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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • History
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Related Collections
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Yolo County, Justice Court, Putah Township, Records Collection,
    Date (inclusive): 1852-1922
    Collection number: D-194
    Creator: California. Justice Court (Yolo County : Putah Township)
    Collector: Plant, Forrest A., 1889-1933
    Extent: 3.10 linear feet in 3 archives boxes and 1 wrapped volume.
    Repository: University of California, Davis. General Library. Dept. of Special Collections.
    100 North West Quad
    Davis, California, 95616-5292
    Abstract: The Yolo County, Justice Court, Putah Township, Records Collection spans the years 1852 to 1922. The bulk of the collection is made up of court records dating from 1870 to 1874 and from 1893 to 1897. Records from the 1870s are contained in a Justice Court docket book. Later records are Justice Court documents, mostly criminal complaints and warrants of arrest. Rich in information about Davisville (later Davis), California, this collection provides a look at the types of crimes committed and the judicial system operating in Yolo County, California during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
    Physical location: Researchers should contact Special Collections to request collections, as many are stored offsite.
    Language: English.

    Administrative Information


    Collection is open for research under regular Reading Room rules and copyright restrictions.

    Publication Rights

    Copyright is protected by the copyright law, chapter 17 of the U.S. Code. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Head of Special Collections. Permission for publication is given on behalf of Special Collections, General Library, University of California, Davis as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the researcher.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Yolo County, Justice Court, Putah Township, Records Collection, D-194, Department of Special Collections, University of California Library, Davis, California.

    Acquisition Information

    In 1975, the family of Forrest A. Plant, Sr. (1889-1933) donated his collection of Yolo County, Justice Court, Putah Township records to the Library.

    Processing Information

    Melissa D. Tyler processed this collection and created its finding aid.


    Administrative History

    Yolo County's judicial history began in 1850 when the new California Legislature acted to create the State's first twenty-seven counties. In June 1850 a court of sessions, composed of the Yolo County Judge and two justices of the peace, convened at the original county seat of Fremont. This court divided Yolo County into townships. Each township was to have one elected justice of the peace presiding over a justice's court, and at least one constable was to be appointed by the County Sheriff for duty with each of the justice's courts. Boundaries of Yolo County's judicial townships were established in 1850, but they were reorganized on several occasions.
    Davisville (later Davis), California fell under the jurisdiction of the Yolo County, Justice Court, Putah Township. As the Davisville area became more populous, the North and South Putah Townships came into being. Davisville was the first railroad station in Yolo County. This new transportation center had a thriving economy, but with prosperity came an accompanying crime wave. Numerous saloons were the scenes of fighting and raucous behavior. Crime in Putah Township ranged from vagrancy and public drunkeness to theft and robbery to assault and murder. Murder was rare while the crimes of vagrancy and stealing livestock were common.
    Justices of the peace were public officers invested with judicial powers for the purpose of preventing breaches of the peace, and bringing to punishment those who violated the law. Justices had the power to arrest wrongdoers or command others to do so. Once a person who had witnessed a crime made a criminal complaint against a defendant, proceedings before a justice of the peace were commenced by the justice's issuance of a summons served by a constable commanding the defendant to appear at court at a stated time. Also, a justice could issue a warrant of arrest directing a constable to bring the defendant forthwith to court. After a hearing in a justice's court, the defendant was discharged, held to bail to answer to the complaint, or for want of bail committed to prison until the time of the trial. On the day of trial the justice would hear the case and give judgment as appropriate, passing a sentence or awarding costs. In some cases, the plaintiff or the defendant had the right to demand a trial by jury in which case the justice directed a constable to impanel a jury. In other cases, the trial was moved to a superior court. If the defendant believed that he or she could not have an impartial trial before a particular justice, he or she could so swear in which case the papers would be transferred to the nearest other justice who would then proceed with the trial. Court officials were compensated for their labors by collecting court fees. Justices of the peace were directed to file and safely keep all papers given them in charge and to keep a record of court proceedings in a docket book.
    The Yolo County, Justice Court, Putah Township, Records Collection includes court records created by the following justices of the peace:
    Edmund L. Brown was Justice of the Peace for Putah Township at the time Davisville was founded in 1868. He remained in office until at least November 1871. Brown was born in Virginia and was one of Yolo County's earliest residents. His Davisville ranch was part of the land grant, Rancho Laguna de Santos Calle.
    Lewis Craig Drummond's (b. 1828-d. 1882) time as Putah Township's Justice of the Peace included the period from February 1872 to July 1875. Drummond was born in New Jersey and came to California via Panama in 1849. He lived in Sacramento until 1852, when he moved to Yolo County and settled in the South Putah district. Drummond owned a residence in Davisville as well as a ranch and was a successful grain farmer.
    A court record dated August 1878 shows that James T. Lillard (b. 1830-d. 1889) was also Justice of the Peace for Putah Township. Lillard was born in Kentucky and came to California across the plains, arriving in 1849. After a two year stint as a gold prospector, Lillard settled on a Davisville area farm in 1852. He built a two-story hotel in Davisville, The Lillard House.
    Gilbert Lewis Ludington (b. circa 1830-d. 1916) was a Davisville property owner. Ludington's term as Justice of the Peace for Putah Township included the years 1893 to 1898.
    William Henry Scott (b. 1861-d. 1950) served as Justice of the Peace during the years 1899 to 1942 and had his first office, in Holt's Barber Shop on Main Street in Davisville. Scott also published the Davisville Enterprise.
    Amos, V. M. A Historical Account of People, Resources and Points of Interest in Early Yolo County for Teacher Use In Enriching Social Studies. Master of Arts Project, Sacramento State College, 1950.
    Illustrated Atlas and History of Yolo County, California. San Francisco: DePue and Co., 1879.
    Larkey, J. L. Davisville '68: The History and Heritage of The City of Davis Yolo County, California. Davis, Calif.: The Davis Historical and Landmarks Commission, 1969.
    Larkey, J. L., and Walters, S. Yolo County Land of Changing Patterns. Northridge, Calif.: Windsor Publications, 1987.
    Martin, R. Eden. The Whitley Point Record Book. Chicago, Ill.: R. E. Martin, 1996.
    Russell, William O. History of Yolo County California: Its Resources and its People. Woodland, Calif.: 1940.

