Excepts and notes from Vivian Voss Harrell's
"Harrell Family Record":
FEB 23, 1796
BIRTH OF WILLIAM W. WICK
There's many a man in Congress Hall.
Who's not unknown to fame.
There's many a good-looking one
With a very pretty name;
But among the crowd who gather there
There's only one we know
Whose initials are three W's
All standing in a row.
This was the first verse of a poem published in 1848 in a newspaper called the "Spirit of '76" describing William Watson Wick, a Democratic representative and an early judge to Southern Indiana, including Shelby County.
Judge Wick was a reverend and also rode the circuit in Southern Indiana until he resigned "to avoid starvation" from the low wages. He was assigned to all of the southern half of Indiana that was known as the "New Purchase."
His political career was accentuated by pithy speeches delivered in Congress that drew attention due to his literary style described as "a humor unstudied and genuine, and a richness and originality of figure which illustrated his point better than any amount of shouting." Once he gave a speech on the Oregon Question and a Texas man, named Payne wrote to ask him to give an account of himself: In his reply, Judge Wick wrote:
"W. has committed much folly in his time-- the principle of which has been holding offices, writing rhymes, playing cards for money and paying other people's debts-- all of which was abandoned about the time he became a Democrat. At this present writing , W, is 52 years of age; fair, a little fat, called the best-looking man about town--but that was 10 years ago--not to be sneezed at now. He has acquired a good deal of miscellaneous knowledge, loves fun, looks serious, rises early, works much, has a decided penchant for light diet, humor reading, business, the drama, music, a fine horse, and the woods. W. owes nothing, and were he to died today his estate would inventory $800 or $900. He saves nothing of his per diem and mileage."
In 1839 he was chosen a member of Congress as a Democrat and successor to Col. Kinnard who had died when his steamboat blew up en route to Washington. In 1843 and 1847, Wick was nominated and elected to Congress, having been beaten in 1831 as an earlier candidate. In 1853 President Pierce appointed him postmaster in Indianapolis where he served for 4 years until he returned to his law practice. He was vocal in the issues concerning the Kansas-Nebraska bill and campaign of 1860, as well as the defeat of Douglas when he was referred to as an "able stumper."
Judge Wick became the author of the first legal treatise in Indiana, "A Treatise on the Law Relating to the Power and Duties of Justices of the Peace and Constables and On Actions Cognizable in Justices Courts in the State of Indiana."
As interesting as his career was, Judge Wick is most known for presiding over the Pendleton Indiana trial of Hudson, an Indian murderer. Hudson became the first white man to be executed for the brutal murder of a small group of Indians, and the case is still studied in law schools today. Around 1824, a group of Seneca Indians consisting of two men (named Ludlow and Mingo), three women and four children were camped peacefully on the East side of Fall Creek in Madison County Indiana. A group of white men asked the Indians to help them find their lost horses and they agreed. The Indians were shot and one boy was beaten to death after he survived the shooting.
The murders caused great alarm among settlers who feared retaliation from the tribes, so a trial was promised. Judge Wick instructed the jury that the law knew no distinction 'as nation or color' and under the law the murder of an Indian was equal to that of a white man. The jury sentenced Hudson to murder in the first degree and a punishment of death by hanging. He escaped, but was found and hung on the North side of the Falls.
Submitted by Mary Harrell Sesniak
Note from Mary: Judge Wick was the namesake of Judge William Wick Harrell, my great great grandfather.