THE FIRST step in the organization of the territory acquired from the Creek Nation was the creation of counties from the area lying between the Flint and the Chattahoochee rivers, and west of the Chattahoochee, and the following is quoted from the Act of the General Assembly of Georgia:
“That all that part of said territory lying between said rivers, and known as the Third Section, shall form one county to be called `Troup’ … .
“That on the first Monday in May next (1827), the persons who may be in said counties may meet together and under the superintendence of three freeholders (realty owners), elect the following officers: five justices of the Inferior Court, Clerk of Superior and Inferior Court, Sheriff, Tax Collector, Tax Receiver, Coroner, and County Surveyor … .
“That the place of election in the county of Troup shall be at the house of Joseph Weaver.” (Excerpts from the Act of December 11, 1826.)
The results of this election as far as could be learned from the records are as follows:
Justices of Inferior Court: Arthur Herring, Levi H. Hussey, Charles L. Kennon, Whitfield H. Sledge and James Taylor. Clerk of Superior Court: Charles S. H. Goss. Clerk of Inferior Court: John S. Adams. Sheriff: Willis Whatley. County Surveyor: Samuel Reid. The officers were for the whole original county eastward to the Flint River before any changes in the bounds were made. No record could be found of the election of Tax Collector, Tax Receiver, nor Coroner. The five new counties, including Troup, were so large that the General Assembly on December 24, 1827, divided them and made new counties, adding the three land districts of Carroll County west of the Chattahoochee (14th, 15th, and 16th) to Troup, forming Meriwether of the east, and contributing a small part of the southern districts of Troup to Harris and Talbot. This necessitated a reorganization of Troup County, because some of the elected officers were no longer citizens of the smaller Troup County.
The reorganization of the county with its new bounds was effected by the General Assembly on December 24, 1827. It was enacted that an election for the county officers be held on the first Monday of February, 1828, at the house of Nicholas Johnson. The plans of organization were enacted in more detail than in the Act of December 11, 1826. The Justices of the Inferior Court, who functioned as court of the ordinary, and as county commissioners, as well as in their judicial duties, were authorized to purchase a land lot for a county town and to reserve two plats of one acre each for academies and four lots of one acre each for religious purposes, and it was enacted that the Inferior Court execute titles to each of the religious denominations for one of the lots thus reserved. They were also instructed to proceed to select Grand and Petit juries agreeable to the law in force.
The Justices were instructed that as soon as practicable to lay off the county into captains districts, or militia districts, and to advertise, giving fifteen days notice, and one or more of them attend, the election of two Justices of the Peace in each district. The Justices of the Peace so elected shall advertise the election of the militia subaltern officers, and the captains so elected shall as soon as practicable make a roster of persons liable to militia duty, and return the same to the Inferior Court.
The selection of a location for the county town, or county seat, was the most difficult task allotted to the Inferior Court, due to the keen rivalry between two communities of the new county, one faction espousing the cause of the unborn city of Vernon on the banks of the Chattahoochee, which had been laid off as a city in anticipation of the favorable action of the court, and in which many lots were sold; the other faction a more eastern situation further removed from Indian molestation, about half way between the present LaGrange and Mountville. The final selection was a compromise and the county town was located about half way between the two factional sites, and thus expired the city of Vernon, whose name is kept alive by the two militia districts of East and West Vernon; so the county town was located in land lot 109 of the Sixth district and was named LaGrange, and had as original bounds the following: north line, Bacon Street, north of Hillview cemetery; east line, 200 feet east of Morgan Street; south line, the south side of Broome Street; west line, the eastern bounds of McLendon property, about one hundred yards west of Gordon Street. The further transactions of the Inferior Court in reference to LaGrange will be treated under the chapter of towns and cities.
The functions of the Inferior Court as ordinary were replaced in 1852 by the election of an Ordinary. The judicial functions were delegated to the various justices of the peace in 1872. Their remaining function as county commissioners was abolished in 1876, on the 28th of February, when the Board of County Commissioners was created, and their election by the grand jury enacted. The roster of the judges of the Inferior Court will be found in the chapter on Courts.
Justices of the Peace
The original design of these officers was to provide a tribunal, which had the powers of a grand jury in determining the culpability of an alleged criminal, and of ordering the arrest, or discharge any person arrested on warrants sworn out by citizens after hearing the evidence; thus, they had the power of preventing the unjust incarceration of innocent persons to await a regular session of court. Their powers and functions have been changed from time to time, but they have always had jurisdiction over disputes about petty accounts of small sums, garnishments, and peace warrants. The decisions of the justice of the peace court, whether made by the justice or by the jury of five, were subject to appeal to a higher court, the loser to pay all costs of such appeal. The income of the office is dependent on fees, and the patronage is largely governed by the confidence of the public in the integrity of the officer. During the reconstruction period of our history after the Civil War, the income became practically nothing, in consequence of the powers conferred on notaries public, who were ex-officio justices of the peace. Further discussion of these justices will be made in the chapter on the Courts of Troup County. It has been found that it is impossible to give a complete roster of these officers, because the lack of records forbids.
A notary public is an officer commissioned by our Superior Courts, who attests the authenticity of documents and signatures. During the reconstruction period following the Civil War, the General Assembly of Georgia conferred on grand juries the power of election of certain notaries public as ex-officio justices of the peace, since the justices were elected by the people, and since so many citizens were disenfranchised by the Federal government, it was feared that incapable and unscrupulous officers would be elected by the newly enfranchised negro voters; so this provision was made for a judiciary to settle minor disputes without recourse to the harsher rulings of military court.
City and County Courts
There were numerous experiments in the courts of the county with changes in jurisdiction and procedure from county court to city court. The abolishment of all courts except that of the justices of the peace. Then again the establishment of the present City Court of Troup County. These will be treated in the chapter on Courts of Troup County.