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BRIEF HISTORY OF THE KNOX COUNTY BAR - LIBRARY ASSOCIATION

By Samuel W. Collins, Jr.
Active Retired Justice
Maine Supreme Judicial Court

The Knox County Bar - Library Association was probably informally started about 1860 but it was formally established by the Maine Legislature as Chapter 73 of the Private and Special Laws of 1923 as Knox County Bar - Library Association. We know something of early practices because of existing records of the admission of Helen Knowlton as the second woman admitted to the Maine Bar (she was really first because a woman was admitted to practice in Washington County but was not properly admitted to the Bar. The statute had to be amended to admit women.)

When I arrived in 1947 it was a small group and when a Superior Court Justice came three times a year, in November, February and May, the Justice was invited to a banquet at the Thorndike Hotel. Gilford Butler of South Thomaston, a long-time Democrat and former State Senator from Knox County, was President and remained in that office for several years.

Guilford Butler was a kindly man and most considerate of young, new members like myself. He would call on a long-time lawyer, for some oratory then on the newest member and then introduce the presiding justice who was always helpful in providing advice about current issues and procedure.

After a few years Alan Bird became President and initiated the practice of providing a portrait of each Knox County justice of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court to be hung in the courtroom. The Knox courtroom now has four justices on its walls with Justice William H. Fogler being first, followed by Frank Tirrell, David A. Nichols, and Samuel W. Collins, Jr.

In the early history of the State of Maine, lawyers were not as plentiful as they are today. An album of the attorneys of Maine, published by E. C. Bowler in 1902, shows 310 attorneys, including judges in the whole State.

Those attorneys in this album claiming Knox County were Justice William H. Fogler, Helen A. Knowlton, Charles E. Littlefield (a member of Congress), Arthur S. Littlefield, Joseph E. Moore, Job H. Montgomery, Reuel Robinson, Frank Burton Miller, Thaddeus Roberts Simonton, Lewis Frederick Starrett, Lindley Murray Staples, and Chester M. Walker.

Helen A. Knowlton studied law in the office of William H. Fogler and Joseph E. Moore and was examined for admission to the Bar by a committee of Charles E. Littlefield, Job H. Montgomery and D. N. Mortland. She passed and was admitted in April 1899.

It was, and is, a function of a Justice of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court to admit new lawyers to the Bar. About 1960 this became a semi-annual event and the Bar Association adopted the practice of holding a reception, with refreshments, for all lawyers and family who attended.

The Bar Association for many years has managed the Knox County Law Library, in recent years through the good work of retired Chief Judge of the District Court, Alan Pease, now a resident of Camden, formerly of St. George.

Many members of the Knox Bar have held important State office. David A. Nichols was a member of the Governor’s Council and National Committeeman of his party. James W. Brannan was for many years a member of the State Board of Bar Examiners. Samuel W. Collins, Jr. was for ten years a Maine State Senator for District 21, which included most of Knox County. Alan Bird was a State Representative to the Maine Legislature and Chairman of the Republican State Committee. John Knight served in the Maine Legislature. Zelma Dwinal of Camden served as Judge of the Knox Municipal Court. Stuart Burgess of Warren and Rockland served in the Maine Legislature. Curtis Payson of Union served in the Maine Legislature. Frank Harding of Rockland served in the Maine House, Senate, and as Attorney General. Charlie Littlefield was Speaker of the Maine House of Representatives and Attorney General before going to Congress. Thaddeus Simonton was State Senator for Know County. Lindley Staples was the only Democrat in the State Senate.

The Knox Bar has also provided advice to the County Commissioners concerning the renovations and additions to the Knox County Courthouse. Knox County now has one of the finest courthouses in the State of Maine.

September 2007

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THE KNOX COUNTY COURT HOUSE

By Jason R. Heath, Esq.

When Knox County was created in 1860, its courts were located in rented space. Soon it became clear that a proper courthouse was needed. The county commissioners created a committee to report on possible options. The report recommended a new courthouse because it would cost more to purchase the rented space and conduct needed improvements. The county commissioners announced in 1874 a proposal to borrow $50,000 to construct a courthouse. The voters approved the proposal by 1434 to 606. Construction began in June and was completed in March, 1875.

See Robert K. Sloane, The Courthouses of Maine, Woolwich: Maine Lawyers Review (1998).


Knox County Bar Association, 1997

 

 

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