Justice John

Justice John Vestal Hadley


Vestal Hadley (1840-1915)


Justice John Vestal Hadley

October 31, 1840

John Vestal Hadley was born on October 31, 1840 in Guilford Township, Hendricks County, Indiana.


In 1842, Hadley's father, Johnathan Hadley dies.

From 1859 to 1861

From 1859 to 1861, Hadley attended Northwestern Christian University. This university is now Butlet University.

August 20, 1861

On August 20th, 1861, Hadley enlisted into Company B, 7th Regiment of the Indiana Volunteer Infantry. He was 22 years old.

From August 20, 1861 to February 22, 1865

Hadley served in Company B of the 7th Regiment of Indiana's Volunteer Infantry from August 20th, 1861 to February 22nd, 1865.

May 5, 1864

On May 5th, Hadley was captured by Confederate forces during The Battle of the Wilderness.

November 4, 1864

On November 4th he and three other men escaped from a Confederate prison camp in Columbia, South Carolina.

December 10, 1864

On December 10th he reached the Union lines at Knoxville, Tennessee.

February 22, 1865

Hadley was discharged from the Union Army on February 22nd, 1865.

March 15, 1865

On March 15th, he married Mary Jane Hill of Pittsboro, Indiana.

June of 1866

On June 13th, Hadley's mother, Ara Carter Hadley, died.

Also in June, Hadley was admitted to the bar in Hendricks County where he worked as an attorney.

April 24, 1867

On April 24th, John and Ara's first child, a daughter named Kate Blanche Hadley, was born.

From 1868 to 1872

John Hadley was elected to the state senate in 1868. He served three terms as a state senator (until 1872).

April 22, 1871

On April 22nd, the Hadley's first son, Hugh Holland Hadley, was born.

January 23, 1874

On January 23rd, the Hadley's had their second son and final child. They gave him the name Walter Grwesham Hadley.

From 1877 to 1888

From the years 1877 to 1888, Hadley was president of First National Bank of Danville.

Winter of 1884

In the winter of 1884, Hadley began his solo law practice.

From 1888 to 1899

Hadley began his judicial career in 1888 when he was elected to circuit court judge in hendricks County. he was re-elected in 1892 and served there until 1899.


Hadley was a delegate to the Republican National Convention in 1888.

From 1899 to 1911

Hadley began his service as Indiana Supreme Court Justice in 1899. He resigned his position in 1911.


Hadley returned to his military past in 1913 when he served on an Indiana commission organizing the 50th Anniversary Reunion of the Battle of Gettysburg.


In 1914 Hadley edited the book History of Hendricks County.

November 17, 1915

Hadley died at his home in Danville, IN on November 11th, 1915. He was buried in the Maple Hill Cemetary in Plainfield, IN.

August of 1929

In August of 1929, Hadley's wife, Jane Hill Hadley, died at the home of their daughter in Evanston, Illinois.

War Years

War Letters

March 8, 1862

Army of the Potomac
March 8th/62

Miss Mary Hill

My dear girl—it is again Sunday and I have again the high pleasure of writing you another letter. While this is the only means I have of communicating with you, my dear girl, I thank God and the man that invented the art of telling the heart’s story upon paper for if it were not for this happy method of speaking with you, this absent army life of mine would be miserable indeed. How kind, and welcome was your last and what a generous spirit it breathed. Many times when duty seems hard and prospects discouraging I am almost ready to accede to anything to end the war, but one kind work from you is sufficient to renerve my arm and establish me firm in my purpose to see it through. And many times my heart yearns fervently for its mate yet leaning upon the staff of hope it strides onward to its destiny.

I have just returned to camp from a three days Picket Duty. I was this time four miles from Camp on the Out Post and had the honor of commanding one mile of our front. It was a relief to me to get so far away from Camp—from the din and poisen of a massed Army and as I stood upon a high hill, filled again with rapture my lungs, with pure, unadulterated county air. And as I gazed before me and saw the wandering pig and grazing cow and heard the crowing fowl and barking dog my rustic nature returned in all its wildness. Although war was at evry door and evry fireside crowded with curious soldiers still there was among the citizens a rustic innocence and independence which seemed to breath forth happiness.

We have had very bad weather here for a month and there is now much mud and water on the ground. It would be impossible for us to move from here at present. The roads are so bad. The Rebs are s[t]ill across the river in some force but I know not how strong. But if they were not a thousand there we could not move them at present.

