Coles County Legal History Project - Results

The Coles County legal documents provide insight into 1) legal processes and 2) socioeconomic categories of a single frontier community in Illinois. This on-going project has already produced results which we think can be used by students and researchers. Among the results, are the following: out of 1,999 records processed 96 percent of the cases constitute male party members while 3 percent involve women. Another example shows that out of 700 records processed there were five major case type entries, among them Tresspass on the Case, Appeal Bond, and Assumpsit make up the majority for this time period (45 percent, 32 percent, and 7 percent, respectively). Such statistical information provides insight into the legal actions of 19th Century.

Furthermore, legal records can tell us information about the social advancements of the United States. One example points to data gathered on the number of cases dealing with railroads in an agricultural county. Significantly, out of the 744 cases, 3.62 percent (27 cases) constitute issues with the Terre Haute and Alton Railroad Co., as well as the Illinois Central Railroad Co. The data shows that 44 percent of the 27 cases occurred in the years 1857 and 1858; these dates correspond to the completion of the Terre Haute and Alton Railroad through Coles County. Simply stated, the data, gathered through digital processing, shows that social advancements of the United States (i.e. the railroad) were not isolated from legal action.

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