History of the Judiciary of Delaware County Probate Court

Under the Constitution of 1802, the probate duties were conducted through Associate Judges of the multi-county district Common Pleas Court who were appointed by the Ohio Legislature. The 1851 Ohio Constitutional amendment authorized the Probate Court for Delaware County.

With the passage of the Modern Courts Amendment to the Ohio Constitution in May 1968, Ohio’s Probate Courts became probate divisions of the Courts of Common Pleas. Ohio’s Juvenile Courts were created statewide around 1904 by legislation. For most counties the Juvenile Court may also be combined as a division with the probate division or a domestic relations division. In Delaware County, the Juvenile Court has been joined with the Probate Court and the combined courts are referred to as the Delaware County Probate/Juvenile Court, a division of the Court of Common Pleas. When performing probate functions the judge is referred to as the Probate Judge and as the Juvenile Judge when exercising juvenile court duties. The initial term of office for the Probate Judge in 1852 was 3 years. That term was changed to 4 years and later 6 years by constitutional amendments with the most recent change occurring in 1947.

            Judges                                                                        Term

Judge Kenneth J. Spicer                                          Feb. 9, 2003 to Feb. 8, 2015

A graduate of The Ohio State University College of Law and admitted to the bar in 1972, Judge Spicer served as the Judge of the Court for 12 years.  He won a contested election that followed the retirement of his predecessor, for whom he had served as a magistrate.  Judge Spicer is a retired U.S. Naval Reserve intelligence officer.  He led the Court through an expansion of programs intended to meet the increased demands for court services resulting from population growth, changing family structure, and the challenges presented by addictions and aging in the community.  He established full-time magistrates for juvenile matters, (including a treatment court), and for probate proceedings.  The Court moved into more functional offices and courtrooms at the Rutherford B. Hayes Administration building.  Judge Spicer served as President of the Ohio Probate Judges Association and served on several Supreme Court of Ohio committees and task forces.  Following his retirement, Judge Spicer continued to serve as a visiting retired judge in other courts throughout Ohio by appointment from the Supreme Court of Ohio.

Judge Thomas E. Louden                                      Feb. 9, 1979 to Feb. 8, 2003

He graduated from Ohio Northern University Law School and was admitted to the bar in 1968. With 24 years on the probate bench, he is the second longest tenured Judge of the Delaware County Probate Court.  As his term began, Jimmy Carter was President and the Iran Hostage Crisis began.  During his tutelage, the Court moved into remodeled offices at 88 N. Sandusky St., across from the County Courthouse.  The Court embraced modern technology, greatly expanded its staffing, and established programs to offer a multi-disciplinary approach to the myriad of matters involving juveniles.  Judge Louden hired a magistrate in 1999 to serve part-time to assist with non-support matters.  That magistrate became his successor in 2003.  Following his retirement, Judge Louden continued to serve as a visiting retired judge in other courts throughout Ohio by appointment from the Supreme Court of Ohio and as a private judge.

Judge Paul W. Barrett                                            Feb. 9, 1949 to Feb. 8, 1979

With his 30 years on the probate bench, he is the longest serving Judge of the Delaware County Probate Court.   He was born February 16, 1912. A graduate of the College of Law at The Ohio State University and admitted to the bar in 1937, he served as Deputy Clerk of the Probate Court under his predecessor, Judge House. He was opposed in his first election in 1948 by Democrat William J. Haas who emphasized that juvenile delinquency was the major issue requiring an interdisciplinary involvement for the cure.  Judge Barrett, a Republican, won the election by a nearly 3-to-1 margin.  The Democrats won the governorship (Frank Lausche) and the presidency (Harry S. Truman), but the Republicans swept the county races.  He served as President of the Ohio Probate Judges Association.  He died at age 73 on September 10, 1985 and is buried in the Marlborough Cemetery.

Judge Hiram D. House                                            Feb. 9, 1941 to Feb. 8, 1949

He was born March 3, 1873.  His judicial campaign ad recites that the 10 years teaching experience and 20 years of law practice of this “ kindly, compassionate and sympathetic man” combine with “ a fund of common sense to fit him for the position” of Probate Judge.  He had a chief probation officer and an unpaid deputy probation officer.   He was a Republican. His term on the bench began 10 months before the attack on Pearl Harbor marking the U.S. entry into WW II and extended beyond its end.  He died January 5, 1960 and is buried in Oak Grove Cemetery.

Judge William L. Glesenkamp                                Feb. 9, 1933 to Feb. 8, 1941

A veteran of WWI, he served as the first President of the Ohio Probation Association and organized the first county government coordinating council (social services) in Ohio.  He was active as an adult in the Boy Scouts.  His term on in the Probate Court began as Franklin D. Roosevelt commenced his first of four terms as President.  Judge Glesenkamp was defeated in a contested re-election at the end of his second term. Thereafter, he served as Delaware’s Postmaster.  For the final 12 years of his life, he operated a hardware in Ostrander.  Born on August 29, 1989, he died April 27, 1953 at the Dayton VA Hospital and he is buried in the Berlin Township, Cheshire Cemetery.