Capt [William C.] Banta left here yesterday to join his better half at Clayton Indiana for 20 days.* Jim Adams will probably turn up in Pittsboro some of these times.** I think he will get a Furlough soon. I hope he may. He wants to see mother badly. I dont blame him…Mrs. Col [James] Gavin, Mrs Dr [George W.] New, and other ladies are visiting our Reg. I am your devoted.

J. Vestal Hadley

*Banta, a native of Danville, became a magor of the Seventh Indiana on March 12, 1863, and a lieutenant colonel the next month. [William H. H. Terrell], Report of the Adjutant General of the State of Indiana (8 vols., Indianapolis, 1865-1869), II, 40.

**Adams, another native of Danville, was promoted to second lieutenant at the same time that Banta became a major. Apparently Andrew Luke replaced Banta as captain, Hadley replaced Luke as first lieutenant, and Adams replaced Hadley as second lieutenant. Ibid., 42.

April 26, 1983

Army of the Potomac
Pratts Point Va. Ap[ril], 26, 63

Miss Mary J Hill
Pittsboro Ind.

My dear girl
I haven’t received your letter this week. Am sadly disappointed. Yet it may come this evening, I think it will. At leas I hope it will. Oh it is so hot to day. We have just returned to Quarters from General Inspection. We’v’ been out since 9 o’clock this morning. Tis now 1 P.M. Sweating and swearing was the order of the forenoon. Stood in column for three hours wigh knapsacks. Who wouldn’t swear? Who wouldn’t sweat under the scorching rays of this days sun? But tis over now & who cares? Only dread the next one.

Havn’t any news fro you to day. Will go back a few days when I was Last on picket. Tell you of a little incident or two. It so happened that I had command of out Company on that time. Luke couldn’t go out. “Had business” in Camp. My services were not needed as Adjutant on the Picket line & from request took out the Co. A mile of the line fell into my charge. On my territory there lived an old man with immense wealth & a small family. He had considerable personal property yet left. Was once well fixed to live. Had many out houses, cribs, graineries, sheds, &c, and 30 or 40 Negroes. The old man was radically Secesh. Had one son at home Discharged from Stewarts [Major General J. E. B. Stuart’s] rebel Cavelry & two more still in the Southern ranks. Well it so happened that on the night that we took command of his house that 12 of his most valueable Negores, hitched up a yoke of fine oxen to the only cart the old man had left—put in their little Domestics & Drove over to the Provost Marshel of our Corps. Of course they got transportation to Washington and their team turned over to the Quartermaster’s Department.

On arriving on the line the day previous it was my duty to take a man & relieve one that was posted at the old man’s house as a safe guard. I detailed John Ridgeway of Brownsburg as good looking and fine a man as is in the Camp. Was escorted over by the relieved Lieut—introduced to the family—highly recommended [and] received kindly. And evry thing promised me rustic enjoyment (for by the way there was a young daughter, 20 years old, who smiled and courtecied when my friend Lieut Smith 34 N. Y. remarked “that you will find good protection in the hands of my young friend Hadley[“].) Sat 10 minutes with the family. Promised to call frequently. Went to my post—spent the night as usual in the rain.

Still rained hard in the morning. Concluded to go over to Bullards and stay while it rained so hard. Says I “Dave hurry & prepare our coffee for I must go over & see how Ridgeway gets along”. Coffee soon ready—drank it, filled my pipe—started. Arrived at the house—darted in out of the pelting rain with a light heart. Felt that I had shelter for the day. No body in the room but Ridgeway. He arose laughing & remarked “Hadley there is Hell here this morning. The old man’s negroes ran away last night—took his oxen & cart. They accuse us of causing it—mad—furious”. Just here we heard a low rumbling noise in some other apartment which sounded much like the frightful noise of a hundred horse in a desperate charge. As it neared us, however, we found that it proceded only from, chairs, churns, tables, stools, &c flying before the approach of four infuriated demons. Father, mother, sister, brother, came dashing headlong into the room with faces red & fiery as a boiled lobster and tongues making a worse jargon than was heard at the tower of Babel. Louder and more threatening than was made by the two Devils among the tombs. Ridgeway sceized his faithful musket, & prepared for the conflict. My sword was snatched from its sheath for I thought there would be sharp work for it to do. And both standing at a guard we prepared for the conflict.

