The first lawyer that ventured out in the misty dim on a sea of doubt as to what the future would bring forth on the frontier to a disciple of Blackstone was E.T. Jay, who took a claim in the eastern part of the county, on the Muddy. His professional services were seldom needed, as most men in those days here settled disputes before the cases were worn out, by the ravages of time, in the courts.
Mr. Jay was a counselor in the first case at law in this county, which was brought about by the hard winter of 1878 and '79. The weather was unusually severe; hard storms and blizzards raged at intervals. During the season a deep snow fell and covered the grass, so the stock suffered greatly. A big percentage of stock was lost by most cattlemen. Large herds drifted in on the Medicine from eastern Colorado, Cheyenne, the northern and western part of this State, so that a big "round-up" in Frontier County was the result in which one hundred men were looking after their interests.
Two men by the name Lowe and Joe Ansley got into a dispute. Both drew their revolvers and fired. Ansley, being the quickest, killed Lowe, and the next shot killed his horse. Ansley stood the men off, then skipped out. Lowe was buried at Mitchell's Fork.
I was deputized by Sheriff McKnight to capture Ansley. After several days hard riding up on the Platte River, I captured and brought him back for trial. Ansley employed E.T. Jay to defend him. They went before the court, a justice of the peace presiding on a charge of murder. The justice put the usual question:
"Are you guilty or not guilty of the charge against you?"
Ansley answered, "Guilty."
Lawyer Jay called the prisoner out behind the house and said:
"You did not understand the reading of the warrant. You must not say 'guilty'; you must say 'not guilty.' If you don't you will be bound over."
Ansley said, "I don't like to lie, but if I must I will."
Then he went before the court and the question of guilty or not guilty was again asked.
"Not guilty, Your Honor," came the response.
The judge said: "I discharge the prisoner."
I returned to him his pistol. He then left for Sidney, on the Platte, minus a horse, saddle and ten dollars that his lawyer kept for his services.
This decision of the justice may seem to the reader who has been educated to believe and obey the high command, "Thou shalt not kill," to usurp, with a heavy hand, the majesty of the law and allow rapine and murder to go untried and unpunished; but in this case the prisoner could prove, by half a hundred witnesses, that he shot in self defense, there not being an instant of time between the reports of the guns, while it saved a big expense to the county.