COURT JUDGEMENTS


NEIGHBOR VS NEIGHBOR


“Know all men by these Presents, that we Joel Gooch of Alexander … as principal, and Ebenezer Gooch and John Gooch as sureties are holden and stand firmly bound and obliged unto Peter Flood of said Alexander in the sum of forty-four dollars and twenty-four cents to be paid to said Peter Flood …. Dated at Alexander the fifth day of January A. D. 1840.”

Joel Gooch owed Peter Flood money, either for a debt or for damage. At the July 1839 session of the Supreme Judicial Court at Machias Joel Gooch was ordered to pay Flood one cent in damages plus $19.61 costs of suit (probably the fee for Flood’s lawyer), plus $0.15 tax, plus $2.35 fees for officer serving papers making a total of $22.12. Why was this amount doubled?

Joel Gooch was jailed for debt, but let out with the above agreement that either Joel would pay the debt within six months or report back to debtors’ jail. John G. Taylor of Alexander and Joseph Granger, Calais lawyer, as disinterested Justices of the Peace probably created the quoted agreement and witnessed the signatures of the three Gooch brothers.

I expect the John (born 1804) and Joel (born 1802) were sons of Ebenezer and Betsey Seavey Gooch. They lived either on Breakneck or on the Cooper Road just south of the top of Gooch Hill. Peter Flood lived on the Cooper Road, just north of the Alexander - Cooper town line. John Taylor lived on lot 106, on the Cooper Road between Peter Flood and the Gooch Homestead.

Joel neither paid the bill nor reported to jail. On March 31, 1841 Sheriff Bradbury Collins or his Deputy was ordered to attach the goods or estates of Joel Gooch, John Gooch and Ebenezer Gooch to the value of one hundred dollars and summon the said Defendants (if they can be found) to appear at the next session of the Eastern District Court at Machias on September 3, 1841 to answer unto Peter Flood.

Dated September 7, 1841, Sheriff Collins reported to the court that property had been attached and submitted $17.97 in charges to be added to the previous amount. Attaching property often involved posting a notice on a tree by the road stating that said property had been attached by the court. Readers will understand that these notices, although legal, were often thrown to the wind by the defendants.

In the March 1842 session of court, Flood recovered a Judgement against Joel Gooch for $7.37. Regardless, the sheriff was commanded to collect $7.37 debt, plus lawful interest, plus 15 cents for the writ, plus the sheriff’s fee. If that is not done, WE COMMAND YOU to take the body of said debtor and commit him to our Goal in Machias and detain him until he pays the full sums.

An identical writ of the same date orders the same treatment of Joel, John and Ebenezer Gooch for the original debt. Pay up or off to jail!

This set of records was copied by A-CHS member Emily Greenleaf. We don’t know if this case was ever resolved. The records she copied indicate that men were quick to use the courts to resolve their problems, real or imagined. The resolutions took a long time and often these were never resolved. Maybe people sued because there was so little money. Maybe the plaintiffs actually thought the defendants had lots of money hidden away. Maybe people in those days were more vengeful than I picture my neighbors and acquaintances to be today. Do people today sue as much as in 1840? In the next issue we’ll read again about John Gooch.