Soon discovered that words would be the only arms used. Met them best we could. Scene closed by me ordering the guard to camp. They now be came suppliant. Said they would take back all that was said & feel sorry for it. Begged Ridgeway to stay & me to let him. But I wasn’t “letten” like I was. Ridgeway wasn’t “stayen” like he was. Could tell you what they said but wont here. Want something to tell you when again sit by your side.

Hadn’t been half an hour from the house when I saw the boys charging on his out houses. It was raining. They didn’t leave a board on top or side. Also carried off all his garden fence for fire. I didn’t care—glad to see it. Went over to [Brigadier] Gen. [James S.] Wadsworth and reported to me. Expected to be Court Martialed for taking the Guarg [Guard] off without proper authority. I sent a statement of the facts to the Gen. Guess they were satisfactory. Grand Officer of the Pickets endorsed my actions. [Brigadier] Gen [Lysander] Cutler said I did right. Don’t care—wouldn’t guard such a man if [Major] Gen [Joseph] Hooker would give me positive orders.

Mary what would you say if I were to accept with an Adjutantcy of a Negro Regt? I am still Acting Adjutant of our Regt. Must close—Happy Dreames to night, I salute you.

J. Vestal*

*Included among Hadley’s letters is another description of the incident at the old man’s house. This material has been omitted since the beginning of the letter is missing and much of the language is the same as that given in the April 26, 1863, letter. From internal evidence it appears that the omitted description was part of a letter written to Mollie a day or so after the other one.

War Records

Leave of Absence

Initial text inserted here via jQuery

Hadley's Leave of Absence Hadley's Leave of Absence (Legible Text)

Have trouble reading the handwriting? Press the next arrow to see a more legible version.

Casualty Sheet

Initial text inserted here via jQuery

Officers' Casualty Sheet Officers' Casualty Sheet (Legible Text)

Have trouble reading the handwriting? Press the next arrow to see a more legible version.

Muster Rolls

Initial text inserted here via jQuery

Muster Rolls Page 1 Muster Rolls Page 2 Muster Rolls Page 3 Muster Rolls Page 4

Memorandum From POW Records

Initial text inserted here via jQuery

Memorandum from Prisoner of War Records

TEXT READS: Captured at Wilderness Va as 1st Lieut May 5/64. Escaped from Columbia S.C. Nov 4, 1864, of Reported at Knoxville Tenn Dec 10/64. Sent to Regt. Dec 10-21, 1864. S.O. 33 Jany 31/65. Mustered in as 1 Lt. Nov. 29/62. Mustered out & Honbly Dischd Feb 22/65.

Seven Months a Prisoner

Pictures of the Book

Initial text inserted here via jQuery

Seven Months A Prisoner Cover (Front) Seven Months A Prisoner (Inside) Seven Months A Prisoner Cover (Front and Back0

Excerpt from Seven Months a Prisoner

Excerpts from Seven Months a Prisoner by John Vestal Hadley. (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1898)

Page 16

The roll of musketry was incessant. Smoke was hovering in the clouds among the trees, and it was only after a dozen efforts that I learned from a lieutenant that General Rice had lately gone up the line. Amid the din my horse was as wild as a ranger. I headed him into a slightly opened avenue and gave him rein, and he dashed frantically along through the timber, squatting and dodging at the sound of the bullets. While at full speed a ball struck him near my left leg. I saw him sink to his breast, saw his nose plough along the ground and double under his breast — and I saw or remembered no more.
Boardman, of the One Hundred and Forty-seventh, told me how it was. My horse was killed while at full speed in the rear of their regiment, and in falling threw me against a tree and then pitched headlong upon me. Soon after my misfortune our line of battle fell back, and in the movement the men freed me from the horse; but being unconscious and bleeding copiously from the mouth and nose, I was left upon the field as mortally wounded. Later in the day some of the same regiment, in passing the spot as prisoners, laid me upon a blanket and carried me to a Confederate field-hospital…

Page 18-19

…I awoke as if from sleep about 7 o’clock in the morning of the 6th, in the old house and tried but failed to get up. My left eye was entirely closed and I felt pain in my left breast and shoulder. I was evidently hurt, but knew not how or how much. The first thing that attracted my attention was a column of troops hurrying silently along the road. Their uniforms looked gray, but I thought the color might be due to my injured sight. I rubbed my eyes and tried it again, with the same result, and then turned upon my elbow and looked around. Those immediately near had on blue, as also did a soldier bending over a prostrate form with a canteen.
“Soldier, come here. Am I a prisoner?”
“Yes,” he replied.
I asked no more questions but lay back and felt a little more willing to “give up the ghost” just then than I ever expect to be again. Mortally wounded as I felt, in the hands of the enemy, and denied the ministration of friends, with the thought that if I recovered I would be sent South in the hot season to some prison-pen, to starve or die of epidemic, I had absolutely no hope. What little life I seemed to have so painfully recoiled upon itself that I felt actual regret that the injuring force had not been a little stronger.

