Assembly and commissioned by the Governor. The term was limited to one year. In case of a vacancy, the Governor could appoint a Probate Judge until the next Legislative Assembly elected one. The first three Selectmen were chosen by the Probate Judge until a county election could be held, after which Selectmen were elected for staggered three year terms. After that, vacancies were to be filled by the County Court if a majority remained, otherwise a special election was required. Between meetings of the Court, the Selectmen could transact business separately throughout the county relating to the poor, insane, orphans, minors, or other important business requiring immediate attention. They were required to report that business at the next session and have it approved by the Court before it became a matter of record. Selectmen and the Probate Judge were all required to take oaths and file bonds.

The Clerk of the Probate Court was appointed by the Probate Judge.

ORGANIZATIONAL HISTORY

Most elected officials were required to file oaths and bonds with the County Court, and many elected officials, such as the treasurer, were required to make regular reports to the Court. In addition, the County Court directly appointed and supervised many officials. These included the collector/assessor; road commissioners for road districts created in the county; election judges; a poll tax supervisor; a board of examiners for school teachers (1859-1862); grand and petit jurors; and a three-member fortification committee.

The Court regularly appointed the first officer for a number of positions until the time of a regularly scheduled election. They also appointed officers to fill vacancies until a special election or the next regularly scheduled election was held.

PROBATE JUDGES (dates approximate)

Allen Weeks, 1857-1859
Zerubbabel Snow, 1859-1862

SELECTMEN (dates approximate)

Henry F. Cook, 1856-1862
Daniel C. Thomas, 1856-1858
John Carson, 1856-1862
Joel Terry, 1858-1859
Phineas W. Cook, 1859-1862

COMPILED BY: A.C. Cone, February 1996

SOURCES

Cedar County Court. Minutes (Series 17489)

Legislative Assembly. Journals (Series 3145)

Legislature. Laws of Utah (Series 83155)

Secretary of State. Election Papers (Series 364)