Our History

Sherman, Hoffman, & Miller, LC takes pride in its historic Ellsworth heritage. The law firm dates from the 1870’s when Ellsworth was the railhead between Abilene and Dodge City for the Texas cattle drives. Ira E. Lloyd started his practice of law in Ellsworth in 1873 – about the time Wyatt Earp was argued to be marshal for a day of Ellsworth and Wild Bill Hickok was in Ellsworth befriending Indian Annie. Read Ira Lloyd’s diary on the perils of law practice in a lawless town.

Ira E. Lloyd became well-known in the region; and along with his partner and brother-in-law, Norris Nourse, created a significant law library. The firm still retains a large number of leather bound law books embossed with the name of Ira E. Lloyd, including Modern Jury Trials, copyrighted 1881.

After the death of Ira E. Lloyd, Nourse practiced alone until 1932 when Paul L. Aylward purchased the practice. Paul L. Aylward and George E. Miner subsequently established the firm of Aylward and Miner. Paul Aylward became the firm leader and served as president of the Kansas American Legion and was the state Democratic candidate for the United States Senate in 1962. Mr. Aylward was well known for his condemnation work, first representing the United States and then landowners in both state and federal courts.

In 1968 the firm moved to its present location and into the building originally built in 1912 which in 2007 was listed as a national historic building. From the mid-1930’s to 1967, the building was occupied by the United States Post Office. In 1986 the firm purchased the adjacent building to remodel and expand its office space to accommodate four attorneys, Smoky Hill Title Company, and it’s growing technological, staff, and business needs. Today, the building continues to serve as the hub of the thriving Kansas regional law practice of Sherman, Hoffman, & Miller, LC.

Exciting Early Day History Of Ellsworth

Diary of Late Ira E. Lloyd Relates In Detail Early Day Lawless Cowtown

The following is as written by Ira E. Lloyd

I was twenty-two years of age when I came to Ellsworth. I had received a promiscuous education, being partly self taught and greatly taught at all…at the age of fifteen I made up my mind to become an attorney and from that age directed all my energies in that direction. I was admitted to practice law when twenty-one years of age. I had tried numbers of cases and then determined I would come to Kansas. I came in the fall of 1872; spent what little money I had saved in looking over the state. I taught school in Rice County, clerked in a store, and then on June 27, 1873, on the advice of a lawyer friend, located in Ellsworth.

Ira Lloyd photoThis town was described as red hot, where murders were daily occurrence and whose streets were lined with Texas cattlemen with pockets bulging with money. I had always lived in quiet law abiding communities and had no previous experience or had read very little concerning frontier life. I was in every sense of the term a tenderfoot. My library consisted of nine Kansas Reports, Kansas statutes, two text books on criminal laws, a work on practice, Blackstone, a few text books and a Bible. My finances were less than $25. I also had splendid letters of recommendation, but on the theory that everything was done from selfish motive, I scorned to rely upon them or use them. I had resolved to be independent of everyone and everything, so I refused their use.

Most of the town was on the south side of the railroad – on which street there were two grocery stores, one hardware store, one general store, a barber shop, a restaurant and about twenty saloons and gambling houses, and in the rear a dance hall. To the southeast of the village, by itself, commonly designated Knotchville, which was the abode of the worst female characters that had ever lived in the dens of vice in Kansas City and other cities. At night, the latter place and its saloon and dance halls were frequented by hundreds of cowboys, gamblers, cohorts, criminals, and Texas cattlemen.

These disreputable women patronized the saloons as freely as the men, wearing high heel shoes, fancy stockings and often shapely feet which they displayed on the rail footrods in front of the bars. At about seven o’clock every evening, these painted creatures, dressed in gaudy clothing would parade the principle street of Ellsworth, attracting as much attention to their charms as possible. Every night four or five tables in almost all the saloons were occupied by gamblers and their victims – the Texas cattlemen and cowboys – who were fleeced and robbed in a way they did not understand.

At certain seasons of the year, thousands of dollars were piled up as stakes upon the tables. To my green eye it seemed as if all the wealth of Croesus was in Ellsworth. Drinking and swearing and the stench of liquor and tobacco, often made the rooms reek and the air thick enough almost to cut.

Order was maintained by a marshal and five policemen. The marshal was Brochy Jack – a tall man killer, who took his pseudonym, from his pockmarked face. He had been a policeman under Wild Bill Hickok at Abilene. Brochy Jack was a cold blooded, calculating villain, with several notches on his pistol, but none, in my opinion, gained in a fair fight. At heart he was a coward. Brave when he had the drop on another. Under a mask of silence he posed as deep and wise. His few words were esteemed oracles.

Happy Jack, who claimed his real name was John Marco, was another policeman. He was a born criminal and fled from a western territory for an unnamable crime. Happy Jack was a drunkard, a brawler, and brace where there was no danger. Assassination to him was a trade. He had a certain amount of courage when drunk and when he thought fear of him made it safe to bluster and brag. Ned Crawford, another policeman, was a quick eyed, and a quick tempered killer. Put six silver dollars facing him in a row, and as quick as he could empty his pistol, each would be hit at ten to fifteen paces. He was silent and deadly. A rattlesnake without his rattlers. Ed Hogue, another man on the force, was a supple time-server, brave when well backed – quick to make terms, if odds were even or greater. He was the stabilizer of the force. The other members of the police force were just ordinary scoundrels. Every man on the force was a bribe-taker and a villain. Every man on the force would kill on the slightest provocation, if he felt his hide was safe in doing so. Every man on the force in those days would not hesitate to commit any crime, in order to satisfy his passions or his revenge.