Indianapolis Star January 28, 2004

Initial text inserted here via jQuery

Indianapolis Star Article Page 1 Indianapolis Star Article Page 2

Foreward to Reprint of Seven Months a Prisoner

Mouse over foot notes for reference information.

By Libbe Hughes

This is a story of imprisonment and escape, adventure and suspense. Four men escape from a Confederate prison in the cold of November, 1864 and struggle to make their way north to safety. It is a journey of some two hundred miles over rough terrain where any chance encounter with the local populace runs the risk of recapture. Loyalties are tested and friendships forged. It is written with humor and an honesty often lacking in Civil War narratives.

The author, John Vestal Hadley, was the youngest of seven children born to Jonathan and Ara Carter Hadley. The family had emigrated from Guilford County, North Carolina to Indiana in 1822 and by the time of John’s birth on October 31, 1840 were well established on a large farm in Guilford Township, Hendricks County.1Genealogical data obtained from Curtis E. Healton, Editor, A Hadley Genealogy (VolumeII) Some Descendants of Joshua Hadley, 1743-1815, of Chatham County, North Carolina (Hadley Genealogical Society of Southern California, 1974). There is some discrepancy in J.V. Hadley’s birth date. Published family genealogies record the year as 1839 but the History of Hendricks County, Indiana; Her People, Industries and Institutions edited by J.V. Hadley contains the birth year of 1840. Jonathan Hadley died from typhoid fever in 1842 and Ara Carter Hadley retained the family farm and raised the children, five of whom reached adulthood. She never remarried.

John attended the local common schools throughout his childhood and entered Northwestern Christian University (now Butler University) in Indianapolis in 1859.2Biographical data obtained from J.V. Hadley, Editor, History of Hendricks County, Indiana; Her People, Industries and Institutions (Indianapolis, 1914). Also obituaries of J.V. Hadley; The Republican, November 18, 1915 and Friday Caller, November 26, 1915. He left his studies at the end of his sophomore year to enlist in the Union Army on August 20, 1861 as a private in Company B, Seventh Regiment Indiana Volunteer Infantry.3W.H.H. Terrell, Report of the Adjutant General of the State of Indiana (Indianapolis, 1865) v. II, p. 42.

The Seventh Indiana left Indianapolis in September, 1861 for duty in the Cheat Mountain District of western Virginia where they remained until December, 1861.4Refer to Frederick H. Dyer, A Compendium of the War of the Rebellion (reprinted Dayton, 1979) p. 1120 for Seventh Indian service listing. They moved to Green Springs Run and remained there until their participation in the Battle of Winchester in March, 1862. Hadley was promoted to corporal in April and the regiment moved to Fredericksburg in May, 1862. They were involved in action at Front Royal and Port Republic, Virginia in May and early June.

Attached to the Fourth Brigade, Second Division, Third Army Corps of the Army of Virginia, the Seventh Indiana saw action again at the Second Battle of Manassas. Hadley was shot through the hip during the battle and spent the next several months recovering from his wound in a Washington, D.C. army hospital, thereby missing the regiment’s service at Antietam and Fredericksburg.5James I. Robertson, Jr., Editor, “An Indiana Soldier in Love and War: The Civil War Letters of John V. Hadley.” Indiana Magazine of History (Indianapolis, September 1963) v. LIX, n. 3 p. 219.

Hadley returned to his regiment in late December, 1862 following his promotion to first lieutenant.6Robertson, “…Hadley,” p.222. Now attached to the Army of the Potomac, the Seventh took part in Burnside’s “Mud March” in January; 1863, the Battle of Chancellorsville in May, 1863; and the Battle of Gettysburg in July. October, 1863 found the regiment on duty around the Rapidan and Rappahannock Rivers. During this time, Hadley was detailed to serve on the staff of Brigadier General James C. Rice with the Second Brigade, First Division of the First Army Corps.7Robertson, “…Hadley,” p.261. Brigadier General James C. Rice, a native of Massachusetts, was shot in the thigh at Spotsylvania, Virginia, on May 10, 1864. He failed to recover from the amputation of his leg. Refer to Official Records of the War of the Rebellion, v. 36, pt. 1, p. 191. Also, Ezra J. Warner, Generals in Blue: Lives of the Union Commanders (Louisiana State University Press, 1977) p. 400-401. The regiment saw action in the Mine Run Campaign (November 26 through December 2, 1863) and wintered in the vicinity of the Rapidan River.