    Scope and Content of Collection

    The Yolo County, Justice Court, Putah Township, Records Collection is arranged in five series: 1. Justice Court Docket Book, 2. Justice Court Documents, 3. Letters, 4. Other Courts' Records, and 5. Printed Material. Items span the years 1852 to 1922, but the bulk of the collection is made up of court records dating from 1870 to 1874 and from 1893 to 1897. The collection has no records from the years 1879 to 1892.
    The Justice Court Docket Book contains brief chronological entries summarizing court proceedings. It was used as a docket book mainly during the years 1870 to 1874. Entries include data such as dates; names of defendants, complainants, plaintiffs, justices, witnesses, and arresting officers; complaints filed; types of crimes committed; warrants issued and served; fines and sentences given; and fees charged. The types of crimes recorded range from murder to assault and from larceny to criminal malicious mischief. Records of lawsuits over financial disagreements are also included. The Justice Court records begin with docket book entries by Justice Edmund L. Brown and continue with entries by Justices Lewis Craig Drummond and James T. Lillard. The volume ends with many blank pages, but among them is Drummond's August 1874 entry, "Estray Book of Animals." E. L. Brown used the docket book as a ledger from 1852 to 1853. Brown's financial records appear to be those of a Sacramento merchant of dry goods and groceries.
    The majority of the Justice Court Documents date from 1893 to 1898 and are signed by Gilbert Lewis Ludington, Justice of the Peace. The few documents spanning the years 1899 to 1922 are signed by W. H. Scott, Justice of the Peace. Constables signing the documents include J. W. Johnson and Joseph Henle. These court documents are mainly criminal complaints and arrest warrants but also include subpoenas, summonses, writs of attachment, affidavits, and receipts. Vagrancy was the most common offense listed in the documents. Those persons caught begging, sleeping in a barn, or sleeping in a car belonging to The Southern Pacific Railroad, were charged with vagrancy. Other offenses included disturbing the peace, using vulgar language in public, being drunk and disorderly, hunting on private land, exposing oneself indecently, and associating with dissolute persons. A small number of the documents record crimes such as robbery, battery, and larceny.
    The Justice Court Records Collection is rich in information about Davisville (later Davis), California. Davisville area properties and businesses are frequently mentioned in the records, and the names of citizens of Davisville are listed among the complainants, plaintiffs, defendants, and court officials. This collection provides a look at the types of crime committed and the judicial system operating in Yolo County during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

    Related Collections

    Other materials related to The Yolo County, Justice Court, Putah Township, Records Collection may be found in The following collections at Special Collections.
    D-344, City of Davis Ordinance/Financial Records Collection
    D-032, Davis Land Records Collection
    D-022, Pierce Family Papers
    D-113, Plant, Forrest A., Sr. Papers
    D-167, Westgate, Warren A. Collection
    MC187, Wilcoxson, Jefferson, Major. Papers

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the Library's online public access catalog.


    California. Justice Court (Yolo County : Putah Township)--Archives
    Plant, Forrest A., 1889-1933
    Ludington, Gilbert Lewis, d. 1916
    Brown, Edmund L.
    Drummond, Lewis Craig, 1828-1882
    Lillard, James T., 1830-1889
    Scott, William Henry, 1861-1950
    Yolo County (Calif.)--History
    Legal documents--California--Yolo County
    Court records--California--Yolo County
    Justices of the peace--California--Yolo County
    Law--California--Yolo County
    Criminal justice, Administration of--California--Yolo County
    Crime--California--Yolo County
    Criminals--California--Yolo County