Two of Laramie’s early pioneers entered into a cattle raising business in 1872. It was dissolved within a year and led to a 14-year legal fight over the assets.
Charles Hutton and Edward Ivinson both came to what is now Albany County before the railroad arrived in 1868. They were the two wealthiest men in the county according to the 1870 census.
Hutton’s wealth was in the cattle he owned and Ivinson was Laramie’s lone banker by the time they entered the ranching business. In September 1872, Hutton and Ivinson formed a “co-partnership for the purpose of raising cattle.”
Court records show that Ivinson put over $50,000 into the partnership in October, 1872. Hutton mortgaged his house and large amounts of ranch land to Ivinson to secure a loan against his half of the partnership. The loan to Hutton was dated April 11, 1873 on a promissory note for $13,500. Ivinson charged Hutton interest of 2% per month until the due date of September 1 1873 and 3% per month thereafter on any balance due.
The very next day, for unexplained reasons, the two published a notice in the Laramie paper that the partnership was dissolved.
The pair tallied up the assets and it was determined that Hutton owed Ivinson the $13,500. Almost immediately, however, the clerk who determined the amount, declared that he had made a mistake and that $4,036.12 more was due to Ivinson. Hutton refused to pay the additional sum.
Ivinson sued Hutton to recover the money in March, 1874. The court determined Hutton did indeed owe $17,536.12 to Ivinson. The judge ordered the mortgage note be changed from $13,500 to reflect the money still owed. Ivinson placed a handwritten note in the margin with the correct amount. Hutton was able to repay most of the loan with another loan from wealthy cattleman and politician Joseph Cary. But he refused to pay the addition $4036.12.
Later that month, Hutton had his attorneys appeal the ruling to the Wyoming Territorial Supreme Court. Based on a technicality, the court ruled in Hutton’s favor. Additionally, they ruled that the note appended by Ivinson was not valid.
Ivinson appealed to U.S. Supreme Court and case was heard in October 1878. The Justices determined that the Wyoming Supreme Court was in error and ordered the original district court ruling reinstated – Hutton owed Ivinson $4,036.12. Hutton, however, still did not pay.
In August 1879, Ivinson again had his attorney, Melville C. Brown, sue to force Hutton to pay the $4,036.12. The case was not adjudicated until May 3, 1882 when Judge Jacob Blair ruled in favor of Hutton. The court noted that there was no legal mortgage covering the sum because the note written on the side of the original contract was not properly executed.
Ivinson then had Brown appeal to the Wyoming Supreme Court and a hearing was held on 7 May 1883. The court used the same legal reasoning as Judge Blair and ruled against Ivinson.
Brown was incensed that he had lost the case. After exiting the court he was heard to say the court was “a son of a b***h of a court” and that one of the justices was bribed and the other “I don’t know what.”
The court took great exception to Brown’s comments and finally got around to questioning him about his conduct in August 1884. Brown claimed that he had actually said the court was a “son of gun court.” Unfortunately for him, several reputable men heard Brown’s comments and attested to the court that he had uttered the more derogatory phrase. On November 1 they barred Brown from handling any more cases before them. It was not until January 19, 1887 that Brown was reinstated.
After the 1883 ruling against him, Ivinson, knew that Brown was in the dog house. So he had new attorneys appeal his case to the U.S. Supreme Court. They heard the case in the October session of 1886 and on January 10, 1887 they upheld the Wyoming Supreme Court’s ruling against Ivinson. It would seem that Ivinson had exhausted all his legal remedies.
But Ivinson would not give up. On 27 Aug 1887 Ivinson had the now reinstated Brown again file suit against Hutton in district court. Brown insisted the ruling from way back in 1874 favoring Ivinson be enforced.
Soon the proceedings began to drag out. Brown asked for a new judge, likely because the judge hearing the case, Jacob Blair, was one of those who was called an SOB back in 1883. That motion was overruled and a court date was set for early November 1887.
But the courts were apparently tired of seeing Ivinson and Brown arguing over and over about the $4,036.12. The case was continued twice in 1888 and finally entered into the docket for March 1, 1889. The court had enough of the business and on the 15th of that month the case dismissed and Ivinson was ordered to pay $14.00 in court costs.
Three days later Ivinson, via Brown, filed a motion for a new trial. One month later the whole thing ended with a whimper when the motion was denied.
In the end Edward Ivinson spent 14 years and who knows how much in legal fees and failed to get his $4,036.12. And to add insult to injury, he had to pay the $14.00 to the court.
The loss did not hinder Ivinson’s financial position and when he died in 1928 he was very wealthy. Hutton, on the other hand, continued to make bad business decisions and died in virtual poverty in 1899 .
By Kim Viner
Caption: Laramie pioneers Charles Hutton (1833-1899) on the left, Edward Ivinson (1830-1928) middle and Melville C. Brown (1835-1928) right. The Ivinson and Hutton formed a cattle-raising partnership that quickly dissolved. But Ivinson pursued Hutton to try to get his money back out of the cattle operation, with little or no success. Brown was the prominent attorney who was invovled in the case