In the early hours of the Battle of Wilderness on May 5, 1864, Hadley was ordered by Rice to advance a skirmish line to meet the enemy. In the ensuing action Hadley’s horse was cut down while galloping at full speed, throwing Hadley into a tree and rendering him unconscious. He awoke to find himself in Confederate hands. He attempted an escape from a Confederate field hospital on May 15, 1864 but was recaptured a few days later and sent to a prison camp in Macon, Georgia. Over the next seven months Hadley was transferred to Confederate prisons in Savannah, Georgia; Charleston, South Carolina; and, finally, to Columbia, South Carolina where he escaped on November 4, 1864 with three fellow prisoners. They were successful in reaching the Union lines around Knoxville, Tennessee on December 10, 1864 and Hadley had recovered sufficiently from the ordeal to travel by train back to Indianapolis in late December.

John was discharged from the army in January, 1865 and he returned home to marry Miss Mary Jane Hill on March 15, 1865. Their courtship had been brief and for nearly four years maintained almost exclusively by letters. The correspondence, interrupted only by his imprisonment, began with his letters addressed to “Miss Mollie J. Hill-My dearest friend” and progressed to “Beloved Mary” penned just before his capture in May, 1864.8Robertson, “…Hadley,” p. 195, 287. While they had little contact with each other during the war excepting their letters, he carried Mollie Hill in his thoughts as surely as he carried his gun by his side.

After his marriage, Hadley studied law in Indianapolis and was admitted to the bar in Hendricks County in June, 1866. He returned to Danville and entered into several law partnerships over the next few years until the winter of 1884 when he began practicing on his own. His mother, Ara Carter Hadley, died on January 13, 1866. John and Mollie’s three children were also born during this time: Kate Blanche (1867), Hugh Holland (1871), and Walter Gresham (1874).

His law practice was a successful one and apparently public life agreed with him. He was elected state senator in 1868 and served three sessions in the Indiana legislature. In 1888 he was a delegate to the Republican National Convention. His interests in the local business community were characterized by his presidency of the Board of Directors of the First National Bank of Danville from 1877 to 1888.9John R. McDowell, Editor, The History of Hendricks County, 1914-1976 (Indianapolis, 1976). p. 151. His skill as a lawyer earned him an election to circuit court judge in 1888, a position he held until his promotion to the Indiana Supreme Court in 1899. He resigned from the state supreme court in 1911 and returned to private life, which included the management of his prosperous farming operation.

In 1913 Hadley was appointed to the Indian commission making preparations for the fiftieth anniversary reunion of the Battle of Gettysburg. Commission members organized rail transport for the 552 Indiana citizens (former veterans) attending the reunion and Hadley himself presided over the “Indiana Day” portion of the reunion on July 2, 1913.10Indiana at the Fiftieth Aniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg: Report of the Fiftieth Anniversary Commission, of the Battle of Gettysburg, of Indiana (Indianapolis, 1913). p. 38.

At 73 years of age Hadley undertook the monumental task of editing the History of Hendricks County, Indiana which was published in 1914. He was a lifelong supporter of the Republican Party and outspoken in his opposition to women’s right to vote.11Hendricks County Union, March 2, 1871. He maintained memberships in the GAR, the Military Order of the Loyal Legion, and the Freemasons.

John V. Hadley died at his home in Danville on November 17, 1915 following a brief illness. The funeral service was conducted at the Danville Christian Church, of which he and his wife were members, and burial was held at the Maple Hill Cemetery in Plainfield, Indiana. Mollie Hadley survived her husband by fourteen years, dying in 1929.

Seven Months A Prisoner has the feel of a story often told to law associates, business partners, fellow veterans, family and friends. It was first published shortly after the war in serial format in a Danville newspaper, The Republican; reissued later in pamphlet form, and finally published as a book in 1898 by Charles Scribner’s Sons of New York. The book was endearingly dedicated to Hadley’s long-widowed mother, Ara Carter Hadley.