Judge Ira Gregory                                                  Feb. 9, 1929 to Feb. 8, 1933

He was born in Brown Township on March 11, 1870 and graduated from Ohio Northern.  He was a teacher or school administrator in Galena and Radnor for 20 years.   Before his election as Probate Judge, he had served as the Clerk of Courts for three terms and as a Deputy Clerk of the Probate Court.  Judge Gregory's term on the bench began 8 months before the October 1929 stock market crash and extended through to the depth of the Great Depression.  He died in 1936 and is buried in Radnor Cemetery.

Judge W. Vernon Aldrich                                        Feb. 9, 1921 to Feb. 8, 1929

He was born September 15, 1877 in Morrow County. Ohio.  Warren G. Harding became President and former President William Howard Taft became Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court the year that Judge Aldrich assumed the local bench.  His two terms covered the period in American history commonly referred to as the “Roaring 20’s.  He died in Franklin County on February 21, 1938 and he is buried in Oak Grove Cemetery.

Judge Jacob M. Schaffner                                      Feb. 9, 1917 to Feb. 8, 1921

He was born in 1866.  As a Troy Township Democrat farmer who taught music, in 1898 he was elected Sheriff and served for two terms.  He was not a lawyer.  His judicial campaign ad recited he was “an honest, intelligent farmer, well-educated and eminently qualified.” Judge Schaffner began his term on the bench three months before the U.S. declared war on Germany in WW I (which had begun in Europe four years earlier). In his later years, he returned to the Sheriff’s Office as a deputy.  With the construction of the Delaware Reservoir and resulting loss of his home, he moved to Florida, where he died in 1949 at Clearwater.  He is buried in Marlborough Cemetery.

Judge Edward Thompson Humes                        Feb. 9, 1909 to Feb. 8, 1917

A native of Brown Township, born March 7, 1872, he attended a business college in Indiana and read for the law.  In 1898, he completed a course in the law and graduated from Cincinnati College of Law.  He passed the bar, was elected County Prosecutor; and served in that position for 6 years.  As Judge Humes’ judicial service began, Ohio’s William Howard Taft became President.  Judge Humes was narrowly defeated in a contested third term re-election campaign.  He was a delegate to the Republican National Convention in 1936.  He died November 29, 1952 and he is buried in Oak Grove Cemetery.

Judge John A. Cone                                                Feb. 9, 1906 to Feb. 8, 1909

A native of Delaware born January 17, 1836 and raised in Thompson Township, he attended Ohio Wesleyan University for two years. He taught school, served as the principal in Radnor, and served in the Civil War as a 1st Lt. in the 145th O.V.I.  He was a Democrat, read for the law for 4 years, and was admitted to the bar in 1865.  He served as a Justice of the Peace. For a short period, he served as the editor of the Delaware Weekly Herald newspaper. Judge Cone was 70 years of age when he assumed his position on the probate bench.  During Judge Cone’s term, Henry Ford produced the first Model-T automobile.  Members of the bar at the time described him as a gentle person who understood the importance of professionalism toward other members of the bar and toward the Courts.  He died February 11, 1919 and is buried in Radnor Cemetery.

Judge E. Lee Porterfield                                         Feb. 9, 1900 to Feb. 8, 1906

Born May 31, 1867 in Oxford Township, he attended Ohio Wesleyan University and played semi-pro baseball on a Marion team for one season.  He held a life teaching certificate in Ohio and became the principal of the high school in Ashley.  He read for the law and was admitted to the bar on December 22, 1905 while serving as Probate Judge.  He was a Republican and was unopposed for his second term.  He was appointed Delaware Postmaster in 1912.  He died November 9, 1926 and he is buried in Oak Grove Cemetery.

Judge Benjamin F. Freshwater                               Feb. 9, 1894 to Feb. 8, 1900

Benjamin Franklin Freshwater was born in 1852 in Delaware Township and he graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University in 1877.  He read for the law and was admitted to the bar in June 1880.  He began his law practice in Paulding Ohio and returned to Delaware in 1885.  He served as Secretary of the Republican Central Committee.  He also served as an Alumni Trustee of Ohio Wesleyan University for the period 1901-1911 and was a member of its Executive Committee.  He was a director or the attorney for several local financial institutions.  He died August 12, 1930 and he is buried in Oak Grove Cemetery.

Judge Norman F. Overturf                                      Feb. 9, 1888 to Feb. 8, 1894

He was born in Licking County in 1846, taught school while studying the law and was admitted to the bar in 1885.  He was elected to serve as the Delaware City Solicitor for two terms before being elected to the probate bench.  He was a Republican and served in the Ohio General Assembly (House Judiciary Committee) after leaving the bench.  He was an alternate delegate to the Republican National Convention in 1908.  Judge Overturf died August 6, 1926 and is buried in Sunbury Memorial Park.