Daily from five to thirty men were arrested and brought before the police magistrate. Many were fined. Many were discharged. But it is safe to say, that perhaps many or most were arrested with an idea of blackmail.

Thus the cowboys, and the lewd women, largely supported by city government and its lawless police force. Government supported the law-breakers and scoundrels who used their offices as weapons to steal from the weak and timid, created the indignation of the cattlemen and their victims. This led to a state of war between the police and the Texans, and to some extent the gamblers especially such gamblers who were parasites on the cowboys and cattlemen, and some of the more wealthy cattlemen, were arrayed against the police. Every day could be heard mutterings of what might happen. Every muttering was a prophecy.

“Though I will not practice to deceive, yet to avoid deceit I mean to learn; For that shall strew the footsteps of my rising, If I live through it.”

I made another interesting acquaintance. A character by the name of Hoffman, who ran a saloon in connection therewith a bowling alley. He was staked and patronized by one Tim Williamson. Tim was a great brawny Texas cattleman. Rough, daring, forceful, shrewd and ruthless as can be imagined. He was the best representative of the lawless, boisterous, ready-for-a-brawl, shooting scrape, free-for-all-fight, hail-fellow-well-met, that I ever knew. It was said to be dark pages in his history, but who is there that has not some blemishes. He led and was the head of the most formidable following, made up of gamblers, cowboys and gunmen that ever came from Texas. The Hoffman saloon was the chief place of resort for himself and his followers. The friendship between myself and Hoffman arose in this manner. After differences between Happy Jack and myself, a fellow named Pohle, invited me, Happy Jack, and one or two others into the saloon of Hoffman to take a drink. Pohle was quite liberal and insisted upon everyone drinking twice. Then he coyly turned to Hoffman and said that I was to settle the bill. Happy Jack grinned and with Pohle and the others left the saloon, I was extremely poor and when they left I told Hoffman of the trick and said to him, that I was not to blame. Hoffman said, “Yes, I saw through the trick.” “All right.” “I will pay the bill in full.” Hoffman made it 75 cents which I paid at once. Here is an instance where the tenderfoot got left. However, it worked out to my benefit as it made Hoffman, and through Hoffman, the Tim Williamson outfit, the backers of meself. This was a strong valuable and unexpected alliance. It also was the cheapest and best alliance I ever formed until I got married.

Soon after I had settled in Ellsworth one of the women of blemished repute wished to engage me to defend her upon some trifling criminal charge. I hesitated, then asked her to call at a later hour. Could I conscientiously take a case for such a creature? I had an abhorrence to act for her. Yet, suppose she were ill, would not the doctor give her attention? Notwithstanding her calling, did she not have rights, and was it wrong for an attorney to asset such rights for her? I knew what sort of people were in Ellsworth before I came her, and I ought never to have come if I expected angles for clients. Also, I needed money. So I decided I would take her case. When she called the second time, I informed her what my fee was and that it would have to be paid in advance. I was shocked when I saw her take the money from her stocking and hand it to me. The fee did not shock me, but the action of my client in obtaining the money did. However, the money was legal tender. I succeeded in securing am acquittal for my client. But I had aroused by this brave and fearless denunciation of the police, their enmity.

This case made me the attorney of what would be morally termed the lowest elements in society. Yet on reflection, among the society then prevailing in Ellsworth my clientage was probably the very best in that city. We draw comparisons – and many of these unfortunate women were the peers of most of the community. It never follows that because men or women have fallen, that thereby they have lost which adorn either sex. There is no rose without a thorn, and a canker may lie in the heart of the most beautiful flower.

Soon after this I was employed in another case by a similar client. In this case my client was innocent. The case was one of blackmail and Happy Jack and Marshal Brochy Jack were the chief witnesses. Before the trial commenced, Happy Jack having learned from the first case, that no one owned my tongue, except my client, called at my office and advised me to be careful what I said or did, and that if I was not careful, his pistol held a bullet for me. I was too much of a tenderfoot to know my danger. At the trial I asked that neither officer be present while the other testified. In support of this request, I stated that a threat had been made against me for my abuse of the entire police force when I had denounced their wickedness and corruption in unmeasured terms. My client was then convicted.

I, with all my energy, hate and force, defied the court and its officers to dare to execute the judgment of the court by committing the defendant, for nonpayment of fine and costs. The woman was never committed and never paid any fine or costs. As I left the court room, a partisan of Happy Jack named Cooley, told there was then a threat, that he would rip by guts out.

He later came into my office with a drawn knife and started toward me, when I drew a revolver from the drawer in my desk, Cooley fled. The revolver happened to be empty. I then made an application to the city council to remit the fine of my client. The council was inclined to favor the Texans as they brought money and prosperity to Ellsworth.