One of Hadley’s strengths as a judge was his writing. It was noted that his bench decisions “were characterized by a clearness, candor and breadth of view” and that he wrote his legal opinions “with most painstaking care, weighing words and their varying shades of meaning, writing and re-writing until the proposition he was considering stood out clearly.”12J.V. Hadley obituary, The Republican, November, 18, 1915.

Hadley brought this strength to the writing of Seven Months A Prisoner. There is a quality of realism to his story of imprisonment and escape and he makes no attempt to disguise his fears, frustrations, and cynicism. It was a quality apparent in his letters written to Mary during the war. In his letter of October 21, 1863, he explains the delay in answering her letter. “For three weeks we have been all astir, marching and countermarching, advancing and retreating evry day without exception. Don’t know what we’ve accomplished or what escaped, at what we’ve aimed or how succeeded, lost much sleep, been mighty hungry, and been shot at a few times.”13Robertson, “…Hadley,” p. 259.

In both letters and book, he recorded his thoughts with an appealing honesty. Returning to his regiment after a furlough home to recuperate from the wounds he received during the Second Manassas, John wrote poignantly to Mary on December 28, 1862 of his loneliness and uncertainties. “The roar of hostile guns that I now hear in front tell me that I am in the presence of an armed foe and that death may be mine before this is yours. The world seemes to be mourning to night Mary. Evrything is hushed and not a noise to break the solitude but the sharp shrill notes of the trumpet which tells the troop[s] that it is time to go to rest and the reverberating echoes of the canonade in front. Everything seemes to sigh. There is enough of solem pathos in one blast of winter wind around the corner of my tent to put all mankind in tears.”14Robertson, “…Hadley,” p. 223.

John Vestal Hadley understood the importance of language and he told his stories with clarity and grace.

Judicial Years

Supreme Court Images

Initial text inserted here via jQuery

Diploma from Northwestern Christian University

Hadley entered Northwestern Christian University, now called Butler University, in 1859. His early education was completed in Hendricks County subscription schools which were organized and paid for by area parents. Hadley left Northwestern University in the summer of 1861 when he enlisted in the Union Army.

Initial text inserted here via jQuery

Hadley's Indiana Supreme Court Certificate (Front)

This image is the front of Hadley’s certificate appointing him to the Indiana Supreme Court. Hadley, a lifelong republican, was elected to the Hendricks County Circuit Court in 1888 and to the Indiana Supreme Court in 1899. He was re-elected to the Indiana Supreme Court in 1904 and served until he resigned from the court in 1911.

Initial text inserted here via jQuery

Hadley's Indiana Supreme Court Certificate (Back)

The State of Indiana, Marion County, sct:

I do solemnly swear that I will support the Constitution of the United States, and the Constitution of the State of Indiana, and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge the duties of Judge of the Supreme Court of Indiana, according to the best of my skill and ability; so help me God.

John V. Hadley

Subscribed and sworn to before me, this 14th day of December
A.D. 1898
R.A. Brown
Clerk of the Supreme Court

Note on the image of the back of the certificate that there apparently was no standard form for supreme court justices. The clerk filling out this certificate simply struck through the words “justice of the peace” and replaced them with the handwritten words “judge of the Supreme Court of Indiana.

Initial text inserted here via jQuery

Indiana Supreme Court Judges

(left to right) Judge James Jordan (1895-1912), Judge Oscar H. Montgomery (1905-1911), Judge Judge John V. Hadley (1899-1911), Judge Leander J. Monks (1895-1913), Judge Quincy A. Myers (1909-1915)

John V. Hadley served on the Indiana Supreme Court from 1898 to 1911. This photo was taken in the Indiana Supreme Court courtroom located in the State House building in downtown Indianapolis. The picture was probably taken between 1909 and 1911.

Initial text inserted here via jQuery

Judge Hadley at work in his Chambers

This photo shows Judge Hadley at work in his chambers in the Indiana State House. Judge Hadley served on the Indiana Supreme Court from 1898-1911. This photo was taken some time between 1904 and 1909. These same law books, the Indiana Reports, can still be found in the justices’ chambers.

Supreme Court Cases

Judge Hadley was the author of numerous cases while on the Supreme Court. Some of his more noted cases concerning the constitutionality of legislation enacted by the General Assembly are listed below. For a complete listing of cases, view this Adobe Acrobat file.