Judge Rufus Carpenter                                           Feb. 9, 1882 to Feb. 8, 1888

He was born in Franklin County on August 20, 1835.  He left the area in the 1850’s to seek his fortune in California. In 1863 he returned to Ohio and settled in Delaware County.  He was rejected due to “ill health” in his attempt to enlist in the 146th O.V.I.   A Republican, he served as a justice of the peace for 15 years, and read the law in a Worthington law office before his election as the Probate Judge.  He died August 25, 1914 and he is buried in Oak Grove Cemetery.

Judge Franklin B. Sprague                                   Feb. 14, 1876 to Feb. 8, 1882

Franklin Burnet Sprague was born in Delaware July 16, 1825 and raised near Stratford.  He was a student at Ohio Wesleyan University during the first 2 years of its existence, but he did not graduate.  He moved to the Oregon Territory in 1850 where joined the Union Army (Oregon 1st Vol. Inf.) as a Captain.  His name often appears in the accounts of the early history and exploration of the area of Oregon that became Crater Lake National Park.  The Sprague River in Oregon is named for him.  His military service ended in July 1867 and he returned to Sunbury in 1868 to run a grain milling business.  He was the son of a Delaware County Sheriff. As a Democrat, the voters of the county elected him Probate Judge by a margin of 176 votes and then re-elected him by 641 votes. Judge Sprague was not a lawyer.  Following his term on the bench he moved to Marysville to run another grain mill. Judge Sprague died February 7, 1895 in Worthington and he is buried in Oak Grove Cemetery.

Judge Benjamin C. Waters                                     Feb. 9, 1870 to Feb. 8, 1876

He was born in Fairfield County on December 24, 1819 and he trained as a blacksmith in Harlem Township.  He was elected Sheriff in 1860 and he was Judge Waters was described as “intelligent”.  He was not a lawyer. He died January 16, 1882 and he is buried in Oak Grove Cemetery.

Judge Thomas W. Powell                                       Nov. 4, 1862 to Feb 8, 1870

He was born in South Wales in September 1797, immigrated at age 4, read the law in Canton, Ohio, and was licensed to practice law in 1820.  He was the owner of the closed “Mansion House” when it was sold to the new Ohio Wesleyan University following the community fund raising for its purchase. Ohio Wesleyan University renamed the building “Elliott Hall”.  He served as a State Representative and State Senator.  He was unopposed in his first election to the bench and received 4,288 votes.  Judge Powell was re-elected for a second term by an 877 vote majority.  The name for the town of Middlebury was changed to Powell following Mr. Powell’s assistance in securing a post office for the area in 1857.  He was a delegate to the 1873 Ohio Constitutional Convention.  Judge Powell authored several books (“Analysis of American Law”, The Law of Appellate Proceedings” and “Ancient Britons and their Descendants”) with the last being published in the final year of his life.  He died December 12, 1892 and he is buried in Oak Grove Cemetery.

Judge Isaac Ranney                                             Oct. 20, 1854 to Nov. 1, 1862

He was born February 21, 1829 in Manchester, VT and he was admitted to the bar in 1842.  A Republican, he served as Prosecuting Attorney and for two terms as Probate Judge.  Judge Ranney's term ended 19 months after Confederate forces fired on Ft. Sumter, commencing the Civil War.  He was described as being a cultured man, hospitable, upright, respected, cordially mannered, and possessed of a sweet nature.  He died on October 1876 at his retirement residence in Gaithersburg, Maryland.  He is buried in Oak Grove Cemetery.

Judge John E. Rosette                                       Sept. 16, 1854 to Oct. 19, 1854

He was born in 1823 in Delaware County, but after admission to the bar, he moved to Hancock County where he was elected twice as Prosecuting Attorney.  He returned to Delaware where he practiced law for three years and was appointed Probate Judge by Governor William Madill to fill the unexpired term following the death of Judge Fuller.  Judge Rosette served as Probate Judge for only 34 days.  He then moved to Springfield, IL where he practiced law for about 30 years.  A private letter to him dated February 10, 1857 from Abraham Lincoln is posted widely on the internet.   He died October 31, 1881 in Springfield, IL.

Judge David T. Fuller                                            Jan. 12, 1852 to Sept. 9, 1854

The first Probate Judge for Delaware County was born in Vershire, VT in 1805.  His father was a graduate of Dartmouth College.  Judge Fuller graduated from Williams College, studied law in New York City, and held a position on the faculty of the new Kenyon College as an adjunct professor for Latin Language and Literature on the Joint Faculty of Theology and the Arts in the early 1830’s.  He settled in Delaware as a lawyer in the mid-1830’s and was elected County Auditor. He was an owner of the Delaware newspaper Olentangy Gazette until he sold his interest to Abram Thomson in late 1837.  The paper then continued operation under the banner Delaware Gazette.  Following a brief illness, Judge Fuller died at home on September 9, 1854, 41 days before completing his initial term and he is buried in Oak Grove Cemetery.