When the hearing came up before the council, both Happy Jack and Brochy Jack was present, as well as the city attorney. He happened to be one of the finest lawyers in Kansas. I made a speech in presenting my application in which I exhausted all my resources in portraying the villianies of the two policeman. The city attorney answered. Then I replied to the city attorney and if possible was more bitter that I previously had been. While I was making my argument, Happy Jack jumped up and drew his revolver as if to shoot me. Several spectators calmed him and he sat down. I then resumed my talk and finally said something which caused Happy Jack to again spring to his feet with his hand on his revolver. At this moment I felt a cold chill up and down my spine, but again Happy Jack was persuaded to sit down. I continued my talk without abating to taking back anything, but perhaps spoke above the head of Happy Jack as I was not again interrupted. At the termination of my speech, the council was so disturbed that it could take no action but broke up in confusion. The excitement was intense.

I had my office in a room adjoining the council room and upstairs, a man named Charley Brown stopped me as I was passing down the stairs, and said, “For God’s sake go back, Happy Jack is waiting to shoot you as you come down the stairs.” I did not then fully realize my danger. I now discovered that Ellsworth was not a free country and then returned to my office which faced the street and the awning having been made of unseasoned boards and shrunk, leaving large cracks. I then stepped through the door opening on this porch and through one of the cracks saw Happy Jack, gun in hand, watching the stairway That night I slept on an iron couch which I had placed so it would not be in range so I could be shot from the outside. I laid my revolver on a chair beside me, barricaded the door as securely as possible and went to bed. I felt that it was likely that I would be killed but had only one desire and that was to slay the man who would shoot me. I was awakened twice during the night by the drunken and profane voice of Happy Jack, telling those who held him, to let him go and kill the s-o-b. After that, the police industriously invent reports that I was worse than all the gamblers and workers of evil in Ellsworth. That I put them up to all their villienry.

After that, my life was not worth a rush. However, I realized that if I should be killed, the slayer would want some excuse. I determine I would give them no reason to kill me. I never in the day time went on the street armed. I never carried a handkerchief in my hip pocket. If any of my enemies were near, I had my thumbs in the armpits of my vest, or my hands open and resting on my chest. These practices undoubtedly saved my life.

…Soon after this Brochy Jack and Happy Jack and one other policeman, either to drown their sorrows or solace their hearts, got on a drunk and in that part which now can be called the tenderloin district, shot out the lights and performed similar other tricks to the great fear that the inmates might be called to the bar of final judgment without warning.

This information was given to me the next day by my friend, Bill Campbell, who was popular in that section of town. I then saw my chance and took it. I had Campbell get all the names of the witnesses and what they would swear to. Then Campbell brought the list and statements to me. I then asked Campbell to make a complaint and swear to it. Campbell said he would not do it, for if he did they would kill him. I then asked Campbell if he intended to remain in Ellsworth. He said he was broke and had no money to get away, that if he had the money he would go to Kansas City. I asked him how much he needed and he said ten dollars would do, as he had friends in Kansas City. I said alright, you make and swear to the complaint ten minutes before the train leaves and I will give you the ten dollars. Campbell agreed to this and the complaint was made and sworn to. Campbell left town on the first train and the policemen were arrested, convicted on the charges and dismissed from the force. The discharged policemen left they city.

Another victory for the tenderfoot.

But a few weeks later Happy Jack returned, swearing vengeance against Charlie Brown and his other enemies in Ellsworth. He openly wore two large ivory handled revolvers and swaggered through the streets, apparently inviting trouble. Under the ordinances of Ellsworth, none except policemen could carry revolvers in the town. Brown, one evening approached Happy Jack instead of loosening his pistol belt, reached for his pistol and, “G-Dyou B-“ and before the word “Brown” could be spoken, Brown put a bullet through Happy Jack’s brain and other through his heart. This ended the career of Happy Jack.

The marshal Dick Freeborn, felt that some sort of a ceremony should be had on the burial of Happy Jack. As I had never loitered around saloons or other questionable places, and as I had pretty regularly attended a small Episcopal church, were the mayor read the services, and as there was no clergyman in Ellsworth, Freeborn though that I might be willing to perform the last funeral rites over the remains of Happy Jack.

With that in view, he came to my office and said, “It is a pity to plant him, without something being said over his grave. Some of us boys have talked the matter over and as we could think of no one as likely as you to help plant him right. So they have asked me to request that you read a passage from the Bible, and say something nice at his funeral. They hate to see him buried like a dog.”

…But I did not take advantage of this occasion. On the contrary, I said to Dick Freeborn:

“If I thought anything I could say would render his abode in hell hotter and more painful, I would be pleased to attend.”

Thus Happy Jack was laid away unmoored and unlamented with no one to drop flower or tear upon his grave.

Some year later the cemetery, where he was buried was abandoned as a burying place and Happy Jack’s remains were moved to the new cemetery. A man named Al Prime, who knew the trouble between myself and Happy Jack, when he dug up Happy Jack’s remains, took his skull and gave it to me. I caused it to be cleaned and sawed in two and placed it over a bookshelf in my office.