Adams v. City of Shelbyville, 154 Ind. 467 (April 1900)

This case discussed the ability of government units to tax property owners for improvements such as sidewalks and landscaping. This case is often referred to as “Barrett’s Law” because Barrett’s law was the standard regarding the funding of municipal improvements. The Court reversed the ruling of the trial court. The court stated that assessment for local improvements based only on frontage footage was a violation of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Overshiner v. State, 156 Ind. 187 (Feb. 1901)

This case stemmed from the legislative statute entitled “An Act to Regulate Dentistry.” The Court ruled that the legislature did indeed have the authority to confer on the state dental association the power to appoint a Board of Dental Examiners. The appellant, Overshiner, had been convicted of practicing dentistry without a license; the court affirmed his conviction.

Isenhour v. State, 157 Ind. 517 (Dec. 1901)

In 1899 the Indiana legislature passed a statute entitled “The Pure Food Law.” One provision of this statute prohibited the sale of adulterated milk. The appellant in this case was convicted of selling milk containing formaldehyde in violation of the Pure Food Law. The court reversed Isenhour’s conviction based upon the exclusion of certain evidence during the trial. The statute was not declared unconstitutional.

State, ex rel. Geake et al., v. Fox, Comptroller, 158 Ind. 126 (Feb. 1902)

This case upheld a ruling that the state legislature had no authority to create a statute authorizing the Governor to replace local fire commissioners in Ft. Wayne with an appointed board. It deemed that action as special legislation that interfered with the will of the people by depriving the municipal corporation the right to appoint its own officials.

Fisher v. Bower, 159 Ind. 139 (June 1902)

This case involved the sale of a piece of land that was a part of the State University’s permanent endowment. The question under consideration by the court was whether or not the University’s endowment was to be operated in the same way as the public school fund. The court concluded that the 1816 constitution very clearly included the state university as a part of the common school system, and this relationship was confirmed under the Constitution of 1851, therefore, the University’s permanent endowment should be administered by the state in the same manner as the public school funds.

Republic Iron and Steel Co. v. State, 160 Ind. 379 (April 1903)

This case challenged the constitutionality of an Indiana statute requiring employers to pay their employees on a weekly basis, The Weekly Wage Law. The court ruled that this statute was unconstitutional.

Board of Commissioners of Newton County v. State, 161 Ind. 616 (Jan. 1904)

This case involved the constitutionality of legislative acts that hindered Newton County’s ability to relocate its county seat or to build a new courthouse. It overturned a lower courts verdict, finding that the acts were unconstitutional because they hindered a county’s ability to conduct their own affairs using their own funds.

Washington National Bank v. Daily, County Assessor, 166 Ind. 631 (Mar. 1906)

This case upheld a legislative act that granted County Assessors the right to seek a court order compelling corporations, firms, or individual persons to provide access to financial records in order to help provide evidence of acts of tax evasion. The court affirmed that acts facilitating the enforcement of tax regulations are constitutional, especially in regards to institutions that serve the financial needs of the public, like banks.

Indianapolis Traction and Terminal Co. v. Kinney, By Next Friend, 171 Ind. 612 (Oct. 1908)

In this case, involving damages awarded against the Indianapolis Traction and Terminal Co. (Interurban Railroad) for injuries suffered by a hired laborer unloading iron rails, the judges reversed the lower courts decision and returned the case for a new trial. The decision was based upon the fact that the appellant stated that his injuries were the direct result of the foreman’s negligence and that according to the law a company could not be held liable for a fellow co-worker’s negligence in performing their duties, only their own.

McPherson v. The State of Indiana, 174 Ind. 60 (Dec. 1909)

In 1908, Hamilton County passed an ordinance, largely based on the County Local Option Law of 1908, prohibiting the sale of intoxicating liquors. A local liquor retailer, who possessed a liquor license that did not expire until after the start date of the new statute, was convicted of illegally selling liquor. The court affirmed the constitutionality of this ordinance, and the County Local Option Law.

Southern Indiana Railway Co. et al. v. Railroad Commission of Ind., 172 Ind. 113 (April 1909)

The appellant in this case was a railway company who the Railroad Commission of Indiana of had found guilty of overcharging for transportation services. The Railroad Commission, using its quasi-judicial authority, ruled in favor of a cement company that brought the original complaint, and ordered the railroad to lower their fees. The court, upholding the actions of the Railroad Commission, ruled that it was within the rights of the State or its duly appointed officials to intervene on behalf of the public in complaints against monopolies and other public service corporations as long as the terms were not confiscatory.

Circuit Court Cases

Hinshaw v. State of Indiana 147 Ind. 334 (1897)

While serving as a trial of the judge in Hendricks Circuit Court, Judge Hadley presided over the notorious Hinshaw murder trial. In this case Rev. Hinshaw was convicted of murdering his wife based primarily on circumstantial evidence. His wife had been shot in her bed, and then dragged out of bed and left on the floor of the bedroom. When the police arrived they found Rev. Hinshaw wandering outside with cuts on his body and two bullet wounds claiming that robbers had attacked him and his wife.

The prosecution built its case by proving that the cuts and the bullet wounds were self-inflicted and that the blood on the windowsill (where Hinshaw had escaped the robbers) was animal blood, not human. The prosecution also introduced evidence indicating that Hinshaw was having an extra-marital affair.

This case was appealed to the Indiana Supreme Court a before Hadley became a member. The Court affirmed the trial court’s conviction of Hinshaw ruling that the circumstantial evidence presented against him was sufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Hinshaw committed the murder.

Read the Hinshaw Opinion in Adobe Acrobat format

Later Years

Home of Justice John Vestal Hadley in Danville, IN

His home in Danville, IN

John V. Hadley was considered one of the most prosperous men in Hendricks County. In addition to practicing law he managed his family’s farm, bred cattle, and served as the President of the Board of Directors of the First National Bank of Danville. He built what was described as “one of the finest residences in Danville” on 3.5 acres, surrounding the house with lawns and orchards. Hadley sold this house in 1898 when he moved to Indianapolis following his election to the Indiana Supreme Court. The house, though not owned by the Hadley family, is still in use today. This picture was taken in January 2005.

Later Accomplishments

Hadley served on the Indiana Supreme Court from 1898-1911. After leaving the bench he returned to private life in nearby Hendricks County, but lived only until 1915. During this short four years of retirement Hadley edited a History of Hendricks County and served as the head of the Indiana commission that organized Indiana Civil War veterans participation in the national 50th anniversary reunion of the Battle of Gettysburg. He died at home in Danville following a brief illness.

In Memoriam

Remorseless Time that knows not the weight of years has passed and, stopping not like other conquerors to note the ruin it has wrought, has called from among the living in the full fruitage of an eventful life another that has graced the bench of this Court and added luster to the shining lights that preceded him. John Vestal Hadley is dead.

He was born October 31, 1840, in Hendricks County, Indiana, and died amid the scenes of his nativity, November 17, 1915. How long, and yet how short was the span of that life! He crowded into that brief space more of the joys and sorrows of life than are allotted to the original individual. Born on a farm amid the toil and hardships of pioneer life, he, by his own zeal and endeavors arose above the surrounding and secured in his youth the rudiments of an education, which, added to in his more mature years, placed him among the front ranks of the foremost thinkers and workers in his chosen profession. He served three and one-half years as a soldier in defense of his country; twelve years as a Judge of Hendricks Circuit Court; one term as a State Senator from his native county; and from January, 2899, to January, 1911, was Judge of this court. In all positions to which he was chosen knew no motive but justice and no guide but his conscience. his aims and ambitions were of the highest order. He exercised and practiced the spirit of law rather than the letter, and to his master of the principles of his profession he added the spirit of justice and equity, which were the ruling passions of his life. From his wonderful storehouse of learning and wisdom manifested in all his actions as lawyer and judge, the present and future have received a rich heritage. In his declaration of legal principles, he was clear, but faultlessly concise, not wasting in repetition the beauty of the doctrine declared. His opinions were exhaustive without being verbose and will ever remain "a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night" to men of his profession who may follow in his luminous footsteps. Adding to his legal qualifications, he manifested a beauty of soul and symmetry of though that endeared him to all men of every class and character with whom he came in contact.

His life is a beautiful example, worthy of emulation of all men, especially the lawyer. His aim was to do justice and yet to temper that justice with mercy. We could not with, no man could desire, a better epitaph than that which is universally written or, at least, thought by all his friends and acquaintances, "He loved his fellow man." It may be said of him as the Shepherd King of old, "He served his day and generation well, and fell asleep." He touched every chord in the harp of life. His past is secure; his future is with Him who said, "Well done thou good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joys prepared for you from the foundation of the world."

This memorial to John Vestal Hadley, presented by Erwin, J., was unanimously adopted and ordered spread of record.